Christ's Refreshing Heart
Yesterday was a treat - particularly worship last night. I attended a local service at which a friend I trained with was preaching.
An Experience of Refreshment
Honestly, I was blown away: perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. He is a wise, godly, able pastor-preacher. He spoke on bearing burdens in Galatians 6:1-10. His sermon introduced several, helpful, fine distinctions. It overflowed with grace and very illumining truth. It gave penetrating insights into the problems Christians face, a ministry given to all saints, weakness that plagues our hearts, and the gentle solution in Christ. God spoke to me very powerfully through this Word about the need to increase understanding in these oft-neglected areas. It left me asking 'How did I miss that?' It moved me to pray 'Lord give me more insight!' I shared my reflections with him, asked him around for supper, and in company with my wife, we whiled away the rest of Man's Sabbath with more deep, enriching, refreshing, spiritual reflection.
A Surprise at Refreshment
Now, I have to admit, I didn't expect too much: I felt quite jaded yesterday before I went to Church. I wasn't greatly relishing time sitting in the pew. I've been enjoying hours of study-time this week. Meeting with the saints seemed not to hold out the same prospects. I guess if you're stretched joy and color drains from life - bright sermons can seem bland, worship songs a dirge or drudge. Thank God, that our Lord knows exactly what we need - what grace and mercy flow from a heart that does not reward such tired or jaundiced views of His appointed place of rest in Christ - His House.
Famous Examples of Refreshment
The heart of Christ, you see, stoops to refresh saints. There are some fine examples of this principle in Scripture. One beautiful little cameo act of refreshment that springs to mind, at once, is the supply of Barzillai the Gileadite who, in 2 Samuel 18:27-29, ministered to exhausted, exiled, David with beds, bags and bottles in extremis.
When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, "The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness."
Another well-known example is the refreshment the LORD gave to the prophet when Elijah fled from Jezebel and needed rest when stressed, and after some epoch-making events, recorded in 1 Kings 19:1-8 - food and forty-winks was the order of the day under the arbor of a broom.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
Other Examples of Refreshment
When we go to the New Testament, we hear the missionary apostle make known refreshment prayer-requests, for renewed fellowship, to imperial roman saints, in Romans 15:30-32.
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.
Some particular Christians, with pretentious-sounding names, were clearly gifted in this 'refreshment-giving' respect - Paul mentions them in 1 Corinthians 16:17-18:
I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.
It seems that the whole Corinthian church wanted to get in on the 'refreshing' act - their obedience to rebuke and response to correction rejoiced and refreshed both Titus and Paul, in 2 Corinthians 7:13-16:
Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.
Onesiphorus undertook refreshing visits to a betrayed, isolated, vilified, imprisoned, Paul when the apostle was down in depths of the pits, recording in 2 Timothy 1:15-18:
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me - may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! - and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
Paul petitions Philemon to act according to character - this godly believer seems to have been known as a constant stream of refreshment, and minister of Christ's grace, to the hearts of all the saints, in Philemon 1:4-7:
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
There are many other texts that we could reference to refresh - the Psalms are replete with praise for streams that cheers the saints (Psalm 42:1-2, 5 & 43:3-4; 46:1-5; 63:1-8; 84:1-7; 92:12-15; 104:10-15), into which believers must regularly sink deep roots.
Then there are those passages that point us, firstly, to the appointed day to refresh - Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 23:12; 31:17 - and secondly, to the Mediator, Christ Jesus, crucified, risen and ascended, in union with whom God grants refreshment, in Matthew 11:28-30, and the ability to refresh saints in a spirit of gentleness:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Truly the heart of Christ is inclined, through means of grace, to repeatedly, regularly, and rejuvenatingly, revive and refresh His Church. For all my loved ones, friends, and brothers, who have been used, in sovereign grace, to refresh me down the years, I lift my heart in praise to God! Keep up, press-on, advance, increase, and draw on Christ's font, through faith, to continue to pour out our Father's good, refreshing, work.
Will you thank God for refreshment which is graciously granted in Jesus? Will you come to the glorified Christ for all supplies of needed grace? If you are weary, thirsty and trouble, will you make use of means of grace to revive your soul? Will you look out for brothers and sisters who are flagging and have an urgent need to freshen up? Will you bless God for the pastors and elders and friends who, by grace in Christ, have refreshed you in a drought? Will you pray for Gospel preachers and all your local churches to be sources of rest and refreshment as they direct saints and sinners to Christ? Will you come in faith, confessing your doubts, to the heart of Christ that is ready and willing to refresh? Will you pray for His heart to make you a person who is Christlike in this grace - always eager to refresh?