5-24-20 How to Get Actual Rest Psalms
This morning, I want to begin a series in the book of Psalms by asking you a peculiar question: "Why are we so tired all the time?" I’m tired of this pandemic! I’m sick of wearing masks everywhere I go, I’m tired of social distancing and what it does to the local church. This seems to be a shared problem for just about all of us. We all experience fatigue and weariness at least occasionally, but many of us suffer constantly—especially in a time like this. It is that sense of being constantly tired and run-down, feeling lethargic, lacking the energy to do the things you used to enjoy. For a few, it has become so severe, they make excuses not to participate in family activities because of exhaustion. What we might be experiencing is more of a combination of physical and mental depletion, as if our batteries are always in need of recharging.
Now admittedly, this is a complex issue. First of all, fatigue could easily be an organic issue. For example, a virus could be the cause. Fatigue can be the result of an illness. It can also result from other physical causes – unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, lack of exercise. It may be related to depression or extreme stress.
This morning, I’m not going to diagnose exactly why you, personally, may be tired listening to this sermon. I am, however, going to suggest another factor for you to consider – and that is your spiritual wellbeing. You might be tired for reasons that have little to do with your physical health, but because of your spiritual health. Medical problems ought to be treated medically and spiritual problems ought to be treated with Truth found only in the Bible. But even in those medical cases, there’s a connection between the physical and the spiritual, which even the medical community is finally officially recognizing. I’m not talking about faith healing or miracle cures. I’m talking about mainstream researchers and physicians who have documented the link between spiritual health and physical health. In other words, the medical field with its science is beginning to acknowledge what Christians, much like the late Ravi Zacharias, have been saying for a long time: human beings are not merely complex bio-chemical, bio-mechanical devices. We have souls as well as bodies, and they are interconnected, they influence one another, so that a physical symptom such as fatigue can have a physical component, a mental component, or a spiritual component, or a combination. So what I’m going to address this morning is this spiritual issues that can bring on exhaustion and fatigue, and what we can do with the book of Psalms to restore our strength and stamina when fatigue overtakes us.
But before we get there, I want to talk about why this is important for us as disciples of Jesus, the Christ. We would all like to be full with life and energy like a child; no one enjoys the feeling of being tired and lethargic. So what does it have to do with Church? or following Christ? Well, for starters: when we are weary and exhausted, we are more susceptible to temptation, more exposed to the attacks of the enemy, less in worship, and less in tune with the Holy Spirit. We are more prone to unbelief and fear and discouragement; more likely to abandon, or deny the faith; more at risk of dishonoring ourselves and offending our Savior. As a familiar coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." This, of course, was said in the context of football, but the principle is the same: when we’re tired, we don’t want to fight the good fight. We don’t want to persevere in the faith. We don’t want to stand our ground and resist temptation. Instead, we give up, or at least want to give up. And that’s a spiritually dangerous place to be in and what I want to avoid.
We avoid this by renewing our mind in Truth and what better way than by starting in the book of Psalms.
The book of Psalms has had power in Judaism and Christianity that exceeds the communicative power of words. John Calvin calls this book an “anatomy of all parts of the soul,” because Psalms touches every surface of life as well as the inner recesses of the heart. Some refer to this one book as the Bible within the Bible— Martin Luther calls it the “little Bible,” because it is a compilation of Old Testament faith, history, and theology.
The Hebrew title of the book of Psalms is Tehillim translating to “praises”, proving praise as one of the central features of the book. We get our English title from the Greek translation of the book, ψαλμῶν; the singular, ψαλμός, is the translation of the Hebrew word mizmor, found in many of the psalm titles-- a term that occurs several times in the book and means “stringed instrument.” The New Testament (Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20) calls this book by this title.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 1:1–6
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night. And so, he is like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its fruit in its season; its leaf also does not wither. Therefore all that he does prospers. Not so the wicked. Instead, they are like the chaff that the wind scatters. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
The Christian life is a battle. We will come under attack. And if we are going to prevail, we must not allow ourselves to become weary in the struggle. We have to find ways of preventing fatigue, and dealing with it when it occurs. Let’s look, then, at some of the causes of fatigue.
I. Replenish Our Resources
I. Replenish Our Resources
Fatigue may come from a failure to replenish our resources.
Last week, I’ve been biking to and from Systems Control. Lance Armstrong, the great American cyclist who won the Tour De France several years in a row, didn’t win on a diet like mine. What do you think would happen if Lance skipped breakfast on race day, or just grabbed a cup of coffee and a doughnut for breakfast? He wouldn’t finish, let alone take first place. During the the three-week race, the athletes burn an average of 6,000 calories—now I might hit that calorie count in a day, but from different food choices. It is absolutely essential that they consume enough nutritional food for fuel to sustain that level of physical exertion. If they don’t, they will lose the ability to persevere. It almost doesn’t matter what kind of shape they’re in, or how well they’ve trained, they can’t continue without an adequate supply of calories.
The same is true of us. From a physical perspective, we need to get adequate sleep, and exercise, and nutrition. But it’s just as important that we renew ourselves spiritually. The book of Psalms has been a source of inspiration and spiritual refuge for believers, both Jewish and Gentile, for thousands of years. The emotional and spiritual appeal of this book is partly because of the wide emotional range, from praise to lament, with numerous degrees in between. We need to return, again and again, to the source of our power, which is God. We need to turn to Him daily in prayer, and we need to immerse ourselves in His Word, the Bible. Only then will our life and strength be continually renewed. As the Psalmist wrote,
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night. And so, he is like a tree planted by streams of water that gives its fruit in its season; its leaf also does not wither. Therefore all that he does prospers.
What a beautiful image! Just as with corn fields in a drought which should grow over five or six feet high, will instead be only two or three feet. The growth of those plants become stunted due to a lack of rain, and they will produce little if any harvest. Likewise with trees. The exceptions are trees planted along streams and rivers. Those remain green and healthy even in a drought, because their roots are constantly supplied with abundant water. And that’s what this passage is teaching us. If we want to remain spiritually strong and healthy, even in times of hardship, we must continually replenish ourselves with the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we will wither and become unfruitful.
Replenishing our resources fights off spiritual fatigue. Second, fatigue may come from running after the wrong things.
II. Pursue Pure Things
II. Pursue Pure Things
We tend to chase after the wrong things in life. For example, instead of seeking YHWH, many of us become distracted and seek after selfish pursuits - We end up going with what the world desires: wealth and possessions. Civilian pursuits (as the Apostle Paul calls it) wears you out by putting you on an endless chase (much like a treadmill) of always wanting more and more, always working to get ahead but never being satisfied with what you have. But Scripture warns against this.
Not so the wicked. Instead, they are like the chaff that the wind scatters. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
In other words, if your goal is to become wealthy, then you will never be at rest. You will always be weary and fatigued, because you can never accumulate enough to be satisfied. So you have to keep working to get more. Not only that, but you can’t even enjoy what you have, because you’re constantly worrying about losing it (As we’ve seen the past couple months with the fast turn in the stock market, that’s a very rational fear!). The point is that seeking riches is not only foolish; it’s self-defeating. The very nature of a desire for wealth ensures that the desire can never be fulfilled.
If you feel this to be true of yourself, what do you do? How can you get relief from the wearying effects of greed? By replacing that desire with another one.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism verifies this pursuit of Holiness, itself taken in part from the Psalms, that humankind’s chief end is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is to say, our vocation as Christians, our mode of existence, is “to glorify [or “praise”] God.” Praise, like obedience, is better than sacrifice (Ps. 69:30–31).
I will praise the name of God in song, and magnify him with thanksgiving. For Yahweh it will be better than an ox or bull, horned and hoofed.
Indeed, God has created the universe in such a way that it serves his purposes, whatever design we may impose upon it. He rules and overrules, and he turns evil into good. This is what the psalmist means by declaring, (PS 76:10 ).
For the anger of humankind will praise you. You will put on the remnant of anger.
While praise can be a very private matter, it often—if not most often—refers to a community, inviting others to join in:
Every breathing thing, let it praise Yah. Praise Yah.
Not Replenishing our resources & going after wrong things tire us out. Third, fatigue may come from doing evil.
III. Flee From Evil
III. Flee From Evil
One reason people are weary is that it take a lot of mental and emotional energy to maintain a lifestyle of deception.
for Yahweh knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Life is relatively simple for the man or woman of integrity. He or she simply does what is right, and if asked, tells the truth about it. But for the liar, life is much more difficult. First, they must hide what they’re doing. That takes work and planning. Then they must come up with a plausible cover story, and remember ever detail the same order every time they tell it. Then after the evil is done, they live in constant fear of being found out! It’s very tiring. In fact, that’s why criminals sometimes express a sense of relief when they are finally caught. It’s not that they are looking forward to prison. But they are glad not to have to sustain the lie any longer. They don’t have to hide what they did any more.
I don’t expect we have any criminals here this morning. But anyone who has ever lied to a husband or wife, or who has deceived a boss or a customer, knows what I’m talking about. Doing wrong is wrong, but also tiring. It robs us of our peace. It gnaws at us. As David wrote, concerning his sin with Bathsheba:
– Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent, my bones were worn out due to my groaning all the day. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My vigor was changed into the dry heat of summer. Selah I made known my sin to you, and my iniquity I did not cover. I said, “I will confess concerning my transgressions to Yahweh,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah
The psalms of lament are practically the opposite category from praise. The mood of any psalm gravitates between these two poles of lament and praise, each with merit as expression. They are the opposite poles of life, with many degrees in between. Laments are out of difficult and trying times, and they, like praises, provide insight to the spiritual personalities of the psalmists. We are as comfortable with lament as we are with praise, especially in worship. Yet, as John D. Witvliet from Calvin University reminds us, “when practiced as an act of faith, lament can be a powerfully healing experience.” In the Psalms, some occasions for lament are sin, defeat in battle, persecution, criticism, abandonment, illness, and doubt.
Sin wearies us. Not only does it take a great deal of energy to cover up our sin, but carrying around the guilt of our misdeeds can be exhausting. Perhaps there’s a sin that we’re covering up right now; one that we haven’t confessed to God. If that’s the case, then I urge you to pray right now and confess that sin. And if it involves another person, then go to them and confess it to them also. Only then will you find rest and relief from the burden of your guilt.
Fourth, and finally, fatigue comes from trying to make it through this world on our own power.
IV. Rely on YHWH
IV. Rely on YHWH
Relying on ourselves, trusting in ourselves, depending upon our own skill and knowledge and ability to get through the day. And that’s tiring, because we weren’t made for that. We weren’t designed for that kind of self-sufficiency. We were designed to rely on the Lord, to trust in Him for our protection and provision. When we forget that basic fact, we can find the weight of life to be almost unbearably heavy. What then should we do? Listen to the invitation and promise of Christ:
Come to me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on 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 to carry and my burden is light.”
The C.S. Lewis comments on this aspect of praise even in our common life: “I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.”
It should not, therefore, surprise us that at the culmination of the history of redemption, the whole creation joins in consummate praise of God: (Rev. 19:6–7a).
And I heard something like the sound of a great crowd and something like the sound of many waters and something like the sound of powerful thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord God, the All-Powerful, reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.
It has been said that there is a psalm for every sigh. I would add that for every “high” in life, there is a psalm as well. This book deals with the entire spectrum of human emotions. We’ll experience it with the psalmists as they open their hearts and reveal their souls in response to the situations they dealt with spiritually and emotionally.
Are you weary this morning? Are you tired? Then come to Christ. Place your trust in Him. Cast your burdens upon him. You have nothing to lose but those crushing worries you carry around leaving you weary. Give them to Christ. You’re not strong enough to bear them, but He is. Receive the rest that He offers, even now.
I’m speaking to Believers as well. What a terrible burden it is to try to live the Christian life in your own power. What a restless life it is to maintain the appearance of having it all together. How tiring it is to keep up that façade of perfection. Why not just let it go? Admit that you struggle, and fail, and need forgiveness, just like everyone else. Receive the rest that Christ offers you, even now.
Many people think of Psalms as simply a historical record of how the ancient Hebrew culture used to worship God. It’s not. Rather than being a theological explanation of historical expression, it’s a present-day picture of powerful, practical praise.
You might be here, or listening in at home, thinking, “Pastor Josh, If you’re talking about singing songs, lifting hands, or bowing knees, you have to understand that’s not the way I am,” Okay, but Jesus didn’t save you to keep you the way you are. The Lord wants to enlarge you and to expand me, to make us different, more Christ-like than we were before. As believers, we are growing as the bride of Christ. Our Bridegroom, Jesus, desires for us to bring passion into our relationship with Him. The Book of Psalms allows you and me to do just that—to hear the heart of our Lord and to express our love in a way that pleases Him.
Of the two hundred nineteen Old Testament quotations in the New Testament, one hundred sixteen are from the Book of Psalms, many of which prophesy about Jesus’ First and Second Coming.
The gospels tell us Jesus went to the mountain to pray. But the psalms tell us what He prayed.
The gospels tell us Jesus was crucified. The psalms tell us what He was thinking while He was on the Cross.
The gospels tell us He went back into heaven. But the psalms tell us what He’s doing in heaven.
So I challenge you to apply the psalms directly to your own life. When you see the psalmist shout to the Lord, do the same. When he stands in awe of the Lord, stand with him. When he bows down before the Lord, join him. Be a doer of the Word rather than a hearer only. As you have your devotion time with our Lord, bend your knee, uplift your hand, or shout for joy and you might find yourself being enlarged and expanded as you understand how the Lord desires to be worshiped.
These psalms were written by a variety of human writers who were inspired by the Spirit. King David wrote seventy-three of the one hundred fifty, and perhaps as many as thirty more. These are written for us today to pray back to the Lord, to sing back to the Lord, and to meditate on all day-- that is my prayer for us especially during this time of a pandemic.
Some of the first Christians said this on the first Easter Sunday:
And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?”
Jesus opened Scripture, INCLUDING PSALMS and explained how they all related to Him. As a result, the hearts of His listeners were warmed, excited, and illuminated. This still happens today—that is my prayer for you as we study this glorious book together.