DAILY DEVOTIONAL – April 15, 2021
“Weight on the Lord”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have remained perfectly faithful to Your promises given so long ago. Through generations of bearing patiently with a sinful world and sinful people, You have proven again and again that those who trust in You will not be put to shame. Father as we turn now ourselves to those same words and promises You have given, and that we now see fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus, strengthen us and keep us firm and steadfast in the one true faith until life everlasting with You. Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 12:1
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Devotional – “Weight on the Lord”
John G. Paton was a Scottish Christian missionary who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the cannibalistic Aniwen tribes of the New Hebrides Islands in the South Seas during the mid-nineteenth century. For 49 years John Paton lived with and faithfully endured in his mission work, even with his life hanging in the delicate balance of constant danger as the native tribal leaders regularly tried to kill him. John, however, trusted that his life would be preserved until the very moment God saw fit for his work to be done. Today, the impact of his life and dedication to faith in Jesus Christ can be seen throughout Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
The young Scotchman and his wife were the first white residents on an island full of naked and painted wild men–cannibals–who had no idea of right or wrong, worshipping and fearing numerous gods, living in continual dread of evil spirits, constantly fighting among themselves, and always eating the bodies of the slain. They had little regard for the value of even their own lives and lacked any sense of mutual kindness and obligation towards others.
Paton’s life was filled with many trials and setbacks as he waited on the Lord’s merciful hand to work among these barbarians that, as gruesome as they were, Paton firmly believed Jesus died for as well. Perhaps the biggest trial came when his first wife and their child soon died after their arrival on the island of Tanna. Paton’s faith withstood testing and he continued to work among the Aniwan people and preached the Gospel for many years while also raising support for his missionary work back home, starting numerous orphanages on the islands, and in the end, witness the entire island of Aniwa turn and begin to worship Christ.
One of the biggest accomplishments of John Paton during his time on Aniwa was his translating the Bible into their native language. Paton struggled considerably with this because the Aniwa people did not have a word for what we in English understand to be “faith” or “believe”. Then one day, John witnessed one of the natives flop himself into a chair, stretch out and prop his legs up on another chair. He then expressed how good it felt to “lean his whole weight” on those chairs. The missionary quickly wrote the expression down, and that is what became the translation for “believe” and to put one’s “faith” in Jesus; “to lean your whole weight on Him.”
Certainly, that is how John Paton lived his life in service to the Lord; leaning his whole weight on Jesus, his whole family on Jesus, his whole breath on Jesus. Jesus invites all of us to do the same when He says in Matthew 11, “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.” How else could Paton have endured and kept walking faithfully in such difficult circumstances? How could Paton have loved such an unlovable people? Only by first experiencing and receiving the rest and love of Christ in its fulness, and by heeding Christ’s invitation and leaning his whole weight on Him. That is the only why you and I have the hope of enduring our times of hardship and suffering while still possessing that miraculous peace and rest within our souls that propels us forward with joy even in the midst of sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty. As our passage from Hebrews exhorts us to do, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
What witnesses is Hebrews referring to here? All of the many witnesses and saints recounted in chapter 11 just before our text, that have lived and died before us, and who now still live and surround the throne of God even though they have died because they lived believing in the promises of God, leaning their whole weight on the promise of a Savior; a Savior that has come in Jesus Christ. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and so many others. When we remember God’s faithfulness to them as we read their true stories in the Bible, then we are strengthened and encouraged to surrender all to Christ as they did, resting in what God has done to deliver us just as He delivered them.
If you were to read more about the life of John Paton, you would find out very quickly that he too was encouraged by a great cloud of witnesses, beginning in his own home with his own father and mother. In his own autobiography, Paton recalls how the memory of his parents’ witness of prayer encouraged him to remain faithful in prayer himself. Paton wrote, “Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, were blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, ‘He walked with God, why may not I?’”
When we read the stories in the Bible of the cloud of witnesses, we are encouraged and strengthened not by the strength and courage of the witnesses, but by the faithfulness, mercy, and power of the God they lived their lives witnessing to. They walked with God, why may not you and I? We can, and only because the same God is with us and has revealed Himself to us in Jesus, who now sustains us in His promises and in His Word just as He did the saints before us who leaned their whole weight on the Word of God.
All throughout the Scriptures we are called to wait on the Lord. Two well known passages are Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 27:14.
They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:14
While reading the incredible story of John Paton, passages like these came to my mind and I more understood what it means to wait on the Lord: it means to put your weight on the Lord, to lean fully on Him, and to rest fully in Him even when we are tempted to take matters into our own hands, instead trusting in His time and in His way and in His Word.
Wait on the Lord my friends, and lean your whole weight on Jesus, remembering that God has forgiven yesterday, is with you today, and has already taken care of tomorrow. Amen.