Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Plenty of Spiritual Rest

Mothers and doctors alike will tell you the secrets of having good health and extol the virtues of living a healthy lifestyle. In order to have a healthy spirit, we must be equally vigilant in building a healthy Christian lifestyle. It begins with getting plenty of spiritual rest that brings us peace and comfort in the face of turmoil which we experience daily in our lives. Competing interests, deadlines, schedules and a host of other priorities will take us away from looking after our spiritual health and cause us to have a weakened spirit which will be susceptible to temptation, disobedience and spiritual complacency. 

In Matthew 14, after Jesus fed the 5,000 people with five loaves and 2 fish, he went up into the hills to pray alone. Jesus often left his disciples and the crowds to be alone in order to pray and focus his thoughts upon his Heavenly Father without interruption. Using his example, we need to do the same thing. We must put aside, even for a few minutes, the daily grind of work and the demands of family to pray and focus our attention on the Father. It is too easy with smartphones, the internet and our other digital gadgets to lose sight of the Lord and His will in our lives. The noise of life will drown out the whispers of His voice and that of the Holy Spirit. 

Think about how easy it is to be distracted. More and more people are injured or killed in accidents while driving and texting. We can easily become engrossed in one activity while not paying attention to the most important ones. When we do that, we may suffer as a result of it. In studies, doctors and scientists are finding that the human brain, although so very complex, is really not designed to be a multitasking computer. It prefers to concentrate on one thing at a time. One study pointed out that it takes an average of twenty minutes for an individual to return to a task when he or she was interrupted. When a person’s concentration is broken, it is difficult to just pick up right where he or she left off. 

When I write the Sunday Praise and Worship messages for our ministry website, I go to my study alone to carefully concentrate on the message and allow God’s words to flow into my heart and then into my mind so that I can write them down. Before I start typing, I am alone in prayer and focus completely on God and ask for His words to come into my heart so that I may share them with His children. If I were to write these messages sitting in a noisy coffee shop or fast food restaurant, I would easily be distracted and may fail to receive God’s complete message.

Solitude is important when it comes to spiritual rest. It, like physical rest for the body, allows the spirit to take time away from stress and find its “happy place”. Doctors will tell their patients that it is so very important to get plenty of rest in order to maintain a healthy body. Rest allows the body to recuperate and prepare for the rigors of the next day. It helps clear the mind of clutter and allows it to calm down and find peace. Our spirits need the same time to recuperate from spiritual warfare and the demands placed on them. Each day we face temptation and stress that may cause us to falter in our faith and lose sight of the Lord and His importance in our lives. We need to find our “spiritual happy place” and make sure that we spend quality time resting in God’s presence. 

It starts with having a place completely dedicated to having spiritual rest. Every home or apartment has a room that is devoted to one thing, sleep, called the bedroom. The average individual, depending on their age, sleeps from seven to ten hours a day. We spend millions of dollars annually on new beds, pillows and blinds to make sure that we are able to sleep soundly and comfortably each night. Studies have also indicated that short naps are equally as important to refresh the mind. Just like our physical bodies, we need a place that is dedicated to our spiritual rest. It should be a quiet place for us to be alone so that we can pray and be in the presence of the Lord without interruption. Some people use a spare room or even a closet to isolate themselves from the disruptions that accompany their busy lives. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides us with specific directions on how we are to pray. Let us look at Matthew 6. “5 When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” When you have your private, spirit-resting moments with the Lord, you should do it in a quiet place and away from others. This is a moment devoted to the Lord and should not be open to others. 

When my wife and I led our congregation in prayer at Lakeline Oaks Retirement Community in Cedar Park, Texas, our Sunday service concluded with a moment of prayer and reflection. I called it the most important time in the service, because it was that quiet, dedicated moment for our faith family to go to the Lord in prayer. Each had their own needs and fears that cluttered their mind. By offering this moment of silent prayer, each could call upon the Lord in their own way and just talk with Him. They did not need a pastor, minister or chaplain to lead or direct their prayers. Their words came from their hearts. Many were weary and burdened with medical, financial or other problems. This one moment was “the moment” to lay them down at God’s throne and receive rest.

Jesus, later in Matthew, tells us that we can find rest for our souls in him. Let us look at Matthew 11. “28 Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’” By going to Jesus in prayer, we find that special moment with our Savior and Lord. It is through him and him alone that we can go to the Father and he will take on our burdens, cares and worries. In him, we will find peace and rest. Paul, in Philippians 4, tells us, “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Once again, we see that God will provide us with peace and rest for our spirits when we live in Christ Jesus.

I know all of this is easier said than done. I know that some are already thinking to themselves that it is so very easy for some to do this daily, but they don’t have the busy schedule I do. If you just have a few minutes to seek out the Lord in prayer, you will soon find that your life will be the better for it. Fitness trainers will always say the same to their clients, “You have to make time.” This is no different. You must set aside time for prayer and spiritual reflection. Once you start doing this, you will definitely see a change in your attitude and your spirit will soar like that of an eagle. You will find your spiritual and physical strength renewed so that you are no longer weary from the burdens of life.

When we allow the burdens of this life to get between ourselves and the Lord, we experience loneliness and unbearable sorrows. We feel isolated and feel that God no longer cares. That is so far from the truth. God cares for and loves His children immensely. He wants to have a special relationship with each of His children, but it must begin with prayer. We must seek Him out daily and rest in His grace so that we are prepared to deal with the trials and troubles we face. Let us look back at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us that we should not worry about our daily needs. God knows what we need and will provide. “31 So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” He also tells us that worrying about everything will not gain us anything and will not add a single moment to our lives. Doctors will tell you that worrying and having a pessimistic outlook on life will lead to shortening your physical life. Worrying will only cause you more grief and cause you to lose focus on the Lord. At that point, we give our problems more importance and begin to forget to pray or we try to deal with the problems ourselves. 

Learn to put aside your problems for a moment and seek out the Lord in quiet prayer and reflection. Find that private space in your home or apartment where you can go to spend time with the Lord without interruption. When you do that, you truly will find a “far, far better rest than you have ever known” and can stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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