I spent most of this week at New Word Alive, a Christian conference held by the seaside in Wales. Slightly reluctantly, I even took a five day break from my final year research project, and as a result, realised today that (at least for the time being) I’ve stopped dreaming about rheology and specific visco-elastic properties of lipids. This is no bad thing! It was great to switch the drug delivery brain off for a couple of days, relax a little, catch up with friends, and benefit from some exciting bible teaching. Our chalet quickly became party central, crazy golf was crazy and the sea was very cold- although not too cold to swim in!
I found the week exciting and encouraging. However, midweek I began feeling slightly edgy about the idea of it coming to an end. Perhaps you’ll know how that feels - I certainly remember being 13 and rather upset about getting on the minibus to come home from a particularly exciting youth camp, even having just turned 19 and feeling reluctant to fly home from a hot and sunny girls holiday. The familiar feeling goes something along the lines of ‘I love it here and never want to leave’, but my uneasiness this time sprung from the thought of what I was set to return to. To cut a long story short, my final year project has been causing major grief - the task that’s still ahead is, simply put, entirely overwhelming. I have absolutely no problem admitting that in my own strength, I feel like I just can’t do it!
Somewhere in all of this is the liberating acceptance and sure knowledge that God’s strength is gloriously manifest in my weakness. Nevertheless, I’m tempted daily to forget that His hand is at work in all of my struggles and triumphs, whether seemingly insignificant or world-shatteringly important. Teaching this week has reminded me that this is the case, and that there is not one part of my life that doesn’t belong to Christ. Since I have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus through his death on the cross, my whole life is his. Furthermore, he is reconciling the whole of creation to himself. It’s almost easy to rest secure in this hope whilst surrounded by the conference-buzz and receiving hearty gospel reminders several times a day from every angle – what a pleasure and privilege! Yet, I know that I am fickle when it comes to everyday redeemed life and living it like I really believe I am living it for the Lord alone.
I want to be this woman of great godly initiative and integrity who finds her identity in the Lord alone. Bolder please, kinder, more giving of myself and more loving towards the people around me, in the same uncompromising way that God has loved me. I want to seek refuge in God, lean evermore dependently on his everlasting arms and grow my resolve that his purposes are greater than anything I could dream up for myself, or strive for on my own. Can you tell I have been reading the book of Ruth? But despite all of these desires, I wander! I’m so quick to let these longings be overcome by a more comfortable, forgetful apathy. I’m so easily tangled up in the self-reliant panic of ‘I can’t do it!’ when it comes to university work, resenting instead of enjoying the time I spend doing other things. I’m so fast to fix my eyes on what I can and can’t do, rather than Christ and what he has already done. But God’s word says that I should do everything as though I am working for the Lord and not for men, that it is Christ I am serving and the whole of creation belongs to him. I should press on, knowing that the Holy Spirit in me is God’s power to help me fix my eyes on Jesus each day and learn to live in light of his promises.
Why fix my eyes on Jesus? Today is good news Friday – the centre point of real life Christianity. John Stott said ‘'I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross...in the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?’ This is the real deal – God on a cross, sinless yet suffering to make a way to bring a sinful people back into relationship with himself. Not just removing guilt but delivering the sinless status of Jesus to my own self in the perfect demonstration of divine justice and mercy. It’s not even as though I’d never sinned; it’s as though I was Jesus.
Perhaps you’re reading and not sure, but if we believe this is true, it’s something worth clinging to. Here’s a prayer for the Easter weekend, taken from a book which I indulged in purchasing from the bookshop at New Word Alive, ‘The Valley of Vision’, a collection of puritan prayers and devotions.
O God of Grace,
Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,
and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,
clothing me with a bridegroom’s robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.
But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.
I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing clothed in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always say, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bringing forth the best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return it in,
go out to the day’s work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me to never lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,