From Disquieting Anxiety To Comforting Presence

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From Disquieting Anxiety To Comforting Presence

 

 

 

last week we returned to our Good morning last week we returned to our study of the Gospel of john after a uh several months or a couple of months excursion. Looking at the greatness of God and the greatness that he called us to as a supplement to that study. And we returned last week to our study of john to understand the identity of and the mission of christ and then to see the identity that he calls us to and the mission that he calls us to. And I hate to say that after just one week I’m going to break that study again for this sunday morning and we are going to look at some 23. Now let me tell you why I let me let me tell you about my thursday on thursday. I have to admit and to repent in front of you that I I slipped from my own preaching about peace and lack of worry. I spent most of the morning on the phone with a business office at one of the hospitals that I deal with, dealing with some red tape and went through every avenue avenue that I could possibly go or think to go through and gained no ground at all. And I then became anxious and worried about what to do next. What is the next step that I’m going to take? And then my morning went from disheartening too heartbreaking. I got four calls back to back from either persons or couples that were just heartbroken. They were in such need of comfort, pastoral care and and healing and I could only offer them so much. Now I understand we are moved from glory to Glory and and and that God keeps his Children and all of that. But I still felt very inadequate in talking with these people and my heart broken as well because I know you so well and yeah, have that relationship of love now for nearly 30 years. And thirdly my leg was hurting and so I was kind of slowly strolling around the campus and during the last phone call I found myself sitting in my chancel chair here. And when I hung up with that last phone call, I began to repent for my own this quiet morning. And then I began to ask God to make me more efficient and effective as a, as a comforter as a, as a as a pastor in revealing the scriptures in such a way that it might calm the the hearts and open the eyes of those whose eyes have been occluded by tears. And as I was sitting there and I was thinking about all of that, the passage came to my mind that I have preached on. I don’t know how many times I could probably quote it front word and backward, but it came to me in a new way he leads me beside still waters. I think that that passage was brought to my mind by the spirit of God for a number of reasons because I had been uh studying in the Gospel of john trying to understand the use of water that is all through this Gospel, And also in that study, seeing that over 400 times in the scriptures, the metaphor of water is used for the Ministry of Christ and and what Christ would do. And and all of that was in my brain, trying to unscramble all of that in in such a way that that I might understand it and then present it to you in an understandable way. And so, from my disquieting morning to my heartbreaking afternoon, I found myself sitting right here and I don’t know why, but I know God knows why. And as I was sitting there in that chair while I do not think that the the sanctuary is any magical place, the Spirit of God, softly and quietly, just simply said to me, he leads me beside still waters. And so this morning I want to talk about moving from discomforting anxiety, too comforting presence. Now, you’ll remember in our study of john the use of water that we’ve looked at so far, jesus in talking with the woman at the well who had come there at midday because of her own actions or because of, of her being used by other people. She had in some way, in probably a significant way, been excluded from her community. And jesus offered her water, or jesus asked from her water and then offered her spiritual water that would bring her life and not only bring her life, but transform her life and bring her that, that that that comfort, that fellowship that her life was so desperately needed. And finally, in in verse 13, Jesus says to her, everyone who drinks of this water, that is the water from the well will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks of the water that I give him, he will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water welling up into eternal life. Now john uses this, this thought of water, this this imagery of water all through his gospel, to speak of the ministry of christ. You remember when he was talking to Nicodemus in the in the passage that just proceeds this, he says, Unless one is born of blood and water, he shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God Here with the woman at the well, he he restores her and and her place in the community by by offering her eternal life by saying, I am the water of life and whoever drinks from me will never be thirsty again, but a spring of water will be in him welling up into eternal life. You remember in Chapter seven, he he talks about during the feast of tents as they were carrying out the water ceremony and that great feast, he stands up and says, I am the water of life and anyone who comes to me shall have rivers of living water flowing out of them And like I said before, the Bible uses the imagery of water over 400 times to speak of the Ministry of Christ. Now, with that in mind, I want us to jump to john tin for a moment when he talks about his ministry, in in in contrast to the ministry of our adversary or the devil, he says in verse 10, the thief comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly, I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Now look closely at verse number nine, or verse number 10, There, in in john chapter 10, the thief comes only to steal to kill and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly. Who is the they in the context of this passage, it is those who have been oppressed, Those who have been deceived those who have been imprisoned by the thief, who have had their their their their vision stolen, their their their their ability to hear from God stolen, who has who has caused their death, and in the temptation to and the carrying out of sin and and and has placed them on or or is leading them on the road that leads to their ultimate destruction. But jesus is, I have come that even for those that they may have life and have it more abundantly the devil clouding the minds, the eyes and the hearts of men. But Jesus has come that we may have eyes that see and ears that hear hear the thief comes and steals hope and peace. Bye bye. Clouding the mind. Oftentimes even we who are christians and replacing that with anxiety, he steals hope and peace by clouding the mind and then inserting inserting anxiety. But they and we, he tells us that he has come that we may have life and have it abundantly. And then he says, the good shepherd, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I mean if he will lay down his life, what what, what, what will he not do? I mean, if he gives the greatest sacrifice, will he withhold any lesser thing? Of course not. So you have this imagery and water, but now you have introduced this imagery of jesus as the shepherd. I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. You also have this imagery of shepherding in hebrews chapter 13, where Jesus is called the Great Shepherd. Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even jesus christ our Lord equip you with every good thing to do his will working in us, that which is pleasing to his side through jesus christ to whom be glory forever and ever Amen. And then in in in first peter chapter five verse number four, he’s called the chief shepherd. He’s the good shepherd, he’s the great shepherd and then the chief shepherd who is coming for the sheep when the chief shepherd shall appear, you will receive the unf aiding crown of glory. So he is the good shepherd dying for for the sheep. He is the great shepherd who cares for the sheep and then he is the chief shepherd who is coming for the sheep Now with all of that in mind and hopefully it wasn’t too uh disconnected. I want you to go to psalm 23 Now, it’s interesting in Psalm 23, God uses nine different names to describe to describe himself, Jehovah raah, I Jehovah Jari Jehovah shalom and on and on, Jehovah chama, Jehovah, rafa, Jehovah Niecy Jehovah L L leon the provider of the p our piece, the healer, our righteousness, the God who is there, God my banner God to sanctify or God the most high but the one that he focuses on is Jehovah rely the shepherd, he places his name all over this some and yet he draws out to, to reveal of his nature the shepherd of everything of all of those names that could have been magnified david was led by the spirit to speak of Jehovah royal Roy the Lord my shepherd. Why? Because God is wanting us to see his ministry to see his ministry as a shepherd tenderly caring for tenderly feeding tenderly leading his sheep. It’s a perfect picture of our precious saviors relationship to us. In fact, as we, as we saw in in john 10, in Hebrews 13 and first peter chapter five, it is the imagery that jesus chooses for himself to reveal his ministry. And I want to say loudly and clearly this morning that I praise God that when I got saved, I got more than a savior. I also got a shepherd. I got one who leads me and tends me and cares about me and feeds me, who loves me, who provides for me and who guides me through this life. You see when you and I got saved. We also we we met the one who makes us his top priority. So now when I was sitting in this chancel chair this week and and and the spirit brought to mind the second verse of this. Great some I saw something in it that I had never seen before. The psalm is a sheep singing. I’d always thought of it, you know, as as as merely theological information presented to us in a in a musical way by David, but it is not from the perspective of the shepherd. It’s not just cold theological information. It is the picture of a sheep stepping out from the flock and singing about his shepherd. Let me tell you about my shepherd. And then when that sheep gets so uh so involved in in telling about his shepherd, he can’t help but turn and sing to his shepherd. And it’s a a wonderful picture. 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 leads me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake. What a glorious picture! This sheep stepping out and and and telling us about his shepherd. I thought about that also as I was pondering what I could do more to help those who are broken hearted as we as we continue to To speak and to counsel one another. And I thought of Psalm 23 Psalm 23 is charmed. More griefs than all other philosophies in the world. It is remanded to prison. More dark thoughts more thieving sorrows. Then there are stars in the heavens. It is comfort comforted, poor! It is some courage to the army of the disappointed. It is poured bomb and and consolation into the heart of the sick captives in dungeons too. Widows in there, wrenching griefs, dying soldiers have died easier as this psalm was read to them. It has visited the prisoner and broken his chains and like peter’s angel, let him forth an imagination too to sing all the way home. It has made the dying slave freer than his master. It is remarkable to me that the Lord would call himself our shepherd and Israel as well as other ancient societies. The shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of works. If the family needed a shepherd, it was always the youngest son. You remember joseph and then David, you know, when, when the prophet came, when Samuel came to anoint a king, jesse brought his sons and and and didn’t even think to call in David. And even after Jesse had gone through uh, David seven older brothers. And and said it’s none of these jesse still didn’t even think to call in David because David was just a lowly shepherd. It was the youngest son who got the most unpleasant assignment. And yet Jehovah God, jesus christ has chosen to be our shepherd. David is saying in this son that the great god of the universe has stooped down, that he might take care of you and me. And I read a book this week about the work of a shepherd from one who was converted to Christianity and the in that middle band of the African continent, a man who had spent his whole life as a shepherd. And he said that a sheep will only lie down if three conditions, four conditions are met 1st. If he’s not anxious, right? If, if there’s not, you know, anxiety amongst the flock, if there are no parasites in his writing, he said, even just one tick, we’ll keep a sheep from lying down. And if one sheep does not lie down, the others will not because it kind of flows through the whole flock. Thirdly, as sheep will only lie down if he is fed if he is full. And fourthly if he does not have fear. And the greatest fear of the sheep. In a in a in an arid place like that middle band of africa or in the Middle East here that David is talking about would be water. And so the sheep will not lie down unless it can smell the water. And of course, we know in the scriptures that jesus provides all of this for us. He takes away our worry, he removes those things that that that that that that that that that weigh us down takes our yoke that we might take his that’s easy and light. He feeds us with with with with the true word of God, that is food, indeed! And he takes away our fear even that greatest fear, death, it makes me to lie down in green pastures. Then he leads us beside still waters the shepherd takes the sheep to the waters and it refreshes them. Listen, the Lord knows what our souls need to carry out our divine mission in strength and in fortitude without him we are always Zechariah says, drinking water that cannot and will not satisfy jesus says, I am the water of life, I am that which satisfies fully and I am That which can make a river of life flow from you. You see our shepherd meets our deepest needs and grants us peace that we cannot find elsewhere. He knows when we need to move, he knows when we need to lie down and rest and he knows when we need to nuzzle up to him. The secret of serenity is not something or some circumstance. The secret of serenity is the shepherd himself. The Lord is my shepherd. You see, we don’t even find serenity and the things that God gives it is the giver that gives us peace. That gives us com, That gives us hope. That gives us the strength to take the next step when we don’t think we can take another. It it is it is the presence of God that that that that can clear tear stained eyes that we might see the promises of God and know that they are true. You see it is truth and the presence of God that banishes anxiety. Do you remember the woman at the whale? He comes, he comes her with water. And then she asks the question well, where do I worship our father? Say on this mountain? Your father say on that mountain. But if she went to either of those places would she be allowed to worship? Of course not because of what has taken place in her life and what she has done with her life, she would have been expelled, or she would have been excluded from those places of worship, but jesus says to her. Listen, God is seeking worshippers and the time has come. And in fact, it is now here when true worshipers will worship God in spirit. And in truth, where you may not be welcome there and you may not be welcome there. I am God, I am standing right in front of you and I will receive you and by my life, by the water, by the light of my life, I and and by the good shepherd, laying down his life for his sheep, I will redeem you. I will draw you into my flock and not only into my flock, but into my family. Worship is not someplace that we must go right. It is always with us. The Lord’s name is Emmanuel. What glory there is in that we worship in spirit. And in truth, not in an opinion about mountains or places or positions, but in the very promises of God. And because he knows you look at this, you will not lack, you will not lack rest. You will not lack restoration. He knows how to take care of you because he knows you well, I may not know what some of the people that are going through in this church and you know some of the tragedies that have met us over the past few months. Well, I may not know how they are feeling God does, he says, I know how to take care of you. Not only that, I know how to lead you when you don’t know what the next step to take is. When when you don’t know uh if there is even a path in front of you because your, your eyes are so included by tears that that that that you don’t know what to do, I will lead you and I will lead you down the right paths of life and there’s no reason to fear and I will lead you to God himself, the ultimate benefit and the ultimate destination of this psalm. He’s with you. You know, you look at these first three verses and I love this David. David is like a sheep standing out from the flock singing to us about how great his shepherd is. But when he gets to the darkest places, look at verse number four, the song changes when he gets to that to that dark place, the pronouns change Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me. You see he starts singing to us about how great his shepherd is and when he thinks of the greatness of his shepherd, he has to turn and worship him, you you are with me and listen, this is something we really need to understand. The dark path is also a righteous path. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for his namesake in this world. You will have trouble, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. We will all have to trick trick the path of losing loved ones, of having great difficulties come into our lives. But that does not mean that those pads are unrighteous. They are righteous. God takes us through them and by his promises, he can care for us. Even in those things. Vicki will have to go through that one day when when I pass from this world and I’m no longer with her to to share life with to to to to to to to to to partner with in life. But it’s still a righteous path as I will be escorted into the very presence of God. She will deal with the darkness that that brings. But she will not deal with it alone, because God will be with her. His presence overcomes the worst thing that remains fear and his presence by that fear come, or by the destruction of that fear. Well calm us. The sheep sings to us. Then he sings to his shepherd. I love that I fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff. They comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. I love this. We don’t have to fear so much that we don’t have to run through this valley. We walk through it. And because God is with us, he even will he even will prepare a table for us as we are moving with him in the presence of our enemies. How cool is that? You know, when we’re scared, you know, we would just want to grab a hot dog or a or a Clif bar or something like that and eat it on the run. And jesus has listened because I’m with you. We don’t have to worry about that. I’ll prepare a table for you in the presence of your enemies and the pains that they’ve caused you and the difficulties that they’ve caused you and those cuts and and and the places where you may be bleeding or bruised. I will anoint your head with oil. I will let them know the place that you hold in my uh in my life. I will let them know of the relationship that you have with me and we don’t have to fear them. Well, I love this picture. We don’t have to run through this valley like we’re scared like we’ve turned the lights off in the basement of the church and we have to get up the steps before the demons get us right. I’ve done that right. We’ll walk along and when the time is needed, he’ll prepare a table before us. We could sit and rest and eat because his presence dispels our enemies greatest arrows. My couple overflow. I love that he goes before us. When the path is smooth, he leads us right and he stands beside us. When the way is dangerous and frightening and we need to rest, he will sit and feed us. Lastly, and very quickly the sheep sings to himself. Surely then goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Sitting there thinking that my reciting the promises of God and and my words of comfort have no real meaning. God reminded me that they do. The Word of God is powerful. These promises are are powerful to to help those who are who are in difficulty and and whose lives have been tossed into chaos, and don’t know the path to walk reminds me that as we live, our lives in obedience to him, and obedience to his word, goodness and mercy shall follow us. Our lives have purpose and meaning and can be effective for good if we follow along and and and walk with our shepherd and eat what he feeds us, and when our cup overflows, we share it with those around us. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And when that is over, I will dwell in his presence forever where there is no fear, there is no darkness, there is no monster under the bed. There is no loss. There is no there is no more tear. There is no more separation. There is no more anxiety. You see the ultimate goal of the shepherd leading us is to lead us to himself. What an awesome picture right lastly, and very, very quickly, let’s go back to the still waters. The shepherd leads his sheep to steal waters because he knows sheep will not drink from a running stream. You see sheep have a morbid fear of water, they’re not designed for swimming. Their coats are made of wool, they have spindly little legs, extremely top heavy and in the water there wolf fills up and flips them over, and they would drown the sheep know this, and so they shy away from running water, and the shepherd knows this. So he seeks for places for them to be for them to drink from the great shepherd knows that his sheep are in need of cool waters, the cool waters of his grace to make it through this world. They need places of stillness and calm rest, that they might reflect upon him, and his blessings. Listen, he cares about the things that you’re facing today, and the things that you face tomorrow, and he will prepare a place of rest of peace and safety in his word. And therefore he provides that way of escape for you and me. He leads me beside waters of rest, or we might have our thirst quenched, where we might have our emptiness field, jesus, our good shepherd said. If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. And he who believes in me from his innermost being, will flow rivers of living water. And of course, jesus, there was, speaking of the Holy Spirit who is in us, you see, for us to be comforted, or for us to give others comfort, to move from disquieting anxiety, too comforting presence. You can’t just have our mind on truth. That was my error this week. I just had my mind on the truth. That’s not enough. We must fully rest in the reality of life in him and praise God. When we were saved, we did not just receive a savior. We received a shepherd who will care for us. So let anything that’s holding you back from from leaning your full weight upon him, the very definition of faith. Anything that is obstructing that or keeping you from that, let it pass in this moment that we might lie down in that green pasture, we might drink from the still water of his word. And when the time gets comes that we will get up and walk, and in times of fullness and strength, to minister to one another in times of darkness and sorrow, to know that he’s with us and we need not fear any that the enemy may do to us father

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