‘I will give you rest’: Devotional message from B.C. wildfires

It is an honor to serve in God's Kingdom, but what do we do when the weight of ministry becomes too heavy?

BGEAC chaplain Janet Voth (center) prays with Tahltan Nation elders and members of the Samaritan’s Purse leadership team as they serve in northern B.C.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains were deployed to northern B.C. when an out-of-control wildfire raged through the Telegraph Creek area, destroying homes and devastating the community. On the last day of deployment after weeks of service, Janet Voth, one of the chaplains, gave the following devotional message to encourage the team of chaplains as well as Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers who were serving alongside them.

Some of the people who came [to Dease Lake] knew each other be and had worked together before. For others, it was a new experience. With a deployment this long, you become family. The Site Leadership Team has done long deployments before, but for us chaplains, this was the first time.

I’ve been on many deployments, but this one will always stand as special. I just want to say it’s been a pleasure and an honor. It’s really cool to know we have another family and it’s sad that, as we leave here, this family has to disperse.

I also know that, at this point in the deployment, we’re tired. We get punchy, which is fun, and we’ve had some deep belly laughs which I think are very healing. But we’re tired. We need rest.

What an amazing ministry to be part of – to know that God has used a tiny bit of us to touch lives within the Tahltan Nation. It is kingdom work, and each of us has been chosen by God to serve in it.

I always smile when I hear people tell me their plans, because when we follow God, our plans are His plans.

One verse is particularly in my heart. It’s from Proverbs. ‘Man may make plans, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.’ We have seen that time and time again [here]. Last night I said ‘OK, this is my last time on the road from Dease Lake to Telegraph Creek.’ Today I found out we’re driving in one more time.

Man’s purpose may be one thing but the Lord’s purpose prevails. We just go with it.

Romans 8:33 says:

“Who dares to accuse us, whom God has chosen for His own.”

I Peter 2:9 says:

“But you are a chosen people. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God that called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.”

So, as His chosen people serving in this ministry, what happens when we get tired; when the days start to drag on; when the enemy of our soul whispers to us ‘I just don’t want to be there today, I’m tired’?

I think we’ve all felt that.

But how do we go from the busyness that we have been totally involved in. How do we rest?

I was led to Matthew 11: 28-30:

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads. I will give you rest. Accept my spirit and learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your soul. The work that I ask you to accept is easy. The load that I give you to carry is not heavy.”

I thought about the type of rest that Jesus was talking about.

The dictionary lists four definitions for rest. The first is what we’re going to do as we leave here – ‘to cease work or movement in order to relax and refresh oneself.’ I’m not sure that’s the context Jesus was using in Matthew 11, because in the same verse he said ‘accept my work, and learn from me’. Jesus commands us to work to carry out the mission.

The second definition was ‘to be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position.’ I think of our grandson. He’s 10 and he is active and he recently broke his leg and was forced to rest on a sofa with his leg out for a very long time, and that was very tough for him. That’s another form of rest – when you’re forced to. But that’s not what God’s talking about here either.

Three is ‘to be grounded on, or grounded in, or to depend on,’ and four is ‘to place hope, trust, or confidence in.’

In the Gospel, the theology of rest is clearly articulated by Jesus: “Come to me and I will give you rest for your soul.” The rest that Jesus promised us is both for the future – eternity with Christ – and for the present. It is the sense of security and peace that flows through us when we put our hope and trust in God and choose to live in right relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s the rest that refreshes our spirit and moves us on even when we’re tired.

My hope is that you will take that rest – that soul filling, God-energizing rest supplied by the Holy Spirit – with you as you serve today. I pray that, as this deployment comes to an end, you choose to rest in the One who supplies all your needs. I pray that you will release things that, in your heart and mind, are not yet completed to the One who directs their path.

And I encourage you to take a deep breath and smile, knowing that God has used both your weakness and your strength for His purpose. I want to assure each of you that the Lord is pleased with your worship of service, for serving God is a form of worship.

And you all served well.

Finally I have one more reminder as you go on your way home; don’t bury everything in the far reaches of your mind. Remind yourself often of these Tahltan people. As God brings it to your mind, pray for them, and tell others about them – about their resilience and courage; about their struggles and brokenness. Encourage more people to pray for them.

>> Read how the chaplains brought Christ’s love to wildfire victims in B.C.