Sermon for Sunday February 14th, 2010
EVEN JESUS RESTED by Bruce Ball
We can worry or we can worship. Strangely, I think that busy people find it much easier to worry than to worship. And we are a busy people. Sometimes I think we get so busy that we really don’t have much time left to even think about God, much less worship Him. This world is so frantic and in so much of a hurry, it causes our souls to be weary – and we all know that there is no real rest for the weary.
There was a woodsman by the name of old Roy. Now, old Roy was the champion tree chopper in the state. One day, another woodsman by the name of Jim-Bob challenged old Roy to a tree-chopping contest. Roy agreed.
They both began to chop away. Jim-Bob chopped hard and fast, and during the whole day he only stopped for a quick lunch break before going back fast and furious to the task at hand. The champion, old Roy took several leisurely breaks during the day and took a full half hour for lunch. At the end of the day, old Roy, the champion, had cut many more trees down than the hard working challenger, Jim-Bob.
The challenger wanted to know how the champion did it. He said that every time he looked around, the guy was on break. He said he took so many breaks that there for a while, he thought old Roy was a mailman. The champion just smiled at him and said, “Yes, but you never noticed that every time I was on break resting, I was also sharpening my axe.”
To be effective in anything we do, we must take the time to rest. This also applies to Christianity. As Christians, we need a break from the daily routines, too. We even see where Jesus told His disciples to take a break. In MARK 6:31, He said,
‘Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
There were so many people there that Jesus and the disciples never even had a chance to eat anything. They were having one of those really busy days and Jesus knew that they needed a rest so they could refresh and rejuvenate.
We also need rest from time to time. It is vital for our spiritual lives as well as our physical and mental lives. Rest is a way of recharging your batteries so you can come out and do it all over again.
Jesus always led by example. Just because He took the needed rest, it shows us that we also must take them, too. But, being at rest does not always mean that we be totally idle.
According to a Greek legend, a man once noticed the storyteller Aesop playing children’s games. He laughed at Aesop, saying he was only wasting his time.
Aesop picked up a bow, loosened the string and placed in on the ground in front of the laughing man. He then asked the man if he could answer a riddle. He asked the man what the unstrung bow implied in life.
The man looked at it for several minutes, but could not offer any explanation at all. Aesop then told him that if a bow is always kept bent and taught, the bow would eventually break under the stress, but if you loosened it occasionally, it would always be fit when you needed to use it.
People are like that bow. If we are kept under stress without a break for too long, we will only break under the strain, but if we find occasional rest, we will invigorate ourselves and be able to come back just as strong, if not stronger, than when we left. That is why we all need to take an occasional break from the routine from time to time. In the verse from Mark that I read a few minutes ago, Jesus was telling His disciples to take a breather.
But that verse is not the only reference to our needing rest. In GENESIS 2:1-3, we find that God created the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day, having finished His task, He rested. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from the work of His creation.
In EXODUS 31:13-14, God said to tell the people of Israel to keep His Sabbath day, because that day was a sign of the covenant between God and them forever. He says that the Sabbath is a holy day and that anyone who desecrates the Sabbath must die, and anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.
We can see that the observance of the Sabbath was a top priority in God’s eyes. It was such a priority, that any disobedience to it meant death. Why would that one day of rest be so important to God? I believe that it is because for us to worship God properly, we need to have the time to do it, and we cannot really worship Him on the fly, so to speak.
To really understand that, think about it from this perspective. In the last 100 years, Satan has been very effective in blocking our worship to, and focus upon, God Almighty. How has the devil done that? One of the most effective ways is by keeping us busy. Our society has become workaholics. When we finally do take a break from the stress of over-demanding jobs, extremely long hours and the drain of energy spent on our jobs, the last thing we want to do is praise God. In fact, the only thing we want to do is relax and chill out. We focus on the fun and the few hours of entertainment we can have. We think about anything and everything but God.
Someone once sent me an email that explained it pretty good. It went something like this:
The devil was talking to his pack of demons one day and remarked how the number of souls going to hell had dropped below the monthly quota. He said that too many people were paying too much attention to the Holy Word in church.
Now, the devil knew he could not do anything to keep those people out of church, so he came up with a plan to keep them from concentrating on God’s Word. He said he would keep them so busy in church that they would have no real time to honestly focus on what God was trying to tell them. He would keep them focused on the priority of growth; or he would make them eager to increase their own personal prestige within the church.
He would do everything he could to keep them so busy they would have no chance at all to even really think about salvation. And, it worked!
Yes, we now find that God knew what He was talking about when He prescribed a day off so that we could rest and recharge our batteries. He knew that we needed that extra day to only focus on Him and what He wanted from us.
But, knowing all this, what do we do anyway? We all drive much too fast; we all eat fast foods and when we go to church, we want our worship to be scripted, kept to a very strict time limit, and basically pre-digested. Like that old song of Alabama’s: “I’m in a hurry and don’t know why’, we all too often find ourselves in a constant hurry and rush, but do not really know why – we are just used to it and keep doing it out of habit.
I know a pastor of a local church that will sometimes hold a two-hour service. What would happen in most churches if the pastor did that? The congregation would send him packing that same day! Why? We do not like long services because we “have things we need to do” on our day off. Now, let me ask you one question: Does that sound like we are being led by God, or by the enemy of God?
Don’t raise your hand, but I would say there are some of us this morning that are sitting her right now spending most of our thoughts on what we are going to be doing after church. There are some this morning who have their thoughts so far away from God that they couldn’t hear Him if He shouted at them. We have all done that.
When I was Associate Pastor at Grace Christian, I would sit there and listen to the pastor preach, and the next thing I knew, I was thinking about this that or the other – but not on God or His Word. That is because between my job, the studying I was doing and being the Associate Pastor, I was so busy I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was like that bow – under constant strain and pressure.
That is how I know that we need one day where the main thing we do is focus on the Lord God and what He wants us to do; not on us and what we want us to do. It takes time for us to get things reorganized in our minds and hearts, and God knows that. He does not want you to be so busy on anything else on Sunday that would keep you from fully focusing on Him. Nothing! Nada! And, if you do, you are committing the same sin that Peter did when He denied Jesus three times.
Haven’t we all done just that? Sure we have! But it is imperative for us to know that and to be able to catch ourselves when we do it again, so that we can put a stop to it and refocus on the Lord.
In the Old Testament, God wanted the people to never forget what God had done for them and how much He loved them. He wants us to know the same thing, and we can only know that if we take the time to really concentrate on that.
In today’s church, we have three types of rest given to us by our Savior, Jesus Christ.
1. REDEMPTIVE REST
In ZEPHANIAH 3:17, it says
‘The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.’
That is the perfect picture of calm and inner peace. It is the picture of divine rest, which is fulfilled in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
2. SINNER’S REST
In MATTHEW 11:28, Jesus says,
‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’
The very instant we receive Jesus as our Savior, we receive this absolute and wonderful rest from the burden the world has placed upon our shoulders. When we fall at the feet of Jesus, we receive His promise of total respite; of true peaceful rest.
3. SAINT’S REST
In MARK 6:30, we find out why the apostles had been so busy they did not have any time to eat. They had been on a kind of ministry tour where they were ministering to and witnessing to many people. When they had done, they came and sat by the feet of Jesus, telling Him everything that they had done. That is when Jesus told them to go with Him to a quiet place and find some rest.
As we keep focused on Christ, and go about doing His work, our communion with Him will give us the necessary rest in order to continue working for Him without the strain of nonstop stress. And that brings me to the point of this morning’s message: We all need rest from time to time and we all need to rest more efficiently.
Did you know that the Chinese pictograph for ‘busy’ is composed of two characters: The character for heart, and the character for killing. How very appropriate. When we are constantly busy, it does kill our hearts, doesn’t it? The father who works too much overtime will be grumpy to his family and the Christian who is so busy doing that they don’t have time to focus will forget to be that clear reflection of Jesus Christ.
Sunday is more than just a day to catch up on your TV viewing or running errands. It is a time in which we can focus on God and actually drink, but even for a few moments, from the fountain of God’s rest and delight.
When we take the time given to us on Sundays to refocus our hearts on God, we actually find that we are sharpening our axes for the next day’s work. When we just fill our Sabbath with chores and errands, we find that we go into Monday with a dull axe and an achy-beaky heart, too weak and too tired to accomplish anything for God.
To live, we need air, food and water. The fact is, we need rest just as much as we need anything else. We have all heard of people being at risk of heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and many other ailments all because of too much work. Remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And not just Jack, but you, you and me!
I am going to keep it short this morning, but I want to share something very important with you. Diana and I have gone many years without a real vacation, because we have been so busy. But the time has come, and we need to sharpen our axes.
We are going to be leaving this week to go back to Ohio. We will have a wonderful time visiting and witnessing to relatives, going to church with friends and even to Diana’s 5th high school reunion. Er, wait a minute; that is her 35th high school reunion. Of course, after that last remark, I may not find much rest when we get there, but we are looking forward to going and even more forward to coming back rejuvenated and raring to go again.
In a Tacoma newspaper, an article told about an owner who accidentally shut the car door with his dog’s leash stuck in it. It said that a motorcycle cop saw the little dog beating feet as the car began to drove off. He said the dog was picking them up and putting them down faster than any dog he had ever seen.
He stopped the car and the owner was very embarrassed by his mistake. The dog was okay, but there were reports that he refused to go for any more walks.
While Diana and I are gone, we request that you keep us in constant prayer. And we also request that you keep yourself busy, but take advantage of the rest periods God will give to you, so that you can ultimately become even more productive and be happier as such. Rest and let your soul be renewed. Take the time to sharpen your axe, and remember what David said in PSALM 116:7 –
‘Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.’
May God bless each one of you until we return on the third Sunday from today.