Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. We are starting a brand-new series entitled Soul Activity because we talk a lot today about caring for our bodies, but we don’t talk much about caring for our souls. For the next four weeks we’re going to look at some challenges that we all face and some habits that we can implement in our daily lives that have the power to drastically change not only the outcome of our lives but the very definition of who we are as the children of God.
You see, it really comes down to what we’re feeding ourselves and just like food, spiritually we have the same needs for nutrients and a regular diet of certain things. And yet what happens is that because of the busyness of life we get out of habit of doing certain things, certain spiritual disciplines, and things that are necessary for success in the Christian life.
Now for me, these are things that I typically do on a fairly consistent basis, but when my habits change, because of busyness, because of vacationing, because of whatever, it doesn’t take too long to notice the difference. And so there are certain things that you could call fuel for the soul that really manifest themselves in our lives as peace, joy, contentment, and a lasting sense of fulfillment. Therefore, the sense of purpose and direction that we have in life is the direct result of what we’re feeding our soul and the more consistently we can do these things the better our lives become and actually we will find that our spiritual lives will shift into overdrive.
This morning as we begin this series Soul Activity I want to lay the foundation by stating that any reasonable explanation of the universe or the beginning of life on earth comes from a biblical understanding of Genesis. And therefore, anyone who rejects the Genesis Creation account, that God created the universe in six literal, 24 hour days, makes an assault on Scripture, rejecting the authenticity of Scripture, the inspiration of Scripture, the inerrancy of Scripture, and therefore the truth of God himself revealed in Genesis through Revelation. It is no small thing to deny the Creation account of Genesis chapter 1 and 2, because if we can’t trust the Creation account, then how can we trust anything else in the pages of the Bible?
As an introduction to this series, we find that in Genesis chapter 1 through chapter 2 verse three is the creation of the universe, including man, but beginning in chapter 2 verse four, we find the details of man’s creation. Much like the headlines in the newspaper, Genesis chapter 1 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And then Genesis chapter 2 is the article that presents all the details under that headline. And so as you come to chapter 2, man is highlighted, he’s put on center stage, as the drama of redemption unfolds with the rest of creation as the backdrop.
I tell you that as an introduction to Soul Activity, because that’s where it all began, and we’re going to begin reading from Genesis chapter 2, at verse four, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens — and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground — the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:4-7).
God tells us that he created man in his own image in chapter 1, but here we’re told how he did it, he formed man from the dust of the ground. The King James Version says, “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). So, God literally breathed life into man, God breathed life into that which was created in his own image, and at that very moment it became a living being. The New Testament tells us in first Corinthians, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul…” (1 Corinthians 15:45, KJV).
As we begin Soul Activity, everything began with such promise, it was perfect, they were so blessed, but sadly it didn’t take long before sin came. We’re all familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, how Satan came and deceived Eve, who took of the forbidden fruit, gave some to her husband Adam and they sinned. They weren’t satisfied with God’s gift, so they were cast out of the garden, out of the perfection of what God had created for them to enjoy, and now we find ourselves in Genesis chapter 4.
“Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man." Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil” (Genesis 4:1-2).
This is the story of Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve, brothers and yet Cain became the first unbeliever who ever lived; he was the original rejecter, the first fool, the first man without hope and without God in the world. In fact, verse two says,
“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor…” (Genesis 4:2-5).
So Cain became jealous because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, and he became so angry, so incensed, that he invited his brother out to the field where he attacked and killed him. Verse 10 tells us, “The Lord said,
"What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:10-12).
God said, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” And I believe this is where many of us find ourselves, some of you may have been diagnosed as being ADD or ADHD, but many of us have this restlessness. Like Cain, that first restless wanderer, we’re always searching but never finding, interested in everything but never fulfilled. Inwardly we’re always wound up and though we may try to find rest for our bodies it’s as if we can never find rest for our souls. And so, we live day in and day out tense, anxious, and worried. It’s as if our minds just don’t know how to shut down and even when we try to rest at night, internally our souls cannot find rest.
As a matter of fact, Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes describe this restlessness and honestly, it’s a place where I’ve lived way too much of my life. I believe some of you can relate and maybe you have or are living there now. You’re a restless wanderer.
Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes chapter 2, “What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest...” (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23).
I wonder how many of you find yourself in that place, where you’re so wound up on the inside that you can’t calm down? How many of you would say that’s you? You’ve got a restless soul, you’re a restless wanderer and you can’t find rest?
You see, David said it this way in Psalms 62, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him” (Psalms 62:1).
David recognized that there’s no person, no thing, no experience, no amount of money, there is nothing outside of God that can bring rest to his soul. As a matter of fact, Jesus said it this way,
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Today, some of you are weary and burdened not just in your body, but in your soul. You’re so stressed out that you can’t even show love to those you love the most, because your soul is so overwhelmed, you’re just tense, worried, and anxious. And yet the invitation of Jesus remains, that we might come to him so that he can give us rest, that in him we would find rest for our souls. So for the rest of our time together we’re going to look at how we can find that rest. And first we need to seek out, we need to find that quiet place.
You see, part of the problem is that we’ve become desensitized to noise. As a matter of fact, some of you become uncomfortable if it’s too quiet. You know, if nobody’s talking, if you’re not listening to music, or the TV is not blaring. We want it all the time, we think we need it, or at the very least we have become so accustomed to it that we don’t even notice it all around us. We’ve become a culture that’s deceived into thinking that if we can keep the noise blaring loud enough and long enough that we can drown out the doubts, fears, loneliness, and pain. But the reality is, when we find that quiet place, when we embrace silence, when we embrace solitude, that is where we will find rest for our souls.
It’s just as Henri Nouwen said "Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life."
And every great leader of the Bible was accustomed to finding that quiet place. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, John, all of them knew the power of that quiet place because they experienced it. In fact, we can see examples of how they built it into their schedules. As a matter of fact in Luke chapter 5 it says,
“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
We see Paul practicing this in Acts chapter 20 as he and his companions were leaving Troas. Paul told them to sail ahead of him and verse 13 says, “He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot” (Acts 20:13). He wanted time to be alone with God, to experience the presence of God, and so he made it a habit to spend time in that quiet place.
And in the same way, we’ve got to be purposeful to quiet our souls in the midst of our noisy neighborhood, doing our job, and living with our spouse and kids. David recognized that it was essential to find that quiet place and said this in Psalms chapter 131,
“But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalms 131:2).
That’s the place, that quiet place, like a child at rest with his mother. It’s a picture of peace, contentment, and security. David describes our relationship with God when we find that quiet place and take time to be still before him. If you’re restless in your soul, one of the most important disciplines you can do is to daily be still before God. To be still for the sole purpose of knowing him and nothing else. In Psalms chapter 46, the Psalmist wrote:
"Be still and know that I am God…" (Psalms 46:10).
And that’s where we need to start. Maybe just five minutes, but start there; just five minutes to “be still and know that I am God.” The second thing that the Bible teaches us to do is to wait. To find that rest for our soul we need to wait for God.
When you find that quiet place, when you get alone with God, just stop. Wait. Forget about everything but him. And let him begin to bring rest to your soul. The Bible says,
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” (Psalms 37:7).
Most of us think that prayer consists of talking to God, but there is so much more to it than that. Bernard Baruch said,
"Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking."
And that's not only true in the workplace and in our relationships, but it's also true in our spiritual life. Actually, the most important part of our prayer life is the part we spend in silence, listening, because in our silence, God is able to break through to us and change us.
In Psalm 62, David wrote...
“My soul finds rest in God alone my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62:1)
It’s in God that we find rest and yet as a culture we don’t like waiting for anything. We’re an impatient society, but the key to hearing from God is to wait for him. Just to stop and wait!
I’ll tell you what I do, I wake up early every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so I don’t get distracted, so I don’t have to worry about the time, and I just open up God’s word and I start to read and wait for something to speak to me. Sometimes it might be a verse or two, other times it might be a chapter or maybe many, but I just keep reading and I wait until God speaks to me and then I stop and I meditate on what God said, I let his word sink deep in my soul.
Find that quiet place and wait for God. He will take care of the rest of the world while you’re seeking him. Just be still and wait on God. The Psalmist said in chapter 130,
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning…” (Psalms 130:5-6).
Like a night watchman waits for the morning, with the same expectation that the sun is going to rise, we wait on God. Our souls are restless, but we’ve got to wait, we’ve got to be still. There’s really no formula to follow to learn how to do this. You just learn by doing it. As often as you can, get in God’s presence, be as still as you can be, make it as quiet as it can be, be as silent as you can be, and listen to the still small voice of God. And then number three, the third thing I want to encourage you to do is to remember God’s goodness.
This is where it gets really challenging, because we’re restless, our souls are restless and we’re tempted to think about what we want and all that has to be done. But here’s what we need to do, we need to take a moment and shut that out and think about all that God already has done. Not what has to be done but what God has already done. The Bible says this in Psalms chapter 116,
“Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalms 116:7-9).
Remember God’s goodness. We need to take time to remember what he’s done, to remember his grace, to remember the answered prayers, and to remember how he’s changed our lives.
We need to find that quiet place, we need to wait, and we need to remember how he’s delivered our souls from death. Remembering that he has forgiven you, that you are a new creation in Christ, that the old is gone and the new has come. If anything would bring rest to your soul, remembering that should. That he won’t hold your sins against you, but that they’re forever cast into the sea of forgetfulness. That should bring peace to your soul!
As you’re in that quiet place, waiting for God, you remember who he is, that our Lord God is the Alpha and the Omega, he is the beginning and the end, he is the first and the last, he is the one who was and is and is to come. We follow Jesus who is the Lamb of God and the lion of Judah. He is our soon returning conquering King of Kings and Lord of lords. We serve a God who is so big that he’s working in all things to bring about good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He says that you’ll be blessed coming in and blessed going out. He is the one that declares in Jeremiah chapter 29,
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As you remember God’s goodness, your soul can be at rest, because if you’re tempted to worry about tomorrow you’ll remember he’s already in tomorrow and because he was faithful yesterday you know he will be faithful tomorrow. And so God doesn’t want us to be living as restless wanderers all messed up and worried; but by the help, and the power, and the presence of God you can have rest in your soul, health in your soul, happy and healed in your soul. You can live out of your soul the fruits of the Spirit; the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, the kindness, the goodness, the gentleness, the faithfulness, and the self-control. You can because we’re not restless wanderers driven by the desires of our flesh, but our soul is full of the goodness of God, because that’s who we are.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 16, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.