My wife and I like to tease each other about our different perspectives on a restful vacation. I think her motto is rush instead rest. Abbie loves holidays involving Disney and Pigeon Forge. Lot’s of going and doing. For myself, look more towards camping and fishing. I guess we each have a different perspective of rest and that’s okay. As long as we sincerely get to recharge and refocus.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
In the first verse of the twenty-third Psalm, we learn that Jesus is our shepherd and he is all we truly need. Now, we read in verse 2 a summary of God providing rest and sustenance. Phillip Keller in the book, A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23, wrote that sheep will not lie down when there is fear of outside influences, friction within the flock, annoyance from flies or parasites and when they are hungry. Those are all excellent preaching points about how unity is an endeavor (Eph. 4:3).
The truth is that we really are like anxious sheep and for a good reason. One out of four people deals with anxiety in some form or fashion. Around 41% of employees report anxiety from work-related stress. Over 50% of students from school-related stress and no wonder with recent events. Amazingly, 43% of the USA uses prescription mood altering drugs. For recreational drug use, 42% of users relate it to stress while over 70% of alcohol use is attributed to stress.
Our society won’t let you rest and nourish yourself. We push, “I have not done enough,” instead of “I’m doing too much.” We do not want to rest and we do not know how to rest. We do not healthily handle stress. We do not seek the provisions given by God to find peace and contentment.
The Shepherd provides places of nourishment.
First, we are to be nourished by God’s Word. The Word of God is like pure milk (1 Pet. 2:2), meat or solid food (Heb. 5:12-14), honey (Ps. 119:103), and more references like these. However, two key verse that sticks out:
“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” – Mt. 4:4
“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” – 1 Timothy 4:6
Food is essential for life. Amen! However, God’s Word has even greater value. We will only find our nourishment in God’s Word. If we are to become “whole” followers of Christ, we need a whole revelation of God, and that is the Bible. C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
Still, the question remains how does the Word of God lead us to rest? I would like to borrow another illustration, this time from Charlie Brown. My favorite comic strip of Charlie Brown is where Linus and Lucy are looking out a window at the rain. Lucy quips that she is afraid of a global flood. Linus, however, comes back to explaining God’s promises found in the early chapters of Genesis. Lucy thanks Linus for taking a great load off her mind. The final line is Linus saying, “Sound theology has a way of doing that!” A healthy intake of God’s Word leads us to rest because it helps us see the world in God’s light and helps to develop our faith in Him.
The Shepherd provides places of rest.
Having a place of rest is a theme found all the way through the Bible. In creation, we see God resting on the seventh day. The Garden of Eden is described as a place of tranquility. Israel’s promised is a place of earthly rest. However, the Hebrew writer describes it as only temporary as an eternal rest still waits for God’s people (Heb. 4). Jesus calls out to us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt. 11:38-29).
The Lord has provided us the most significant sense of rest in Jesus Christ. We can have rest from our sinfulness, guilt, and fruitless works. If Jesus is not your highest desire, then search your priorities. Try and simplify your life. Declutter so you can focus on Christ. Only by seeking Him first and above all else will we find rest for our soul and rest from the things that cause stress. When we seek other things first, we only hurt ourselves. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).
Statistics come from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website and Psychology Today.