Julie Stead - Biddeston, Queensland, Australia Convention - 2017

I enjoyed some of the words in that hymn we just sang, "Help me to look to thee when I am tried, help me to cling to Thee in every test, help me to rest in Thee from every care." Life brings trials and temptations and cares and burdens. Where do we find the rest for our souls in times of need? We could look to ourselves or we can look to someone else or we could cling to our own ideas and our thoughts and our own understanding. The most important thing we could do in every test and every trial and every burden that we would look to God and look to Jesus. That we would cling to God and we would cling to Jesus and looking up to Jesus and looking up to God and we will find rest for our heart and rest for our soul.

I have been enjoying reading in Luke 2. It was just at the time when Jesus was born and we read there about the shepherds they were keeping an eye on their flock by night. Verses 9 - 15, “And lo, the angel of the Lord came unto them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes laying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.' And it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, 'Let us now go even into Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.'”

Shepherds were watching their flock and that’s what they were looking at and then something happened and something amazing happened:  a light shone around them and then the angel from heaven came and spoke to them and they said, "You go and you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." It was an amazing thing that happened and they were just looking at their sheep and something happened and everything changed. A light shone around them and the angel spoke to them and the multitude of the heavenly host praising God. They thought that was amazing and the angels went back to Heaven and they would go back to their sheep. Then they said, "Let us go into Bethlehem and see this thing come to pass and what the Lord hath made known to us." They found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. When they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. They were glorifying God and praising God for what they have heard and seen.

When the voice of the angel spoke, they were looking after their sheep, something changed – changed their focus and then they encouraged each other to go forward and look for Jesus. They were looking after their sheep which was important, then they went forward and looked at something that really mattered. It says they spoke one to another and it would seem that they encouraged each other to go forward. It doesn’t say they said, "Some of us will go and some will stay back and look after the sheep." They looked at each other and encouraged each other to go to seek out the Christ and then they saw Him. They looked to Jesus and they glorified Jesus. There are a lot of things that matter to us and takes our time and our focus, and there are times when God is speaking from Heaven and He wants us to focus on things that matter and look beyond ourselves and look to the Christ. It is a good thing for us to encourage each other to look to Jesus. The shepherds focus changed and looked at something that really mattered. There are a lot of things we must attend to that matter a lot in our daily life and a lot of things we focus on and we need to learn to focus on the things that really matter.

We need to look beyond and look to Jesus. Then I was thinking of what experiences of life can do for us. Matthew 14, when Jesus was walking on the water and they saw Jesus and they were afraid and then Peter said to Jesus, “Bid me come unto Thee on the water,” and Jesus said, “Come.” The wind became boisterous and Peter was afraid and began to sink, and he cried, “Lord, save me.” Immediately, Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him. There was Peter walking on the water to go to Jesus but when he took his focus off Jesus and saw the wind was boisterous, he cried out to Jesus. When Peter began to sink, Who did he cry to? He did not try to go back and cling to the boat or go back to the disciples. He cried to Jesus, “Lord, save me.”  That was his stability when everything around him was unstable, and the boat would have been unstable and he went to Jesus because he knew that Jesus was stable. That’s where his strength and hope was and that was his stability in life. When everything around us is unstable and unsteady, who do we look to? Do we cling to our own ideas?

Matthew 11 - 28, Jesus said, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Come unto me and I will give you rest and that is our security. Going to Jesus, that is our safety and cling to Jesus and that is our security and then we can rest. We all have probably been on a boat and everything is moving and the ocean is moving, and sometimes it makes you feel a little unwell. Someone will say, "Look up above the boat and past the boat and look up to something that is not moving and look up to the horizon and look at a piece of land that is still." It makes you feel so much better. Things in life are so unsettled and unstable and we cannot put our trust in things around us. We have to look past our own thinking and look past all the things that are unstable and look up to God, and God never changes and never moves. If we are in the boat and looking at the waves, that is all we will ever see and God is asking us to look past ourselves and look up to Him. That we would find our rest and peace in God and I hope that it would be so for all us for Jesus' sake.