Letters to My Friend

Believer, Are You Resting
In Christ's Finished Work?

By Mary E. Stephens
April 2023


Dear Friend,


Are you going through a really rough time? Are the comforts of life that you have enjoyed all gone? Do you feel like you have been stripped of everything that you could do or hold or show as your works for God? Does it seem like you have no blessings left to show how great God is? Perhaps you’ve lost your house, your health, a child, your spouse, your best friend, or more. Maybe you have lost your faith in other people because of the things you have suffered.


If the answer is yes, then you are at a very crucial turning point in your life. You will choose one of two things. You will cast yourself wholly upon God and recognize that all you ever had was from Him to begin with, and it was not earned by you. Or you will become defeated through false pride and self-justification (like Job), blaming God for what He has allowed you to go through after all the good things you did for Him.


If you are not truly born again and all your good works and valiant striving to do the right things, have the right things, give to the Lord, and make something of yourself spiritually were your own efforts. They were done to prove to yourself, others, and God - in that order - that you are saved when you are not.


If this could be you, then you need to sit down and study through the gospel of John and 1 John with someone who is actually saved and find out if you truly believe. [Also, please read the story of Theresa's salvation under similar circumstances.] You need to ask God to give you "...the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe..." (Romans 3:22) You need to be sure of your salvation. You need to be a “know-so” Christian. Anything short of this will leave you in the same mess you are in already.


But, this letter is more specifically to those who are born again, but are not resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ.


If you are saved, and you are struggling with anger towards God for taking all your proofs of His blessing away from you, then you need to ask yourself why you were so dependent upon all those things - your posessions and your own frantic efforts to prove yourself. Were you proving that God loved you? Were you proving that you were as good as other Christians? Were you trying to earn God’s blessings and show Him that you deserved this or that specific thing? Were you trying to prove God’s goodness by showing all the great things He was doing for you? Were you proving that you are indeed a virtuous woman or godly Christian by doing all the right things and having a beautiful Christian home?


It’s easy to fall into the error of the Galatians. We tend to think of their problem as keeping the Old Testament law, which is what they were doing. But we don’t always pick up on the why of it. Paul made it clear - Galatians 3:2-3 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? We may not be keeping the Law of Moses, but if we have things and works that we "need" in order to prove we are saved, in order to prove or buy God’s blessing, in order to arrive at a certain point that we consider “spiritual,” then we are no different than they were. Having begun in the Spirit, are you now trying to be made perfect by the works of the flesh? It can’t be done.

Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things
above, not on things on the earth.

These things must be poured out into our lives through the work of God's Holy Spirit as He works through us to do the will of the Father. We must walk after the Spirit in order to please God once we are saved. This requires not works, but trust and rest, growth and faith.


Romans 8:1-5 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.


Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.


How does He reward us now? With Himself as He did Abraham, whose faith we follow.


Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Galatians 3:7-9 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Blessed by God through faith, not by works.


Horatius Bonar said this:


"Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that goodwill to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own poor performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son."


He was speaking of salvation here, but it applies to us after we are saved as well. In order to rest in the Lord and truly walk by faith and not by sight, we have to cease from our own works and do the works of God. This isn't a matter of impressing ourselves or others or even God. It is a matter of being about our Father's business because it is the good and right and restful thing to do.

2 Corinthians 5:4-9 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. [Emphasis added,]

How do we become accepted?

Ephesians 1:6-9 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

You see, we are accepted in the beloved in Jesus Christ, in the redemption through His blood. And He abounds to us in all wisdom and prudence - we have everything we need in Him to do the Father's will and the works that we are foreordained to accomplish for His glory. We have everything we need in Jesus Christ to prove that we are blessed!

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.


Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


We are in the yoke with Jesus, so the yoke is easy and the burden is light. He has all power in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18) to make sure the work gets done, and we are privileged to work with Him in that.


Colossians 2:9-10 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:


Faith is rest because we are complete in Jesus Christ. Complete. Not half done and waiting for our works to finish the job.


Everything we need to receive God’s love, blessing, and approval we receive from Christ. We can’t earn it, we can’t deserve it, we can’t force God to give it to us by our own striving and desperate efforts. We couldn’t earn it before we were saved and we can’t afterwards either. It is all because of Christ. He is the one who is worthy. God loves us, blesses us, pours out His Spirit into us because Jesus Christ is worthy and we are complete, Complete, COMPLETE in Him. Nothing less will do.


There’s a lot of confusion and error that has been sown in the church by people preaching and teaching and thinking that you have to “make Him Lord of your life” and that “if He isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all.” This isn’t in the Bible. You can twist it into saying something like that, but those things are not said in those words. You can’t make Jesus Christ Lord. He IS Lord, whether you like it or not; whether you submit to Him or not. And, no one living in the body of this death (Rom. 7:24) is ever going to make Him Lord of all by their own human striving. You can accept that He is Lord and believe it, and still be imperfect in your obedience and your living and your walk. If we had to be perfect in "making Him Lord" what a miserable salvation that would be, because we can never be good enough in our own efforts.


This way of thinking is destructive because it drives people to think they have to do, do, do to prove that they are saved, living for God, walking after the Spirit, born again. True Christianity says, “Done.” “'It is finished,' was His cry....” That is why we are complete in Him. There is nothing left to do. He did it all. Every whit.


Sadly, we often confuse our state on this earth with our standing in heaven. We are tempted to think that we can make our standing in heaven better by our own efforts, by improving our state here.


Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


One reason the Apostle Paul learned to be content in every state is because his state wasn’t saving him or proving that he was saved. His state on this earth was not a measure of his standing before God. It had no bearing on how blessed he was in Christ.

A house to keep, a home to build, a family to raise, children to train, a good husband or wife, a car, a garden, good health - these are all part of your state, friend. They are not the essence of your salvation. They are not the standing of your spirit before God. He can take those all away and you are still complete in Him. You can still do all the things that He wants you to do through Christ because His strength and ability is limitless. Your abilities and mine? Well, they have a lot of limitations!


Martha Snell Nicholson wrote this:


One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Until I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.

And I walked earth’s highways, grieving.
In my rags and poverty.
Till I heard His voice inviting,
“Lift your empty hands to Me!”

So I held my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches,
Till they could contain no more.

And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God COULD not pour His riches
Into hands already full!


It is so easy in this life to get attached to our things, our works, our people to the point that we can’t let go and we think that we can’t serve God or be what HE wants us to be without them. We are so prone as humans to walk by sight and by what we feel and by our own expectations of what life should be. We have so many eartly measures we think we need in order to prove we are Christians.


But that isn’t how it’s supposed to work. In fact, it doesn’t work. When we put ourselves into that position, when we refuse to let go of our preferred works and the things we can see and feel and touch; our kind Father often will take things away so that we can learn to hold onto the things that really matter. He will remove the things that perish with this life so that we can learn to hold onto the things that are eternal.


Hebrews 12:26-29 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.


One of these days God is going to burn up this earth and everything on it. If our treasures are not in heaven (Matthew 6:2), then our treasures will burn up with it.


Isaiah 65:17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.


All this stuff that we are tempted to think we "need" - we aren't even going to remember it someday. Think about that for awhile.


1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.


As believers in the church era, our works will be tried at the judgment seat of Christ. If we wasted our time on useless pursuits and vanity, it's obvious that will burn. But, if we did "good" works to justify ourselves and prove that God favored us, they will burn up too - no matter how spiritual they appeared on this earth to us or to others. And, just to be clear, there is a lot of stuff that is deemed important or godly that can't be proven necessary from scripture if your life depended on it! Or if your heavenly reward depended upon it, if I may say so.


Paying off your mortgage is commendable. Living debt free is great, if it’s possible. Having a house of your own is comfortable. Owning your own transportation makes life easier. Having a good job pays the bills with more wiggle room for extras - even extra giving to God's work. Having children can bring happiness and purpose to life. Having a good husband or wife can be a delight and help. But none of these things are necessary to be complete in Christ. None of them are necessary to be approved or commended by God. None of them make you more spiritual in and of themselves. None of them make you a complete Christian.

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.


There are people who make bad choices which bring them into situations that leave them in debt, without the ability to provide the most basic needs. Many people make choices and do things wrong that ruin their marriages and their children. Because of that, we sometimes get the idea that all these problems are always the person’s fault so it proves they weren’t good people. Well, my dear friend, we aren’t any of us good people. When we get some things right, it doesn’t prove that we are better than others. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try and how much we did right, God steps in and gives us debts, losses, broken homes and marriages, and/or wayward children to force us to see that our sufficiency is not in our own efforts, but of Him. And, also, because sometimes we need things taken away so that we can receive the treasures He wishes to give us and see the truth He wants us to understand.


2 Corinthians 3:4-5 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;


We can’t give Him one thing - one thing - that He didn’t give us first. It’s  easy to profess that. It’s a lot harder to accept in the face of great loss.


Sometimes God strips someone of everything they hold dear - house, land, children, spouse, finances, creature comforts, their health, their ability to do their job or work, and more. It’s hard to understand why sometimes. But, this we know from scripture, He wants us to realize that He is enough - just Him. He is good - all by Himself. He is love - no matter how much life hurts. He is God. And sometimes, the only way we will learn to rest in Him, in His “enough-ness,” is by Him taking away all the other things that we were using as our props and supports to prove that He is and that He is a rewarded of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). We so easily forget that without faith it is impossible to please Him - not works, not even our love to Him, because We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19


1 Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.


That last verse is one of the hardest verses in the Bible. We often don’t appreciate how little that is. There is so much we think we need just to live, so much we think is required in order to be or do for God. There is so much we think necessary to prove Him or to prove that we are faithful or that we deserve His blessing. You don’t prove faithfulness by works. You prove it by being full of faith. Ah, but "...faith without works is dead...", James tells us. (James 2:26) But works to prove that God is what He says He is, to prove that we are born again and approved of God or to earn His blessing on this earth - all that is not of faith. When we set out to prove something, we aren’t doing it because of faith and love. True works unto righteousness spring from the faith and the love that already exist and are alive and well. They are the overflow of an abundant fulness.


You shouldn't want your child to be constantly doing things to prove to themselves or others or you that they are your child. That would seem silly. You don't want them doing things to earn your love - not if you are a truly loving parent. You want them to know that you love them even when they are not perfect and not always doing just what you would like them to do. You want them to know that you loved them before they even knew who you were. You want them to run to you when they have failed or when they need help or when nothing is going right or when they are hurting. Yet, how hard we find it sometimes to realize that God loves us like that and far, far more, not because we have proven ourselves worthy of this love, but because His Son is worthy and we are accepted in and through Him.


The word "worthy" comes from worth. Your worth to God, believers, is eternally bound up in the worthiness of His Son. Jesus can never lose His value. He can never fail. He can never be less than what God requires. We can. That’s why we needed a Savior to begin with. But, we can’t start earning it after we are born again. The rules of engagement didn’t change after salvation. It is all of Christ. We can’t add anything to His finished work. We can’t be more complete than Jesus Christ. It seems silly to even say that, and yet we sometimes act like that!


With everything stripped away, your life in tatters, all you worked for and saved for, all you tried to pour into the lives of those you love apparently wasted, God still Loves You because God still loves His Son. He can never stop loving His Son, and if you are in Christ, He can never stop loving you. That is what He wants you to KNOW with every fiber of your being, every beat of your heart.

Ephesians 3:17-19 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.


You can never exhaust the height or breadth or length or depth of that love. It is more than you need in this life or eternity.

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Nothing can separate you from that love. It is literally indestructible.


And it isn’t based on your feelings or earthly state. God the Father cannot deny you because He cannot deny His Son - and you are complete in Him.


He has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2). Not because you deserved it by living for Him, but because you believed on His Son and received all in Him and through Him.


Literally. Actually. In every sense. In every way. At all times. No matter how you failed in the past or are failing now. THERE IS NOTHING LEFT FOR YOU TO DO. It is done. All of it. Every bit that could earn God’s blessing, approval, and acceptance comes to you through Jesus Christ. And He is always enough - far, far beyond our tiny understanding.


Rest in that, tired heart. Give up your strivings and just let Him be God. Let Him be your all. Believe that He is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Cease from your own works (Heb. 4:10). You accepted the gift of salvation. Now accept the gift of resting in Him.


Sometimes it is so simple, we can’t believe it is true.


When Hebrews 12:2 tells us to keep "Looking unto Jesus..." we may miss that it is because He is the author and finisher of our faith. He wrote the whole book - all the way to the end. He finished it. It’s all done. We are complete. You are complete, Christian. In Him.


Being stripped of all that you held and did to prove yourself in any way is painful humanly speaking. But, if in the end it presses you more firmly into the knowledge of God’s love for you, if you learn to cease from your own works and serve in love because He first loved you, then there is purpose in it. If it brings you to the point of resting fully in Jesus Christ because you have finally realized that you can’t do it yourself, then you have received something of immeasurable value. It probably doesn’t feel like that today, but if you cast your burden on Him you will find that "...he is faithful that promised..." (Hebrews 10:23) far beyond anything that we can imagine or understand.


His peace passeth all understanding. His love is unsearchable. His ways are past finding out. His thoughts so far above ours that we cannot reach them. But His mercy and grace gave us all of this and so much more in the person of His Son.

Annie Johnson Flint wrote this: 

In Time of Need

Not by my need alone I ask this token
That Thou, O Lord, dost hear and heed my cry;
But by Thy promise that cannot be broken,
That all my need in Christ Thou wilt supply;
Not by my love for Thee, so oft disproved,
Not by my gifts to Thee, so poor and small,
But by Thy love that gave Thy best-beloved,
And with that one great Gift included all.

Not by my faith I plead, for that can falter,
Aye, and has faltered in the days gone by;
But by Thy faithfulness that cannot alter,
And by Thine ordered covenants on high,
Set safe and sure above Time's brief duration,
Beyond all change, eternally the same;
By these I dare my fervent supplication,
By Thy great mercies and Thy holy name.

Because Jesus Loves You, Mary Stephens

background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source