Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Looking for rest in a restless world. . .

    How many of you have trouble sleeping?  Do you toss and turn?  Do you lie restless begging for rest?  Do you minds run wild while your body aches to sleep?  If that describes you, then you are not alone.  Over the counter sleep aids are some of the most commonly purchased items in the pharmacy aisle and prescription sleep medicines are a billion dollar industry.  Sleep clinics look for disrupted sleep patterns or breathing issues.  We are not alone in wanting rest but finding none.
    But it seems that Jesus knows nothing of your problem.  According to the Gospel reading, He slept through a storm while lying in near the transom of a small boat while it was riding out a fierce storm.  His disciples watched in wonder as Jesus slept and were not a little angry that He could lay there and sleep while they feared for their very lives.  Why can’t we rest like that?  What can we do to find such restful and peaceful sleep?
    Whether you want to admit it or not, sin is the great sleep stealer.  It raises storms within our minds and hearts that keep us awake and consume our attention when all we want is rest.  Sin teaches us guilt and guilt keeps us awake in search of a clear conscience.  The need for a clear conscience is epidemic and we even try calling sin good to make us feel better about it all.
    If guilt does not trouble us, fear does.  We are afraid to close our eyes because we see danger all around us.  Fed by a 24 hour news cycle of bad news, we do not feel secure in our homes or secure in our lives.  PTSD may be the fancy name for it but in many small ways we are all prisoners of guilt, fear, and stress.
    These threat become nightmares in which our fears take on shapes and wear faces.  Our fears are personified in our dreams and the end result is that we are tortured during our sleep by the things that afflict us during the day.  And in it all we just want a little rest, some peace, quiet, and sleep.
    Jesus is our rest.  Don’t laugh.  I mean it.  Jesus is the calm in the storms of our lives, the forgiveness for our tortured souls, the hope for our fearful hearts, and the peace for our panicked minds.  If we would know real rest at all, that rest comes from Jesus.
    Jesus may seem distant to us in our need but He is not unconcerned.  We are overly fearful.  We discount the meaning of God’s presence and overestimate the power of our enemies.  Greater is He who is in You than he who is in the world.  Christ challenges what panics us with the life strong enough to face all our enemies, even death.  Our hearts will not rest until they rest in Jesus.  Augustine said that 1600 years ago and it is still as true as when he first said it.  Jesus is our peace and our rest.
    Jesus does the right thing – not what we want or desire or think we need but what is right for us.  The call of faith is to trust in Jesus – to trust His will, His grace, His power, and His love.  That is the daily struggle that afflicts our lives and that is what haunts us in our restless nights.  Do you trust God’s good and gracious will in Christ?
    The call of God to His people is “where is your faith?”  And that is the crux of our problems with guilty consciences, fearful hearts, and over stressed minds.  We discount God and we over estimate the power of our enemies.  We do not turn our sins to Jesus so we carry guilt or think we can handle their poison.  We focus only on our fears and forget the promises of God that we should also pray as we tell God what troubles us.  We deal with the panic of the present as if we did not know where tomorrow was leading or the future God has already prepared for us.
    Jesus sleeps because He has no guilt, no shame, no worries, and no fears.  He is perfectly at peace with the Father’s will.  God it not like us – hallelujah!  We don’t need a panic button; we need a faith button.  Not a God who jumps at our command but ears to hear His still small voice in life’s storms.  We do not need explanations we can understand but faith to trust the Lord.  The cross tells us everything we need to know of God’s good and gracious will.
    Dad’s if you’re listening, teach this to your kids.  Teach your children to know Him who forgives our sins, protects us from our enemies, and sustains us in the day of trouble.  Dad’s, if you do this, you will have done something worthy and eternal for your children.  Tell them that they can rest in Jesus and then show them by your own example.  Faith keeps us from terror, not because it is hopeful, and not because it is soothing, but because Jesus is God and He has triumphed over all our enemies.
    Now is up to us to repent of our lack of faith, to repent over our sins so that our consciences can be clear, to believe in His promise more than we believe in the power of our enemies, and to rest in the gracious and eternal future He has prepared for us.  Then, just maybe, we will learn to sleep like a baby. . . or even better to sleep like Jesus because we rest in Him.  Amen.

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