REACHING OUT FROM WITHIN
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
July 30, 2017
Text: Psalm 23:3; Colossians 1:11
There once was a tourist on an African safari. He really wanted to go fast and reach his destination as quickly as possible. On the second morning of the journey, the natives who were guiding the tourist refused to get up and move. When asked why, they explained that they had gone too fast and too far the day before. Now they must rest, allowing their souls to catch up.
Have you ever felt that way? Like you are going so fast in life - or that things are changing so fast in our world - that your soul hasn't gotten a chance to catch up? I know I have had those times of just plain weariness or being overwhelmed - or like your energy is waning or your confidence is shaken.
King David, in our reading from Psalm 23, knew what it was like to be running fast - losing his strength and his confidence. For years, before he took the throne of Israel, he was hunted down by King Saul, who wanted to kill him. David knew what it was like to have a soul that is weary and shaken. But he also knew where it was he could find rest for his soul - only in trusting in God as the Good Shepherd.
In Psalm 23, David declares:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.
I like to imagine when David wrote this, he had just arrived at an oasis like this in the desert of En Gedi. He was truly walking through the shadow of death as he ran from Saul - but he still knew that the Lord was his Shepherd. He sat down beside those still waters - found rest - and God restored his soul. God gave him renewed strength and energy and courage - as he was reminded that he "need fear no evil, for God was with him." I think it was that rest in God - that pausing and remembering who God is - that kept David going - that gave David hope.
It was this same kind of rest and hope in God that the Apostle Paul wanted for the early Christians who were struggling in Colossae. He had not met them but he had heard about how they were being attacked by false teachers. It was a difficult and trying situation. So Paul wrote them to encourage them to stay true to their work and to remind them of the incredible strength we can receive from God as we trust and rest in Him.1
I love the way the Message Bible phrases the beginning part of his letter from Colossians 1:
We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul-
not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives.
It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy,
thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything
bright and beautiful that he has for us.
Instead of gritting our teeth, trying to work through the daily cares and struggles of life all on our own, Paul prayed that the Colossians - and we ourselves - would be filled with the glory strength of God and would persevere through the journey ahead.
That is really what we all need isn't it? Strength for the journey - God's power helping us to endure with joy! But how do we really know that kind of power - that God's glory strength?2
I think the only way we really know that strength and power is by taking time to rest and lean on the everlasting arms of God. We need to plug into our power source every day, in our daily prayers. And we get renewed each week as we gather for Sabbath rest and worship. We need time to rest and open ourselves up to hear God's voice and be filled with His strength. Isaiah 30:15 says, "in quietness and trust shall be your strength." We need to slow down and listen and get our hearts and mind focused on God, so that we can be empowered to endure with great joy.
For us as your pastors, we too need to refuel our batteries and renew our spirits - especially during a sabbatical. We are so incredibly grateful for the church allowing us the next 2 months of rest and focused prayer and study. We need some time to sit beside the still waters and let God restore our souls. We need time to soak in God's glory strength so that we can make it for the long haul.
While we are on Sabbatical - you all as a congregation will also be on Sabbatical, particularly in August, when there will be no meetings to conduct business, but you will continue meeting together, following the instructions given in Hebrews 10:23-25:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess
And let us consider how we may spur one another on
Toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together
As some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another .
The whole plan for August will be to reconnect with God and to lift up our neighbors in prayer. We are hoping that you will take advantage of all that time off and focus on worship and prayer - and be a part of the many prayer events that will be offered throughout the month.
May it be that our shared sabbatical time of prayer will help us to hear God's voice, leading and guiding us to the bright and beautiful future God has planned for us. This time of focused prayer really is all about caring for our souls - so that God can strengthen us and empower us to be faithful disciples of Christ. We really reach within, to grow closer to God, so that we can reach out to others and make a difference for Christ.
1Colossians by Chuck Swindoll
2 Inspiration about this text came from this site:
Strength: Yours or God's? by Jennifer O. White. http://www.jenniferowhite.com/glory-strength/