Christian Restoration: Strength

This morning, we’re continuing our new message series filled with hope and encouragement inspired by History Channel’s American Restoration entitled, “Christian Restoration”. We’re learning that no matter how broken and hopeless we, or our circumstances, may currently be, God is fully able and willing to restore and renew us!

This morning, we’re going to look specifically at how God is able to restore our strength.

It’s no surprise to any of us here that life can be draining! We live in a broken world and keeping things up and running can be quite the challenge. Whether it be our home, vehicle, things at work, our health, or (as we discussed last week), our relationships, things around us always seem to be in a state of need.

It seems that once we have things straightened out in one area, another fire arises in another. Life can often feel like a juggling act or like the guy that keeps all of the plates spinning on sticks at the same time. We keep ourselves so busy so often.

Many of us are well aware of the toll that this lifestyle can take on us. We’re exhausted physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We live our lives constantly pushing the boundaries of what we’re capable of and that comes with a cost. It doesn’t take much to push us over that line and it’s usually the ones that we care about most who receive the wrath of this lifestyle. This lifestyle doesn’t exactly produce the fruits grown by living a life lead by the Holy Spirit.

What we sometimes misunderstand is that our bodies were not designed by God to maintain the high-paced life that many of us live. Growing weary and tired is not sin! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness! Saying “I’m sorry, but I can’t.” to someone is not wrong! Taking an entire day per week in which we do no work is commanded!

I’ll never forget a time in my life when I first learned this lesson the hard way. There was a time in my life when I was working full time with overtime, ministering part time, schooling part time, our first child was 1 and our second was soon to be on her way. I was a youth leader at the time and the pastors and elders of the church knew that I was wearing myself a bit too thin. They urged me to take the summer off of youth group that year.

I didn’t feel like we had achieved anywhere near the goals that I felt the Lord was leading us to achieve and so I stubbornly refused and assured them that I was getting enough rest and doing fine. I had foolishly blinded myself from my own condition. The following week while push mowing my lawn, I slipped and took off my big toe with the mower. Needless to say, I was forced to take some time off.

I hadn’t realized just how much I was doing and taking care of until I was unable to. It was so bad that my supervisor at work visited me down at UPMC asked if he could bring me a laptop and phone to keep working. Now to be fair, in context, not only was he concerned about his projects falling behind schedule, he also was concerned about our financial state.

I learned the hard way how to take a Sabbath day and just how important it was. It was a holy day, set apart, and it was one that the Lord created for me. By taking that day, I was bringing honor and glory to Him. I had bought the lie that taking a Sabbath day was just being lazy and categorized the time that I would take in ministry as being a Sabbath. Now, I can say with 100% complete honesty that I still struggle to set apart a day each week, but I’m doing far better at this than I have previously!

Listen to what the prophet Isaiah proclaimed:

Isaiah 40:28-31
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Our Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the earth, who doesn’t ever grow tired nor grow weary – God Himself – rested.

In Genesis 1, we find the creation account of how God created everything in six literal days.

Genesis 2:2-3
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Then, we fast forward to a scene where Moses met with God and received the ten commandments. The fourth, we find here:

Exodus 20:8-11
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Then, we again fast forward and learn from Jesus that:

Mark 2:27
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

So, why did God choose to rest on the seventh day? Why did He command that we do?

Jesus said that it was created and set apart for us.

Sure, there are times that we don’t have the strength that we need because we’re using our strength to do things that we should not be doing. This could be using our strength to sin or to simply do good things that the Lord didn’t plan for us to do. However, the most common reason that we lack strength in our culture today is because we have forsaken the Sabbath day.

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God desires to renew and restore our strength. God cares for us and wants to help carry our burdens. However, receiving things from the Lord is a cooperation. Our faith and trust in the Lord is revealed by our obedience to Him.

Obedience to the Lord in taking a Sabbath is a great display of trust and faith in God’s ability to restore our strength. In fact, this is exactly God’s intent by commanding that we take it.

Yes it is true that life is difficult and that there is never a lack of things that we need to do. When we take a look at the life of Jesus, we quickly see that He was no exception to this busyness of life. However, when we take a look at the life of Jesus, we also see the many times that He would leave the busyness of life and find rest in time set apart with His Heavenly Father.

Jesus said that in this life, we would have trouble. He knew just how difficult and busy life for us can be. However, John Wayne also shared a bit of wisdom when he said, “Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.”

I know that it’s a pretty harsh way to put it, but if we think that we can live life pridefully disregarding the command to take the Sabbath, we’re being stupid. God, Himself, took a day of rest. He did it as an example for us. He created the Sabbath FOR us!

Isaiah 58:13-14
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

Now, there are a lot of “if’s” found in these two verses. The reality that we face is that IF we are obedient to do our part, God WILL be faithful to do His part! Any software developer can tell you the power of IF, THEN, ELSE statements. Written correctly, they never fail us in the world of software and when written by God, Himself, they never fail us in our lives, either.

If we keep the Sabbath and honor it, then we will find our joy (which is our strength) in the Lord.

However, in the software world, whenever that IF statement condition is not found to be true, the THEN statement is skipped over. In God’s word, if we do not keep the Sabbath or dishonor it, which means that we’re trusting in our own strength and abilities, then we’re left with the ELSE statement found here:

Jeremiah 17:5-8
5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

This morning, I want to encourage all of us here to allow God to restore our strength. If we do our part and set apart one day a week where we do no work and honor the Lord, then God will do His part and bring rest, refreshment, and strength to our lives. Whenever troubles come our way, we will have no fear nor worry. Our trust is in the Lord alone not by our mere words, but by our actions as well!