Herein Lies the Key to Life: Cease to Strive and Rest in Christ
The following is an excerpt from a message I preached on Sunday, August 12. You can listen to the sermon here.
little over 100 years ago, Jesus profoundly taught a lesson to a man who in
recent months has become a sort of mentor to me, and the Lord has pressed this lesson into my life as well. That man's name is Hudson Taylor, and
for many years he was a pioneering missionary and leader of China Inland
Mission which sought to reach unreached peoples throughout that China. From his
youth, Hudson knew the truth that “Christ is all and has done all,” but he
struggled to live it in his daily life. He wanted so much to know Christ and
serve him better, so he strove to read the Word more. He strove to pray more.
He strove to live a more holy life. He strove to be a better servant of the
Lord. He strove to seek and save the lost. He strove to mobilize and train and
send and support other missionaries. And although these things are good things,
at times he felt almost crushed by the weight of them. The calling was so great
and the needs were so vast and the resources within and without were so scarce and
the necessary power seemed so elusive.
As I've thought and prayed about his life, I've come to believe God allowed Hudson to feel the
weight of these things because he was preparing Hudson to learn a lesson he
would never forget, a lesson that would mark the rest of his life and shape his
legacy, a lesson that would be used to influence the church of Jesus Christ for
generations to come.
the Lord knew the time was just right, he sent Hudson back to China from his
native England where he had been laboring for some time, and upon his arrival he
received a letter from a friend. In this letter his friend explained how Christ
had been teaching him to rest in his finished work and to cease striving. The
friend struggled for words and tried as best as he could to explain but at the
end of the day he could only hope and trust that the Holy Spirit would give
Hudson understanding. Near the end of the letter his friend wrote, in part,
“[Knowing that faith is the means by which we are to rest in Christ,] how then
to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all he
is for us: his life, his death, his work, he himself as revealed to us in his
word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have
faith…but a looking off to the faithful one seems all we need: a resting in the
loved one entirely for time and for eternity” (Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, OMF Books, 2010: 118-19).
The Lord used this letter in Hudson’s life, and powerfully so. In
fact, those closest to him said he was never the same after reading it. One of those people wrote, “Troubles didn’t worry him as they had before. He cast everything on God
in a new way and gave more time to prayer.” He stopped working so late into the
night and instead just went to bed, rising at 5:00 or 5:30 to be with Jesus.
He was giving more time to prayer and the Word now, and yet it wasn't a
striving, it wasn't a work of his flesh. It was a resting a Christ, it was time
spent with Christ for no other reason than to spend time with Christ.
This was a black and white moment, a before and after moment in Hudson's life. His dreams and responsibilities and sufferings remained, but the
burden of it all was gone. The anxiety had evaporated. He was only a man, so I’m sure he still had
his moments of struggle, but by and large the Lord gave him the grace to rest
rather than strive. He had discovered the peace of laying down in the
sufficiency of Christ and his finished work on the cross. He had found the key
to life: cease to strive and rest in Christ.
Of this time he wrote in a letter to his sister, “I don’t know how
far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing
new or strange or wonderful—and yet, all is new!...And the sweetest part…is the
rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about
anything” (123). From this time forward he was often heard telling others to “roll
the burden onto the Lord.” Someone would come to him with stress about sin or a
relationship or circumstance or need or opportunity, and he would just say,
“Brother or sister, roll the burden onto the Lord. It’s his alone to bear.” He
had found the key to life: cease to strive and rest in Christ. This was Hudson
Taylor’s spiritual secret—deep dependence upon the Christ who saved him.
The glory for this belongs not to Hudson but to the Lord who so graciously
taught him. And the Lord taught him for the good of us all. If we’ll have ears
to hear, I believe God will use this man to teach us a way of life that will
free us from anxiety and escort us into a new fruitfulness in Christ that will
be high and deep, wide and broad. And I believe that in part because this way
of life is not just for the super-spiritual, for famous believers like Hudson,
rather, this way of life is for all of God’s children. God wants all who are
redeemed to learn the beauty and joy of resting in him. Herein lies the key to
life: cease to strive and rest in Christ. Eat of him, drink of him, believe in
him—this is your only work, and God will give you grace even for this.