Ok, so I know for the last few weeks…maybe even months I have been all over you guys about taking a real rest. I want you to know something, finding boundaries and rest in your life is a big deal to us hear at MRC because you matter to us. It’s also a big deal to us because we know that you live in a world that makes it almost not ok, to find rest and peace in your life. We talk about this a lot but just walk out into the lobby after church and ask somebody how they are doing. Listen to the responses you get. It will be something about how crazy busy they are…how much is going on, and how life is just flying by. How often do you ask someone how they are doing and they tell you they are well rested, feeling great, and enjoying healthy boundaries in their life? You won’t hear that! Frankly even if they aren’t really busy they won’t tell you that because it’s almost like it’s become a bad thing to have health in your life which is a sad thing.
Today I want to focus in more on this idea of rest…real rest and what it can lead to for your soul. A couple of weeks ago I read to you a scripture on this idea that has really meant a lot to me, and it’s something that I have been unable to get out of my mind…to the point where when I knew I was going to have a chance to talk to you about whatever I wanted on this particular Sunday, I just couldn’t get past the idea that I would be talking about real rest for our souls, because it is just that important. So important that God himself modeled it for us, and made it one of his commandments…to take real rest.
Genesis 2:1 Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. 2 By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. (MSG)
Can I ask you something? Do you think the God of the Universe needed to rest? Nope. So why in the world rest, and make sure it’s in our scriptures if we aren’t supposed to be learning from it right? So we learn just a chapter and a verse into our scriptures that rest is a big deal…it’s a big enough deal that the God of the universe who needs no rest would model it for you! It’s a big enough deal that it is one of the 10 Commandments!
Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. NIV
You know as the spring turned to summer this year, I could just feel the relief on everyone. Summer means fun, summer means beach trips and vacations, and picnics and less going on hopefully. I know in my own home coming through our first year of 4 children all doing a sport, we were very ready for summer. The one thing I kept thinking, the thing that has really become a burden in my heart though is that somehow we would use our summer vacation as a replacement for real rest for our souls. You know, the kind of rest that leads to real life. I think the thing that bothers me more than any other is that somehow we have been woven into a culture that says it’s not ok to slow down and rest. If you are resting it means you are lazy. So we run and run and run. We multi-task our way through each day of our lives. We live in a constant state of exhaustion and we get into this life that we can’t seem to find a way out of. So, we look to the OBX trip as a way to offset 358 days of work, clutter, and constant movement. All the while Jesus is there waiting…waiting for you and I to find real rest in him. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, and travel hundreds of miles to find real rest.
Matthew 11:28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)
Did you know that there are over 600 verses in the Bible on rest? So God models for us rest even though He is God and my assumption would be He doesn’t get tired. Jesus models for us rest and teaches on it. It’s actually the 4th Commandment, to engage in a Sabbath day; yet we live in a culture that has decided that taking a real rest is impossible or worse yet it means you are lazy and it’s just unacceptable. This is why the prophet Jeremiah’s words have just been ringing in my ears so much lately…
Jeremiah 6:16 This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ 17 I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ NIV
Do you see it? Jesus says come to me, get away with me and you will recover your real life. I will show you how to take a real rest. It’s in our relationship with Him that we learn to live freely and lightly…what do we see here as God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah…Rest for your souls can be found in our relationship with God…but we just won’t listen.
As I was preparing this message I found something pretty incredible on the internet, maybe some of you have seen this but I thought it was pretty relevant to what we are talking about and dealing with today…
IN PRISON—You spend the majority of your time in a 10×10 cell.
AT WORK—You spend the majority of your time in an 8×8 cubicle.
IN PRISON—You get three free meals a day.
AT WORK—You get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it.
IN PRISON—You get time off for good behavior.
AT WORK—You get more work for good behavior.
IN PRISON—The guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.
AT WORK—You must often carry a security card and open all the doors for yourself.
IN PRISON—You can watch TV and play games.
AT WORK—You could get fired for watching TV and playing games.
IN PRISON—You get your own toilet.
AT WORK—You have to share the toilet with some people who pee on the seat.
IN PRISON—They allow your family and friends to visit.
AT WORK—You aren’t even supposed to speak to your family.
IN PRISON—All expenses are paid by the taxpayers with no work required.
AT WORK—You pay all your expenses to go to work, and they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.
IN PRISON—You spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out.
AT WORK—You spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.
IN PRISON—You must deal with sadistic wardens.
AT WORK—They are called managers.
Ok Sam so you have bagged on vacation, and now you are bagging on work. So what is your deal do you think work is wrong. No, that isn’t it, we are actually told to work hard…we honor God by working hard. Work is a good thing and an important thing. The problem I have is that we can use work for a couple things. First work can become the way we find our identity…and the reality is that our identity needs to be found in Jesus and the fact that we are God’s children. The second thing that we can use work for is an excuse to never stop moving, and never engage God. Constant movement is a great defense mechanism. Work, clutter, constant movement in many ways become a really good way to never have to address anything in your own heart. This is a real problem, because your relationship with God is the most important thing you have, and if we aren’t careful we can get caught up in this constant motion thing, and ignore God all together which will lead to devastating results. Or we can get and stay really busy intentionally as a way to never have to deal with anything real…so we work really, really hard at work and never have to stop and address our hearts. Then we spend thousands of dollars and drive all over the place to work really, really hard on resting and we never have to address anything real in our own hearts. This is the problem. We have a world full of people starving for real rest for their souls, thinking that a week at the beach will get that done, while all the while God is speaking…and as the prophet Jeremiah says; “We will not listen.”
I want to tell you something here today, real rest isn’t just about how physically tired you are. Real rest is a time when we are centering our lives again. It’s easy to lose sight of what really matters in a world of clutter, of technology, of work, and kids activities and well…chaos. And I need you to hear me say something today.
Real rest leads to more than we realize. Real rest involves listening to God, and hearing the truth, and grasping the key to life on this Earth and the way I see real rest, it happens in three steps.
- We actually form boundaries and rest.
- We quiet ourselves and allow God to speak into our lives.
- We gain an incredible understanding of The Truth.
Step 1- Forming Boundaries and Resting. Here’s what I know, even as I bring up the idea of forming boundaries and resting there are some here today arguing in their heads with me. They can tell me every reason why they are never going to be able to do this. They are listing every reason why they can’t stop doing anything, and listing all the tasks they have to perform each day. I get it, you have a lot going on, but at some point you need to take control of your schedule, list out your priorities, and live them out. For some of us this means that we will have to say no to somethings. We may actually let some people down. For some of us, this may mean that there are some people out there that may actually think you are not a hard worker. For some of us this means that we will have to stop ignoring our hearts and engage somethings in there that maybe we have been trying hard to avoid. When God is the number one priority in your life…you will spend time with Him. If you are not spending time with God, you do not have a relationship with Him. If you are not stopping and engaging God, your soul will dry up…your heart matters it is the most important area for you to engage. Remember the wise words of Solomon this is the scripture that I read to you way too often but it is so important, we need to read it again…
Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. NIV
We must guard our hearts, we must engage the wellspring of our lives…everything in this world is screaming at you to never do this. I know you can give me 50 reasons why you will never engage your heart well…I get it. But I want you to know it is a fatal mistake. We must find boundaries. We must priorities God into our lives. We must guard our hearts well or we will be picked a part in this world by an enemy that we don’t realize even exists.
Step 2-Quieting ourselves to allow God to speak and me to listen. I think for most of us we would say that accomplishing step one is like our Mt. Everest right? I mean to actually set boundaries, say no, and begin to engage our hearts is a huge obstacle for most of us. Well once we get to the place of rest, the next step is essential. We need to listen to God. It’s one thing to do talk and talk and talk, it’s a whole other thing to listen right? I think for a lot of us when we do get to the place where we engage God it really becomes me reading down through a list of all the things I need from Him…rather than listening to Him speak. What did Jesus say about how we should be engaging God again?
Matthew 6:6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (MSG)
This is where life begins to be breathed back into your soul. As you are able to quiet yourself, and allow your Heavenly Father to speak to you. This is how we keep the wellspring of our lives overflowing with life…it’s through God speaking into our hearts. The reality is that if we are doing all the talking, I don’t think we are doing much listening. So we end up in a two way conversation rather than a one way conversation. Check this out…
James 1:5 If you need wisdom — if you want to know what God wants you to do — ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. NLT
I wanted to read a couple of lines from Psalms to you today because I think David was just so dialed into God, we are so blessed to have the Psalms to look at and learn from this man’s relationship with God. David wasn’t perfect (because he was a human like you and me), but he had an intimate walk with God.
Psalms 25:4 Show me the path where I should walk, O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. 5 Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. NLT
Psalms 86:11 Tell me where you want me to go and I will go there. May every fiber of my being unite in reverence to your name. TLB
You can almost hear the heart of David in this can’t you? Speak to me God, I will listen, and I will follow. That is just awesome.
You know a couple of weeks ago I was away…on vacation. See I told you I’m not hating on vacations they are a good thing. One morning I got up early and went for a bike ride. For me bike riding has become a big part of my health both physically, and also mentally and spiritually… there is just something about not being able to take a phone call or a text and just hearing the wind in your ears that can be a big help to quieting your soul. I was riding in Juniata County in my old home town of McAllisterville, PA and it was just beautiful and really a ride down memory lane as I travelled down roads that I road on as a little boy 25-30 years ago. As I was riding back in the valley we natives of the area call “Slim Gut” I was still thinking a lot about God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah and how we people, how I at times can get so caught up in life, that I just won’t listen and I prayed this prayer. “God speak to me…I will listen. Lord what is the most important thing that I could ever know? What is the key to it all? If you speak to me I will listen and I will follow your ancient paths.” I’m not sure why I added that last part about the key to it all but that is what I prayed, and then I road for a little bit and I didn’t hear anything for a moment or two, and I thought this in my mind…It’s ok God, I am going to stay quiet, focus on you, and patiently wait…I will listen for as long as it takes.” And God spoke to me like a whisper into my heart, my mind and my soul. Here is what He said. “I LOVE YOU.” That was it. That is what I heard…no profoundly incredible insight. No guidance for the paths laid out before me. No deep theological truth. No promise for me to find riches and fame. No promises of a secure tomorrow. He just peacefully said… “I LOVE YOU.” I felt God all over me in that moment, the words really impacted me. It was so simple, so plain, and I felt so much peace in that moment and then God asked me this question. “What if the only thing I ever say to you, what if the only thing you ever hear from me is that I love you? Would that be enough?”
I road on thinking about that question, what if the only thing I ever know…that I would ever hear from God again is that “He loves me.” I started to feel emotion all over me and the tears started to flow…Yes. Yes it is. It is more than enough. In fact that is the only thing I ever need in my life…to understand the key to life. We must understand that God loves us.
Step 3-We gain a greater understanding of the truth. God loves us. So step one was to create some boundaries and find rest. That really is the Mt. Everest of this teaching…to be able to say NO to the ways of the world and engage in rest. The second step then becomes not just resting but allowing God to speak, to guide you, and to speak life into you. The more time you spend with God the more the focus shifts off of you and onto Him…and somewhere in all of that peace, and in that relationship with Him you begin to understand the most important thing about all of this Creation…that God loves you. Now here’s the deal, when I say that, I know that you know that. Any of us who have been in church, or heard anything about God can clearly say that we know that God loves us, but I want this to land in your soul today. This is the key to life. This is the only thing we ever need to know. That God love me. I know you know it, but do you truly grasp this into the depths of who you are?
Many of us spend our whole lives searching for clear direction. We want to know exactly what God is up to in our lives. We want Him to lay it all out so that we know what tomorrow brings, but you know what if we can come to a greater understanding of this one truth…That God Loves us…then we don’t need to worry so much about what tomorrow brings.
So let me ask you the question. What if the only thing God ever tells you in your life is that He loves you? What if that is all we ever know, that God loves us? Frankly I think for many of us it may be the hardest thing for us to ever accept. That God loves us…all of us…right here, right now, just as we are. So listen to our buddy David here…a man who spent time in God’s presence. He understands this incredible truth…that God loves us. I know mean that David knows it in his brain, I mean he understands it at a whole other level in his heart and soul.
Psalms 86:11 Tell me where you want me to go and I will go there. May every fiber of my being unite in reverence to your name. 12 With all my heart I will praise you. I will give glory to your name forever, 13 for you love me so much! You are constantly so kind! You have rescued me from deepest hell. TLB
Psalms 31:7 I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. 8 You have not handed me over to my enemy but have set me in a safe place. NLT
God loves you. This simple statement is the key to everything, and it’s something we can’t fully understand without real rest. Paul tried to help us grasp the magnitude of this love.
Ephesians 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. NIV
God loves you. Can you sit in this truth, and truly grasp the magnitude of the statement?
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” NIV
So when I say that God loves you, I know that you know that…but do you understand just what that means? It means more than we realize. Living with a deeper understanding of this truth means that I can have God’s amazing grace. It means that I have Heaven to look forward to. It means that I will serve others and help them know this amazing good news. Understanding this one simple truth means that I don’t have to be restless anymore because God loves me. Because God loves me it doesn’t matter what tomorrow brings. It doesn’t matter who has nicer things than me because my value is now in God’s love for me. It doesn’t matter if I screw up today, because I know that God still loves me just as I am. Did you hear that? It means that even in my issues I’m not letting him down, I have not failed because God is still with me, He loves me. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have nothing to fear. I have nothing of value that can be taken from me when the most important thing is God’s love. This becomes our peace. This becomes our motivation, this becomes our center. That God loves us.
What if the only thing you ever clearly know in life is that God loves you? Can I tell you something…that simple statement is more than enough. The reality is that you and I live in a world of constant motion. We work, we run, we multitask our way through life, and the last thing we would ever want to do is to stop, slow down, and allow God to speak into our lives, the reality is that when we do, we start to understand the key to everything. That God loves us. It’s when we begin to center our entire being a round this one thought that we enter life in a different way. This truly is the key to life…it is so simple, and so hard to truly understand if you can’t stop and engage into real rest.
Lord help me to grasp this statement. Lord help me to never lose sight of this statement. Lord help me to soak this in, Lord help this to land in our hearts in a way that we really start to understand the implications of your love for us.