In an effort to pursue peace, we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives. And then take back control, evaluating every aspect of our day-to-day routine prayerfully, purposefully, but not privately.
Serenity Now! Whether You Live in Mayberry or Manhattan
What a Crazy Life Creates in Us
What a Crazy Life Communicates to Others
Male: Youth lacrosse happened to me. The competitive elite lacrosse league. See, my little Ashley made one of those traveling teams. Pray that it never happens to you. I never really thought of her as being that hot in Lacrosse. She's only 14. But when she made this competitive team, all the parents said it was a big deal. It was the way to make the varsity team in high school. It looked great on a college application. But what sold it for me was it was the road to a scholarship.
I don't even know if Ashley was really that interested in playing, but once her friends made the team, she just had to. What was I going to do? Say no to my little girl? The next thing you know, I'm writing out a check for $1,500. Then come to find out, the team practices or plays seven days a week, and it's clear across town.
Next thing you know, I find myself on the sideline of a lacrosse field every day of the week. My wife can't do it because she has to take Justin to football practice. Now, why a near-sighted 8-year-old needs 42 games scheduled, I'll never know. What is he? Troy Aikman? Plus, there's blocking camp and passing camp and strength and agility camp from his personal coach, Hans.
Pretty soon, I have no life. Family dinners? Forget about it. Every dinner I make is in the car. Right handed-Taco Bell. I hardly see my wife awake anymore, and when I do, I need to ask for ID. So Ashley and I start traveling to all these stupid tournaments. There's Baltimore and Denver, then Ottawa. Every one is built as the recruitment event.
Would you like to know who we see at these events? We see the same girls we used to play in our neighborhood. Essentially, we're flying throughout creation to get beaten by the same exact girls. I talk to the other parents. They feel like I do. They don't want to be there, but they said their girls had to be there, so they had to be there.
My wife talks to some concerned parents at one of Justin's quarterback camps, and they said we're crazy if we don't hire a sports enhancement specialist for our kids. So my wife signs them up. Then, come to find out, all the girls on the lacrosse team have what they call a recruitment consultant. What they do is they take all of the highlight reels, and they send them all over the nation to all the college campuses and to the coaches there. Never mind that my daughter is 14-years-old. My wife's like, "What are you going to do? Say no?"
So now we have a statistical consultant, a 10-day sports psychologist, oh, and a webmaster. Since I'm working half time now and I'm flying to all of these tournaments, I had to take out a second mortgage. Now, my wife can't work. Well, because she's on the sideline getting heat stroke at Justin's games. Thank goodness Justin's coach, Hans, knows some new-age massage techniques to make her feel better. So I don't need to worry about her anymore.
Then this lunatic lacrosse coach schedules an extra 6:00 a.m. practice every day of the week. It's like our old bottle-feeding days. I'm telling my wife, "It's your turn to take her." She's like, "No, no, no. I was at Midnight Madness last night. It is your turn." All right! My little daughter is so tired at night, we end up doing her homework for her, and we're getting C's.
Now I'm getting no sleep, turning my stomach into a dumpster, and before I can put my foot down, my boss puts his down first. He fires me. He says, as he's doing it, "By the way, the average lacrosse scholarship is about $1,000, you idiot." So I punch him. Then, I head to my daughter's school, I pulled her out of class, and I say, "It's over, baby. No more 6:00 a.m. practice. No more 5:00 p.m. practice. No more 9:00 p.m. games. No more Denver, Baltimore, or Ottawa. You're over. No more lacrosse."
She looks at me, and she says, "Whatever. My sports psychologist says you push us too hard, so I quit this morning." Nice. I go home to tell my wife, and of course, she's not there. Two or three days go by. I figure she's at Football Palooza in Cheyenne. Turns out, she moved in with Hans. She wants to be someone who really understands her. Oh, and she really likes massage.
Today, I get home. All of the locks are changed. It's probably the mortgage company because I'm way behind. You know what I've learned from all of this? The most competitive sport in all the world is parenting. Anyway, what I came to ask is… Would anybody like to buy some lacrosse sticks?
[End of video]
You might be thinking, "Wait, I thought I was at church." You are. Let me tell you what we do when we come together. We're honest. We're not wasting our time. We're not moving ourselves through some sanctimonious ritual that makes us feel like we've punched our little clock and done what we think it is that God wants us to do. Do you know what God wants us to do? God wants us to deal in reality with him. What he wants to do is talk to us about our life.
What we tried to do in that last 10 minutes is take a moment and say, "We understand." We know you're living in a Class V rapid called Dallas, Texas. We know you weren't designed for that. There are times to have a bit of an adrenaline shot through your body. There's a time to go for an experience you might not normally do. But when you live in Class V rapids, you are a narcotic, stressed out, overwhelmed, discouraged soul whose life is at risk.
God wants you to live by still waters. He wants you to lie down because you are perfectly provided for and protected by a Good Shepherd. He wants to restore your soul, and when you live in Class V rapids, you're trying to get a breath. There's nothing being restored. You're holding on. How are you doing? Is your life on empty? You have to check the controls.
We're in the middle of a little series called By Still Waters. Last week, we dealt with the issue of how our overwhelmed, underorganized, overstressed, out-of-relationship lives are causing us to lose our voice in a world that is wondering if there are some people who have a good shepherd who can bring some sanity into the chaos, who can bring some security into the havoc.
When our life looks just like theirs, they're going to look for some relief, but they won't look to our Lord, and we lose our opportunity to be the greatest thing we could ever be, which is people who have hope, people who have a message of redemption, people whose lives are transformed and they're salt and light to a thirsty and dark world.
There's another effect. The effect is that our lives are slowly being consumed in a way God does not intend for his flock to be consumed. It is the trophy of the shepherd to have sheep that are rested and have peace and security in their lives and are not caught up by the insecurities, the parasites, the diseases, and the threats of the world. They lie by still waters. They're not swept downstream by strong currents.
This morning, I want to talk to you about you. How are you doing? How's your life? Check the controls. I want to tell you this morning that I don't care how high you are flying, what altitude you exist at. If you are consistently losing altitude, it's just a matter of time before you crash. Some of us think, "I have this thing by the tail. I have the world going right now." But I don't care how high you are; it's just a matter of time before you crash if you're consistently losing altitude.
Today, what I want to do is talk very honestly about what God says is going to allow us to continue to climb towards a life that speaks to a world that's watching and wondering if there's anybody who has a Good Shepherd and give you some very practical things.
While we set this thing up, I want to say a year ago, we talked about being consumed by materialism, being consumed by lust for and attention to money. It's one of the things that causes stress in our life because we have to work a certain amount of time to buy that certain kind of house that we're sure if we just lived in that certain kind of neighborhood would give us a certain kind of future and certain kind of hope that we want while we're losing the life we want to live in those homes.
The old statement is what? "Time is money." But in the frenetic new millennium, time has become even more scarce than money; therefore, it is even more valuable. It's even more valuable too because money can be resupplied. Time is unrenewable. Each day, the way we live it is the only chance we ever get to live that day that way. God wants you to live that day in a way that speaks to the fact that you have a good shepherd who is over you.
According to one Harris survey, it says the amount of leisure time enjoyed by the average American has shrunk 40 percent by 1973. One guy wrote this. "Our current time crunch has caught most people off-guard. Optimistic futurists in the 50s and 60s, with visions of utopia dancing in their heads, predicted Americans would enjoy ample hours of leisure by the turn of the century. Computers, satellites, and robotics would remove the menial aspects of labor and deliver abundant opportunities for rest and recreation."
Yet, the reality is that these and other technological feats have not freed Americans from their labors. Most people are busier than ever. In fact, it is extended where their labors can chase them. It wasn't supposed to be this way. Listen to this. There was testimony given by experts before a senate subcommittee in 1967. This is what the experts told our congress and our government: keep investing technology, because technology is the future of America.
Do you know that Israel (God's chosen people) was the first time he revealed himself to a world? He said, "I will be your shepherd, and you will be loved and cared for in a way that nobody else is cared for. Not because you're any better than anybody else, but I'm choosing to make myself famous through you. So when other people long to have the serenity, peace, hope, and protection that you have, you can point them to me, not brag about yourself."
Israel in the 60s came up with a mantra that talked about how science and defense are their savior. Not a lot of peace these days in Israel, is there? What's interesting is what's going on in the first country that God revealed himself to is also going on in our country. God had given favor to, like no other country in the history of the earth, even Israel, in terms of some of the experience of prosperity and blessing that we think if we had it, life would be full.
In '67, we had some men saying the same thing before our national leadership. This is what they said. Keep investing in these new gadgets and technology. Why? Because they said in 20 short years (by 1985), if they kept investing the way they are and climbing, people could be working just 22 hours a week, 27 weeks a year. They thought men and women in their country could retire at age 38.
How'd that work out for us? Maybe there was a different thing that we ought to have invested to in a nation that would bring about the peace and prosperity that we want. The major challenges facing people in the 90s and on should've been what to do with the leisure time provided by our technological wizardry, but that was not the case. The pace of our lives has, instead, increased. Overcommitment and busyness have has been elevated to a socially desirable standard. Being busy is chic and trendy.
Pity the poor person who has an organized life and a livable schedule. This one social commentator writes, "Everywhere, it seems, people are over-scheduled and over-committed." When they're at home, TV sabotages much of the already limited time families spend together. Meals are frequently eaten in front of the electronic fireplace.
Let me say this about television very quickly. Television, in my opinion, is not a danger to us because of what it brings into the home, and there is no question that it brings in a lot of things that direct our hearts to a place that will not give us peace and prosperity. But I think television is even more dangerous for what it takes out of the home, which are the interactions and relationships, which God intends us to have for each other.
One Yale psychology professor, a guy named Edward Zigler, solemnly warned that as a society, we're at the breaking point, especially as family is concerned. He and others go onto observe, inevitably, children in today's world are forced to grow up quickly and take on responsibility they should never have to shoulder. Some children are effectively abandoned by their overworked, overstressed, and overscheduled parents. If not physically, at least emotionally. They must grow up on their own. It is going to cause a consequence that we are not prepared to pay.
One sociologist said this. He's come up with a whole new diagnosis of what he sees happening in our world today. He calls it the hurried child syndrome. Time, he says, or rather a lack of it, is severely hurting families, nurturing suppers when families do not have time to communicate and parents do not have time to instruct their children. In the end, the lack of time takes its toll on the stability of our families where physical, now I add, and emotional issues that are absent in their life that God intended for the provision of a parent to be there. It is damaging our children.
There is a way, the Scripture says, which seems right to man, but in the end, it is the way of death. God says, "I love you. I want you guys to know there's a better way. I want you to follow me and know that I care for you." The Scripture says there is one who is out there who wants to master your life, who wants to rule over you, and he has come to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to steal your joy. He wants to kill your heart. He wants to kill your relationships. He wants to destroy your opportunity to enjoy and to represent and declare the knowledge of your intimate relationship with a loving shepherd who leads you beside still waters, green pastures, and restores your soul.
Let me just say this. If the Enemy, if Satan, cannot make you abandon your faith, he's going to try and make you busy. See, there are very few of us in this room this morning that started last week in love with Jesus Christ who ended this week not in love with Jesus Christ. We haven't abandoned our faith, but there are people in this room who have watched us be outside of the care and protection of a loving shepherd because our lives are just frenetic and out of control as theirs.
We don't look like we're shepherded any better than they are. What the Enemy has done is he's not made us abandon our faith in our proclamation. He has made us abandon the security of what we deserve in practice. He has made us busy.
Carl Jung says, "Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil." That's just a sociological, psychotherapeutic evaluation of what a busy, wacked-out, hurried life will do to you. It's not becoming of people who have a good shepherd. It's not becoming of your shepherd to have a sheep live the way we are living. We have been consumed in a way that God says, "I love you too much to let you go that way."
This morning, I'm just going to talk to you. I want to talk to you as lovingly as I can. I'm going to tell you there's a lot of things I could do that would help bring some serenity into your life, but I'm going to quote Lily Tomlin. Lily Tomlin was the one who said this. "The best mind-altering drug is the truth."
If your mind is overwhelmed, stressed out, anxious, and if you're living at the pit of despair constantly, I'm not going to offer to you some of the more popular drugs that are available to you if you go in and see somebody who is a physician. I'm going to take you to the divine Physician, and I'm going to give you the greatest mind-altering drug that you can get. It's truth.
Why did we do what we did to start our service today? We know the truth about what's going on in this world that we're living in, and we want to say, "Do you recognize yourself in any of this?" The well don't go to a physician, and I hope we see a sickness in that song, and our overcaffeinated, overscheduled lives, and go, "I could use a good conversation with somebody who can get some therapy to my soul."
I'm going to recommend that you don't go anywhere else until you at least first go to the divine Physician who wants to do some soul therapy. He wants to talk to you, and he wants to love you, and he wants to lead you. Beware the burden and the barrenness of a busy life, Socrates said. That's why Jesus said, "I've come to set you free. It's for freedom's sake that I've set you free. Don't continually give yourself to the lusts of your flesh, the ways of this world or the Enemy who looks to steal, kill, and destroy from you.
Look at James 4:1-8. How did we get here? Here's how we got here. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" Why are you stressed out and at each other's throats? Because, "You lust and do not have…" Instead of looking to God and knowing he has your best interests in mind, plans for a future and for a hope, plans for welfare and not calamity, you've abandoned your Shepherd, you've installed yourself as sovereign in your own life, and you've decided you know what you need to eat, and you know what you need to be full.
"You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not [look to me, your Shepherd, or come to me, your Father] . You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses…"
In other words, "You who say you've yoked yourself to me, that you want to become one with me, but you're giving yourself to another lover, do you not know that friendship with the world, sailing along with the current of the world, is hostility toward God." Do you want to know why we're a whacked-out world and some of us feel like we're whacked out people?
Right here is your answer. Because we're friends of the world. "Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Enemies of God do not have peace. How's your soul? Is there peace? Is your family prospering underneath your leadership? Are your kids secure? Do they have the attention and the love that they want from you? Is your life, if you don't have a family, in order or are you frenetically running around to another altar thinking, "Maybe over here, I'll find the life and the meaning that I need"?
I'll tell you what's skyrocketing in our culture. What's skyrocketing is depression and stress. Let me just say this. The Scripture says, "Seek first his kingdom, his righteousness, and you'll find what you're looking for. Don't worry about what you need 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Just walk with me today. Let me be your Shepherd today."
I want to ask you. Are you being driven to death or are you being called to life? J. Vernon McGee tells a story. He was a guy who for a number of years pastored in California. He would take groups of people on tours of Israel. One time when he was in Israel, he had been talking to the people about what a shepherd does. A shepherd loves his sheep; he leads his sheep. The intimate relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is such that, like Timmy called Lassie, a shepherd could call his sheep.
He said, "When you go to the Middle East, it's not what you think. The Middle Eastern shepherd is an intimate relationship with his sheep. It's not some big sheep farm where they're just moved in a crass, impersonal way. In Israel, the shepherds love their sheep, and they lead them. You'll never see a shepherd driving their sheep. You'll see a shepherd leading his sheep, and his sheep know that he loves them and is leading them to a good place and will restore their souls, keep them free from their enemies, and allow them to get refreshment both in terms of food and water. So they will lead them."
They were driving along in a bus, and they go by, and there was a flock of sheep that somebody was behind goading them and driving them. It drove McGee crazy. He said, "Stop the bus." He goes, "I can't explain this." He got out to that guy. He brought out his interpreter out with them.
He said, "What are you doing? I just got through telling these people that the shepherds in Israel are different. They love their sheep. They lead their sheep. They lead them to places, and the sheep know their voice, and they follow them. That's the whole metaphor of Scripture. That's who Jesus is to us." The guy waited until this crazy American was done speaking, and he told the interpreters, "Tell him I am not the shepherd. I am the butcher. I just bought them from the shepherd. I am driving them to slaughter."
Are you following Christ, or are you being driven by a master who is nothing someone who has your best interests in mind? If I came to you and I told you that for $1 million you'd lose your kids to discouragement, anxiety, depression, drugs, medication, floundering, you would never cut that deal. But many of us, in the pursuit of the things we think our kids need, have abandoned our kids in a way that have produced in their life the things which drive them necessarily there.
I made a quick reference last week to a little article. I want to read to you most of it today. I want to share this with you because what always happens is the world catches up to the wisdom of God. So in Psychology Today just a month ago, listen to what they say.
"In every way, depression is a growing problem. Rates of depression have steadily climbed over the last 50 years and are significantly higher in those born after 1945 than in those born before. In addition, the average age of onset of a first depressive episode is steadily decreasing—it is now mid-20s whereas it once was mid-30s."
Why is that? Because our lives are more frenetic and the shepherds who are over our children are driving them quickly and more often into lives which bring about sadness, anxiety, and emptiness, which is discouragement to the human spirit. "Cross-cultural data show that the United States has a higher rate of depression than almost any other country…"
Why is that? We are without argument, the most resourced, privileged country in this history of the world. It's because the way of the world will not bring you peace. We are enemies with God in much of the way we live, and enemies of God do not experience the peace that we long for. They also don't experience the adventure that we long for. Instead of giving ourselves away to some small adventure of becoming successful in a fleeting, temporal way, God says, "I want to make you significantly involved in a world adventure that has eternal consequences.
Watch this. He says, "…as Asian countries Westernize [as they learn from us] their rates of depression increase correspondingly." Psychology Today. "The data make it abundantly clear that these changes are not the product of individual biochemistry or of family genetics but of pathology within our culture." It is chic to be stressed out and busy. It has become fashionable to call depression a disease.
If I said this, I'd get letters out the wazoo, but they're right. Watch this. It has become fashionable to call depression a disease to medicalize it. Certainly, neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine are involved in depression, but if you asked the most critical question (if biology is the cause of depression), the best data suggests that genes account for about only one in five cases. But hang in there. Even that needs to be informed.
The idea, though, that a chemical imbalance causes depression rather than reflects it, ignores the fact that the brain's biochemistry responds more to our way of thinking than causing it. That is not popular because people would rather have a pill than the greatest mind-altering drug they can get, which is truth. Jesus says, "I'm going to give you the truth, and the truth will set you free. I'm not going to give you something that if you swallow will let you manage the chaos that you're choosing to live in. What I want to do is call you to me.
Somebody came up to me after first service and said, "Are you telling me I should get off my meds?" I go, "That's not what I said. What I told you is that you ought to pay attention to the divine Physician before you start to pay attention to the world's physicians. The world's physicians can talk about certain characteristics that are in your life and give you things that will help you sustain through it. The divine Physician is going to want to help you change your world in a way that possibly might lead to freedom from the necessity to medicate yourself to make it through."
Now watch. When therapists go looking for the cause of depression, what they said was life experience and nurture has more to do with our mental state than nature.
"When therapists go looking for the cause of depression, they are wasting valuable time. Depression, scientists have learned, is an organized, patterned way of responding to events and experiences. For example, some people develop the tendency to take things personally, even when things are not personal. Or they tend to engage in all-or-nothing thinking. Either way, the result is that they draw wrong conclusions about events and make the mistake of believing those conclusions rather than testing them."
"Test the spirits," the Scripture says. I'm going to give you a 3,000-year-old prayer that can help you do this without wasting time and money. "Depression is helped most when we encourage people to be active on their own behalf, to challenge their own thinking, to find out whether the thoughts that hurt them are true or not." I'm going to give you a 3,000-year-old prayer that said this 3,000 years ago, not in August 2006.
"That's why psychotherapy outperforms medication in the long run." Watch this. "In studies comparing drug therapy to psychotherapy for depression, after about a month medications are ahead." In terms of bringing to people a sense that, "My life is better." In other words, tequila will get you feeling better quicker than truth, but it probably isn't going to sustain itself. Look what they say.
"They provide a reduction of symptoms more quickly and more reliably than therapy does. After a couple of months, antidepressants and psychotherapy are running neck and neck."Because you're starting to be thought out by truth that warms your heart." At 12 weeks, therapy is actually slightly ahead. Clients feel better about themselves when they're taking action on their own behalf and learning the principles that will help insulate them from later episodes of depression. As a result, relapse occurs 50 percent more often among patients receiving medication alone than among those receiving both drugs and therapy."
You have to understand psychotherapy is their slang for soul work. Psychē is the Greek word for soul. Psychotherapy. Talk to your soul. Your Good Shepherd has been trying to do that from the moment he created you. "A highly important skill for warding off depression is learning to discriminate…" God says, "Listen to me. Let me teach you. Let me correct you. Let me reprove you. Let me train you in righteousness so you can be adequately prepared for every good work."
"A highly important skill for warding off depression is learning to discriminate between what you feel versus what is objectively true. Good mental health requires you to juggle the interplay between what's going on within you and what is going on out there. Finally, relationship skills are important for preventing depression." No kidding. It's almost like we were made for relationship. Swindoll says, "Busyness rapes relationships."
"We've known for decades that relationships serve as buffers against illness and emotional disorders. The people who are at the greatest risk for depression are those who are most lonely." I want to say it again, and there are keywords in this sentence. But the finest mind-altering drug I can give you is truth. This is not my opinion. That's not worth a cup of coffee. But when I stand here and represent you what the Good Shepherd has told us for a long time, we ought to consider if we want to drink it deeply.
Persistent anxiety is evidence that you do not live the kind of life that the Shepherd intended for you to live. I didn't say you're not tempted at times to get anxious. Aren't we all? Do you know that Jesus was deeply depressed to the point of death? But he dealt with it the way God wants us to deal without depression. Do you know the word distressed describes David, who has a heart after God? But look at the way David dealt with it. He didn't live in a season of anxiety or depression. He had a moment in a garden until God restored his soul.
Persistent anxiety is evidence that you do not live that kind of life. If you're experiencing consistent (as a matter of practice) anxiety, fear, depression, burden, or worry, you don't have the Shepherd the Scripture says is available to you. You're not seeking him and his ways. If there's not peace in your life that passes all understanding, then you're not seeking first his kingdom. If nobody has come up to you lately and said, "There is an aroma to your life I can't get my arms around. It's nowhere near mine," and asks why that is, then we're not walking the way God wants us to walk.
A gentleman I know who was involved with a really significant and great ministry, a number of years ago, when he first took over this responsibility, called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. "'The church I serve in moves at a very fast clip,' I said to a friend. I told him about the rhythms of my family life. We're in the van driving…" This guy did soccer league, piano lessons, and school orientation for years. "I told him the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern, was not very good. 'What did I need to do to be spiritually healthy?'"
You might be asking that question this morning. He said, "I asked my friend that question over the phone." He said there was a long pause, and then he said, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." My friend said, "'Okay. I've written that one down. That's a good one. Now, what else?' "I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call. I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible. Another long pause. 'There's nothing else. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.'"
My friend wrote this down. He said, "He's the wisest spiritual mentor I know. While this guy who I was talking to did not know every detail of every great sin in my life, he knows quite a bit, and he can probably guess the rest." This is a beautiful statement. "From an immense quiver of spiritual sagacity [knowledge], he drew only one arrow. 'You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.'"
I'm going to tell you what I'm not going to do for you today. I'm not going to tell you how many teams you can coach. I coach five. I'm not going tell you how many times a week you should work out, how many hours a week you should work. I'm not going to tell you what income level you should work at. I'm not going to tell you how many times a week you should speak.
This week, I flew to Branson, Missouri. I spoke for four hours on conflict resolution. I led a small group of guys. I led a group of men from another area in processing what was going on with their church. On Thursday night with a group of friends, I had a pastoral care event that took me past midnight. I was up at 7:00 or before on that particular next morning, and we did an all-day elder conference with 18 churches around the southwest talking to them about leadership. Saturday morning, I was at Oak Cliff Bible Church teaching 2,000 singles about purpose and mission.
I'm not going to tell you what you should or should not do, because this is not about specific events in your life. I know what my schedule is. I'm going to tell you, "Don't look at my schedule. Look at my sheep. Look at my wife. Look at my heart. Are my kids secure? Are my kids provided for?"
I'm also going to tell you that tomorrow, like I do once a month, I take all the men who are on my staff and say, "You're not working today. Your job is to meet me for breakfast. After that, your job is to go someplace where nobody else will be until well into the afternoon. Then you're going to meet me, and we're going to do something. Tomorrow, we're playing flag football together about 3:00. But I don't want see them from about 8:45 until 3:00. It's them and Jesus time.
What you don't know is 90 percent of my Wednesdays, I just get alone. You might go, "Gosh, I'd love that job." Well, I'll tell you how you can have it. Don't compare yourself to me. I'm going to talk about that in a moment. "For most of us," my friend said, "the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied, that we will settle for a mediocre version of it."
Let me say that again. Most of us aren't going to renounce our faith this week, but we're going to become so rushed and preoccupied that we're going to settle for a mediocre version of it, and that is not fitting for children of kings. So here we go. Are you ready?
First, take control. Evaluate everything prayerfully, purposefully, but not privately. I told you I was going to give you a 3,000-year-old prayer. Here it comes. I'm going to tell you to get alone, be with the Lord, and on a regular basis, evaluate. Search me, O God. Know my heart. This heart is desperately sick and deceitful of all else.
I can convince myself that I'm doing well when I'm not doing well, that I'm gaining altitude when I'm going down. So God, speak to me and let me listen. See if there is any hurtful way in me. Know my anxious thoughts, and you lead me, Lord, in the everlasting way. Don't let me get sucked up in the current.
I'm going to ask you to prayerfully take control of your life and sit and listen. Get your journal open. Turn the radio off. Listen. God loves you. He lives. He speaks. You may not hear an audible voice. I never have. But I have to tell you, when I ask God, "What's going on right now in my heart? Are there anxious ways in me? Are there any hurtful practices?" I usually fill up a page.
Evaluate everything purposefully. Here's what I want to ask you: What's your mission, and are you on it? You have to get that established. Before you can figure out what your mission is, what's your master? If your master is a god of this world, your mission is to become as wealthy as you can so you think you can become comfortable as quickly as you can, or to have as much pleasure as you can, even though that pleasure never quite satisfies you.
Who is your master? Jesus will tell you what your mission is. You better make sure that your mission is the mission that your Master called you to be on so you can have the fullness that he says will come when you're on that mission. What are the things in your life that you value most? Here's my question. Does your schedule prove it? When's the last time your wife said, "I just don't feel like you make time for me. This is your world. I'm living in it. I don't look good. Women look good in love. I don't feel like I'm in love with you. I don't feel like we have a relationship"?
It's not acceptable to say, "I told you I loved you. Until I announce differently, that's where we roll." She's saying, "You say you value me. Prove it." You guys say that Jesus is the most important thing of your life and advancing his kingdom is the most important thing in your life? Does your investment back up that commitment?
Who do you wish you were with, and what did you wish you were doing on September 11, 2001? Our entire country came to a moment of clarity, didn't we? "This is crazy the way we're living. Let's get together. I want to be around people I love. I want to evaluate my life. Is this the way I want to live." Five years later? Nuh-uh. We're right back at it.
Are you with those folks today? Are you doing the things you wanted to be about? How many folks want to go hug their kids? How many folks want to be there at home? They didn't care what kind of house they had? They cared that there were people to share it with purposefully, not privately. Because you can dupe yourself. If you're like me, you're a master at rationalization and justification. There's nothing quite so creative a person in the midst of self-justification. "Oh, it's just a season of life. It's just the world I live in. This is reality."
Really? Get some others around you. If you're the only person who thinks your life has some sanity to it, the Scripture says there's more hope for a fool than for you. Proverbs 26:12. "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?" There is nothing in Scripture that is rebuked more than a fool (somebody who scoffs at the wisdom of God) except for this man…the man who thinks he is wise. See, a fool can eventually come to the end of himself, but a wise guy can always explain why everybody thinks there's a problem in his life.
Proverbs 18:1 says, "He who separates himself [from others and the ability to speak into their life in a loving way] seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom." You mark my words. He will pay for it. Take control. Evaluate everything. Prayerfully, purposefully, but not privately.
Don't set your schedule by what you think others expect or what others value. Set your schedule by what you value based on your Good Shepherd speaking into your world and set your schedule by what God expects. If what you value is not what God values, you're an enemy of God, and you will not have peace.
Let me say this. I had an extended lunch with a good friend of mine who is extremely recognized in ministry who I love dearly. This is a guy who I was consistently around for a long time who used to say when I was around people, "This guy is unbelievable. This guy is the Energizer Bunny. This guy disciples more people, teaches more people, cares for more people. We need more people like this guy in this world."
What happened is it made all the folks who were around him go, "I want people talking about me like that." It made this guy go, "Wow. I must be valuable to the kingdom because I'm the guy who's talked about like that." So his life becomes driven by this idol of being perceived that way. What nobody knows is this guy has all manner of illness and disease. They don't know that when he sits down in his bathroom to relieve himself that blood is shooting out of his backside because of stress and anxiety that is racking his world.
All the while, "We need more men like that." Stop thinking you need to be like somebody else and focusing on what others say about other people. "Gosh, I can't that guy is like that. That's amazing. What a high-capacity person." You be who your Shepherd wants you to be. You might look differently in the way you steward your life.
Do you know what God says? You go, "What about him?" He goes, "What is he to you? You do what I ask you to do. There are three-talent, five-talent, ten-talent people, but let me tell you something. There are people who are living like they're ten-talent people who are three-talent people, and they're a mockery to me." There's going to be a day that they're losing altitude, and it's going to show up in reality.
You keep your eyes focused on Jesus, and you want people to talk about you wanting to be like Jesus, not that person who they say is an amazing person. Women, Jane Fonda. Was she the buzz when she hit 40? That body looked really good, didn't it? Everybody thought, "I have to do what Jane's doing." What they didn't know is when Jane went to the bathroom, she's not shooting out blood; she's puking up lunch. Bulimic, and telling the world, "This is how you can look great. Do what I do." No, she's killing herself.
Stop being sucked in. Take control. Focus on Christ. He's already told you whose image he wants you be to conformed into. It's Jesus'. Who was Jesus? "Where have you been? Don't you know everybody is looking for you?" "Yeah. Who cares? I was with the Father, and now I'm ready to be with you."
I love Lily Tomlin. I'm quoting her twice today. This is what she said. "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a [stinking] rat." Good for her. Listen to what one guy said. It is one thing to decry the rat race... That is the good and honorable work of moralists. It is quite another thing to quit the rat race, to drop out, to refuse to run any further—that is the work of the individualist. It is offensive because it is impolite…"
"What do you mean you're not going to do what my kid does? What do you mean you're not going to send your kid to Velocity? Are you saying I shouldn't send my kid to Velocity? What do you mean he's not going to take piano and be a concert pianist like my kid and take language and do this and do that and learn to rock climb and dive and all this stuff. What do you mean? Are you telling me my kid shouldn't do that?"
"…it makes the rebuke personal; the individualist calls not his or her behavior into question, but mine." Just in case you didn't think that Paul knew what he was talking about, listen to Peter. In 1 Peter 4:4, " In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you…"
Have you been maligned lately because there's serenity and peace in your life? Does your life condemn the hurriedness and emptiness of their life? Is there an aroma that the world is drawn to? Scripture says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed …" Not transform yourself. Be transformed. How? "…by the renewing of your mind…" Let the Savior, let the Shepherd speak to you, sheep, and order your life according to his ways. "…so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Take control.
If you don't set your own priorities, somebody else is going to set your priorities for you, and they're not going to have your best interest in mind. Listen to this. Genesis 1:26-27. Here's what it's going to say in a nutshell. You have the authority, and you are called by the basis of your creation to manage your world; not to let your world manage you. Don't let the world inform your life. Let the Word inform your life. Now let's read it.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over [the world] .'" Do you understand that? You have to set your own standard. You have to have the security to go, "I don't really care what you're going to say to me. I don't care if you're going to let go of me. My Lord tells me if I order my life according to his values and what he expects, it will be well with me.
I know the plan he has for me. It's a plan for a future and for a hope, plans for welfare and not for calamity. I'm not sure what your plans are for me, but I can be sure if you want me to work and perform and be driven in a way that is not consistent with what God says for me, I'm willing to let you walk away from me."
Let me just say this to you. Employers, those of you who are out there who are leading others, you are responsible for what you're asking of your employees. You will give an account. Employees, you are responsible for what you're allowing your employers to ask of you and for communicating to your employers your boundaries, needs, and limitations.
If they say, "That's just the way it rolls around here," then you have to say, "Maybe this isn't where I'm going to continue to be, because I will not offer up my children on the altar of Moloch, on the altar of this career. There is no promise of position or compensation that is worth sacrificing my relationship with my family, my friends, my Lord, and my well-being." Do you have the security to do that?
You are put in a position where God wants you to sovereignly lead and rule and love. If the world is running you, then you have lost your way. God is saying, "Get back on point. You're supposed to be sovereign over this world like I'm sovereign over the universe. You're not to be seduced by the world or by your flesh which is corrupted or by the god of this world that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. You, for freedom's sake, have been set free." We are called to be individuals who manage our world and don't let our world manage us. Take control.
Last one. Peace and rest are two of God's greatest provisions that idolaters never get. Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." He said this. "I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." You read what you want to read, but if you're not reading this and if you're not listening to this Shepherd, there is no rest, and there is no peace. God has it rigged.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." John 14:27, I am leaving you with a gift. Peace of mind and heart. The peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. Take my gift." Jeremiah 6:16-19 and then verse 21. Watch this. This is it. This the crescendo. Are you ready?
"Thus says the LORD, 'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it…" Are you his sheep? He loves you. It's not enough to say, "Where's the ancient Shepherd who is sovereign and gentle? Where is he?" You have to learn where he is, and then you have to walk with him. The ancient paths are the way that God has revealed to us that we should walk. Look. He says when you do this, "…you will find rest for your souls." There it is, and you get it nowhere else.
"But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' And I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!" Listen to the beating of the heart. Listen to the anxiety and the stressed-out life that you have. It's trying to tell you that that is not the way to live. "Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people…"
Do we want to know where this came from? "The fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also… T** herefore, thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people.'" I love them. I want them to trip up, so they'll consider their ways."And they will stumble against them, fathers and sons together…" That's right. Your kids are going to go down with you because, in my sovereignty, I let leadership affect people."…neighbor and friend will perish."
What are the stumbling blocks? Anxiety, isolation, joylessness, stressed-out children, fractured families, bondage, but it doesn't have to be that way with you, Christ follower. It doesn't have to be that way with you. If you're looking for a Shepherd, he's here today, and he calls you to come to him. You can't just say, "This is the ancient past;" you have to walk in it. You can't just say, "He's my Good Shepherd;" you have to follow his voice.
If your life today is filled with anxiety and discouragement and a lack of contentment, okay. We're not here to make you feel bad. We're here to say truth can alter that circumstance, but you have to walk in it. You may not want to. By the grace of God, I hope you stumble, and I hope you stumble hard. We'll be there when you turn around and say, "We're doing the best we can to walk in this way. Come with us. We're a bunch of scraped-up, scarred people. We have a Good Shepherd. Join us." Take control. Evaluate everything. Prayerfully, purposefully, and not privately.
Father, I thank you for these friends, and for the way they graciously listen to me. Today, we just come, and we go, Okay." For some of us, Lord, we've said you're the Good Shepherd, but we have not listened to your voice, so we are a little stressed out. But you're not mad at us. You just love us. You want us to begin to walk with you again, so we want to come.
For others of us, Lord, we don't know you're the Good Shepherd yet. I thank you, Lord, that this is the place where they can come and say, "Why do you think your Shepherd is so good?" I pray we can speak about what he's provided for us, certainly, in his perfect provision on the cross, but also his perfect provision on the way, and we can talk about the hope that has been restored into our life and the transformed nation that has brought about which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Lord, I pray for friends who are here this morning who don't know you, who haven't trusted in you. That they would come and let us love them. That they could stand in three weeks before the world and say, "I've come to know Jesus. I'm just three weeks into it, but it's good." I pray for those of us who have known you for a long time that we would walk with you this week in a way that, Father, would bring peace and rest and joy and adventure to our souls. That you might be more famous, and we might live in the life of favor that you said is a life of welfare, not calamity, a life of a future and a hope, not stress and destruction. We love you.
Lord, as we hear the song, as we exit, played over us that we want to bring you everything. We start by just saying, "Lord, this week we want to bring you a still moment where you can speak into our lives," where, prayerfully, we can evaluate, where we can go back over your purposes for us, and we can share with community and ask, "Is my life exhibiting what you said it should, Lord?" and they can love us and correct us.
So, Lord, we bring you everything, including, right now, our lives, as we seek to worship you this week. Would you draw those who are not your sheep yet to come, and would you allow those of us who know you as the Good Shepherd to go and live in peace and adventure, loving those who need that Shepherd? For his glory, Jesus, and our good, we pray, amen.
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".