As the story goes, in 1763, a young minister, traveling on a cliffside road in Somerset, England, ducked into a cave to escape the flashes of lightning and pounding rain. As he looked out at Cheddar Gorge, he pondered the gift of finding shelter and peace in God. Waiting there, he began to write a hymn, “Rock of Ages,” with its memorable opening lines: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
We don’t know if Augustus Toplady thought about Moses’s experience in the cleft of a rock while writing the hymn (Exodus 33:22), but perhaps he did. The Exodus account tells of Moses seeking God’s reassurance and God’s response. When Moses asked God to reveal His glory to him, God answered graciously, knowing that “no one may see me and live” (v. 20). He tucked Moses into the rocks when He passed by, letting Moses only see His back. And Moses knew that God was with him.
We can trust that just as God said to Moses, “My Presence will go with you” (v. 14), so too we can find refuge in Him. We may experience many storms in our lives, as did Moses and the English minister in the story, but when we cry out to Him, He will give us the peace of His presence.
I gazed out at the rolling green hills in Lancashire in northern England, noticing the stone fences enclosing some sheep dotted around the hills. Puffy clouds moved across the bright sky, and I inhaled deeply, drinking in the sight. When I remarked about the beautiful scene to the woman working at the retreat center I was visiting, she said, “You know, I never used to notice it before our guests would point it out. We’ve lived here for years, and when we were farmers, this was just the office!”
We can easily miss the gift of what’s right in front of us, especially beauty that’s part of our everyday lives. We can also easily miss the beautiful ways God works in and around us daily. But Christians can ask God’s Spirit to open our spiritual eyes so we can understand how He is at work, as the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus. Paul yearned that God would give them the wisdom and revelation to know Him better (Ephesians 1:17). He prayed that their hearts would be enlightened so that they’d know God’s hope, promised future, and power (vv. 18–19).
God’s gift of the Spirit of Christ can awaken us to His work in us and through us. With Him, what may have once seemed like “just the office” can be understood as a place that displays His light and glory.
One spring after a particularly dreary winter during which she helped a family member through a long illness, Emma found encouragement each time she walked past a cherry tree near her home in Cambridge, England. Bursting out at the top of the pink blossoms grew blossoms of white. A clever gardener had grafted into the tree a branch of white flowers. When Emma passed the unusual tree, she thought of Jesus’s words about being the Vine and His followers the branches (John 15:1–8).
By calling Himself the Vine, Jesus was speaking of an image familiar to the Israelites in the Old Testament, for there the vine symbolized God’s people (Psalm 80:8–9; Hosea 10:1). Jesus extended this symbolism to Himself, saying He was the Vine and that His followers were grafted into Him as branches. And as they remained in Him, receiving His nourishment and strength, they would bear fruit (John 15:5).
As Emma supported her family member, she needed the reminder that she was connected to Jesus. Seeing the white flowers among the pink ones gave her a visual prompt of the truth that as she remained in the Vine, she gained nourishment through Him.
When we who follow Jesus embrace the idea of being as close to Him as a branch is to a vine, our faith is strengthened and enriched.
Stephen grew up in a rough part of East London and fell into crime by the age of ten. He said, “If everyone’s selling drugs and doing robberies and fraud, then you’re going to get involved. It’s just a way of life.” But when he was twenty, he had a dream that changed him: “I heard God saying, Stephen, you’re going to prison for murder.” This vivid dream served as a warning, and he turned to God and received Jesus as his Savior—and the Holy Spirit transformed his life.
Stephen set up an organization that teaches inner-city kids discipline, morality, and respect through sports. He credits God with the success he has seen as he prays with and trains the kids. “Rebuilding misguided dreams,” he says.
In pursuing God and leaving behind our past wrongdoing, we, like Stephen, follow Paul’s charge to the Ephesians to embrace a new way of life. Although our old self is “corrupted by its deceitful desires,” we can daily seek to “put on the new self” that is created to be like God (Ephesians 4:22, 24). All believers embrace this continual process as we ask God through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Him.
Stephen said, “Faith was a crucial foundation for me changing my life around.” How has this been true for you?
Those raised in the English village with William Carey (1761–1834) probably thought he wouldn’t accomplish much, but today he’s known as the father of modern missions. Born to parents who were weavers, he became a not-too successful teacher and cobbler while teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. After many years, he realized his dream of becoming a missionary to India. But he faced hardship, including his child’s death, his wife’s mental-health problems, and for many years the lack of response from those he served.
What kept him serving amid difficulties so that he could go on to translate the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into twenty-nine others? He said, “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit.” He committed to serving God no matter what trials he encountered.
This continued devotion to Christ is what the writer to the Hebrews counseled. He called for those reading his letter to not “become lazy” (Hebrews 6:12), but to “show this same diligence to the very end” (v. 11) as they sought to honor God. He reassured them that God “will not forget your work and the love you have shown” (v. 10).
When William Carey was old, he reflected on how God consistently supplied his needs. “He has never failed in His promise, so I cannot fail in my service to Him.” May God similarly empower us to serve Him day by day.
“What do you think about peace?” my friend asked as we ate lunch together. “Peace?” I said, puzzled. “I’m not sure—why do you ask?” He answered, “Well, as you jiggled your foot during the church service I wondered if you’re agitated about something. Have you considered the peace God gives to those who love Him?”
That day some years ago, I was a bit hurt by my friend’s question, but it started me on a journey. I began exploring the Bible to see how God’s people embraced this gift of well-being, of peace, even in the midst of hardship. As I read Paul’s letter to the Colossians, I chewed over the apostle’s command to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts (Colossians 3:15).
Paul was writing to a church he’d never visited but had heard about from his friend Epaphras. He was concerned that as they encountered false teaching, they were losing the peace of Christ. But instead of admonishing them, Paul encouraged them to trust Jesus, who would give them assurance and hope (v. 15).
We all will encounter times when we can choose to embrace or refuse the rule of Christ’s peace in our hearts. As we turn to Him, asking Jesus to dwell in us, He will gently release us from the anxiety and cares that weigh us down. As we seek His peace, we trust that He will meet us with His love.
A Christian organization works to promote the healing nature of forgiveness. One of their activities involves a skit in which a person who has been wronged is strapped back to back with a rope to the wrongdoer. Only the one sinned against can untie the rope. No matter what she does, she’s got someone on her back. Without forgiveness—without untying the rope—she cannot escape.
Offering forgiveness to someone who comes to us in sorrow for their wrongdoing begins the process of releasing us and them from the bitterness and pain that can cling to us over wrongs we’ve suffered. In Genesis, we see two brothers separated for twenty years after Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. After this long time, God told Jacob to return to his homeland (Genesis 31:3). He obeyed, but nervously, sending ahead to Esau gifts of herds of animals (32:13–15). When the brothers met, Jacob bowed at Esau’s feet seven times in humility (33:3). Imagine his surprise when Esau ran and embraced him, both of them weeping over their reconciliation (33:4). No longer was Jacob held by the sin he committed against his brother.
Do you feel imprisoned by unforgiveness, saddled with anger, fear, or shame? Know that God through His Son and Spirit can release you when you seek His help. He will enable you to begin the process of untying any ropes and setting you free.
When Aaron (not his real name) was 15, he began praying to Satan: “I felt like he and I had a partnership.” Aaron started to lie, steal, and manipulate his family and friends. He also experienced nightmares: “I woke up one morning and saw the devil at the end of the bed. He told me that I was going to pass my exams and then die.” Yet when he finished his exams, he lived. Aaron reflected, “It was clear to me that he was a liar.”
Hoping to meet girls, Aaron went to a Christian festival, where a man offered to pray for him. “While he was praying, I felt a sense of peace flood my body.” He felt something “more powerful, and more liberating,” than what he felt from Satan. The man who prayed told Aaron God had a plan and Satan was a liar. This man echoed what Jesus said of Satan when He responded to some who opposed him: “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Aaron turned to Christ from Satanism and now “belongs to God” (v. 47). He ministers in an urban community, sharing the difference following Jesus makes. He is a living testament of God’s saving power: “I can say with confidence that God saved my life.”
God is the source of all that is good, holy, and true. We can turn to Him to find truth.