Whatever happened to hope? This was the question that launched our new summer teaching series last Sabbath entitled “Rest for the Stressed.” This series will be a journey through the beloved 23rd Psalm—six verses that contain a timeless formula for rest for the stressed.
In these six compact, but beautiful verses, David, himself a shepherd who knew first-hand the relationship of sheep to shepherd, reveals seven actions God initiates that result in rest for the stressed: He rests me, He leads me, He restores me, He guides me, He comforts me, He welcomes me, He blesses me. And because of these seven God-actions, David makes three life-affirmations in the three stanzas of this song: “I have everything I need” (vss. 1-3); “I have nothing to fear” (vss 4-5); and “I have a home with God” (vs. 6). Yet all the actions and affirmations flow out of the opening thesis statement in verse one: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Everything that follows hangs on this opening testimony.
There is rest for my stress when I know the Lord as my Shepherd. David here uses the personal name of God—Yahweh. The great “I Am” is my [your] Shepherd. What a difference this should make in our lives! The Lord not only created me, but He shepherds me. And because He does, and to the extent I allow Him, I have everything I need. If I have God, what could I possibly lack?
Life is stressful. No denying it. But to the extent that the Lord is your shepherd is the extent of your ability to find rest even in the midst of stress.
If rest for the stressed is provided by a relationship with the Shepherd, then no shepherd means stress with no rest—too busy to lie down in green pastures; schedule too tight to drink from still waters; life too full for a restored soul. So we make do with a DYI patched up soul—a duct-taped soul. It’s the scene Jesus saw that day when He “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)
But that should not describe you. Rewind to Psalm 34:9-10 and 84:11. There is rest for the stressed when you follow the Shepherd’s voice. We get off track and stressed when we follow other voices—including those we hear in our life-concussed heads. You know the voices—the ones telling you that you’re not good enough, etc…. But none of those are the voice of the Shepherd. Can we hear his voice? What does He say about me? Rewind to Jer. 31:4; Isa. 43:1, 4-5; John 10:14, 15, 28, 29.
If we are wacked out and stressed out and freaked out, perhaps we are listening to the wrong voices. Whose sheep are we anyway? If the Lord is my shepherd, I am loved, redeemed, summoned, precious and honored by one who has laid down his life for me and who holds me in the iron grip of His grace so that no one can snatch me out of His hand. I have everything I need! I am too blessed to be stressed.
Everything starts with relationship (intimacy)—the Shepherd knowing me and I knowing the Shepherd and following His voice. Intimacy with the Almighty is the source of rest for the stressed. In that relationship I have everything need—protection, salvation, and provision.
Do you hear His voice today? Do you know Him as your Shepherd? If you do, then you know whatever happened to hope. Hope is found in knowing the Lord as your shepherd. Follow Him today. –Pastor Randy