Rest & Peace
Before anyone starts to think I’ve lost my mind (it’s not lost it just wanders)... I'm completely aware that I preached from the 23rd Psalm a couple of Sundays ago.
We specifically looked at the last verse of the 23rd Psalm... Do you remember? “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” In other words, God’s grace and mercy pursue me in this life, and I will be blessed by God’s presence eternally, forever and ever... both in this life, and in the life to come. It’s a comforting assurance for the believer.
And today we turn to another of those familiar and comforting verses... verse 2... which reminds us: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2 NIV).
The idea... the concept... the possibility of peace and rest can be very alluring, can’t it? We quite often go to great lengths to experience - or to attempt and experience - rest & peace. The hospitality/vacation industry sure hopes that you and I are willing to go “all out” when it comes to rest and peace.
But God hopes for the same thing! He longs to bring us those things in life... essentials, like peace and rest... that we seek after, even though many times we spend a goodly portion of our life seeking in the wrong places!
Of course, Jesus tells us exactly where to look, and how to achieve lasting, legitimate peace and rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
If you’re anything like me, you’re always in a hurry! I always seem to have more things to do than I could possibly attend to! And I’m not complaining... it’s just a fact.
A fact that God’s been pointing out to me lately.
We’re all busy: Like the wife and mother who invited some people over for dinner, in the middle of a very busy week. At the table, she turned to their six-year old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied.
"Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mother answered.
The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
How about you? Do you ever have “why on earth” moments? Is your to-do list unrealistically long? Has more than one person ever told you that you need to slow down? Do you feel guilty when you relax? Do you have to get sick to take time off?
The pace of our world pushes us to keep going and going and going. And so, many people, good people, have a hard time slowing down. We’re always looking to the next project... the next accomplishment... the next deadline. So much so that most people I know even work on their “day-off.”
And even on Sunday, when we stop for an hour or two to go to church... we often head home afterward only to dive right into work (whether it’s housework, schoolwork, or career work), trying to do all the stuff that they didn’t accomplish during the regular workweek. On top of that, some people think God’s only pleased with us when we’re sweating... when they’re working, praying, or doing “spiritual” stuff.
After all, you know what they say... “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop!”
No wonder we’re exhausted! Most of us are maxed out.
And that was never the intention of the Good Shepherd. God’s Word says a lot about work, and how good, and noble, and necessary it is to work. But we also have to rest.
God, in his goodness, created rest because he considers it as important as work. God even “rested” himself... and set aside a whole day of the week for nothing but rest (Genesis 2:2). It seems paradoxical, because the same God who “never slumbers nor sleeps” (Psalm 121) - rests!
Christ is the Good Shepherd: and a loving shepherd makes sure his sheep get enough rest to stay healthy.
The 23rd Psalm tells us, “He MAKES me lie down...” God MAKES us rest...
If you’re MAKING something take place... you’re causing it to happen.
If you won’t lie down, God will make you lie down. Sometimes the only way God can get you to look up is to lay you flat on your back. He will do that because he cares about your physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (NIV).
Giving God our best requires rest. Not laziness... but rest.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). You can’t be still if your up to your ears in busy-ness.
To do God’s will... we must first listen for God’s word. When was the last time... in our frenzied, social-media-driven culture... that you intentionally... purposefully accepted God’s invitation to “be still, and know that I am God”? When last did you listen for the “gentle whisper” of God’s Spirit (1 Kings 19:12)? The still, small voice...
Our Father speaks to us through his Word as we study Scripture (Hebrews 4:12). He speaks through worship as we pray and set our minds and spirits on him (cf. Acts 13:2). He speaks through his creation and re-creation as we recognize his handiwork all around us (Psalm 19:1–4).
Do you need some rest & peace in your life today? Jesus says, “stop looking for such things in the world.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This is the Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.