English Evening Service on May 7, Messenger: Don Frank
Bible Passage - Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NIV)
Title - Following God's Navigation to... "Rest"
As they used to say on the Beverly Hillbillies TV program, "Pull up a chair, sit a spell, take your shoes off" and let's enjoy some good time together in God's Word this evening.
We're finishing up the last day of our Golden Week vacation. I hope you all enjoyed a restful, peaceful vacation. No? Still tired? Maybe you're feeling like, "Man, I need a vacation from my vacation! I just didn't get the rest that I needed!" And we're going back into it right away tomorrow, so I thought it would be a really good time to talk about the rest that you need, a different kind of rest that all of us need, a rest that even the best vacation could never give us, a rest on the inside.
And to do this, I'd like to use a navigation tool to take us there. Many of us these days use smart phones with all the apps that come with them. And one of those apps in my iPhone is Apple Maps. This is a great little app that'll guide you to just about any destination you might like to go to. You punch in your destination and it verbally and visually guides you step-by-step right through to your goal. As you're moving along, you might hear your phone say something like,"At the next corner, turn right." This little baby is SO convenient, whether you're walking or driving.
And did you know that God has given us a navigation tool to guide us to the places He wants to take us? It's called the Bible! And In Psalm 32:8 it says, "I will guide you and teach you the way you should go. I will give you good advice and watch over you."
So, just like Apple Maps, we're going to follow God's navigation as he takes us to the destination of "Rest" this evening. And to do this, I wanna bring out the big guns, Psalm 23. There are few other Bible passages that have had such an impact on us as this one. And as we read this Psalm, I'd like us to look at the 6 different ways we can get the real rest that we need. And we'll also look at the 6 different traps set for us that could stop us from getting that rest.
1. Depend on Your Shepherd.
To get rest for your soul, you have to look at what your soul is resting on. You have to look at what you're depending on in life. If you're depending on the right thing, your soul is at rest. And on the wrong thing, it's not at rest.
Look at Psalm 23:1 on the screen and let's read it together, shall we? "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." Look what it says, "I shall not be in want." That's the "rest" part, I won't be in want. We won't be driven by what we don't have. And this is the trap that we struggle with so much. We want something, something that'll give us satisfaction deep down inside. And we keep looking and looking and looking and we're never satisfied. It seems like the more we get, the less satisfied we are.
So how do you get the rest deep down inside that you need? Well, you do what this Psalm says: you depend on God as your shepherd. Now, the hard part with this one is that if Jesus is going to be our shepherd, then we have to recognize that we are sheep. But where we get messed up is that we want Jesus to be the shepherd, but we all want to be the sheepdog, barking and telling all the other sheep where to go! But that's not what this says. The Bible says that we are the sheep. Now, to be fair, the Bible also compares us to deer and to eagles and to lions sometimes, but more often than not, it compares us to a sheep.
We want to be independent, but the Bible tells us that we are sheep and need to be dependent on our shepherd. And that shepherd is Jesus Christ. We want to be independent and in control of our own universe, but the Bible says we are a sheep and there's no such thing as an independent sheep that can be safe. We wanna think we can carry the world on our shoulders but we are... and let me show you a picture of what we are. We are a... sheep! And each of us has to come to that moment in life where we decide am I going to keep being independent or am I going to give myself to the shepherd and depend on Him. And we have to keep doing that everyday of our lives, again and again, deciding to depend on Jesus Christ as our shepherd.
You may have heard of something called a "cast sheep." When a sheep gets a little bit fat, a lot of wool, it can actually get so top heavy that it flips over and it can't right itself. It can kick it's little legs as fast as it wants, but it can't right itself. And eventually it'll die if a shepherd doesn't come along and give it a hand. There are spiritual lessons here for all of us. Because when we get fat and we get fleecy, sometimes we get in a comfortable spot and suddenly we're flipped over and we're thinking, "How can I get right again?" So, I went over to Youtube and I found a video of how a shepherd rights a cast sheep. I'm sure you didn't have any idea that you'd be watching a shepherd righting a cast sheep here in church tonight, but there are some deep spiritual lessons for us here. So, watch this intricate process of how this shepherd rights this cast sheep.
That's it? That's it! And the most important thing about that 16-second video was that it only took 1 second for the shepherd to right the sheep! Sometimes we're flat on our backs, wondering how am I ever gonna get back right again - and it only takes 1 second, just depend on the shepherd. But what do we do? Jesus is coming along and He says, "Hey, can I help get you right again?" And what do we say? "Nah, let me keep trying a little bit longer to do it on my own." And we kick and we kick and we kick. And some of us have been kicking for a long time. But Jesus is right there and He's willing and more than able to get you back on your feet again, set your soul right again. He wants so much to help you!
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." You know what that means? That means that if I'm in want, at least at that moment, the Lord is not my shepherd. If the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. If I'm in want, the Lord is not my shepherd at that moment, something else is. Maybe it's my money, or the lack of it. Maybe it's people's opinions of me. Maybe it's my need for independence in my life. The promise is that when Jesus is the One I depend on, I don't have to live in want anymore. He gives rest for my soul. Without that relationship of depending on Him, something is desperately missing in every one of our lives. So, let's do something about it. I want to invite you to say very brief prayer, eyes open or eyes closed, it doesn't matter. "God, I'm going to stop facing this alone. I need you. I depend on you. I depend on you for that decision, that job, that relationship. I depend on you with my anxiety, my doubt, my fear, my insecurity. I depend on you for that opportunity, that dream. In Jesus' name I depend on you as my shepherd. Amen. And this is the first way that you get rest for your soul. Now, the second way is...
2. Trust God to Refresh Your Soul.
Our souls need to be refreshed, because our souls get thirsty. We live in a world where our souls get thirsty. There's a lot of trouble, a lot of evil in this world. There's a lot to weary your soul in this world, and so your soul gets thirsty. It needs to be refreshed. God's willing to refresh it. Psalm 23: 2 & 3, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul." Now, if you are soul-weary, that sounds SO good! Green pastures, quiet waters. Truth of the matter is, most of us don't know how to handle green pastures and quiet waters. We get to a green pasture, a place of abundance, and our productivity kicks in. We think, "I gotta get this thing mowed. The grass is a little bit too long. I gotta get this thing a little bit greener." Or sometimes our guilt kicks in, for some of us. I know that happens to me often. We think we don't deserve green pastures. Some of us think we don't deserve places of abundance in our lives, what God wants to do in our lives. Or sometimes our comparison kicks in. We look at our green pasture and we think, "I think his green pasture is a little bit greener than my green pasture." And we don't appreciate the abundance that God has given.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures." If you're gonna lie down in green pastures, you're gonna have to learn to stop and enjoy the places of abundance that God has given in your life. Not feel guilty, accept it and enjoy it. Not compare to others, accept it and enjoy it. Is it OK to enjoy the love that God has given, the grace that God has given, the things that God has given? Or, do you find yourself having to rush off to the next project, the next appointment, the next prayer, always having to do that? And that's the trap here, feeling like we don't have the time to stop and enjoy. If you're going to get the rest you need, then there have to be places in our lives where we stop. In fact, it says here, "He makes me lie down..." God will help us to stop and enjoy the green pastures. What I'm saying is this, stop running through green pastures. Stop! Stop and enjoy who He is. Stop running from green pastures! Stop in the green pastures and enjoy the abundance He has given. That's one of the ways we find rest for our souls.
The early church father, Augustine, famously said, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” God wants to give rest to your soul. Green pastures, quiet waters.
Quiet waters... what's the picture there. Well, it's the sheep trying to get a drink and quiet waters, still waters were easier to drink from. They didn't like to drink from the rushing waters. It was just too hard to take a nice, long drink from the fast-moving river. At the quiet waters, they could drink in deeply. And there need to be times in my life and your life where we drink in deeply the most important things about us. More often than most of us do, we need to stop long enough to drink those things in.
Now I can tell you the most important thing about you in 3 words. It's not my words, it's God's words. The most important thing about you is "God loves you!" That's why you were created, because God loves you! That's why you're given the life that you have, because God loves you! That's why He promises us His heaven in Jesus Christ, because God loves you! Nothing more important about you. I know many of you know that, but when was the last time you stopped long enough just to drink that in? That's why were here... to drink in these important truths about who we are. It's one of the ways that we get rest for our souls.
3. Follow God's Path.
A third thing in this Psalm 23 vacation for our souls is you Follow God's Path. There are a lot of paths you can follow in life. You can follow the Path of Least Resistance. You can follow the Path of Greatest Gain. But every path isn't the right path. And God says, "I've got a right path for you that if you follow it, you're gonna feel rest for your soul." Psalm 23:3, "He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake." What's right for you? To have a relationship with God. That's right for you. To be involved in the things that God wants for your life. That's right for you. Being made right with God and living the right life that He's made you to live. That's the right path. In fact, it says here that He will "guide you into that path." And here's the trap. It tires us out to be on the wrong path. Many of us have done this often in our lives. We get far down the wrong path and we think, "Ah man, I gotta get all the way back to where I was."
And you know what I think is even more tiring, being at a crossroads and not being sure what path to take. You feel worn out by just doing nothing. And some of us are right there, right now. And God says, "I want to guide you into the right path." So where do you find the sign posts? How do you find out how to get on this right path? Well, God says, "I'll show you. I've given you My Word, the Bible, to show you the direction to go."
2 Timothy 3:16. "The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right." The right path. So, how do these sign posts work?
That's the big question that most of us have. I wanna know where to live. I wanna know who I'm supposed to marry, what job I'm supposed to have, what school I'm supposed to be a part of. I wanna know how to make these daily decisions of life. Where are the sign posts in the Bible for that? I wanna know where I'm gonna live. So do I just leaf through the Bible looking for the name of some city where I'm supposed to live? Praying the whole time that "Kitami" is not in the Bible anywhere! Sorry, if you're from Kitami, but let's face it, it gets down to -20 in the middle of winter there! But that's not how it works! So, how does it work? How do you figure those things out? Here's the secret. A lot of people never discovered this simple secret. 90% of what we're supposed to do in daily life, it's in the Bible already. If you'll do the 90%, God'll show you the 10% as you're doing the 90%. The Bible tells us, "Love your neighbor." You do that. The Bible tells us, "Love God." You do that. God says, "Talk to me." You do that. The Bible says, "Gather together with other believers, people who are wanting to find faith in their lives." You do that. As you're doing those things, guess what, the other things become clear. A lot of people wanna reverse it. And that's a trap. "God, if you show me where to live, then I'll show up in church and I'll give and I'll pray and I'll do all these things. And it doesn't work that way. If you do the 90%, then the 10% will become clearer and clearer, not as fast as we want usually. God doesn't give us the answer as fast as we want, because it's not when we needed it. But He'll give you the answer where He wants you to be.
So right now, in your mind just think, "What's the one thing I know God wants me to do that I haven't done yet?" Maybe it's be in church. And that's why you're here tonight. So you make a commitment to show up more often. Maybe it's talk to God more. Maybe it's spend more time in God's Word, 5 minutes a day, 10 minutes a day, 15 minutes a day. Maybe it has to do with the way you're treating people in your life or somebody you need to connect with. What's that one thing? I hope it's kind of a small thing that you're thinking of actually, because that's your first step. It doesn't have to be a big thing. How do you get on the right path? How does God guide us? One step at a time. You can't do it all at once, so what's the next step you need to take? That's how you get on God's path.
I gotta be honest with you about something. When you do what God asks, most of us wanna immediately feel better in our souls. And it doesn't always work that way. You don't always immediately feel better when you do the right thing. Have you ever notice that? If that was true, we'd always all do the right thing, because we all wanna feel better! No, it takes time for your emotions to catch up with your soul. You do the right thing and it takes time. This is the lesson of maturity in life. It takes time for your emotions to catch up to your actions. So, you do the right thing and eventually God's gonna let the feeling catch up with it. We get in trouble when we wanna immediately feel right sometimes. Almost every time we wanna immediately get a jolt, we do the wrong thing. We get involved in the wrong relationship, wrong habit, wrong decision, because we just want to feel better. No, you DO right and then eventually you're going to feel right. That's how it works.
So, what do you do to get to the destination of Rest? 1. You depend on God as your shepherd. 2. You trust God to restore your soul. 3. You follow God's path. And then you...
4. Remember God Is with You.
You remember this, you Remember God Is with you. God is with you in every circumstance of life. God is with you in the good situations, but this Psalm wants us to understand that God is with us in the toughest situations of life. Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Now, I want you to notice a couple of things in that verse. First it says, "Even though I walk through the valley." It doesn't say IF I walk. He assumes that we're going to walk through valleys and we all know that we do in this life. You're going to go through valleys. You can't escape them. We won't have any dark valleys in heaven, but we sure have them here on earth. And here's a pitfall we face: we want to ignore the fact that there are going to be valleys. And this causes us to fear the valley that we're in or the one we're going in to. When you realize they're gonna be there, then you can realize the next truth: no matter how deep the valley, He will be with you! I know that fear of facing a valley can be crippling and it can steal our rest. God didn't lie to us and say aren't going to be any valleys. He tells us the truth, I'll be with you through every valley. You'll never be alone. And notice what He says. He says not only will I be with you, but I will comfort you, even in the valley.
And he even tells us how, "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." So, we're still talking about sheep here and the rod and the staff were tools that a shepherd used. The rod was used to beat off an enemy. The staff was a long stick that was used to guide the sheep. The rod was used for protection of the sheep. The staff was used for correction of the sheep.
So, this is what this verse is saying: God comforts you through both protection and correction. Through both. Sometimes I go through tough times because of what somebody else, something else did to me. And in that case, God will comfort me through His protection. And sometimes I go through tough times, more often than I wanna admit, because of what I did to myself, my own selfishness. And God will comfort me even then, through His correction in my life. Even if you've messed it up, God's there to comfort you. So, He gives you His protection. He knows the enemies you're facing. And He will protect you no matter how much evil you face every day in this sinful, fallen world by giving you His comfort. His comfort will always be there.
But I think it's important to remember that even when my selfishness has messed things up in life, God's still there to comfort me in that. I think a lot of us think if somebody else messed it up, God will comfort me. If I messed it up, I'm on my own. That is NOT true! You're never on your own. He will be with you through every valley. That's His commitment.
So, look at the promise of Isaiah 43:2. "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." That is the picture that God wants us to have through every difficulty of life. So, for right now, just for 10 seconds, whatever difficulty you're facing or are afraid of facing in the future, right now, picture the fact that God is there.
Don't just picture the worry. That's the trap that we fall in to time and time again. Picture the fact that God is there... with the worry, with the anxiety, with the reality of that valley that you're facing. The Lord promises, " I will be with you. You won't have to face this alone." The fifth thing to do as you and I get rest for our souls...
5. Appreciate What God Has Given.
...is to Appreciate What God Has Given in our lives. You know that old question, do you see the cup as half empty or half full? That just depends on our personalities. We all have different kinds of personalities. It's just the way that we look at it. But in Psalm 23, the cup isn't half empty or half full, it's overflowing! Because it's not from our perspective, Psalm 23 is from God's perspective. The overflowing blessings that He's given into every one of our lives. Psalm 23:5, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." You appreciate what God has given. Every one of us can look at our lives and easily see things that we don't have. And it's very easy for me, I don't know about you, but it's so easy for me to let what isn't spoil what is. I think we all struggle with this. I let what I don't have spoil what I do have. I've got this blessing in my life, but I see that somebody else has a blessing that may seem like a greater blessing and it seems like the blessing that I have, I deserve as good a blessing as they have because I know what a rotten person they are. So I think, "Why don't I have that blessing?" And it spoils the blessing that God has given.
I've done just a bit of study recently about who owns most of the stuff in this world that we live in - and it actually kind of shocked me... and humbled me a great deal. Do you feel like you're a rich person? I think I can safely assume that everyone in this room tonight would fall into the category of "middle class." Maybe lower, maybe middle if you have a net worth of from ¥100,000 to ¥1,000,000. If so, then you're richer than 71% of the world's population! If you've been good about managing your money, then you might be considered upper middle class with a net worth of over ¥1,000,000. In that case, you're richer that 92% of the world's citizens!
You and I, our shelves are overflowing with cups, but our cups AREN'T overflowing! We're not seeing how much God has given. I struggle with it. You struggle with it. It's one of the struggles of having a lot of STUFF in our lives. So, I gotta take time to appreciate what God has given. What do you have? When I look at these statistics, it encourages my appreciation.
Now we appreciate what God has given in the things, the material things. The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:7, "Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment." But there's an even deeper appreciation. And that is appreciating what God has done in our hearts and in our souls. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, here's the one verse among hundreds of what He's given to your soul. 1 Timothy 1:14, "The grace of our lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." He's given you, He's poured out on you an abundance of faith and grace and love. It's promised to everyone who believes in Christ, so it's promised to you. So, as we do this Psalm together, right now, thank God for one thing in your life. Just one thing, whatever pops into your mind, it might be a little thing or a big thing. Then, thank God for one person in your life. They might be sitting next to you. Thank God for one person in your life. And then, thank God for one thing He has done for your soul. Might be His grace, might be the faith that He has given to you or maybe His love or something else. When I do that, when you do that, He gives rest to my soul. Alright, one final stop as we're traveling toward Rest this evening.
6. Focus on All and Forever.
And the sixth thing you and I do to get rest for our souls that Psalm 23 teaches us is Focus on All and Forever. So often in life, we focus on the Here and Now. But to get rest for our souls, the rest that we need, we have to focus on the all and the forever. Look at Psalm 23:6, "Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." ALL the days of my life goodness and love... house of the Lord FOREVER.
One of the most important life skills is learning how to practice in the here and now while you focus on the all and forever. You have to practice in the hear and now, you gotta have a job, you gotta eat, those kinds of things. We do live in the hear and now, no doubt about that. But the way to find rest for your soul is to focus on the all and forever. What God is doing and how God is doing it in our lives. You can't ignore the here and now, but you can't get your identity from the here and now. It comes from the all and forever. Who you are comes from the all and forever. ALL the days of my life God's goodness and God's love given into your life, all the days of my life, not some of the days of my life, ALL the days of my life. The days I feel it, the days I don't feel it. The days I call on it, the days I don't call on it. God's love and God's goodness are there! And forever I dwell in the house of the Lord. Your ultimate future is guaranteed in Jesus Christ. That's what you hold on to.
So, here's the trap. You think, "I don't wanna think much about heaven. Heaven's a long way away. I got a lot to do in the here and now. I'll wait till I get to heaven to enjoy heaven." And what I want to invite you to do is start enjoying heaven today! You don't have to wait till you get there! Enjoy the fact that no matter what you're going through, no matter what somebody said about you, what happened to you this last week, you're looking forward to an eternity with Him. And that's your life. That's the eternity that you hang on to. You focus on all and forever.
Now, as we walked through these 6 things, I'm hopeful, prayerful it provided some rest for our souls. But the question is, "How do you hang on to this as you go out?" Because I think for a lot of us it's like you go to a coffee shop, you get a nice cup of coffee in a to-go cup and you're going out and you wanna make sure you don't spill it, so as you're going out, you put a lid on it so you don't spill it on the way out. I think some of us feel that way about church. We come in, OK and I'm going out and you're thinking, "I got it right. I got rest for my soul. Nobody touch me! I mean, nobody mess with me, especially in the parking lot! Today, just today, don't mess this up! Because I gotta hold on to this. How do you get the lid on this so it doesn't spill over? Well there are several things we can do...
- Keep getting together with other believers who are looking to grow their faith.
- Take these notes and keep them with you so you can go through them one more time this week.
- Then, let's join together and pray this promise back to God and trust Him to do it in our lives...
Closing Prayer -
And finally, I want to pray through what we just talked about. I'm going to put a prayer up on the screen that prays through what we just talked about, as a commitment to Christ. If this is your commitment, if this is the faith the you have, I want to invite you right now, all of us together, to pray this prayer out loud together as our closing prayer. Let's pray together...
Lord, you are my shepherd, I depend on you. You give green pastures and quiet waters. I ask you to restore my soul. Although I will walk through dark valleys, I remember that you will be with me. You prepare the table and You fill the cup. And I thank you for what you have given. Surely goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Jesus heard that prayer. And He will bless that prayer in your life this week.