Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Overcoming Weariness

One of the major problems that people suffer these days is depression and weariness. This becomes a real problem when it overflows into the church. I think depressed Christians are one of the saddest things there are, after all, Christianity is supposed to fill us with Joy. Why do some people have joy in the church while others struggle with weariness, depression and oppression?

I want to examine that question from the Word of God. The Bible often gives us insight into our feelings and emotions. People are sitting in pews all over the world today and they’re wondering why they aren’t experiencing the promises of God. They’re wondering why they’re experiencing depression and weariness. They’re looking at the changes that have taken place in their lives and they’re thinking to themselves, “Is this all there is?”

“Is this is what’s meant by the Joy of Salvation, because I’m not feeling particularly joyful.”

Today, I want to show you from the word of God, how we can overcome depression and weariness in our lives.

Galatians 6:2-10
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load. 6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

The Weariness of Bondage and Oppression

If you have been a Christian for any amount of time then you have come to the understanding that the Christian life is supposed to be a blessing, after all, there is the promise of joy:

1 Peter 1:7-8
7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Peter is telling us, here, that with genuine faith comes inexpressible joy. But you might be saying to yourself, “Where is that promise in my life? I’m not feeling joyful; in fact, I’m feeling just the opposite. If that’s a promise then I should be experiencing it, but I’m not.”

If we look carefully at the promises of God we will see that they’re all conditional. If we meet with certain conditions then God will reciprocate with the fulfillment of His promises. We see an example of this in 2 Chronicles Chapter seven.

2 Chronicles 7:14
14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

IF we will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face AND turn away from our sin, THEN he will forgive our sin and heal our land. This is a conditional promise, there is a condition that must be met before the promise is fulfilled.

This is something we do with our children all the time, isn’t it? We tell them IF you will do your chores, without complaining, without me having to remind you, with or me having to get loud to get you to do it. THEN you will receive some reward, usually an allowance or something. Then it is up to them to do what’s necessary to receive the reward. This is what God does with us. There are no unconditional promises in the Bible. All of the promises of God come with something we must do before they are fulfilled.

IF we will sow, THEN we will reap. Any farmer understands this. If you plant seed then you will reap a harvest. If you don’t plant seed then you won’t reap a harvest. The condition of reaping the harvest is planting the seed.

Blessing comes from right giving:

Malachi 3:10
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.

IF we don’t tithe then we won’t know if God will pour out the blessing. Tithing is the condition to receiving the blessing.

If we believe in Jesus we will receive everlasting life:

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Whoever believes in Him will receive everlasting life. Whoever doesn’t believe in Him will perish. Believing in Him is the condition; everlasting life is the promise. If you want to receive the promises of God then it is critical that you live out the conditions to receiving the promises. If we refuse to live according to the will of God how can we expect to receive the blessing?

We all want the promise of Heaven, am I right? None of us wants to go to Hell. Well, there’s a condition to receiving that promise:

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

So the condition to receiving the promise of heaven is that we must do the will of the father.

The problem for many Christians today is that they’re tired and their worn out because they are still living in the same sin that they were involved in before they got saved. How many know that depression and weariness is brought on by guilt and shame. You know you’re not living right and so you’re depressed. Weariness comes from not doing the will of God.

Weariness comes from not living the will of God for our lives. Jesus is a filter in our lives, at least, He should be. The things that don’t belong in our lives should be strained out through that filter.

“I’m living for Jesus, so I shouldn’t be drunk.”
“I’m living for Jesus so I shouldn’t be fornicating.”
“I’m living for Jesus so I shouldn’t be lying, stealing, committing adultery, gossiping…”

Whatever thing I’m doing that is destroying my relationship with Jesus, I shouldn’t be doing. Have you ever heard this? I’m sick and tired of my lifestyle. I’m tired of partying. I’m tired of waking up sick every morning. I’m tired of feeling empty, unfulfilled, stressed out, used, broken. We’ve all heard that. As a matter of fact, some of us have actually said that.

But have you ever heard this? I’m tired of being blessed. I’m tired of being free of guilt and shame. I’m tired of receiving the promises of God. I’m tired of being joyful. You’ve probably never heard anyone say that.

It’s sin that wears us out and bums us out. It’s sin that destroys relationships and causes pain and hurt. If we will step out of sin then we step out of weariness. Sin is a bondage. It’s oppression in our lives.

John 8:34
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

Slavery is oppression; it’s a burden that we carry. Have you ever gone backpacking? What would be a simple casual walk becomes a difficult and exhausting trek with the added burden of a seventy-pound backpack. The oppression of slavery will cause us to groan under the weight.

Exodus 2:23-24
23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

They’re groaning under the weight of oppression and we, when in sin, also groan under the weight of that oppression. Sin causes weariness. People are sitting in churches weary and depressed because these things are working in their lives.

Overcoming Weariness

The question is, how can we overcome weariness? How can we throw off the shackles of depression? The first way is through conditioning.

A friend of mine races hand-powered bikes. The type of races he is involved in is the endurance race. These are not high-speed sprints, they’re races over time to test your physical strength and endurance. And so in order to be competitive he must work out regularly to make himself strong enough not to be overcome with weariness before the race is over.

Paul tells us we are engaged in an endurance race as well:

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

The one who endures until the end will be saved. In order to endure we must prepare ourselves by making ourselves strong enough to go the distance. An athlete calls this conditioning: We must condition ourselves for the race that’s before us.

This is what my friend is doing through exercise. He is conditioning himself so that he will have the endurance to complete the race. But the race that we’re in isn’t a bicycle race or a running race. It isn’t a physical test of our endurance at all. We are engaged in a spiritual race, so we must condition ourselves spiritually to to complete the race. Physical race: Physical conditioning…Spiritual race: Spiritual conditioning. It would be much easier if we could just lift some weights; run some laps; do a few pushups to get ready for the race. But, what we need is spiritual conditioning. We need to condition our heart to overcome the weariness that comes upon us. I believe there are three things that will condition to endure over the long run.

The first thing is prayer, particularly prayer before church. Prayer is what prepares us to hear from God, and hearing from God will energize you. have you ever walked away from service thinking, "God really spoke to me today, that was something I needed to hear?"

Prayer opens our hearts; it unburdens us from the day’s events. You can lay all the problems of life on God, “Here God, this is what happened this is how awful it was…” Then you can call on Him to speak to you. “God speak to me, give me direction…Help me God.” What was that promise? If we will pray and seek his face, then forgiveness will come and with forgiveness comes the unburdening of ourselves from sin. That weight of oppression will come off.

The second thing is to attend church with an air of expectation. Know that God will move. That’s an expression of faith. If you have an expectation of a powerful interaction with God, you’ll be excited about coming to church. It won’t be boring, who knows what God will do? If you are expecting God to do something powerful, or that he will speak something into your life, if you just know something is going to happen you will be excited. Excitement energizes.

The third thing is to be involved in the things of God. One thing that I have noticed is true in my life, is that when I lay around and do nothing I often wind up more tired than I was when I decided to take it easy. When I’m busily doing things, and have a feeling of accomplishing something I’m buoyed up, I’m excited and energized. When I take it upon myself to get up and go witness to strangers, or preach the Gospel in public or just get involved I feel better. I might be physically tired, but that bone weariness that comes from depression isn’t there.

So if we pray and open ourselves up to hearing from God: If we will attend church with an expectation of an encounter with an all-powerful God: If we will be involved with what God is doing, we will be conditioned and will be able to overcome depression and weariness. This is what will give us the strength to endure until the race is finished. We will be able to run the race with en durance.

Road to Redemption

So if we want to receive the promises of God we need to understand the conditions and what it will take to be able to receive them. Then we need to condition ourselves to make ourselves strong enough to endure the conditions of the promise. Finally, we need to create an atmosphere where God can move in our lives.

The problem is that sometimes we create conditions in our lives that hinder the movement of God. Sometimes, we are involved in sin; we’re unable to break free. It should be obvious that if we are still involved in sin that God can’t move there. Other times the problem is that we come to church with an atmosphere that must be overcome, before we can create an atmosphere where God can move.

We may get in argument with our spouse or someone in the church and we come in and bring that air of hostility with us. “I’m not talking to anyone, they’re all against me.” Or “I’m not talking with my husband, so I’ll just ignore him and tell the girls what a rotten husband he is.”

God has to overcome our attitude in order to do something in our lives. We haven’t created an atmosphere were God can move. Instead, we have hindered His movement. It is up to us to create an atmosphere where God can move to do something in us or through us. Our text shows us three factors in the creation of that atmosphere.

The first is “bearing the burdens of others.” Making ourselves available to bear the burden of another person. One of the major symptoms of depression is weariness. You want to sleep all the time. Sleep is an escape from hurt and sorrow. We don’t feel those things when we’re sleeping. But psychologists will tell us that the best way to overcome depression is to do something for someone else. If we are willing to bear the burdens of someone else in the church we will lose the weariness that we feel. That doesn’t mean that we should take all their problems and make them our problems. It’s not saying that we need to solve all of their problems ourselves. But we can help them with what they’re struggling by praying for them and with them. Or maybe by just being available to listen to their hurts or encourage them. Do you realize that a church is like a family, intentionally, so that we will care about each other and help each other.

The second thing is to “share all good things with him who teaches.” Do you realize that you can encourage your pastor by sharing with him the things that God is doing in your life? Your pastor really wants to see God moving in your life. People have a tendency to go to their pastor only with the problems and headaches. Maybe it’s not the pastor but the person who helped you or prayed with you. Maybe they had a scripture that they gave you to read. You can say, “Wow, that scripture really helped me…or that thing you said really helped me get through a tough time.” You can really encourage and bless that person by just telling them they helped.

The third is, “do good to all of the household of faith.” Do you know that it’s okay to bless other people in your church? Really, it’s okay; you can do something nice for someone else in the church.

I always marvel at my pastor’s wife and her energy level. She’s constantly doing things and never seems tired. If you asked her she would say, “God helps us.” That’s true, but one of the reasons, I believe she’s never tired is because she’s like this. She is always doing something for someone else. I remember when some young people got married a number of years ago. She organized a group to go and paint the house they were going to move into. This is not unusual. She’s always like that.

Do not grow weary in well doing for what you sow that you will reap. The promises are there for us. God has given us promises that he will deliver. God is faithful. But all too often we become weary and depressed, we become too weary to endure. But we can condition ourselves to endure and we can help each other to make it through.

When we help bear someone else’s burden we make our own load lighter. When we share in all good things to him who teaches, we encourage ourselves in the bargain. When we expend the energy to bless someone else, we are given more energy. We don’t have to lose heart. We can finish the race and endure until the end.

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