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There's leanness in the souls of a lot of people and it shouldn't surprise us that folks who haven't found a loving, gracious master have lean souls. But what have we to say as people who claim to have been set free from the ways of the world when we're caught up in the same currents of busyness, of anxiety, of discouragement, of being as overwhelmed and stressed and depressed as they are? The world that's looking for a way out will look a lot of places but not to us when they see us swimming along with them, fighting the current of life as they are. They won't know that Jesus is who He said He was, and they will not look to Him as King. And they will not be able to come to the One who looks to comfort them the way that He's offered to comfort us. There's a lot at stake.
Serenity Now! Whether You Live in Mayberry or Manhattan
What a Crazy Life Creates in Us
What a Crazy Life Communicates to Others
We're going to talk about something these next three weeks. It really has two weeks at the end of it that we're going to make a part of what we're doing right now that is as relevant to everybody who is here as anything I could speak to.
A year ago, I did a little series called Consumed. The tag to that series was, "Regaining your freedom by realigning your focus." We talked about how a lot of us are consumed by the idol of materialism or by the want for more. We talked a lot about how debt has burdened many of us. We took a real strong approach to that trying to set ourselves free the way God wants us to by having our view of money and material possessions put in the right place. That series is still available to you.
What we're going to do these next three or four weeks is Consumed – Part 2, but we're going to call it By Still Waters. We're going to help you regain your freedom by realigning your focus all over again. We're not going to so much talk about materialistic issues, although they're a piece of what makes our world very dizzying as we run around trying to keep this hunky-dory, peachy keen, super-duper, okie dokie life going.
Even more than that, there's just a sense of tyranny over all of us that doesn't suggest that our lives are ordered by somebody who has our best interest in mind. My hope is that as we take a deep breath and take a look again at who we are in light of what we know and what God is and how he cares for us, there's going to be a different freedom because of our different focus in this room. Psalm 106 says this.
"Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD, or can show forth all His praise? How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness [who live rightly] at all times!"
The psalmist writes, "Remember me, O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people; visit me with Your salvation, that I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance." We're not experiencing that right now.
He says this. "We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders…" Egypt is a picture of bondage, being under the yoke of a wicked, oppressing ruler. Not one who was good, as the God who wants to lead us is.
It says, "…they did not remember Your abundant kindnesses…" You delivered them by entering into their world and speaking truth into it. It says, "You delivered them, but they did not stay in the freedom you called them out of." It says,
"…but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless [in his kindness] He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known. Thus He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up, and He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness. So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them…"
In other words, God intervened again. Even though they threw themselves back into bondage they didn't need to be in, he spoke one more time graciously to them. "…and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They quickly forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel…"
Let me say that again. They forgot who he was. They forgot that he was good. They forgot that they offered peace with God and the peace of God if they just walked with him and lived rightly, they failed to live in relationship with him under his headship and lordship. They did not wait for his counsel, "…but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them."
An alternate translation to that last little phrase there in Psalm 106:15 is this. "You don't want to listen to me? You want to go your own way? You don't want to wait for my counsel? Go ahead. I'm going to let you have the fruits of your labors." But instead of "a wasting disease" that could just as easily been translated as, "he sent leanness to their soul."
How are you doing this morning? Not everybody here has a relationship with the Lord, and we're thrilled that you're here with us. I want to talk specifically to people who have been brought out of bondage, out of darkness into light, who have been set free from a master who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy them, who does not have their best interest in mind in the way he tries to drive them.
I want to challenge you about what the current of your life and the condition of your soul is. Are you experiencing a life that can be defined by freedom and by peace and by rest? Or are you consumed with a schedule and with a pace and with tension and with anxiety and with discouragement and with being overwhelmed and a depression that is not consistent with a child of a King?
If your life is not significantly set apart from the life of others who do not know this King, people will think, "Your King is really no different than mine." Just like I'm driven, just like I'm compelled to bring leanness to my soul and all my striving after the wind, so are you. Wherever they look for rest, it won't be to the King you say you know.
How are we doing, followers of Jesus, in this very materialistic, very driven, over-scheduled, overwhelmed world? Are we set apart? Are we are people who are by still waters? Or are we being swept up in the current of our day with no moral authority to offer somebody else hope? Are you consumed?
Here are some famous words for you that you might recognize or maybe you won't. This is how this famous little treaty starts. It says, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
You might recognize those words as what's posted at Walden Pond up there in New England. They're words written by Henry David Thoreau, who, in the midst of all the craziness of the world that he lived in, tried to find some sense of meaning, some sense of direction, some sense of stability, some still waters he could go by and not be swept up by the current and craziness of his life some 300 years ago. Can you imagine what Mr. Thoreau would say today?
Thoreau says, "It is true that most people live lives of quiet desperation." I'm going to tell you today I would not say that I see most of my friends who are struggling, most of my friends who are consumed living lives of quiet desperation. If I had to be honest, I see people living lives of absolute chaos. We are not men who are running around with a sense of hopelessness. We are a group of people who look like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off.
There's a growing industry for books that address this issue. There's one right now on Amazon, and it's called this. Crazy Busy. Overstretched, overbooked, and about to snap. This is the little premise to this book. This is what it would say in the jacket.
"Are you too busy? Are you always running behind? Is your calendar loaded with more than you can possibly accomplish? Is it driving you crazy? You're not alone. CrazyBusy—the modern phenomenon of brain overload—is a national epidemic. Without intending for it to happen, we've plunged ourselves into a mad rush of activity, expecting our brains to keep track of more than they comfortably or effectively can. In fact…Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., argues in this groundbreaking new audiobook, brain overload has reached the point where our entire society is suffering from culturally induced ADD.
CrazyBusy is not just a by-product of high-speed, globalized modern life—it has become its defining feature. BlackBerries, cell phones, and e-mail 24/7. Longer work days, escalating demands, and higher expectations at home. It all adds up to a state of constant frenzy that is sapping us of creativity, humanity, mental well-being, and the ability to focus on what truly matters."
"I went to the woods," Thoreau says, "because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." How are we doing? Are we people who are separate? Are we people who are set apart?
I pulled a little article I found a while back. It talked about how we live in a world today that our great-grandparents really only dreamed of in terms of all the amenities that were around. It is said of people who live in the West that the average Westerner lives better than 99.4 percent of all human beings who ever lived. What do they mean by that? It means that our life expectancy has nearly doubled in the past centuries and continues to increase.
Per capita income has doubled since 1950. The average size of a home in the West has more than doubled in the last 40 years. Health care, leisure, technology… The way we experience all of these things are exponentially greater than just one or two generations ago ever thought possible. At the same time, the amount of Americans who characterize themselves as happy hasn't changed since the 1950s. And, the percentage of those describing themselves as very happy, filled with peace, has decreased.
This article says during this same period, the percentage of Americans and Europeans who suffer a bout of depression has climbed 25 percent and shows no signs of abating. I read an article recently in Psychology Today that says the data make it very clear that these changes are not the product of individual biochemistry. They're saying this rapid increase in stress-induced chaos and anxiety, the rapid increase specifically, they say, of depression, is not a result of individual biochemistry or family genetics. They say it is a bout of pathology within our culture, and I agree.
We live in a culture that is sweeping us down a road that will not bode well for our soul. Even though many of us know a Master who is by descriptions good, who says he is so loving that he wants to lead you beside still waters, a picture of provision and peace, our lives are just as chaotic as everybody else's, and it's causing the world to look somewhere else for hope. They continue in quiet desperation because our lives have not been set apart.
This Good Shepherd has told us that he wants us to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In other words, "Listen to me. Don't do as you think you should do." The way of man is the way of death. Don't lean on your own understanding. Don't take your cues from society. Don't listen to the world. Don't listen to your flesh. This world is fallen and broken, and the master of this world has come to kill you, to kill your hope, to kill your peace, to destroy your sanctity, and to steal all joy from your life. He's not doing bad, is he?
It's not surprising that he's destroying and killing and stealing from those who have no master and are vulnerable to whatever would pray upon them. That's not my topic this morning. My topic is those of us who say we know the love of God, the indescribable one, who is the Good Shepherd. How is your life?
A couple of folks who are a part of making sure we make this time as meaningful as we can, we were together yesterday. In fact, one of our staff team who works in our Arts department got married yesterday. So they were together yesterday at this reception. They looked at each other, and they said, "Is there any irony in the fact that we are as zapped as we've been since we've really started this journey here together, and tomorrow, we're talking about trying to live lives that speak more of a sense of order than chaos?"
Some of you guys feel that way this morning. There's some reason we can't get here at 9:00. I think it's because our worlds are just crazy. Even something we know is good for us; to get together to remind ourselves of the indescribable one, the one who is good, who loves us so we can trust in him with fresh purpose and serenity again. Our lives are just crazy. We have to look just right. Kids have to be put together just right. We can't come as we are and just get there and enjoy who he is. This is what Jesus says about himself in John 10.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them [they want to hear me] . I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
One of the greatest tragedies of about this whole idea of abundant life or eternal life that's so floated around circles like ours is we always think of eternal life as what happens after the grave. You need to know Jesus, when he spoke of eternal life, promised hope and resurrection even at death.
But he was talking about life right now, not leanness of soul. He was talking about a life that is full, that is not overstressed, overburdened, anxiety-ridden, discouraged, and depressed, where you're not being a victim being thrown here and there by any wind or wave of what society says you have to do with your kids with yourself, with your career to get to that next place so you can have what the Jones' have.
I want you to have a different kind of life right now, and it's a life of peace. This is what he says as he continues. "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them." Isn't that a good description of our life? Snatched up, caught up, and scattered.
"He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd," Jesus says, "and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
But here's the thing. If my sheep look disease ridden, full of anxiousness and parasites, if they're lean, if their wool is infested, if they're running around everywhere they go, other sheep won't know there's a good shepherd over here. There's a lot at stake. Next week, I'm going to talk about what's at stake in our very own lives, but I want to start today.
Do you want to worship God? Do you know how we end all our worship services here, our time of corporate remembrance of who Jesus is? I end it this way. I don't want us to think of worship as something we do in an hour on Sunday mornings. I end it by telling you (we've said it for six-plus years), "Have a great week of worship." Do you realize the way you schedule your life, the things you say yes to, and the things you say no to, are acts of worship? If our lives are frenetic, and if our lives are filled with discouragement, despair, and chaos, we are not worshiping our King.
I want to go to Psalm 23. If you have a Bible, turn there. We're going to make some very simple observations about this one little text. It's a very familiar one. I want to look at it in light of what we're talking about right here. "A psalm of David." David was a shepherd, and very few of us are, but it is one of the most commonly used metaphors in Scripture.
By the way, do you know what another one is? Probably the second most often used metaphor about God's relationship with us is one as a father to a child. I'm not a shepherd, but I am a father. I love nothing more than my kids sleeping well. I hate nothing more than to see worry, anxiety, discouragement, or fear strike them. It kills us to see anybody's child hunger or thirst when they lack provision. Some of us can look at the eyes of our children, and they are hungering for a sense of peace. They are thirsting for a life that is not chaotic.
Do you know that what we're finding is that not only depression escalating in terms of the number of people it's attacking, but the age that it's being identified in people is plummeting because we as parent shepherds are telling our kids, "This is a class-five life we live. Hang on tight"?
God wants you to live in a different class. He wants you to live a class that is so different from the world that people go, "There's something about your life. I don't know how you do it." They're not talking there about how the best never rest. They're talking about how those who have the best kind of shepherd have a sense of rest on their life that passes understanding. It's one of the marks of being a Christ follower. Peace. How are we doing at making our King more famous?
David says, "I'm a shepherd, and I know all about what it means to guide my people, to guide my flock." So he did a little meditation, and this is a psalm that is written from the perspective of the sheep. David sees himself as a sheep, and this is what he says. "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want."
In other words, I'm not going to be a guy who is so consumed with the things the world tells me that I need that I have to look away from my shepherd to go find him. I am not in relational dysfunction. I'm not trying to find something outside of a purview of what God has already provided, that I'm giving my body in a way to find some sense of acceptance for a moment that leaves me feeling more lonely and hurt than ever before.
I'm not driven to leave my family without my presence because I want a bigger home, a nicer car, or more recognition from others who think I'm a great, successful businessman. I shall not want. There's nothing wrong with being a guy who has great industry and who does very well, but at the expense of the main things, there's a lot wrong with it.
He says, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." One of the things David knows about shepherd is that sheep are prone to what is called the mass mind or to mob instincts. They watch another sheep start to go a certain direction. They don't know why he's going, but they think, "If they're going that direction, I should probably go with them." They all move together.
Let me tell you something. You live around a bunch of sheep who are living lives who are not good for sheep. But if you have a shepherd, you're not a victim to the mob. Sheep that are without shepherds are victim to the mobs and the currents of the world they live in. Sheep with a shepherd who knows the shepherd's voice, when everybody else starts to run, that shepherd can say, "Be still. I'm right here. You don't need to run anywhere. I've provided for you what you need right here, right now."
You've heard the phrase sheeple before, haven't you? Yeah, you have. We talk a lot of times in terms of the way people just blindly follow others. But we do blindly follow others intellectually, and always, that turns into practically. Whose voice are you listening to this morning? Would your life look the way it did if God was your appointment secretary?
If not, we have some repenting to do. By repenting, I mean a mind to change and a new Master to follow, or maybe to go back to our old Master one more time and say, "Do you know why there's leanness in my soul? Do you know why there's anxiety? Because I have not been walking with my Shepherd, who cares for me."
"He makes me lie down in green pastures…" The idea here is of perfect contentment. A sheep will never lie down unless he is free, one man wrote, of these four things. Unless they're free from fear, unless they're free from tension with other sheep, unless they're free from aggravation (pests, flies, and parasites), and unless they're free from hunger. Sheep are very skittish creatures, and they will always be on the go.
In fact, they will move themselves to death unless the shepherd can come around them and say, "You don't need to fear that the world is going to pass you by. You don't need to run around like a chicken with your head cut off. You're a sheep with a shepherd. I'm going to even tell you how to get along with one another and how to order your life so there isn't tension in your relationships with one another. If you'll just connect, relate, and love each other this way, I'll deal with the tension that makes you frenetic in your relational world."
He says, "I'll deal with different little enemies and different aggravations that are in your life if you'll let me walk with you through this. I will take care of what it is that you hunger for." Hunger is a form of pain. Thirst is a form of pain. If you are thirsting for more peace in your life and a sense of serenity, it's because something isn't right. God wants to use that leanness in your soul to redirect you to him, your Good Shepherd.
Let me say this again. When you're a sheep, and you come into relationship with a shepherd, they take the killing knife out, and they mark their sheep. Every shepherd marks his sheep. It's like a brand on a piece of cattle. It's often a certain specific notch on their ear. The mark that should be on the life of one of Jesus Christ's sheep is twofold.
Firstly, in John 13, he says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." You deal with the tension that makes none of you rest, and the loneliness that makes all of you wonder out there, so vulnerable to people who want to exploit needy people. There's another mark of our shepherd, and it's really the one that Psalm 23 focuses on. It's a life of peace.
I have really been encouraged by the way we're loving one another as a body. I have to tell you, I love reading the Making the Mark stories in our Watermark News. I read them. I love the fact that my name is most of the time nowhere attached. I don't even know certain ministries are going on because people are loving each other, caring for one another in a way that speaks to the fact that we have a shepherd who has conformed us into his image.
But I cannot say with the same confidence that we're a people who the rest of the world would look at and go, "There's a peace that marks their life that is sweet." I wish I knew the shepherd who not just taught them how to love one another but how to manage their world in a way that doesn't make them look like they're caught up in what I feel like I'm caught up in.
I want to say it again. Last year, we really focused on debt. We know debt continues to be a major problem in the lives of God's people. Why? The world has told us that you need certain things to experience a certain quality of life. God says, "Oh man, that is a trick, and it is the way of death, and it is bondage. I don't want you to go there."
So we have entire groups of loving people who minister to folks who have become slaves to debt. We love you. We want to say, "Let us begin to work our way out of this." But a lot of us are in debt to our own lives and the way we go about living. He says, "He makes me lie down…" That's a life of peace. I'm not frantic.
I love what this gentleman wrote as he made some basic observations about the different sheep. He was a shepherd himself, and he watched them. He says, "Do you bear his mark? Do you have deep purpose and contentment in your life? Do you know rest and repose as well as exciting adventure?"
I'm not asking for us to be a bunch of people who walk around humming. What I want to tell you is this is the great paradox of our wonderful shepherd. If you follow Jesus Christ, you're going to be called to an adventure that is unmatched by any other life you can possibly live. But in the midst of this exciting adventure, there is peace that passes understanding. If you're not experiencing purpose and fullness and adventure and rest in your life, then something is out of sap in terms of your relationship with the King who says, "You'll get both of these completely with me."
Here's the little phrase that identifies what it is that I've been thinking a lot about for a long time as I got ready to do this little series. He says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters." He refreshes me and gives me what I need. Not waters that are filled with things that if I take them in my body are going to poison me, but my God, when I'm in a relationship with him, has me drinking of the fountains of life. He restores my soul.
When was the last time somebody walked up to you and said, "I've watched you. I've watched your family. I look at your kids. There's something in the aroma of your family that I don't see in very many families. There is this peace. There is a restoration. There is a lack of chaos. There's security"? If they're not saying that it's because they don't see the Master's mark on your life.
I want to read a little bit to you from this book which has long been one of my favorites. It's called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller, a guy who herded sheep for a long time. This is what he says.
"When all is said and done the welfare of any flock is entirely dependent upon the management afforded them by their owner… I have become increasingly aware of one thing. It is the boss—the manager—the Master of people's lives who makes the difference in their destiny. I have seen many who despite their dazzling outward show of success, despite the affluence and their prestige, the remained poor in spirit, shriveled in soul, and unhappy in life. They were joyless people held in the iron grip and heartless ownership of the wrong master.
By way of contrast, I have numerous friends...who have known hardship, disaster and the struggle to stay afloat financially but because they belong to Christ and have recognized Him as Lord and Master of their lives, their owner and manager, they are permeated by a deep, quiet, settled peace that is beautiful to behold...they radiate a serene confidence and quiet joy that surmounts all the tragedies of their time.
They are under God's care and they know it. They have entrusted themselves to Christ's control and found contentment. Contentment should be the hallmark of the man or woman who has put his or her affairs in the hands of God. This especially applies in our affluent age. But the outstanding paradox is the intense fever of discontent among people who are ever speaking of security."
Do you know a content person? There's nothing quite that attractive. One of the most attractive things in my wife, one of the things that made me the most drawn to her as I looked at a lot of gals in my 20s that I was around, was there was one girl who I saw had a contentment, a security, who wasn't frenetically running around a room looking for some validation from other guys, who wasn't defining her sense of worth by the way others pursued her, who wasn't on some career path to buy herself a bunch of things she thought would bring her peace.
I looked at my wife, and I saw a contentment and a security that so attracted me that I go, "I can love that girl because she's not looking for a savior. I don't know what I am, but I know one thing. If some girl marries me thinking that by marrying me, her life will be full, she's not going to hang with me very long because eventually, I'm a burden, not a blessing at different moments. I need a woman whose life is already content. Out of the overflow, out of a cup that runs over, can love me as I seek to love her out of a cup that runs over." Contentment is a very attractive quality.
Keller writes, "Despite an unparalleled wealth in material assets we are outstandingly insecure and unsure of ourselves and well nigh bankrupt in spiritual values. Always men are searching for safety beyond themselves. They are restless, unsettled, covetous, greedy for more—wanting this and that, yet never really satisfied in spirit.
The good shepherd will go to no end of trouble and labor to supply his sheep with the finest grazing, the richest pasturage, ample winter feed, and clean water. He will spare Himself no pains to provide shelter from storms, protection from ruthless enemies and the diseases and parasites to which sheep are so susceptible.
From early dawn until late at night this utterly selfless shepherd is alert to the welfare of His flock....repeatedly throughout the day he casts his eye over the flock to make sure that all is well. Nor even at night is he oblivious to their needs. He sleeps as it were 'with one eye and both ears open' ready at the least sign of trouble to leap up and protect his own."
Do you know this shepherd? Do you know one of the things that they have come up with as a primary cause of sleep deprivation of in America is stress? How's your sleep? How many hours are you getting a night? Is it because you want to sleep that little? What Keller does in this book is a really interesting thing. There's something called cast sheep.
The easiest way for us to understand it is that sheep can get some plump and so big and so full that when they roll over in a little gully or something, they can get capsized, and they're not able to right themselves. They are, in fact, completely unable to right themselves, unless the shepherd comes and rolls them. They can go like this for two or three days. It sounds hilarious to us, but some of us have been capsized for two or three decades. The pace continues to climb, and we just can't right ourselves. But your Shepherd can.
I had a young man who came into my office about three years ago. His brother asked if I would meet with him. He said, "He is having anxiety attacks. He is completely overwhelmed, and in fact, he lives so far from me, I think I have to go get him because he will not get on the highway. He freaks out. He's really struggling. He's been to some doctors. He's on some medication. He sometimes abuses alcohol with his friends, but he is unable to cope. He's about to lose his job because stress and anxiety have destroyed him."
I said, "I'd love to meet with him." I met with him, and I'm telling you, he was a shell of a man. He had been cast. He was upside down. He couldn't get himself right. I looked at him. He just said, "Todd, I think I'm crazy." I go, "Why do you think you're crazy?" He goes, "Because I'm scared all the time. I'm scared I'm going to die when I'm on the highway. I'm scared I'm going to make a mistake with my career. I'm scared I'm going to miss out on some opportunity in a relationship." He went on and on and on.
I go, "Let me just tell you something. Who do you think Jesus is?" He goes, "I'm here to talk about my anxiety." I said, "I understand that. Who do you think Jesus is?" He goes, "I don't really consider Jesus very much." I said, "You're not crazy. You're the only sane person I know. What I mean is you have good reason to be fearful on that highway because you're going to be held into account for the life you've lived, and your life, like my life, is always going to be wanting before God.
You're going to screw up a relationship even if you're so lucky to get into it. You're not smart enough to make the right career decision. Your life is on the brink of absolute despair and destruction. You ought to be anxiety-ridden. You ought to be completely freaked out." Do you know what he did?
He goes, "Really?" I go, "Absolutely. Do you have any idea how much I'd screw up my life if I was king of it?" He goes, "Well, I think you have a great life." I go, "Because I have a Shepherd who's telling me how to live and how to love. He tells me how to think through my career. He tells me how to think through my relationships. He tells me how to think through my struggles. He tells me what will happen even if my life goes a bad direction."
This guy trusted Jesus Christ. He didn't say, "I believe Jesus is a Good Shepherd. He began to listen to him. He began to tell Christ about how he had done the things he had done and gone his own way. He saw that God spoke into his life in these different issues. Today, this guy is not addicted to a medicine bottle. This guy, today, is leading and shepherding others to that King.
He has been righted. Not by me, but by Jesus. Now, he leads him in the path of righteousness for Jesus' namesake. I have seen others come to the Shepherd through the leadership of this guy. That's the way it should be.
Let me tell you what the Scripture says about your King. Isaiah 40:25-31. "' To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?' says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars…" Do you remember how we started this entire service by reminding ourselves who our Shepherd is?
"…the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'?" Why are you stressed out trying to provide for you the peace that sheeple can only get when they have a good shepherd?
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power." He doesn't sleep.
In fact, Psalm 127:2 says this. " It is vain for you to rise up early…to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." Do you know that? Listen to this little passage in Psalm 3. It says as he meditates on who his God is,"But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah." Rest.
"I'm going to lay down, and I'm going to sleep. I'm going to wait till the Lord sustains me. Your mercy is going to be there again tomorrow. Today has enough troubles of its own. You designed me to rest." Do you know sleep is a sign of faith that all will be well with me until I get back at it again? How's your sleep? How's your soul?
Jesus says that he's the Good Shepherd and one of the things he's going to give is not just love but peace. In John 14:27, he says this. In one version, he says, "I am leaving you with a gift…" In the New American Standard, he says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you [related conditionally and to circumstance] . Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." He's saying, "Let me restore your soul."
Here's what I want to ask you. As the world gets a whiff of us, the people who have been set free from the bondage of the ways of the world, is there an aroma of peace, or are we filled with the same tensions, anxieties, discouragement, depression, striving, coveting, greed, restlessness that they are? If so, why would we suggest to them that we have found the Good Shepherd?
If your life feels out of control and you are overwhelmed, overstressed, and fed up, ready to snap, you have no voice to call people to your shepherd because your shepherd looks just like the shepherd that is killing, stealing from and destroying them.
In the ancient time, the Chinese would take little pictures, and they would combine them, and they would communicate words. The Chinese pictograph for busy is made up of the picture of heart and the picture of death or coldness or a stone or lostness. Is your heart dead? There's another pictograph in Chinese. It's of a person who is threadbare thin. A good shepherd takes his sheep to a life that is going to be by green pastures and still waters where they are full and healthy. Is that your life?
This is a serious issue because it affects our ability to call people to Jesus Christ. Do you want to have a clarion call? Bring order into your world. Matthew 6 is where I want to shut us down today as we focus on this. This is what he says.
"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?"
Right now, we're praying like crazy for Sydney Thweatt. But if we're staying up at night wringing our hands worried what will happen to Sydney, we have a real issue as people of faith. All our worrying and all our struggling with what's going to go on with that little girl's bone marrow, will not add a single hour to her life. In fact, it will shorten ours.
"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'"
That's why you're running around crazy. So you wear better stuff, live better places, eat better food, vacation in more exotic locations. Yet, your heart leanness is skyrocketing with all your leisure, all your technology, and all your toys. Because you've left your Shepherd.
"For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Let me say some things to you that you may not like. I believe them wholeheartedly. Firstly, anxiety is evidence that you do not or have not lived a simple life. Persistent anxiety, not moments where you're tempted to go a different way, but when you live with tension, you're not seeking God first. If you are experiencing consistent anxiety, fear, depression, burden, or worry, you are not seeking first his kingdom.
If there is not peace in your life that passes understanding, then you're not following Jesus Christ. Do you know what the mantra of the world is? We're all wearing tee shirts that say this. Do you know what the tee shirts say? "Life is good." That's a lie. No, the tee shirt we ought to wear should say, "God is good, and I am completely satisfied in him. He makes me lie by green pastures. He puts me beside still waters."
My whole world may not look like yours, but something in my world will look different, and that is a peace that passes understanding." When you live that way, you can turn to the world, and you can say, "I want you to know my God. Sing with me about how great he is." That's what we do now.
Father, we are people who have a challenge before us. We are confronted, Father, by a hunger in our heart for a different schedule, a thirst for sanity, and that is good. You have told us that we're going to find it not be hitting the next big deal, finding the next right date, or achieving the next right weight. We're going to get it, Lord, as we begin to really walk with you.
You've told us, in your Word, that if we seek you first, if we sit at your feet, and we pay attention to you, our Master, that there is going to be a peace in our life that the world just can't recognize. Even in the midst of sometimes really trying times. Life, Father, is broken. You've told us that. There's sin in this world.
The world is not as you intended to be. But in this world filled with parasites, this world filled with barrenness and drought, a good shepherd will sustain us in a way that the world says, "Something's different with those people." May we tell them this. The difference between us and them is not our prosperity. It's not our genius. It is our King. May we sing rightly of you as we call others to you. Amen.
Do you have a great God? Are you anxious as a child? Do you know what my kids do when they're anxious? They come to their daddy, and they sit and listen and say, "What gives? What next? What do I do?" I speak with decades of wisdom into their life. How about eternal wisdom spoken into yours?
Thoreau, when he came away from Walden Pond, had two words he said were his primary takeaway. "Simplify, simplify." God has this word for you. "Be still, and know that I am God. Come to me, all who weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Don't love the world. Anybody who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. Follow me, and I will give you life."
Do you want to know what your task is this week? To sing of the greatness of your God. You can't call other people to a God whose feet you're not constantly sitting before, finding peace in his presence. You have to get there. You have to listen, and he will guide. If you want to speak with others who can guide you to him initially, we'd love to do that. If you, as a sheep, want to get in this flock and have others process with you what you think you're hearing from the Father, we'd love to do that.
The mob instinct here is to look to our Shepherd and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we do that, it will be well with our soul, we will sing to others to come, and he will be made famous as a Shepherd. That's a good combination. So sing well, my friends, this week, as you are still in his presence, listening and responding to him. Have a great week of worship.
Deadlines. Schedules. Blackberries. Meetings. PTA. Soccer practice. It sounds almost trite to say that our lives are busy and hectic. But could our overloaded schedules be a symptom of a more serious problem? Could being overbooked and under-rested have deeper spiritual implications? In this series Todd Wagner examines what a lack of peace produces in us, how it impedes our ability to effectively communicate the character of God to the world around us, and what we need to do to find that "peace that passes understanding".