1. Do you find that busyness makes you feel important or gives you a sense of purpose? How does that belief impact your day to day life and those you love?
2. What practices make you feel rested and connected to the Lord? How are you fitting those things into your regular schedule?
3. Is there something about rest that makes you feel guilty or lazy? How can you identify those things and reshape your thinking to focus on what is true about rest and sabbath?
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020. What a strange thing to say, we have officially entered into the 20’s. 2019 has come and gone, and for many of you it couldn’t have left soon enough. See you later 2019… Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, right? You’re looking forward to 2020 saying, “Well that happened. Time to move on.”
Others of you look back on 2019 with excitement, and you see the wonderful things that God did in you and through you. In your business, or in your marriage, or in your kids. And you’re looking forward to 2020 asking, HOW COULD THIS GET ANY BETTER?
Welcome to our new series called SOUL CARE. I want to help you as we start out this new decade, and new year.
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we love new years because it provides us an opportunity for a new you, a HEALTHIER YOU! We look back and see the things we didn’t like about the year prior, the unhealthy things and we decide here are the 85 ways that I’m going to live healthier next year, and then we go ahead and mess it all up in the next 7 days. Right?
As a society we move through life at a feverish pace with ever increasing responsibilities at home, work, and in our relationships. It is no wonder that we find ourselves starved of meaning and a malnourished soul. If we’re not careful, we very easily can end up at the end of this year in the same place that we started it. Tired, worn out, beat up, and wishing for something more.
More than 2,500 years ago the prophet Jeremiah gave the ancient nation of Israel a message from God when He said this,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
There are two things that are true about you and me, and that is that OUR HEARTS LIE TO US, and that WE ARE IN NEED OF HEALING.
So glad you came to church today, right? Such a happy new years message right? Actually, this whole series is going to be incredibly practical. WHY? Because your heart is lying to you and telling you that you are better than you are, and your soul if not cared for will get sicker than a room full of kindergarteners during back to school.
Too many people are running around with a malnourished soul, desperately in need of care. One of the best ways for me to describe your soul to you is to identify the soul as “The Inner You.” You know the person on the inside that you have the running conversation with. The person that not only knows your every move, but also the thoughts and desires that you have yet to express. King David writes in Psalm 103:1
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
The inner you, or your soul, is in need of a checkup. And at the beginning of this new year, at the beginning of this new decade we want to spend the next 4 weeks discovering how to develop rhythms that bring life and care for our soul.
What if we could infuse our life with healthy practices that would help us maintain emotional, physical and spiritual health?
If our souls are unhealthy, everything is unhealthy. All of life flows from inside of us…
Proverbs 4:23 says,
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
We can have it all. We can have the car, the boat, the 2.5 children, the house, the dream job, the spouse to sugar momma to make it all happen, and yet our insides can still be completely empty. UNTIL OUR SOULS ARE CARED FOR OUR CIRCUMSTANCES WILL NOT MATTER.
It’s funny how when we take a look at our souls, and we feel the nagging undernourishment of our souls, what’s going on inside of us, our typical fix for that is to double down on our efforts on the outside. We start to try and control all areas of our life.
We need to admit that THE BEST WAY TO FIX WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND US, IS TO FIX WHAT’S GOING ON INSIDE OF US.
I’m grateful for the work that has been done on this topic, there have been many people who have written on this, but I’m particularly grateful to Rebekah Lyons and her book “Rhythms of Renewal”. She has done an incredible job of highlighting 4 areas that our souls need in order to be healthy and cared for. Rebekah teases out as we will too over these next four weeks, the ancient rhythms of God’s design that lead us to maintaining emotional, physical, and spiritual health. What we’re going to find is that this is baked into the very DNA of our souls as well.
In fact, we’re going to discover that God has created both INPUT RHYTHMS and OUTPUT RHYTHMS that will CARE FOR OUR SOUL. We’re going to talk about two INPUT RHYTHMS, REST and RENEWAL. As well as two OUTPUT RHYTHMS, CONNECTING & CREATING.
Even those of us who have been following Jesus for years find that this is still a struggle. In fact, I want us to pay attention to someone who’s soul was deeply unhealthy… There was inner turmoil and particularly after a season of incredible success. And yet, His soul was not at ease. Look with me at 1 Kings 18.
Here we find a prophet by the name of Elijah. A prophet was a person who spoke for the Lord. Not some wizard in a tower as some people think, someone who just predicts the future. In fact, a prophet’s job was to understand the past in order to help point people towards the future that God has for them.
Here we find that Elijah is a prophet in Israel during the reign of a wicked king by the name of Ahab. 1 Kings 16:30-33.
30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.
This guy was one bad dude… Ahab didn’t care for the things of God, and even more than him, his wife Jezebel was worse. The prophet Elijah stepped onto the scene to try and warn the king of his wicked ways. To prove to Ahab & Jezebel that YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one true God he said for three years it wasn’t going to rain. And it didn’t for 3 years. And then God instructed Elijah to go back to Ahab for a little check in.
So Ahab along with His prophets of their other god’s of Baal and Asherah show up. Elijah challenges them to a duel. Not a gun fight type duel, but more a battle of their God’s power. They were to build an altar, put a bull on that altar and ask their God to bring the fire.
The prophets of Baal picked a bull, placed it on the altar, and spent the entire morning calling out to their gods… Begging them to reply. They did everything to get the fire to fall. And nothing happened. Imagine… 450 prophets all doing their thing, and NOTHING HAPPENS.
And then Elijah steps up and instructs the people to douse the entire thing in water 3 times. Remember, they are still in a drought, and he is telling them to take the precious water that they do have and pour it over the altar, over the wood, the animal sacrifice and the surrounding area.
Elijah prayed… and God’s fire FELL! The bible tells us that the water, the bull, and everything was burnt up. This was an enormous success. You could say that as far as prophets go, Elijah was on top of his game. God showed up in a huge way, and spoke through Elijah. Elijah’s circumstances were incredible, everything was going his way, and yet, his soul was troubled. Clearly Jezebel was not happy, Ahab wasn’t thrilled. And Elijah found himself on the run.
“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.i 1 Kings 19:4-5
Here is Elijah, depressed and suicidal. He’s at the end of his rope. Everything is going well around him, and yet his soul is malnourished. There is something off. The power of God was being displayed through him, and yet he needed to see God’s power ministering to him.
Some of you today, you have recognized that even though you’ve seen God on display around you, you want to see God minister to you. Seasons of success, do not guarantee HEALTH for your SOUL.
If we are going to find care for your soul we need to learn the THE RHYTHM OF REST. This is an INPUT rhythm that builds into you the more that you practice this. In fact, what we’ll find out is that REST is critical to everything that you do. What was ELIJAH doing? He fell asleep. But there is a difference between SLEEPING and RESTING. Don’t confuse the two.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. ii1 Kings 19-5-9
Elijah was told by the angel, get up and eat. There is something about his sleeping that wasn’t accomplishing enough. There are times when we sleep to get away from our problems and times when we sleep to care for our soul. There is a difference. Elijah may have been a powerhouse prophet, but he needed to learn the rhythm of rest. In fact we learn from Elijah that 1.WE CANNOT RUN IF WE CANNOT REST.
This is a fact of life. We can only go so far with so little rest. Sooner than later we will find ourselves exhausted and unable to move forward either because we lack drive, or we lack stamina. We may be emotionally spent and in need of rest, or we may be physically exhausted and unable to move forward. Either way, REST is critical.
Have you ever found yourself unable to move forward? Just too tired to go any further? I know that I have. I’ve been overwhelmed before by task lists, I’ve been overwhelmed by projects, I’ve been overwhelmed by issues, and sometimes what I needed to do was stop pushing, stop working, stop worrying, and just rest. It seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it?
This past summer I had several house issues all at the same time. Some of them were actually quite large, and I’m telling you that it almost stopped me in my tracks. It was just about all I could do to keep plugging away. And in actuality, there were nights that Tiffany had to stop me and say, no more. You’ve got to put it down. I had some friends who saw this, and generously stepped in to help me get through it. Because there was no way that I was going to be able to handle it all at the same time.
Something in our culture says that we’re better if we’re busy. But busy-ness does not guarantee effective-ness. Rest is the best way to increase effectiveness. This was true for Elijah, and it’s true for us as well. Look at his story.
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” iii
Elijah has been resting, and now God comes to him and gives him specific instructions. Don’t do anything. Just experience my presence. It’s not about your doing, it’s about your being Elijah. Be still. Rest. There was nothing that Elijah needed to do in order to earn God’s presence. His presence was experienced from a posture of rest. In fact, another way of saying it is, 2. WE DON’T RUN TO EARN REST, WE RUN FUELED BY REST.
Too often we find ourselves trying to prove that we deserve things. We try to prove that we are deserving of someone’s love. We try to prove that we are deserving of a nice car… why? Because we worked hard for it. Rest does not work like that. Rest is the place that you run from, not the place that you run to earn.
Elijah challenged 450 false prophets, set a king and queen in their place, and pointed an entire nation back to God. It played mind games with him. When God asked Elijah, what are you doing here, Elijah responded with, “I have been very zealous for the Lord. In otherwords, I’ve done a lot for you God!” And God says, just go out and be with me in the presence of the Lord.
It’s not about the doing… it is critical that you and I learn to operate from a place of rest, of being with God. Elijah took notice of what God was asking him to do, and he went and did it. Go stand on the mountain and experience God. At least he was prepared to…
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
Surely this is it, right? God is in the big movements of life. God would be in the WIND… afterall, God is all powerful and few things would be displaying His power more than that. Or if it wasn’t the wind, then it would be the earthquake right? Or definitely the fire. But God was not in the fire, not in the earthquake, and not in the wind.
Elijah isn’t alone in this. We also look for God in the big things. We look for God’s movement in the biggest and strongest ways. We want God to show up and give us a raise. We want God to heal us from all our pain. We want God to restore our marriage. And if and when He would do that, we and everyone else would know that HE IS GOD!
And yet, just like Elijah, we don’t always see God move in that way. Why not? Because just like Elijah, God is trying to teach us something. Look at this:
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. iv
The fire, the earthquake, and the wind all passed, and God was not in them. BUT—He was in a gentle whisper. I wonder what God will whisper to you this year when you take time to posture yourself to hear his whispers.
Elijah was so busy doing. He was busy proving that he was busy that he almost missed out on the presence of God. He was moving from one thing to another just looking for God that He almost missed God. 3. WE ARE RESTLESS WHEN WE REST LESS.
I think very often we miss out on the voice of God because we miss out on intentionally resting in our lives. Again, I’m not talking about sleeping. That’s not the same as resting. It’s a component of resting.
Do you know what happens when you’re resting? God has a word for you. God has an experience for you, God has a vision for you. I love the story of Elijah, because it reminds me that GOD has a PERSONAL WORD for even a POWERHOUSE PROPHET.
We live in a world where there are few things that are personal anymore. I know what you’ve eaten for lunch. I know where you go on vacation. I know when your kid took his first bath. I get a status update on your life anytime I want. But God wants a personal relationship with you. One that is experienced from a posture of rest. Sometimes God speaks softly because His words are meant only for you!
WITHOUT REST WE TEETER ON THE EDGE OF BURNOUT & WE MISS OUT ON THE LIFE GOD HAS PLANNED FOR US. In fact, let me say it this way: YOU WON’T EXPERIENCE THE LIFE GOD WANTS FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T FIRST EXPERIENCE THE REST GOD DESIGNED FOR YOU.
Every week during this series, we’ve designed a weekly challenge for you. Are you ready for this week’s challenge? If we’re going to care for our soul, for the innermost you, we’re going to start with REST. I want to challenge you to establish rhythms of REST this week.
5 ways to rest this week:
Here are a few ways you can find rest this week.
- Take a Tech Detox
Resting from technology slows us down and makes space for us to examine our blind spots. Sometimes there is just so many noises in our space that it is even hard to hear yourself think. When we take a break from technology it allows for a reset in our life. It gives us greater capacity to be present in the moment right in front of us. This week you may want to plan a day long detox from social media. A TV free night or week.
Maybe for you this would mean that you take a break from the podcasts and the music and drive in silence. If we’re not careful the very technology that was built to serve us and make life easier can become our MASTER.
- Get Quiet
What if this week you rested from the noise? Maybe life is just a little too loud. We have a need for quiet. In the quiet we gain perspective, and we are able to increase our emotional resilience. Quietness also allows us to expand our empathy towards others. When we are quiet it allows us to truly listen and hear what others are experiencing. Very often the biggest communication problem is that we don’t listen to understand, we are only listening to reply. Listening to understand requires that we allow there to be some quiet space. When we are quiet it provides a refuge for you and for others in a very noisy world.
- Examine and Confess
One of the biggest things that robs us of rest is regret. Then what happens is when we sit in regret for too long it gives birth to shame. Shame keeps us from resting, because it puts your mind on continuous scan… who knows, who can I keep from knowing, and how do I uphold my image?
Examining your life, and confessing the areas where you may have hurt someone said or done some things allows you to find healing. Because you can’t heal from what you hide. But your secrets lose power when they are brought to the light.
Ask yourself, What do I need to confess? What do I need to release? What do I need to change? You’re going to find that Examination and Confession is a gateway to real rest.
- Practice Sabbath
The Bible commands us to practice sabbath and yet so few of us do this. This is one of the ten commandments. In fact, this is one of the only commandments that we brag about breaking. I’m just so busy. I’ve been working every day… I’m always hustling. Well guess what, God didn’t design you to be ALWAYS in MOTION! God designed the Sabbath for you to find rest.
Eugene Peterson has said that, “Sabbath is that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing.”
Sabbath is not only a noun, a day and time… but it also shows up in our life as a verb. The Sabbath is something that we do. It’s a day for playing and praying. When we sabbath we create space for healing, for wholeness and for refreshment. Sabbath says that for a 24 hour period I’m going to trust that while I’M NOT WORKING, GOD IS. In fact, in the 24 hours that I’m taking my hands off the controls, God is still the one in control. Sabbath is not a sign of weakness, it is an exercise in trust.
- Sleep Deeply
Okay, here’s the good stuff… We’ve said this whole time that rest is not the same as sleep. However, SLEEP IS A VITAL PART OF REST. Did you know that a Harvard study on Sleep warns that a lack of adequate sleep can affect your judgement, your mood, your ability to learn and retain information, as well as it can increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. I wonder if we are caffeinating and medicating our way through life to mask our bodies cries for healthy sleep? At the end of the day, the day is done. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been quoted saying,
Finish each day and be done with it. Tomorrow is a new day.”
Get intentional with your waking hours so that you can make your sleeping hours count.
So which one of these things do you need to challenge yourself to apply to your week? Don’t miss out on the RHYTHM of REST. Remember: YOU WON’T EXPERIENCE THE LIFE GOD WANTS FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T FIRST EXPERIENCE THE REST GOD DESIGNED FOR YOU.
Don’t miss out. You can’t afford to.
Remember, God is more interested in WHO YOU ARE BECOMING than WHAT YOU ARE DOING. If you’re going to care for your SOUL, for the inner most you, you will need to establish rhythms of REST.