Hush My Spirit Into PeaceSeries: Turbulence
HUSH MY SPIRIT INTO PEACE
Sermon By Terry Siverd / April 05, 2020 / Cortland Church of Christ
Good morning to each one of you. I miss seeing all of your beautiful faces, but I hope and pray that all of you are keeping the faith. I want to begin my message today by expressing gratitude.
We are in the midst of a storm, fighting an invisible enemy that poses a threat to us and our loved ones. While many of us fall into the stay-at-home category, there are thousands upon thousands of others - - family, friends and fellow citizens who are in the trenches fighting hard 'round the clock for our well-being . In these trying times, surely those of us who are charged with simply staying put ought not grumble.
LET US OPEN OUR EYES AND HEARTS AND BE GRATEFUL.*
Our church family is so very eager to get back together. Absence is truly making our hearts grow fonder. How we dearly miss one another!! Everybody is watching out for everybody - - we're behaving like a genuine family of believers. Electronic inquiries & postings and calls of encouragement are ubiquitous. Prayers are ascending at all hours of the day and night. Our weekly offerings were down for a couple of Sundays, but last Sunday our church treasurer received c. $2,600 in offerings that arrived in her mailbox, and we thank you all for your faithfulness in this regard. For quite a few of us this is a time to STAY HOME and mind our behavior. It's tough, because we are a people on the go. Our busy-ness has become a hallmark of our devotion. Our governmental advisers are struggling to properly describe our current state: it's neither a lock-down nor a shelter in place. Whatever you call it, this social-distancing is CAUSING CONSTERNATION.
Yet, in the big scheme of things we surely realize that such is a small price to pay for our preservation. This is a good time to contemplate the meaning of BEING AT REST. Throughout this down time, however long it may end up lasting, we must focus on washing our hands ... without wringing our hands.
Genesis opens with a preview of God's intentions for mankind - - those of us made in His very image. Following His creation of the world, Gen.2:2-3 records, (God) rested on the seventh day from all His work...He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested...
What exactly does it mean to REST IN THE LORD?
(1) Resting sometimes implies a cessation or relaxation from labors. cf. Ex.16:30. This kind of resting is not always bad, contrary to our upbringing which tends to put a premium on industry. Some might argue, 'tis better to wear out that to rust out, but these two extremes are not the only options. Have you ever worked yourself silly only to wind up becoming sick?
Job once confessed, I am seething within, and cannot relax; days of affliction confront me (Job 30:27). Another translation renders this verse, “my bowels boiled, and rested not”. In actuality, resting from our labors can often be conducive to doing better labor. This resting appears to have been part of God's prescription plan for us human beings. cf. 1Kgs.19:5-6. This kind of resting is really necessary in combating lives that become too ME-focused. How often we work as if the continuation of our personal world depends entirely upon us.
(2) Sometimes we think of resting in the Lord in terms of the afterlife - - that eternal abode with God and Christ in the heavenly hereafter. In the week prior to my father's death, his hospital room was swamped with friends, workmates and fellow Christians. I told him that he needed to rest and that I was going to put a sign on the door saying, “Please limit visits to 10-minutes.” He wouldn't permit it, telling me that he had all eternity to REST. If the truth be known, my plans to curtail visitors was more about my own selfishness as it was his health. I wanted so badly to savor every minute of my father's last days.
(3) There is a third form of resting that underscores the need for a God-centered focus in the here and now. We find this concept scattered throughout the Scriptures. Ps.37:7 exhorts, REST IN THE LORD and wait patiently for Him... This thought is echoed in King Asa's prayer, recorded in 2Chron.14:11 - - there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we REST in Thee, and in Thy name...
The prophet Jeremiah bemoaned the sad predicament of the children of Israel in his day: My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and they have forgotten their resting place (Jer.50:6).
We can hear this same sentiment in the words of our Lord Jesus (Mt.11:28-29): Come to ME, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
Not long after Jesus delivered the sermon on the mount (Mt.5,6 & 7), an incident is woven in the fabric of Matthew's gospel that proves painfully revealing. After teaching the multitude (apostles included) about the futility of anxiety (Mt.6:25ff), the Lord's apostles are given a “quiz” of sorts, as if to grade them on how (and if) they comprehended His earlier instructions.
Mt.8:23f chronicles this account: And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was (sound) asleep. And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing!' And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?' Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm. And the men marveled, saying, 'What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?'
I think it is safe to conclude that none of the twelve apostles aced that early quiz! With great persuasion Jesus had tutored them: do not be anxious for your life...and yet here they are just few days removed, scared to death, filled with high anxiety and overwhelming angst.
It is important that we cultivate a mature (and Biblical) mind when it comes to resting in the Lord. Resting in the Lord is not just toughening up and holding on until God comes to our aid in the way we think best.
We do not just rest! We REST IN THE LORD!
In other words, we TRUST HIS JUDGMENTS, even when and especially when they do not square with our own. As when Jesus prayed in the garden three times: “remove this cup (of suffering) from Me...” (Mt.26:39, 42 & 44). God the Father heard Jesus' prayer, but He overrode it and Jesus went to the cross nonetheless. The response of Jesus (in the shadow of such dire circumstances) is worthy of our imitation. The apostle Peter later noted how, (Jesus) kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously (1Pet.2:23).
Genuine resting in the Lord requires more than just patience, it demands daily trust and ongoing reliance. The apostles, like Jesus (Heb.5:8), learned obedience from the things which they suffered. SO, TOO, MUST WE!!! Resting is trusting … and trusting God demands obedience even when we prefer an alternative outcome. As the book of Acts reveals, the apostles soon came to understand that resting in the Lord meant trusting Jesus even during trials & persecutions. They finally began to grasp that true PEACE, REST and/or SHALOM was much, much more than the absence of conflict.
Some of you may be thinking, “I can't rest while all of this is going on!”
Yet this is the whole point of this morning's message. We can and we must!!
The apostle Paul suffered greatly for the cause of Christ. He was never promised smooth sailing. If we lean into the text of Acts 9:16 we can see God sending Ananias to Paul, confiding in him: I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake (Acts 9:16). In due time (no doubt by trial and error) Paul learned this lesson well. After beseeching God three times with a prayer request, the Scriptures record (2Cor.12:9-10) - - He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected (matured) in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. Here we have the nub of resting in the Lord. True resting reveals itself with a constant sense of reliance upon our Father of Mercies. This pandemic has driven many of us to feel somewhat HELPLESS - - as if we have LOST CONTROL. Perhaps what's happening this spring needs to serve as a metaphor for life. Could it be that God never intended for us to be IN CONTROL and SELF-SUFFICIENT?
I know it is now cliché to say, “We're all in this TOGETHER” - - everybody's saying it. But saying “We're all in this TOGETHER”, means a whole lot more when such a declaration is under-girded with and accompanied by the re-affirmation of GOD'S PRESENCE IN OUR MIDST. Our Father has promised - - I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Heb.13:5).
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us in this time of distress.
We honor You and praise You as the God of all creation.
We acknowledge Your omnipotence, but we also know well Your love, grace and mercy.
Be to us a Father Of Mercies, and heal our land and our world.
Deliver us from this pestilence and bring us relief.
And Father, should we lose some of our dear ones,
give us a determined faith so that we might remain resolute and strong.
In all days, but especially in these days of tumult, grant that we might rest in You as our all in all.
Through Christ , our Eternal Rest, who shows us how to rest in Thee, we pray. Amen
* Why not take time to make a long list of people for whom you are thankful.
Governmental authorities at all levels - - federal, state and local ... special task forces comprised of epidemiologists and a host of gifted scientists and lab technicians who are working round the clock to mitigate and extinguish this virus ... thousands of first-responders - - doctors and nurses of all stripes, working on the front lines along with policemen, firemen and EMTs ... Truckers, grocery clerks, bankers, gas-station attendants, sanitation crews, etal., who are continuing to work daily to keep the supply lines open, etc. ... scores of companies who are swiftly re-configuring their assembly lines so as to produce ventilators, protective gowns, gloves and masks, etc.. On a church level, may our gratitude also prevail. Our thanks to our shepherds - - Vic Rossi had a beautiful sermon delivered on-line last Sunday.
THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM
The Lord is My shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the path of righteousness, for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou has anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness with follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This morning's sermon title is derived from the words of the song, Prince Of Peace! Control My Will - - Prince of Peace! Control my will, bid this struggling heart be still; Bid my fears and doubting cease Hush my spirit into peace.
Some newer hymns taught to us by Rod Sheldon over the years include: Surround Us, O Lord … Don't Be Afraid … Hide Me Away, O Lord. Why not search for them online and sing along?
Here are some other golden-oldies: Be Still My Soul … Master, The Tempest Is Raging … It Is Well With My Soul … I Need Thee Every Hour … Be With Me Lord … There Is A Place Of Quiet Rest … My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less … Unto Thee, O Lord