How To Rest In Stress!
Reading Psalm 23v2.
Preacher Ken Humphries
"The man who only has God to look to can do all things and never fail."
Quote by unknown!
When Satan would be plotting my fate:
When the flesh would be pulling me to failure:
When the world would be pressing me to fatalism:
When others would be pushing me to finish: HE CARETH FOR ME!
That’s why "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters." Psalm 23v2.
Now, in the Middle East the sheep will begin to feed while the dew is still on the ground and they will continue to feed until the sun is high in the sky.
And it’s at such a time the shepherd will find for them a shady place in which to lie, preferably where the pasture is still green and the water is gentle and still. For sheep love to lie down in green pasture and be led to still waters. You see, they eat well where the grass is lush and green and they will readily drink from a still pond, they will be hard pressed to drink were the water is forceful.
As they lie in the heat of the day they chew the cud, the food they have ingested they will begin to chew and digest. And folks, every shepherd knows the importance of that quiet precious time for his sheep. You see it’s then that the food previously digested will be distributed to the correct parts of the body to increase the wool yield and the meat yield making the animal altogether more valuable.
Hey folks! That’s the reason our great shepherd wants us to take time by the green pastures of His Word and by the gentle streams of His Spirit. He knows the great importance of such a time in the life of every believer even if we don’t.
All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ, revealed to me in his divine book.
David Livingston, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.
You see, that’s the reason many a Christian is wrestling with stress instead of resting in stress. This message is all about "rest in stress." So many Christians today are all stressed up and nowhere to go. So tense and so busy, always running around from Dan to Beersheba, sharing one problem after another with someone or other. Seeking help and advice from anyone under the sun that will listen and then give advice, and some of those advisors so stressed out themselves they have no right to be giving counsel to anyone. To sit and be quiet in the presence of the Lord, until He speaks through His Word would be unheard of.
A lady called her pastor, “Pastor she said, I was trying to get you all day on the phone yesterday and you were not at home.” “Well dear lady, said the pastor, I took a day off to go away and get alone with God that I might hear Him better speak to me.” “Well,” said the lady, “the devil never takes a day off.” “No,” said the pastor, “and if I did not take a day off I would be just like the devil.”
Listen folks, God has a desire that His sheep, in the middle of a busy lifestyle, learn to lie down in the green pastures of His Word and the gentle streams of His Spirit, in order to better rest in the midst of stress. It’s at such a time the Word and the Spirit can work well together to get the food of the Word moved to where it will do most good.
Now, as I am sure you have already guessed, that is my subject for today.
1. The Security He Desires We Have! "He maketh me to lie down." v2a.
Here's a beautiful text from Psalm 100v3. We read!
"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."
Now friends, while it is a most precious thing to be the sheep of God's pasture, we need to understand something here. This is not so much a complement as it is a description. And there are some things we should notice about sheep. The reason the good shepherd "maketh me to lie down" is because I won't readily do it for myself. Why?
A. Sheep Are Dumb:
Well, how many of you have ever gone to the circus and seen a performing sheep? Horses: lions: tigers: seals: elephants: all kinds, but never a trained sheep. Why? Because a sheep is one of the most unintelligent animals there is to be found on planet earth.
You say, hey! I'm pretty smart, I get along all right, and I’ve managed just fine for my family and me. Oh, friend, you are missing the point, I am talking about the spiritual realm and so is the Psalmist. Because you see it’s in the spiritual realm we show such dumb-like characteristics. Now, I have no wish to offend, but it’s a fact! In the work-a-day-world we may be wizards, Mr. Wonderful, but in the spiritual, just dumb-like. And if you want to prove my point, just tell him he is dumb spiritually and you will soon find he will show the characteristics of some other animals as well.
Jesus had to say to Nicodemus, a clever man in the realm of academia but dumb in the spiritual, you are a master in Israel and yet you don’t know these things, said Jesus. Oh, yes, intellectually he was up there with the best of men, but spiritually he was blind and dumb. And so often-dear folks, we display such sheep-like qualities; it is unbelievable but to get us to recognize that fact!
Isa. 53v6 "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way." And what way is that? Why! It’s the way of death and destruction. The very thing Joshua was concerned about, when he had come to the end of his life he called the family around him and made the greatest speech of his life calling upon them to "choose you this day whom you will serve." And when we come to the end of the book of Judges we discover that every man is doing that which is right in his own eyes. They refused to accept the leadership of the judges or shepherds in Israel. What was the outcome? Destruction, disaster and death!
Beloved, the Bible teaches the principle of shepherding; it was my dear Lord Jesus who taught this wonderful principle. He was the good shepherd, the chief shepherd, the great shepherd, and He taught me that I was to follow Him. He in turn has appointed under shepherds of the sheep and we are taught to follow their leadership for they have to give account of you that they may do it with joy.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Heb. 13v17.
And what do many of the sheep do? Turn to their own; way and go astray!
It's scary to realize that most of the people who failed in Scriptures failed in the second half of their lives. Joe Aldrich, Leadership, Vol. 13, no. 3.
A man had a fine canary whose song was unusually beautiful. During the summer, it seemed a shame to keep the bird inside the house all the time. So the owner placed the cage in a nearby tree for the bird to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air. Many sparrows frequented the tree and were attracted to the cage. At first the canary was frightened, but soon enjoyed his companions. But gradually and almost imperceptibly he lost the sweetness of the song. By the end of the summer his "singing" was little more than the twitter of the sparrows. Spending his summer in the wrong environment caused the canary to lose his finest song. Jerry Lock, Church Music World (Nov./Dec. 1985). Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 4.
B. Sheep Are Defenceless:
Sheep are so very defenceless! Other animals can defend themselves in many different ways, but not a sheep. A horse can run at great speed, a mule can kick very furiously, a lion can fight with great courage, a tiger can claw a man to death in seconds, a bear can crush you to death almost immediately, a snake can strike with lightening speed to poison, etc.
But a sheep is weak in so many ways:
They can't run well! They cannot fight well! They have poor eyesight! They have poor hearing! Really, a sheep is pretty defenceless. Sheep need guidance, defending and protecting.
That’s why Paul makes such a strong plea in Acts 20v28-31.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
Because sheep are so defenceless they need a shepherd that will be their defence. How will he build their defence? Causing them to feel secure as they lie down in the green pastures and satisfy their thirst from the still waters. They desperately need that defence mechanism, the Shepherd. That’s why God has given under shepherds, by leading and feeding the sheep, they will come to feel safe and secure in this wild and woolly world by good leading and feeding.
C. Sheep Are Directionless: 2 Cor.3v5.
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God."
Sheep will browse, nibble and push their way through any opening until they have wandered away, and they do so without even knowing they have wandered. They are lost and don’t know it. The problem is, when away from the fold, the flock and the shepherd they cannot find their way back. A cow will make its way home for milking when the udder gets too heavy. The horse will make its way home eventually. And did ever you try to get rid of a cat? It just keeps finding its way home. But the sheep has to be sought out and brought back every time. That’s the nature of the sheep!
Hosea 11v7 says. "And my people are bent on backsliding from me."
Do you know what God is saying in plain English?
There is an in-built tendency to wander away from God and so very often we are not even aware that we are away.
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
And the crowning factor in all of this is, we find it so difficult to find our way back. We have a tendency to look to others for direction and guidance. My friend is a legal eagle; he will know what to do! I have an acquaintance that is a great businessman; I'll speak with him! My neighbour has recommended me to a counsellor, she really has a wonderful reputation, and I must make that immediate appointment! And you may find some help with those good people but beloved our first resource, our first recourse should be the shepherd or the under shepherd. In other words our first port of call must be with a spiritual mind that is shut up to God continually.
Abraham did not know the way, but he knew the Guide. Lee Roberson.
However far you go, it is not much use if it is not in the right direction. William Barclay.
D. Sheep Are Dependant:
Something I did not know before these studies, there is such a thing as a cast sheep. A cast sheep is one that for some reason or another manages to get itself onto his back and does not have energy and strength to roll over and get back up onto his feet. When that happens, that sheep becomes so vulnerable to predators, but worse than that, if that sheep lies long enough that way, gas will build up on the inside and it could die. How dependent the sheep are on the shepherd. Was that what David had in mind when he asks, "Why art thou cast down o my soul?" We can become cast sheep, get so far down it would seem there is no getting up from the despair and depression that comes upon us. At such a time we need to be close to the shepherd for we are so dependent upon him to set us on our feet again. Ezek2v2.
"And the Spirit entered into me when he spoke unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him when he spoke to me."
One New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.
Often, Christians neglect their spiritual maintenance, and though they are "clothed with power" (Luke 24:49) find themselves out of gas.
Steve Blankenship, Edmond, Oklahoma. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1.
See: 2 Co 12:9; Phil. 4:13.
When Archie and Hattie Watters went from Scotland to India as missionaries, they noticed that when a man became a Christian he cut off his hair. His pigtail had been a symbol of his old faith. Cutting it off was a sign to the whole community that he had renounced the old pagan ways and had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. We have more subtle ways to show our Christianity. Trusting the Shepherd!
2. The Sufficiency He Decides We Need:
“In green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.” v2b.
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." 2 Cor.3v5.
To partake of that sufficiency we need to be led into green pastures and by gentle streams. It’s there you see, we will draw on his sufficiency and make it our sufficiency, it’s there he can impart to us of His sufficiency, it’s there we can receive His sufficiency. But many dear Christians disregard that wonderful bountiful inheritance our good shepherd has bequeathed us. We pass it up for something else not nearly as worthwhile.
Homer and Langley Collyer were sons of a respected New York Doctor. Both had earned college degrees. In fact, Homer had studied at Columbia University to become an attorney. When old Dr. Collyer died in the early part of the 1900's, his sons inherited the family home and estate. The two men, both bachelors, were now financially secure. But the Collyer brothers chose a peculiar lifestyle not at all consistent with the material status their inheritance gave them. They decided to live in almost total seclusion. They boarded up the windows of their house and padlocked the doors. All their utilities, including water were turned off. No one was ever seen coming or going from the house. From the outside it appeared empty. Though the Collyer family had been quite prominent, almost no one in New York society remembered Homer and Langley Collyer by the time world War 11 ended.
On March 21, 1947, police received an anonymous telephone tip that a man had died inside the boarded-up house. Unable to force their way in through the front door, they entered the house through a second-story window. Inside they found Homer Collyer's corpse on a bed. He had died clutching the February 22, 1920, issue of the Jewish Morning Journal, though he had been totally blind for years. This macabre scene was set against an equally grotesque backdrop. It seems the brothers were collectors. They collected everything, especially junk. Their house was crammed full of broken machinery, auto parts, boxes, appliances, folding chairs, musical instruments, rags, assorted odds and ends, and bundles of old newspapers. Virtually all of it was worthless. An enormous mountain of debris blocked the front door; investigators were forced to continue using the upstairs window for weeks while excavators worked to clear a path to the door.
Nearly three weeks later, as workmen were still hauling heaps of refuse away, someone made a grisly discovery. Langley Collyer's body was buried beneath a pile of rubbish some six feet from where Homer had died. Langley had been crushed to death in a crude booby trap he had built to protect his precious collection from intruders. The rubbish eventually removed from the Collyer's house totalled more than 140 tons. No one ever learned why the brothers were stockpiling their pathetic treasure, except an old friend of the family recalled that Langley once said he was saving newspapers so Homer could catch up on his reading if he ever regained his sight.
Homer and Langley Collyer made a sad but fitting parable of the way many people in the church live. Although the Collyers' inheritance was sufficient for all their needs, they lived their lives in unnecessary, self-imposed deprivation. Neglecting abundant resources that were rightfully theirs to enjoy, Homer and Langley instead turned their home into a squalid dump. Spurning their Father's sumptuous legacy, they binged instead on the scraps of the world.
Are we guilty of such living today? Do we ignore the great wealth of His sufficiency left to us for our well being throughout the rest of our lives?
Are we disregarding the bounteous inheritance and scouring the wreckage of
the world's wisdom and ways because we believe it to provide a better way of
life. How foolish! Where did we ever get the notion we needed anything more?
A. Find The Sufficiency Of His Compassion:
“And when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
When Jesus saw this body of people they were fainting, failing and filled with stress, they were like sheep without a shepherd to lead them in the right way; they were in simple terms all over the place and completely without direction.
The bible says He was moved or perhaps a more powerful word is, He was convulsed, He was hurting in His heart for them. He had compassion; He felt deeply their plight. Our Lord works with people as they are. He was patient with them, not tolerant with their sin no, but compassionate because of the effects of sin in their lives. They are completely messed up but “A bruised reed shall he not break and a smoking flex shall he not quench.” Isaiah 42v3.
Jesus saw us as sheep without a shepherd and having loved us with the deepest of compassion calls us unto Himself as Saviour and Lord that in turn He may become our shepherd leading us beside green pastures and still waters for here we will know his compassionate sufficiency.
B. Find The Sufficiency Of His Care:
“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arms and carry them in his bosom and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40v11.
One of the many blessings and benefits of this kind of caring relationship with God is the privilege of letting Him take care of us but unless we meet the conditions laid down, namely, “Casting all our care upon him” He cannot care for us as He desires. Peter puts it like this.
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” 1 Peter 5v7.
The word, care, here means, “anxiety”, the state of being pulled apart. When circumstances are difficult, it is the most natural thing in the world to become anxious, worried and pulled apart; but if we are, we miss God’s best blessing. That’s the reason He wants us with Him, often beside “Green Pastures” and “Gentle Streams” we need to know that inward peace of His continual care for us if we are going to triumph in the midst of our fiery trial.
Dr. George Morrison said, “God did not make His children carefree in order that they be careless.”
According to Peter, we must once and for all give our anxiety, past, present and prospective to the Lord who alone, then becomes our sufficiency. And hey folks, if anyone knew from experience that the shepherd really cares, it’s Peter.
Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus it was who gave Peter that great catch of fish. Jesus helped Peter pay the Temple tax. Jesus helped Peter walk on water. Jesus repaired the damage Peter inflicted to the ear of Malchus. Jesus delivered Peter from prison even when chained to some soldiers.
To really know His wonderful care we must be willing to completely cast all our anxiety on Him.
C. Find The Sufficiency Of His Courage:
In John 10 v 8-15 Jesus reveals the kind of true courage the genuine shepherd will have. In verse 8-10 He speaks of the false shepherd, this in contrast to the truth, which reveals, the true shepherds saves, secures, and satisfies. In v11-13 He speaks of the fearful shepherd, likening Himself to the heavenly shepherd in v11 and the fearful shepherd to the hireling shepherd in v12-13 concluding with the picture of the faithful shepherd in v14-15 who knows His own and would lay down His life for them. The sheep face all kind of dangers, wolves, bears, lions, thieves and robbers, but the good shepherd has courage enough to face them all down and overcome the enemy.
Then said Jesus unto them again, verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. John 10v7.
The hireling runs away but the good shepherd give His life for the sheep. He says, I am the door; no one or no thing can get to you except through me. Beloved, what we need, in order to deal with this stress is, His sufficiency.
I may be weak like the sheep but He is my strong shepherd and as such will lead me where He can meet the deepest hunger and thirst of the soul of life but we must be willing to let Him.
Where He will lead me I will go, for I have learned to trust Him so.
The reason we get all stressed out is simply because we will not take time in His Green Pastures and Gentle Streams.
3. The Serenity He determines We Keep! “He maketh me.”
If necessary He will make me to lie down! What are the things we think most about in this life? Food, finance, fashion, friends, fitness and maybe even sometimes, fame. These are the things that take up so much of our thought life. Yet Jesus said in Matthew 4v4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God!” Now Jesus is not saying that any of these things are unimportant but what He is saying is, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6v33.
Food and water in the material world are necessities not luxuries, in the spiritual realm, righteousness is not a luxury, but is a necessity. What is the Psalmist saying when he says, “He maketh me to lie down?” The shepherd wants healthy sheep and it’s only in quietness and meditation will we mature and grow strong.
And dear friends, we will only find growth and maturity in His Security, His Sufficiency and His Serenity.
Many of God’s dear children are on a continual stretch and strain to introduce new methods and new ideas and ways into the work of God in the hope of advancement for Christ’s Kingdom. The point is dear folks, they are not as new as we might imagine, and they have all been tried before and have failed. Listen; there is only one way to blessing and advancement in the work of God,
that is, as in His Security, His Sufficiency and His Serenity we walk in righteousness. It’s righteousness, alone, which exalts a nation and it’s righteousness alone, that extends a believer. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness”, not blessed are those who hunger and thirst after blessing! The unhappiest people in this world are God’s people, who are always searching for blessing, but you seek and walk in righteousness and blessing will be the fruit of that walk.
We need to learn to cultivate the art of quietness.
“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength; and ye would not.” Isaiah 30v15.
You ever met folks all on edge, always arguing, always wanting to be the center of attraction, wanting to be different, always looking for change, always ready to lead in the vanguard of controversy? You see they have never learned to be still and know God.
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” John 10v10.
Today there is a great danger we are so busy looking for true Christianity in all the wrong places and missing it, why, because true Christianity is in Christ and in Him alone.
Christianity is neither a creed nor a ceremonial, but life vitally connected with a loving Christ. Josiah Strong.
For us to find what he wants us to have He may have to make us lie down.