If I asked you if you were relaxed or able to relax, how would you answer that question? For some of us, this question would be met with laughter, or a big sigh, and then a long list of things that we are doing, dealing with, or walking through that would never allow us to relax. I don’t know about you, but it is difficult to relax as we walk through life, which by the way, seems to be getting more stressful, and more intense by the day. Life is hard, and I think it would be hard enough on our own, but we aren’t alone on this planet, which means we walk through life with people, who we are understanding also walk in stress, hurts, insecurities, just like we do. We bring our mess, and they bring all their mess into our mess which makes…well, a bigger mess. So, I’m not sure how I could relax as I walk through life with people, who can hurt us, who will let us down, or just make us feel more stress as we walk in relationship with them. Then our reward for all of that is coming to church and having the Pastor talk about relaxing? You know, this nice soothing feeling that you’re talking about Sam, of being relaxed…there is no way to feel relaxed in that is there? We have the people stuff, then we also have the practical stuff to add to the stress. We have work lives, which can be a major stressor all with the pressure of paying bills and providing for our families. If we have children, we add all of their emotions, stresses, hurts, and schedules to throw into the mix. Which by the way with every event or thing they go to, that is adding more people that we encounter, which we have established can be really messy at times. Then in our spare time in an effort to check out on all the other stuff we feel like we can maybe relax by, I don’t know going to social media and scrolling through endless debates and fights on and truth bombs on Facebook, that should calm us down! We scroll through and read countless articles and opinions that only make sure we know the world is falling apart and why it’s falling apart…sounds really relaxing. Then to add to that social media relaxation we also get to see everything our friends have and are doing that we don’t have and aren’t doing…and that was what we used our free time, that didn’t relieve much stress, and then we plow back into all the people, and practical stressors we already established here today. For some the stress gets so bad, that in an effort to slow it all down, and to find some peace they escape, maybe to alcohol, or substances of some kind…and while they may numb themselves for a little while, the intensity of life is still there, waiting for them when they sober up…life just won’t let up will it. For some, we set up vacations, and think that will take the pressure off, but very similar to the substances…life is just waiting for our return. Then if that wasn’t enough, just for fun, let’s add some crazy scenarios, like family drama, or here’s one I will just throw out there…let’s say a Global Pandemic hits and shuts the world down for a while, where we find more employment issues, health issues, families fracturing over their opinions of masks or no masks, vaccine or no vaccine…add to that us willingly or unwillingly detaching from our church communities and feeling alone during this time…and the stress and anxiety is only building. So, I guess the answer to the question, am I relaxed or am I able to relax would be a resounding NO!
Ok, I know I didn’t paint the rosiest picture there, but I think I painted an accurate one. Life is hard. Life is intense. Life is painful at times, and very stressful at times. I think for so many of us, we just want the pressure to stop building up on us, and it’s where many of us can get into trouble. So, we aren’t sure relaxing is even a remote possibility in the chaotic world that we live in. Relaxing sounds nice, but just seems impossible when we get honest about how intense life can be. Well, I want you to hear me, it is possible and it’s not through any substance, escape, or expensive vacation and today we talk about how to do it!
I tell you what, just for fun, let me change the question and ask it again because I think it helps you see where we are headed today, while maybe leading to more questions…you ready? Here we go! Are you able to relax in Jesus? How does that question hit your heart today? It’s a little different than me simply asking if you can relax, isn’t it? It may hit your heart and give you hope. It may hit your heart and lead to more questions. But this is where we are headed today as we continue this conversation on Spiritual Success. We are going to talk about how and what it would look like to relax in Jesus as we learn how to follow Jesus. But before we dive into that, let’s talk for a bit about where we have been.
This series on Spiritual Success has been a fun one so far and has allowed us to look at many of the deeper issues, or things maybe we don’t talk much about in our Faith and lives. We have been able to hit some real tension points when it comes to our Faith which I think has been awesome so far. Last week, the series began to shift from understanding what Spiritual Success is, to more practical ways that we can walk in or live it out. I loved Ken’s talk last week as he challenged us with this radical decision that needs to be made to live for God and to be alone with God…but it didn’t stop there, did it? We need to make the choice to be with God, then when we are with God, we must make the choice to be real, to be open, and honest with God. Which isn’t easy for us to do because we know the parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t want to share very openly with God or anyone else! You know, in the end it’s kind of funny to pretend or try to hide things from God because He is God, and knows every thought or motive in our heart, but we do tend to try and hide things from Him. He also challenged us with a second decision when we are with God. Do you remember what that was? It was to choose to slow down and be quiet before God. We may need to turn off the phones, watches, emails, and whatever else makes noise and takes so much focus from us, but this is huge, to quiet ourselves before God. See why it would be called a radical decision? It’s because it’s so opposite of our human nature but this is how we allow God all the way into our hearts and minds, these are the practices that move us towards life change! All things we must choose to do! Now today we talk about another very challenging yet essential practice for our lives and that is to relax in Jesus.
I don’t know how you took that question I asked you in the introduction but the more I thought about life, and how challenging, hurtful, and stressful it can be, the more I realized how hard it is to actually relax in life. There are so many different things that contribute to the stress and anxiety that we walk through in life, but I think it makes something like relaxing feel impossible. So, if you heard my questions, and thought Sam it’s impossible, I would ask that you at the very least give me this…that the idea of being able to relax in life would be pretty awesome! You could agree with that right? So, it may feel next to impossible to achieve, but I think we would all admit, it would feel pretty awesome as well. So, let’s just take some time today and talk about this daunting task of relaxing in Jesus because it isn’t impossible…it can be done, and Jesus actually shows us how and frankly, it’s not a really complex process at all, it may be challenging, but it isn’t complex.
So as we read and learn about Jesus, I would like you to try to put yourself in His shoes. I am always amazed at how free, how focused, how relaxed Jesus was even as He dealt with the intensity of ministry, the stubbornness and even stupidity of people, the confrontations and hurts from the religious leaders of the time, and the countless people who let Him down, rejected Him, or just were never going to follow His leadership. He was dealing with all of that, while making His way to The Cross, you know, the most excruciating death possible to save the world. So, Jesus had a lot on His shoulders…but He seems to stay so peaceful, so focused, and so centered…and for today’s conversation I will just say it…Jesus was so relaxed. Have you ever thought about that? Have you ever asked how that is possible with all He was walking through? We know that Jesus was fully God and fully human, we have discussed that He feels all the same human emotions that we feel so I think we need to look at how Jesus could stay so relaxed in the middle of so much confrontation, stress, and conflict. Just the intensity of living life on this planet with people…while serving, bringing strength, and saving the entire human race from eternal torture would be a lot to deal with don’t you think? Have you ever felt let down by people? Yeah, Jesus did too. Have you ever felt rejected or judged by people? Yeah, Jesus did too. Have you ever tried to lead people who fight against everything you ask of them every step of the way? Yeah, Jesus did too. Have you ever wanted something so much for people you love and care for but know in the end, it’s up to them and they simply won’t choose to do it? Yeah, Jesus felt that too. Yet in all of that, in the whirlwind around His life, Jesus stays relaxed in God…and I think we need to talk about it, look at how He does it, and find this relaxation in our lives too. So, let’s go to Jesus’ life and teaching…we are going to hang out specifically in John 6 today, and we will start with a popular miracle that Jesus performed, this is the time he fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
John 6:2 A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. 3 When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. 4 It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews. 5 When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” 6 He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.” 8 One of the disciples — it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter — said, 9 “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted. 12 When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” 13 They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves. 14 The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, “This is the Prophet for sure, God’s Prophet right here in Galilee!” MSG
So that’s an incredible thing that just happened, and this miracle isn’t lost on any one…but then we see something interesting, that pattern we spoke of a few weeks ago with Jesus’ rhythm of doing for God and being with God continues…check this out.
John 6:15 Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself. MSG
So once again, the crowds are excited and want to lift him up as King, and what does he do? He slips away to be with His Heavenly Father. You would think he would want the popularity, and recognition after all it would only help Him spread His amazing message, but instead He chooses being with God…and slips away quietly. So, this is where we really want to focus today. Jesus has just fed the five thousand, it’s an amazing moment, and miracle that is just building momentum for Him with people. People are starting to realize that Jesus is amazing, and from God. So, they go searching for Him and find Him the next day on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Because in the middle of the night he had quite a moment with the disciples, where He walks on water, another sermon for another day, but when the crowds realize it, they cross the Sea and find Him. This leads to an interesting conversation.
John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” NIV
So, they are excited, but Jesus wants them to understand what truly matters and then we see this…
John 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in The One He has sent.” NIV
This is so important for us to see. Jesus wants them focusing on the most important thing while we people seem to struggle to do so. So, they come back to Jesus with a question that makes sense to us humans, what do we need to do Jesus? What does God require of us to do? Jesus, could you give us the list of things to do, and we will do that. Did you see that? And Jesus gives us the key, the answer, the most awesome solution to all the questions and complexities of religion and faith. What did He say we must do? What was the list of things to do?
John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” NIV
Our required list of things we must do for God is this…to believe in Jesus! That’s the list! Can’t you just picture them with their notepads out ready to write out this big list of requirements and things they must accomplish…it’s going to be big, and complicated, and take so much work, and what is the answer? We are to believe in Jesus. That’s the list! But let’s stop and talk for a moment, because this can be another one of these tension points that we keep running into when it comes to our Faith. I mean, “Sam, yes we are to believe but there is still a list of works that need to be done.” When you think about the works that God requires, what comes to mind? Bible study, prayer, discipleship classes, disciplines needed in our lives, worship, engaging community…I think we can come up with a lot of good things to do which can help us grow and find Spiritual Maturity, but as far as the works that God requires of us to do, Jesus says I want you to do this one thing. Believe in me.
So, you may be thinking that we have drifted off topic today. “Sam, you started this conversation today asking me if I can relax. We established that it’s really hard to do, and that I’m probably not relaxing. Then you added to my stress by asking if I could relax in Jesus…and I’m waiting for the solution to this because that is a stretch for me too! Now you have drifted to Jesus feeding the 5,000 and this exchange about what works God requires of us…so how does this relate to my ability or inability to relax?” Well, this phrase we see here in John 6:29 “to believe in” actually means to trust in Jesus in every moment, circumstance, or situation that we walk in. We are to trust Him in everything we do.
Fun Fact – Did you know that Jesus asks us to trust in Him 98 times in The Gospel of John? I have told you before that when we see something on repeat in Scripture, we need to pay attention because it is important…and if that is true, then when something comes up 98 times in one book of the Bible, we definitely need to see how important this truly is. In fact, John actually lets us know that the entire point of His Gospel is so that we may believe which we now know means to trust in Jesus in every moment of our lives.
John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. NIV
So, let’s get back to the big question of the day and tie this all together. I asked you if you were able to relax and added to it, are you able to relax in Jesus? This is so important, and ties right into what Jesus is teaching. He says that what God requires of us is to believe in Jesus…to trust Him in all we do, in every moment of our lives…that is key, and this is where we find our ability to relax in Him or why we are unable to relax and are living in so much stress, fear, tension, and anxiety. Check this awesome quote out from Frederick Dale Bruner who is known as a Christian Theologian.
“’Relaxing in’ is a good modern translation of ‘trusting in’ or ‘believing in.’” Frederick Dale Bruner
Are you tracking with me here today? When I ask you if you can relax in Jesus, it’s a very important question and one that we need to take a long look at because it is telling us a lot about our ability to walk in this Spiritual Success or not! On top of that, life is hard. There are so many unknowns, so many distractions, so many hurts, so much adversity that we face and what we are learning here today is that Jesus’ answer to all of that is to trust in Him, in every moment, in every situation, in all the unknowns, through all the distractions, hurts, and stuff that hits our lives we can relax in Him when we trust and are centering on Jesus. So, regardless of the challenging circumstances that we find ourselves in, we are to relax in Jesus. How are you doing out there today?
I will tell you this is another area of our Faith that is much easier to preach than it is to live out and I could tell you of countless examples of my life where nothing was making sense, where people really hurt me, or let me down, where I didn’t know what the next day was going to bring, and my stress level would get so high that I felt like my head may explode! But all of that tension and stress builds because we wrestle with God for control, we don’t run to Jesus in the midst of the storms we try to fix them and control the outcomes of things that we just can’t control…and we are learning today where and how to relax. We can relax in Jesus as we trust in Him…regardless of what we are walking through. Not trust Him occasionally, or when life is singing like a song and going well, but that we trust Him in all things, in all areas, and all situations…are you tracking with this? How do we relax? We must believe in Jesus, always trusting in Him, no matter what we are walking through.
It is really hard to relax as we walk through life. I think in so many ways the last thing our enemy would ever want is for you to understand and live in what we are talking about today because when we trust in Jesus regardless of all that is thrown at us in life, we do relax in Him, we peace, and abundant life in Him, and frankly, it completely disarms our enemy too! But I also think this is so hard to accept and wrap our hearts and minds around, especially when we are walking through life filled with stress and completely overwhelmed. Which is why this talk couldn’t come before Ken talked to us last week about the important decision we must make to be with God, to be honest and real with God and to quiet our hearts and souls, and as we slow down and walk with God…because when we are so stressed and anxious it’s really hard to see a way out. If you struggle to relax and walk in stress, anxiety and are right now wrestling for control, you will really struggle to hear me today. It will also be easy to try and dismiss me because I’m a Pastor, and don’t walk through things in real life that you do…which we can talk sometime privately about life as a Pastor while raising four teenagers if you would like. But that becomes the temptation. We try to explain away our circumstances, and why no one could ever feel or have walked through what we do, because the stress and anxiety is screaming at us to stay focused on why we can’t get through it or by it…so we can explain every reason why this doesn’t relate. I think we can also look at Jesus and just forget how challenging His life was too. We look at our stress from our circumstances and just can’t see a way out and certainly can’t think that anyone else would walk through stuff like we are…especially Jesus…but try to put yourself in His shoes and try to think through how He must have felt as He walked through so many challenges, and different issues with people, and so much confrontation and rejection. I think it’s easy for us to see Jesus as the strong, focused, poised leader and forget all that He walked through but I want you to see what He taught and modeled and just how similar our experiences are. So, let’s just stay in John 6, remember miracles, feeding the 5,000, tons of momentum and crowds of people chasing Him around? The disciples are excited, the ministry is growing…and then it seems to go backwards as Jesus starts pressing in harder and harder on people with things they struggle to accept, and many, in fact most of the people end up walking away!
John 6:53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” NIV
So, the disciples hear this and are really struggling with it. We just moved from awesome miracles and crowds of people excited about Him, to Jesus explaining He is the real food and drink, that they should eat Him and drink Him and no one gets it! Imagine being the disciples, I can almost picture Peter trying to cut Jesus’ microphone and quiet Him down! Like, “Hey Jesus we have crowds and momentum, don’t do this!” But Jesus doesn’t stop. He keeps pushing!
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” NIV
This is a pivotal moment for so many, Jesus has confronted them in every way and how does this excited crowd that wanted to crown Him King a few moments earlier respond? They leave!
John 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. NIV
So how would you feel if thousands of people rejected you and walked away? How would you feel to watch everything you were building come crashing down with one moment, and one teaching? How would you feel to be rejected the way these people just rejected Jesus? Jesus should have been devastated right? Everyone leaves Him, but I want you to see that Jesus stays relaxed in what would surely crush me, distract me, and cause me to walk in moping failure. How could Jesus relax during all of this hurt and chaos and through all of this rejection…it’s because He believes in God. He trusts in His Heavenly Father no matter the circumstances…He trusts Him in all things, which comes out so clearly in Jesus’ words in John 6.
John 6:36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. NIV
Do you see it? He understands that those who come, and stay are who God said would come and stay, and those who leave weren’t driven away by Him but that was also part of God’s will. Jesus trusts what God is up to even when it doesn’t look right to us humans…a few verses later we see this mindset again.
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. NIV
Again, it’s about God and what He is doing and what He is up to…one more time here in John 6…
John 6:64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” NIV
Can I ask you something, could you stay relaxed like Jesus as you walked through something like this? Thousands of people walking away, all that work, all that building of ministry is now down to twelve people and you know that one of them will betray you too? Jesus is able to relax because He trusts God’s greater plan. Jesus models for us a steady contentment in doing God’s will, in God’s way, and according to God’s timetable. Which takes us back to the definition of Spiritual Success.
“Success according to Scripture, is becoming the person God calls you to become, and doing what God calls you to do-in His way, and according to His timetable.” – Pete Scazzero
So, as we close this down today, I just want to stop and ask you again. Are you able to relax? Are you able to relax in Jesus? If the answer is no, and you can immediately list out every issue, circumstance, and reason why relaxing in Jesus isn’t possible, I want you to remember that the key to getting rid of all that stress, anxiety, tension, and pressure is not found in Spa Day. It isn’t found in a bottle, or a pill. It isn’t found in a vacation or in scrolling through social media for hours, or binging things on Netflix for days. It’s found in believing in Jesus, and trusting Him in every moment, in the good moments and the hard and painful moments too. If you can’t relax in Jesus, it’s because you are not able to trust Him in all things. You may trust Him in the things that are going the way you would like, but it’s tough to trust Him when life still hits hard, and pain and adversity still come your way. This is what it means to relax in Him, it’s to believe in Him, which is better stated this way, to trust in Jesus in every moment of your life. This is about surrendering your life to Him…the tension, the stress, the fears, the worry, all that anxiety from things beyond your control comes from the wrestling match with God, for control…which would be very stressful because He is God, and you are not.
Listen, life is hard. Life with people is brutal. People will hurt you. People will let you down. With all that life throws at us, the stress just seems to build, and the only way through is to relax in Him…which means that we trust Him to do what only He can do in our lives. Here’s a few questions as we close.
When you look at your life do you see stress, fear, anxiety, and tension or do you feel that you can relax?
When you think about relaxing did you ever equate that to your ability to trust God in all things before today?
When tough times hit do you find yourself trying to fix it or leaning in on and trusting God to guide you through it?
When you think through the list of things God requires of you does it match Jesus’ long list, you know, the one thing He said we are required to do, which is believe?
When you think of believing in Jesus, did it ever hit you that this is about trusting Him?
What would your life look like if you could surrender all things to Jesus and relax?
I don’t know about you but to live as Jesus did, to relax in the middle of all that life throws at us sounds like a better way to live, and it starts by really looking in the mirror, giving up control, and surrendering your life to God. That sounds like a better way to live…frankly, that sounds closer to that life and life to the full that Jesus told us He came to provide for us, all along. So, I leave you with this one last question.
Could it really be that easy? Listen, there is pressure in life, and a reality to your responsibilities, and there are things that will push in on us in life…but if you are sitting here today in an overwhelmed state, listening to this right now full of stress and anxiety, all that stress and emotion is telling you why this could never be true, or happen for you, because your life and your circumstances are so much bigger and more challenging than everyone else’s, but give this a chance today, let your heart hear this today.
What if all the stress and anxiety truly come down to us doing the one thing Jesus said God requires of us? Which is to believe in Jesus, to trust Him in all moments, to know that even in the scary, hurtful, or overwhelming moments of life, God has us and will hold us up and lead us through. Could it be that simple?
Our challenge, our prayer for us all, would be that we could grasp the simplicity of this message from Jesus, and relax in Him. So, get your notepads and papers out, and write down this long list of things that Jesus tells us is required of us by God to do…you ready?
John 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in The One He has sent.” NIV
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an awesome and relaxing way to live.