Rest Your Weary Soul
Do you have a hard time saying ‘no’ to things? Consequently, do you often find yourself over-committed, worn out or lacking peace in your life? If this isn’t you, does this describe someone else in your life? If so be sure to join us this week as we seek to find rest for our souls.
I want to start today with a question: Anyone here tired?
Maybe when you woke up this morning you were rested and refreshed.
Maybe you thought about stopping at Starbucks, but you said to yourself, “No. I feel so alive that any more caffeine would be like pouring fuel on a fire.”
Maybe you stood in front of the mirror and your first thought was, “Man! I look so full of health and vitality I scare my own self.”
Maybe that was your first thought.
But maybe not.
Because we live in a world where people are weary.
A writer by the name of Lewis Grant says our society is characterized by what he calls Sunset Fatigue.
The idea is that people come home at the end of the day and those they love most deeply, who need their love the most, end up getting emotional leftovers.
Because we’re just too tired, or too drained, or too fatigued, or too preoccupied to love the people to whom we’ve made the deepest commitments.
I want to look real quick at some symptoms of Sunset Fatigue to see if any of us suffer from this.
Okay, here we go — symptoms of sunset fatigue:
You have a continued sense of urgency and hurry.
You find yourself rushing even when there’s no reason to.
You’re often frustrated about not getting things done.
You find yourself starting things but you don’t seem to get around to finishing them.
How about a sense of:
Time passing to quickly.
The children are growing up to fast.
Important life goals are going unfulfilled.
How about inappropriate self destructive attempts to overcome fatigue with things like:
Or you overdose on television.
Or you find yourself listening to country music.
How many of you have to acknowledge that you have at least one symptom of Sunset Fatigue?
How many of you just want me to hurry up and get on with the rest of the message? Anyone in that category?
Today I want to talk NOT about the kind of fatigue that can be made up with one good night’s sleep.
I don’t want to talk about the kind that comes from a day of strenuous exercise or good hard labor.
I want to talk about what might be called “soul fatigue” — a weariness of spirit, a heaviness of heart.
When you’re in this condition, you find —
You’re not living up to the kind of life that you know God created you to live.
You’re not becoming the kind of person that you long to become.
You’re not living out your values.
You’re not living up to your beliefs… because you simply lack the strength and energy and power.
I believe hurry and rush and frantic activity, and the resultant soul fatigue that accompany them are the deadly enemy of spiritual life in our day in a way they have not been in the history of the human race.
I believe millions of people will never reach their full spiritual potential —
They’ll never come to know and trust God the way they were made to.
They’ll never experience the kind of regular, ongoing worship that they were designed to experience.
They’ll never devote themselves to developing the giftedness that God has given to them.
This will happen not because they defy God, not because they shake a fist in his face and walk away, but because they’re just too fatigued and tired and preoccupied to follow him.
I believe that in millions of cases:
People will never become the kind of friends they want to.
They won’t build into their family.
They won’t serve the poor.
They won’t engage in needed confrontations.
They won’t speak words of affirmation and love.
They won’t do great deeds.
Not because they don’t believe in these things, but because they’re just too tired.
This is a real important point of spiritual life — if the evil one cannot get us to deliberately, openly disobey God, then he will make us busy, unfocused and exhausted because either way you miss out on God’s will. Either way you fail to become the person God called you to be.
I believe we live in a world where the pace of life and the inflated senses of expectations, desires and so on are simply insane.
As a result of that, we’ve come to believe that soul fatigue is normal, that it can’t be escaped, that when someone is born they just run until they drop at the end of their life.
I want you to know, if you don’t carry away anything else today, I’d like for you to remember that weariness is not God’s will for your life.
Soul fatigue is not God’s plan for the human race.
Jesus Christ came to teach us about another way.
One day he looked at a group of people who were tired, quite like many people in our world are tired, and said:
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Ah, there’s that word — rest. That’s what Jesus promised.
Take my yoke on you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your souls.
God’s intent was voiced long before that by the psalmist David. In some of the most famous words of Scripture, David said in Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
I’d like us to take this real seriously today. I believe God wants nothing more for us than to restore our souls.
And in the time that remains in this message, I want to look at two things.
One is I want to walk us through some signs of soul fatigue — some signs that you need rest.
How do you know if you struggle with this? What are the indicators of it?
And after that, I want to go back to the opening lines of Psalm 23 and look at facets of a soul-restoring way of life.
First of all, what are some Signs of Soul Fatigue.
I’m going to walk through five of them, and I’d like to ask you to do a kind of checkup.
I’ll walk us through five indicators, and I’ll ask you to say “Yes, I wrestle with that at least sometimes,” or “No, I never do.”
So if you would right now just pull out a pen, and you can just write down for each one of these five signs a yes or a no.
Unless you’re too tired and exhausted, grab a pen and you can write on the bulletin you were given on your way in.
Alright, signs of soul fatigue.
The first one is
1. Constant rush
There’s a frequent or ongoing sense that there’s just not enough hours in the day.
There are too many things I have to do, too many responsibilities to be met, too many obligations to be carried out, too many things I want to do, and there just isn’t enough time.
Now, this is almost epidemic in our day, and it’s true even though we’re obsessed with going faster.
We’ll buy almost anything if its name promises to help us go faster.
Author Richard Swenson says, “Just take a look at our lives. We send packages by Federal Express, use a phone service called Sprint, manage our personal finances on Quicken, diet with Slim Fast and swim in suits made by Speedo.”
We do all of this so rapidly, and yet we’re tortured by the sense that important things are going undone and tortured by the sense that there’s just no margin for our lives.
One thing goes wrong, one interruption, one delay, and we can’t catch up. There’s this constant sense of feeling rushed or fatigued.
I’d say more about this, but we don’t have time, so I want to go on to the next one.
Just indicate yes or no on this one. Do you ever wrestle with the sense of feeling rushed. It’s hard to be fully present in the moment because you’re feeling kind of preoccupied by what you have to do?
A second sign of soul fatigue is:
2. Choice overload
We’re so obsessed with wanting lots of alternatives that we live in what experts in our time call “choice overload.”
You look at the choice factor of our lives today compared to the lives of people a hundred years ago, and it’s unbelievable.
Just take one very simple activity. A hundred years ago if people wanted to buy potato chips, they had one option — Lay’s potato chips.
Today, there are hundreds of different chips to choose from in the chip aisle at the grocery store.
Just 50 years ago there were only three networks. If you wanted to watch TV, you just had one of three choices. Today, we not only have hundreds of channels on cable TV, we have dozens of streaming services to watch thousands of shows.
We’re just on choice overload.
Anyone stress out when you get to a restaurant and you get a menu the size of a book? Just trying to decide what to eat can be exhausting.
We live with choice overload, and it wears us down.
How many of you ever wrestle with indecision? Anyone?
How many of you aren’t sure? You need a little more time to think about it?
Another sign of soul fatigue is:
3. Information overload
I get fatigued because I feel like there’s so much information that I should be mastering that I’m not.
We are the most informed people who have ever lived.
Let me ask you a question: Are we the wisest people who ever lived?
We will go down as the most informed generation to this point in human history. But will people look back on this era and say, “There was a group of men and women who had wisdom for living”?
I believe in our day we’ve confused information with wisdom.
Solomon, the writer of the book of Proverbs, the wisest person to ever live, puts it like this:
For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
It’s very interesting to me that he doesn’t say information is more precious than rubies. He’s quite specific.
Wisdom is about knowing how to live, and then living that way, in a way that honors God and conforms with the order that God has placed in reality. That’s wisdom, and wisdom comes slowly.
You can’t fast-track wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t come to a mind that is rushed and fatigued.
Are you living with an increased sense of wisdom these days, or are you on information overload?
Another sign of soul fatigue is:
4. Stagnant spirituality
This now begins to cut real deep.
Honestly, how do you rate yourself on this one?
Do you have a sense that things are stagnant in your relationship with God?
It might look like this:
When we worship like we did this morning, if I’m truthful, a lot of times I’m not engaged. Sometimes I’m engaged, sometimes I’m not. It’s kind of off and on, it depends on my schedule or my mood.
Even if I can be present, sometimes I’m not prepared. I’m not engaged.
My prayers are mostly hurried, mostly on the run. I’m not experiencing the presence of God in prayer the way that I want to, the way that I think it’s possible or that I hope it’s possible.
My mind, if I’m truthful about it, is not being deeply formed and shaped by God’s wisdom in the Bible.
There are a thousand messages a day that bounce off of me. I’m not deliberately having my mind, my heart, my will, my emotions shaped by the Word of God.
I’m not experiencing the kind of character growth that I know I want to.
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and still be wrestling with the same stupid junk and sin and destructive patterns that I wrestle with now… but the fact is because things are going so fast and because I get so fatigued, my character is not really developing.
I’m facing the prospect of reaching the end of my life with a character in no better form than it is right now.
Evaluate yourself on this one.
Alright, a final sign of soul fatigue is, and this one cuts real deep:
5. Decreased love
I think everyone wants to be loving. I think if we took a vote on this one no one would say, “I want to become a less loving person.”
But I think soul fatigue is maybe one of the great barriers to love because then we have no more energy for caregiving or acts of service.
People in service types of organizations talk about donor fatigue.
People in volunteer organizations talk about compassion fatigue.
Parents understand the kind of energy it takes to parent well; and how often we face those moments where I think I know my child needs my attention, my conversation, my presence, my devotion.
But I’m not able to give it. I don’t have it to give.
These are people whose hearts are in the right place. They want to give, but they can’t give because they’re empty. They lack the energy and power and strength just to love. They already gave somewhere else.
Soul fatigue is deadly serious business.
It creates people who are constantly rushed, always behind, indecisive, superficial, unconnected with God and too fatigued to love.
Here’s the deal: We live in a society that produces such people by the millions.
We live in a society that pushes people into a way of life that doesn’t make sense, and you just get into this kind of default mode — obligations, work, pressure, time crunches and so on.
You find your heart growing smaller, and your spirit withering, and your sense of joy evaporating, and your ability to appreciate and experience awe and wonder disappearing.
You’re slowly turning into this person from whom life is getting squeezed out, and you never intended it. It’s just the way this world works. And you drift and float along and you end up this kind of a person.
We live in a society that produces lifeless people like it’s an assembly line.
But there’s another way to do life.
This way is known by those who are wise in the ways of spiritual life.
There’s another way of life, a way that gives life and doesn’t steal it.
Jesus himself said in John 10:10:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This way of life is talked about in the Bible.
It was expressed long ago in one of the most famous passages of Scripture that I’ve already referenced — Psalm 23.
David, who is a king and a warrior and a real busy guy and had lots of pressures — more than most of us in this room will ever know — said this is the way he does life.
The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.
And then this most remarkable statement:
He restores my soul.
You know what I noticed as I was studying this Psalm?
Each one of those first four lines, those first four statements, involves a kind of choice point where David had to decide how he was going to live. And you and I have to decide how we’re going to live.
If you follow spiritual wisdom at each one of those four choice points, the result will be what is expressed in the final line — your soul will be restored.
So I want to walk us through those four lines and talk about what the alternative is.
Then for each one of those lines I want to suggest a single word that encapsulates the wisdom of David, that enables us to live the truth of these words.
So first of all, David says:
The Lord is my shepherd.
There’s a real basic decision involved here — have I put my life in God’s hands?
A sheep just belongs to the shepherd. The shepherd will make a mark on that sheep to mark it off — “This is my sheep.” The sheep follows the shepherd.
Have you made that decision? Do you ask God each day to shepherd you?
The essential alternative here is to say I have no shepherd and, therefore, I have the constant anxiety of knowing I’m on my own. I will face ultimate issues, problems, including death, on my own.
Life without a shepherd is a life of constant worry — worry about the future, about my relationships, about my job, about my health, about whatever crisis I’m in, about whether or not I will get what I want.
Here’s a very odd thing. How many of you ever worry?
How many of you are worried about what people will think of you if you raise your hand in the air?
How many of you have discovered that worry is a constructive, life-giving way to deal with the future?
It just chokes the life out of us. It just kills us.
And you look at people, you look in their faces, and you will find in our society people whose faces and lives and hearts and souls are marked by constant worry.
There’s another way to do life, and that is to live in the constant care and protection of the good shepherd.
Now, David understood about shepherds. He was a shepherd himself, and he knew that the fate of sheep depends on the quality of the shepherd. They’re dependent that way.
Philip Keller is a 20th century shepherd who wrote about this 23rd Psalm based on his observations of sheep. He writes:
Sheep do not take care of themselves. Sheep require more attention and meticulous care than any other class of livestock.
This is a nice way of saying — sheep are kind of dumb. They need a shepherd.
The good shepherd is always thinking about his sheep. What do they need?
He’s guiding them, he’s caring for them, he’s protecting them, he’s watching out for them, he’s looking out for their needs.
And God will do that for you. He really will. He will shepherd you.
If you want to live in the shepherd’s care, if you want to have the God of the universe watching out, caring, providing and so on for you, then what I’d offer you in this area is the word
James writes in James, chapter 4, verse 2:
You do not have because you do not ask God.
This week, whenever you feel inclined to worry — and you will — when you feel that tug, stop before you just reflexively give in to ceaseless worry.
Stop and remember the good shepherd is right there, and instead of worrying make it an adventure in asking.
“God, I’m worried about my family. Will you protect them?”
“God, will you give me strength for my work?”
“God, I have a difficult decision to make, and if I make it wrong, bad things will happen. Will you give me wisdom?”
“God, I need healing. Will you heal me?”
“God, I need to have a hard conversation, will you give me strength?”
This week, instead of just worrying, turn your worry into prayer and ask. I guarantee you — God will be there to shepherd you. He really will. He really does this.
Well David says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Then he goes on to make a really remarkable statement. He says:
I shall not want.
The language is a little archaic, but the idea is quite significant. The idea is that because the Lord is a good shepherd and cares and provides for me, I can go through life as a joyful, grateful, contented person.
The alternative is chronic discontent, insatiable desire, and the never-ending, unfulfilled quest for satisfaction.
And we live in a world that creates these people by the millions.
In many respects we live in an economy and a society that is built on the production of unquenchable desire.
Some of the smartest people in our world devote most of their working hours thinking of ways to convince us of two things:
You are, or should be, discontent.
Contentment is just one purchase away.
I mean, just look at advertisements — millions of products cry out, “Use me! Buy me! Eat me! Wear me! Try me! Drive me! Put me in your hair!”
They say to us, “You will be happy if you have a bigger house, newer car, bigger income, better clothes, whiter teeth, fresher breath, toner body.”
The discontent that’s promoted to your body alone is staggering.
We can’t look at media without finding ads for machines that will give us the body we want.
But I’ll tell you what, the most powerful treadmill of all is the treadmill of insatiable desire.
You get on the treadmill of insatiable desire and chronic discontent, you can run as fast as you can as long as you want, and you will never reach satisfaction.
It will look like you’re getting close to it, and then it’s gone.
You’ll run harder, faster and longer and you will wear yourself out and you will never get anywhere.
There’s another way to do life.
There is a good shepherd who knows what you need and who knows what you don’t need — who knows what would be good for you and who knows better than you do what will be bad for you.
This way is to put your life in his hands.
I’ll offer one word for living in contentment — “I shall not want” — and it’s the word:
Anyone here find that your life gets cluttered with stuff and activity and junk?
What would your life look like if instead of this endless chase for “what do I need to buy, what do I need to acquire, how do I need to change, what will bring me satisfaction, you just simplified and said, “God, I’m just a sheep. You’re my shepherd. I shall not want. I shall not go through life in an endless frenzy of activity to try to get some external thing or achieve some kind of external circumstance that will bring soul satisfaction.”
What if you decided to live simply?
Some of you need to go home and go through your closets and just find clutter and give it away.
Go through your rooms, go to the garage and find clutter and get rid of it.
Go through your calendar and find clutter and get rid of it.
Some of you are cluttered with financial commitments that are choking you. You’re making payments you can’t afford for things you don’t need. Get rid of them. Just simplify.
David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
I’m telling you, in a world of chronic discontent to go through life in contentment, not wanting, would be an oasis of sanity.
Well David goes on to say about the Good Shepherd:
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
Now, the alternative to lying down is frantic activity — constant busyness, an overcommitted lifestyle.
I think David uses very interesting and suggestive language here. He says the Good Shepherd “makes me lie down.”
I have kids that won’t rest sometimes; even when they need to go to sleep.
Sheep are like that. Sometimes sheep won’t lie down to rest even when they need it.
And generally there’s a cause behind a sheep’s restlessness.
Philip Keller writes about this:
There are several conditions under which a sheep will not lie down. Sheep are real timid creatures. As long as they’re afraid, they won’t lie down. They won’t risk resting.
Because they’re social creatures and there’s sometimes tension in the flock, when two sheep are butting heads about who gets to be higher on the pecking order, they will not lie down and rest.
Because they’re creatures of appetite, if they’re empty inside, if they’re hungry, they will not lie down.
They won’t lie down until they’re free of fear, free from friction, and free from hunger.
They’re a lot like us.
Some of you are afraid of what happened or what might happen or what will happen. And it’s robbing you of rest.
Some of you are in relational conflict right now and the tension and friction are such that you’re exhausted from it.
Some of you are hungry for love or intimacy or success or recognition, and it just leads you into frantic activity.
It’s real interesting what Keller writes:
What gives the sheep assurance to rest is the presence of the shepherd. When there’s a really good shepherd, then the sheep realize they have nothing to fear because someone is protecting them. Sheep grow quite confident in the presence of a good shepherd.
David says, “I have a shepherd like that. So even though I know I live in a world where real bad things happen, I really am quite confident in the presence of my shepherd.”
Keller writes about how sheep will sometimes get in fights over pecking order stuff, but when the shepherd is present, if he manages them well, that foolishness just stops.
In the presence of the good shepherd, I talk about my relational conflicts and he brings peace.
When I come to the Good Shepherd and I say, “God, I’m empty. I’m feeling lonely. I’m feeling hurt. I’m feeling unloved,” he says, “You just remain with me for a while, and I’ll fill your soul.”
Psalm 127:2 says:
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for he grants sleep to those he loves.
You know, work and activity and achievement are all very good. They’re very important. But if you’re doing it in a frantic way that robs you of rest, it’s in vain.
David says in Psalm 4:8:
I will both lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
What would your life be like if you got enough sleep all week? What kind of person would you be if you were just rested all week?
Well, that can actually happen, but you’ll need to do a few things differently.
A doctor who has worked a lot with people that struggle with frantic activity suggests at your business to schedule one or two appointments with non-existent people.
And they’ll probably be “no-shows.” Then you can just rest.
The word here is
You’ll have to rearrange your calendar a little bit. You’ll have to get creative with it. But you need to rest.
You really can go through life as a rested person.
Then David says the Good Shepherd
Leads me beside still waters.
An interesting thing about sheep is they get nervous around noisy, fast running water because if they get pushed in or they fall in, their wool gets saturated and gets real heavy. They’ll drown in the current. So sheep need water that is still or quiet.
We don’t live in a still, quiet world, do we?
Wherever we go, we’re surrounded by noise.
But here’s the thing — we’re the noisiest culture in the history of the world, but even when we have the chance to escape it, we don’t, because we don’t just endure noise, we’re addicted to it.
We’re addicted to it because when there’s silence, then I have to come face to face with what’s in my heart, what’s in my life.
What is there between me and God?
I don’t want to do that because I’m so used to noise and stimulation — that’s an easier way to live.
People go home and turn on the TV even if they’re not watching it.
It’s very interesting. There was a survey done that asked people, “Why do you watch TV? Why do you have the TV on in your home?”
Anyone want to guess what people gave as the number one reason why they turn the TV on?
Think about that. Like we don’t get enough of it in the rest of our lives so we have to go home and turn it on to get more.
The average American will spend 15-20 years of their life watching TV.
I read a disturbing statistic: The average child at age 6 will have invested more hours watching TV than in speaking with his or her father over an entire lifetime.
How many people go into parenting and say, “My goal is to have my child by the time they’re 6 years old to have heard more words from a TV than they will have heard from their father until he goes to the grave”?
You tell me that’s not insane.
I think the real damage a TV does takes place not because of what happens on the screen, but because of what does NOT happen because of the screen.
People don’t spend time in relationships.
They don’t spend time talking.
They don’t spend time connecting.
They don’t spend time loving.
They don’t spend time doing the things that we were created by God to do.
The irony is we watch TV because we’re tired, and we just kind of want to collapse for a while.
But does it restore you?
When was the last time you woke up in the morning and said, “Last night I sat in front of the TV from the time I got home until I went to sleep, and today I feel so rejuvenated and energized.”
It doesn’t happen.
So here’s a challenge: take a break from TV for a while. Do a TV fast. Do a media fast.
Historically, people that were real serious about pursuing spiritual life, one of the practices that they would engage in is fasting, usually fasting from food.
I think if Jesus were alive in our day and were teaching us, he would talk about the need for another kind of fast — a media fast, just to abstain from noise for a while.
I’d like to invite us to do that. Just practice being still.
And I’m not going to tell you how long the fast needs to be. For some of you it will be just today, or tomorrow to realize you can go a day without it.
For some it will be a week.
For some it will be a month.
Just decide and then don’t watch any TV at all… no youtube, no Netflix. Nothing. Unplug it. Just let the time and space be silent.
And the word here is
When you’re in the car, maybe tomorrow, instead of turning on music or talk radio, just allow there to be silence.
Now, if you do that, it will be uncomfortable at first. But God will be there.
If you learn to practice silence, being quiet, being still, the Good Shepherd will speak.
And here’s the deal, God wants to shepherd you so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to live on this earth to teach us about another way to live.
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Jesus said, “I’ll teach you another way to live.”
Jesus was so serious about this that as he was thinking about how to describe his concern for the human race he said,
I am the Good Shepherd.
That’s the metaphor he used, surely with David’s words in mind.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Jesus loved you so much he laid down his life just for you. He went to the cross just for you. That’s how badly he wants to shepherd you.
So will you let him do it?
Let’s make this week an adventure in it.
This week, ask him to shepherd you instead of worrying.
This week, simplify instead of wallowing in chronic discontent.
This week, rest sometimes instead of always running in frantic activity.
This week, turn off the noise and be still. Sit in the silence.
And the Good Shepherd will become more real to you than ever before, and your soul will begin to be restored.
Alright, let’s pray as Christian and the team come to lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church