A Pillow on Which to Rest Our Weary Heads
A Pillow on Which to Rest Our Weary Heads
I sometimes struggle to believe that God really loves me. I can be tempted to feel a sense of failure and self-condemnation. It is relatively easy to believe that God loves everybody else, but it is much harder to believe that God loves me.
The love of God, Paul explains in Romans 8, starts with ‘no condemnation’ (v.1) and ends with no separation: nothing ‘will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (v.39). John Stott describes the truth of this passage as ‘a pillow on which to rest our weary heads’.
‘God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love,’ wrote St Augustine. If you were the only person who had ever lived, Jesus would have died for you. And if it is true of you, it is also true of me. God loves me and you.
Tell of the great love of the LordPsalm 89:1-8
The focus of both our worship and our witness is the love of God.
This psalm begins with worship, a hymn of praise (vv.1–18), focusing on God’s love: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever’ (v.1).
Think about God’s greatness and glory – how amazing it is to be loved by the ‘Lord God Almighty’ (v.8). This is something that can never be taken away from you. The psalmist writes, ‘Your love stands firm forever’ (v.2).
The message you pass onto others should always centre on God’s love: ‘I’ll never quit telling the story of your love’ (v.2, MSG).
Lord, thank you that I have experienced your love and faithfulness. Help me, Lord, to continue to make your love known to others.
Meditate on the amazing love of ChristRomans 8:18-39
Do your circumstances ever cause you to question God’s love for you?
Paul suffered greatly – through beatings, imprisonment and many other hardships. But he says that these sufferings cannot come close to comparing to the glory we will see one day. There is no comparison ‘between the present hard times and the coming good times’ (v.18, MSG).
While you are waiting, you have the ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ (v.23). The Holy Spirit is a down payment guaranteeing what is to come – the future glory. One day the whole of creation will be liberated (v.21). Here and now, your body may be ‘groaning’ (v.22) as it gradually deteriorates, but one day it will be totally healed and restored. Your resurrection will not be only ‘spiritual’, it will be physical. ‘We wait eagerly for… the redemption of our bodies’ (v.23).
Paul uses the analogy of a pregnancy. You are feeling ‘the pains of labour’ (v.22, AMP).
‘Meanwhile, the moment you get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping you along. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. The Holy Spirit does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans’ (v.26, MSG). He enables you to pray in accordance with God’s will (v.27). If your prayers are led by the Spirit, they will definitely be answered – because they will be in accordance with God’s will.
Life is not the random mess it may sometimes appear. ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (v.28).
In every detail of your life, God is at work. ‘All things’ includes even our mistakes. God will take even your errors and work them out for your good. He reigns. He is sovereign. In everything he works for the good of those who love him. Supremely, the cross demonstrates that just as God took the very worst event in history and turned it into the very best; he can take the worst things in your life and use them for good.
This promise applies to all Christians. He elaborates in verses 29–30 – you are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified. The first four events have happened, but glorification is a future event. However, Paul uses the same past tense for all of them. ‘You are… glorified.’ This use of the aorist (completed) tense shows Paul’s certainty about the future – it has already been secured.
This is astonishing. It is possibly the most daring statement of faith in the whole of the New Testament. It speaks of total security. The security of a Christian is solidly grounded on the unwavering love of God. This sure foundation is deeper than all your circumstances and feelings.
How can you be sure of God’s love? Paul poses five unanswerable questions.
With God on your side like this, how can you lose?
‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (v.31b). If God is for you, what others think is not so important. You are set free from the fear of people and from caring too much about what others think.
If God gave his only Son for you, is he likely to withhold anything else?
‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?’ (v.32).
Who is going to dare to prosecute you?
‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?’ (v.33a).
If God is the judge and Jesus your defence counsel, how can a prosecution succeed?
‘It is God who justifies. Who then can condemn?’ (vv.33b–34). Jesus is your defence lawyer. He is supremely qualified. ‘Christ Jesus, who died’ (v.34) has already served the sentence for us. He ‘was raised to life’ by God (v.34). He is in the supreme place of honour ‘at the right hand of God’ (v.34). He is praying for you (v.34). He is sticking up for you. Jesus never stops praying for you.
How can anyone drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love?
You can be separated from friends and family by circumstances or even death. But, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ (v.35a). This does not mean that life is easy. There may be trouble, hard times, hatred, hunger, homelessness, bullying threats and backstabbing. But ‘not even the worst sins listed in Scripture... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us’ (vv.35b–37, MSG). In the midst of every difficulty, you can cling to God’s love for you.
Paul lists seventeen possibilities involving calamities of life, superhuman agencies, time and space (vv.35–39). His list includes absolutely every possible difficultly and challenge you may face. And he concludes that he is totally convinced that nothing ‘will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (v.39). As Isaac Watts wrote, ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’
Lord, how can I ever thank you enough for your amazing love? Thank you that in all things you are working together for the good in my life, and absolutely nothing can separate me from your love.
Enjoy the unfailing love of GodHosea 10:1-11:11
Do you realise that God loves you more than any parent loves their own children?
Hosea continues to speak of God’s love for his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. They have allowed sins, conflict and idolatry to grow up like ‘poisonous weeds’ (10:4) and ‘thorns and thistles’ (v.8). Be careful that these things do not grow up in your life. Keep weeding out the bad stuff – even the little weeds before they become big ones.
As well as weeding out the bad stuff, plant beautiful flowers. God calls them (and us) to ‘sow for yourselves righteousness’ and ‘reap the fruit of unfailing love… for it is time to seek the Lord’ (v.12).
He describes it here in terms of parental love: ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son… It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms… it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I… bent down to feed them’ (11:1–4).
This is a wonderful picture of God’s love and tenderness: like a parent looking after a toddler. ‘I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek’ (v.4, MSG) – feeding them, teaching them to walk, taking them up in their arms.
Even though they refuse to repent and were determined to turn from him, he cannot give them up (vv.5–8). ‘My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused’ (v.8b). This is the love that will not let you go.
Thank you, Father, for your love, compassion, tenderness and mercy. Thank you that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thank you that your love is a pillow on which to rest our weary heads.
‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’
I have hung onto this verse many times when things haven’t been working out or a big disappointment has happened. Looking back over the years at many of the things that didn’t go the way I had hoped, I can now say that it was a great blessing that they didn’t. I could never have said that at the time. But there are still some things that I don’t understand that I might have to wait until I get to heaven and hope I might understand then.
Verse of the Day
‘… in all things God works for the good of those who love him…’ (Romans 8:28).
John Stott, The Message of Romans, (IVP, 1994) p.246.
Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.