Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. This morning were continuing in week two of our series Soul Activity. And today I want to talk about the Disturbed Soul, because today a lot of people are concerned about their bodies, and about their health, but spiritually not so much. As a matter of fact, there are many of us who think they can handle the weight of the world and yet so many times they find themselves crushed, not physically crushed, but spiritually crushed with the weight of the world in their souls. But if we would invest the time spiritually that many people invest physically in being fit it would make all the difference in the world.
The apostle Paul, said this writing to pastor Timothy in the church at Ephesus in first Timothy,
“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
It is these things that have become the foundation of my spiritual life since I became a Christian. The study of God’s word, not reading it just for information, but reading it to experience transformation. Training yourself to be godly has value for both the present life and the life to come. Therefore, when we open the word of God is not for the purpose of accumulating knowledge, it’s about generating lasting change.
God didn’t just give us the Bible so that we can know about the Jebusites, the Amalekites, and all the other …ites. He didn’t give us his Word so that we would know which ruler followed which ruler or how close the sea of Galilee is to the city of Jerusalem. And he didn’t give us the Bible to prove others wrong!
Unfortunately, this is how some people read the Bible. They’re looking for information. To them is just history, or maybe they are looking for something to argue about, they want to be able to support a certain doctrinal position, or certain view of the end times. Their focus is not “What is God saying to me?”
You know, Jesus said it this way in Matthew chapter 4, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
So, a knowledge of Bible history is good because it helps us to understand what is happening in the world today as we look in the Middle East. Knowing doctrine is good to because it prevents us from being led astray by false teaching. But the word of God has a greater purpose in our lives. God gave us the Bible so that we might know him, so that we might know his son, so that we might become more like Jesus, and so therefore the purpose of the Bible is not information, its transformation.
Jesus describes this in Matthew chapter 13 as he explained to his disciples what the parable of the sower meant. In verse 19 he said,
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (Matt 13:18-23).
So Jesus tells us that we need to hear the message, we need to understand it, we need to receive it personally allowing it to sink deep into our souls. And so, for us to experience the life-changing power of God’s word we must read it slowly, contemplating it, meditating and praying over it so that we can experience that life-changing union with God.
Then your soul will persevere being fruitful and faithful, as you allow God to speak to you through his Word about his will. This is how I start my days in devotion, it’s how I began my sermon preparation, and it’s how you put yourself in a position for God to speak to you through his Word and so that you would hear his voice. And this is what Psalm chapter 1 says,
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalms 1:1-3).
And that’s what I want for you and that’s all I want for myself, that our souls would prosper, that we would be “Like a tree planted by streams of water”, so that we would be strong, so that we would be healthy and sturdy and fruitful, and that whatever we do would prosper. Because if you remember, Craig Groeschel reminds us, “We are not a body with a soul... but we are a soul with a body.” And therefore, it’s really very important that we live each moment recognizing that our body is not who we are, our body is merely a temporary dwelling for who we are, and that when our bodies die, we don’t die, but we continue to live eternally. So we don’t need to be is so obsessed over our bodies as we need to be concerned about caring for our souls. The problem is that we live in a world that assaults us, distracts us, and tempts us with fear, anxiety, and insecurities about our physical limitations.
In fact, I believe that there are people all over the world that are living with disturbed souls, with hurts, troubles, and anxieties that are just overwhelming their souls. And yet as you read the Bible you can’t help but notice the incredible list of people who felt like they weren’t good enough or that they had all these personal flaws and yet you see God using them time and time again. Let’s just consider a few:
Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. [Adapted from The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren]
So where we need to begin is not in our bodies, not in these temporal tents, but in our souls, because it’s our souls that are eternal, and it’s our souls that so often ignored and end up crushed, discouraged, and depressed under the weight of the world. In fact, David said this, this really isn’t anything new, because he asked his soul this question in Psalm chapter 42, he asked:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God…” (Psalms 42:5-6).
In other words, David asked his soul, “Why are you so sad, depressed, and troubled? 'Why are you so disturbed, within me?” And that’s what I want to address in the rest of our time together. Why is it that there are so many people professing faith in Jesus Christ and yet living with a disturbed soul? Well, I believe that there are three main reasons. Number one, many people have disturbed souls because of the pain of the past.
John Maxwell one said, “All’s well that begins well.” And this speaks to many things, but most specifically it applies to each day of your life. I would have to think, that for many of us, if not most of us, we have at least a few things in our lives that did not begin well. As a matter of fact, in God’s Word, Jeremiah reflected on the pain of yesterday when he said,
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me” (Lamentations 3:19-20).
So, Jeremiah remembers the suffering and homelessness, there’s a bitterness in his soul, and he grieves over yesterday. His soul is downcast, and I imagine that there are many of you who can relate. Your soul is disturbed by the pain of a friend who lied to you, someone close who let you down, or maybe a spouse who betrayed you. There are those of you who felt like life was unfair, you had an opportunity that you missed, or you said something that you shouldn’t of said, or maybe somebody did something to you that you wished they hadn’t. You’ve got a disturbed soul, a very present pain, that remains. It’s the pain of yesterday.
There's another reason I believe that many have a disturbed soul. And that is, number two, many of us are troubled by today.
Now I don’t want to diminish what you’re facing today, but too often we spend time worrying about things that don’t exist and may never happen. You are troubled by today. Job described this in Chapter 4,
“But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed” (Job 4:5).
You are troubled by today, it’s not something in the past, it’s not something in the future, but it’s something right now. Job said, “Trouble comes to you…”
Do you remember the story of Lazarus? In John chapter 11, we are told that he died and four days later Jesus arrived at his house. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, met Jesus and said,
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
In verse 23, Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24).
Do you see what she’s doing? Martha is so troubled by today, that she complains about what could’ve been done yesterday, what is promised tomorrow, all the while overlooking the fact that Jesus has power today. I wonder if you can relate to that? You are troubled by today as Job said, “You’re discouraged, it strikes you and your dismayed.” Maybe there’s something going on and you didn’t see it coming, it wasn’t in your five-year plan and you are disturbed in your soul.
I wonder how many of you have this disturbance, this constant discontent with today. You know, like you had no idea, you thought when you were this age, you thought when you are doing this that you be in a different place, your life would have more meaning, or you be in a better relationship. You didn’t think there was going to be this trouble. And so there’s this disturbance in your soul, because there’s something going on right now. There’s something right now this giving you a fit, there’s the disturbance in your spirit, in your soul right now, may be a burden, or maybe a concern.
And then there’s a third reason that so many of us are living with a disturbed soul. This is one that many of us are vulnerable to, many of you will be able to relate, because number three, we are distressed about tomorrow.
You know, we’re wondering how we’re going to make it, how we’re going to pay the bills, how we’re going to get through this. You know, the debt is rising, but the bank account is shrinking. And so there’s all these what-ifs that are playing in our mind over and over and over again: “What if one of us gets sick? What if the company lays me off? What if the economy struggles again, what’s going to happen?”
And yet, you know what’s amazing is that the Bible says,
“Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15).
And the Bible says, there was a time when Jesus looked ahead to tomorrow, he looked ahead to the pain that he would endure, to the suffering he would face when he became sin for us, and he knew the pain. He knew that God the Father was going to turn away. He knew that for the first time from eternity past that he would be alone, separated from the father, separate from the source of love. And so, he knew, he knew he would cry out from the disturbance deep within his soul, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).
Mark chapter 14 describes this moment, this distress about tomorrow, in verse 33,
“He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:33-34).
This is the most incredible picture of Jesus, because here in the garden we see him as fully God and fully man, we see him battling the will of self-preservation and the will of his Heavenly Father. This is a picture of the God man, a perfect man, but not one who doesn’t struggle, is never gone through anything, but this is a Savior who was disturbed in his soul. He knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew of the pain and yet he had a desire to live. There was a disturbance in his soul, he was overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death. Jesus was distressed about tomorrow.
Now some of you, you’re probably thinking that’s just life, because you live with the continual disturbance in your soul, not to the point of death, but as you look at the pain of yesterday, the trouble of today, and think ahead to the distress of tomorrow you know what it is to have a disturbed soul. And the problem is that there’s nothing really wrong, but there’s nothing this right either, and so there’s this constant feeling of uneasiness. And yet what God would want to impress upon you today is that you don’t have to live that way, you don’t have to live with a disturbed soul.
You see, it doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, even if you dropped the ball and went to sleep on the job, if you missed the boat, or whatever other failure prone metaphor you could think of it doesn’t matter. Today is a new day, God’s mercy is brand-new, his love is rock-solid, it’s never ending, and never changing. Let me read again to you what David said in Psalms chapter 42:
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God…” (Psalms 42:5-6).
He started talking to his soul. He said: “Put your hope in God... Quit your whining and put your hope in God... And so, what I want to do in closing is to encourage your soul. When you’re tempted to look back and focus on the pain of yesterday or when you’re tempted to dwell on the trouble with today or when you’re tempted to focus on what might be tomorrow; train your mind to stop, shift gears, and call to mind the faithfulness of God in the past. This is what Jeremiah did as he was mourning, groaning, and complaining in Lamentations chapter 3. Watch as he shifts gears and says,
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:19-23).
Jeremiah says these are difficult times, but I remember God’s faithfulness in the past and therefore I call this to mind and have hope. Like David cries out to God, crying out to his soul,
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God…” (Psalms 42:5).
Put your hope in God. You don't have to live with this disturbance in your soul. You trust in his faithfulness. You trust in his power for the future. Trust that he is the Alpha and the Omega, he is the Beginning and the End, he is the First and the Last, and since he’s already in tomorrow; you can trust him with your future.
Just like King Hezekiah says in 2 Chronicles, chapter 32:
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles" (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).
Now God’s people were afraid, there was a battle they thought they couldn't win, but Hezekiah says:
“There is a greater power with us than with them. With him is only an arm of flesh...”
In other words, Hezekiah says, “They just have what they have, but we have what God has.” Isn’t that awesome? Doesn’t that move you? Doesn’t that stir your faith? They just have what they have, but we have what God has.
"...with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles..."
And I’m going to close with this, we have if you're a Christian, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living inside of us. Romans chapter 8 tells us,
“If the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:9-11).
You just gotta trust God's power for your future. You gotta put your hope in God. We believe this stuff, right? Why so downcast? You don’t have to live with this disturbance in your soul. You don’t have to live with that. As we close I want you to take a moment and just focus your thoughts on God; remembering his faithfulness in the past; crying out to him in the present, and trusting his power in the future. Put your hope in God.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 30, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.