"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23 (ESV)
Recently I took a ‘vacation’ to travel back east for a conference and to see family. I drove over 1,000 miles while on my ‘vacation,’ then flew back on a Sunday to preach a message that Sunday night, then began plans for an event for hundreds of people. Vacations are exhausting! Do you ever feel like you need a vacation from your vacation?
Now that summer has swung into full gear, it is natural to view the season as a time for less responsibility and momentum. While there is some truth to that with the hot weather, the time off, no school, etc., I want to encourage you to look at this summer a bit differently. I think it can be a time of greater connection to God and a better clarity of His purpose for your life.
The Psalmist states, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The opening cry is a statement of contentment. Contentment is disciplining ourselves to ‘want all we have,’ as opposed to ‘having all we want.’ The point of the opening line is that God becomes the object and the source of all we desire. Naturally, there has to be a shift in our habits, thought processes, and what we allow to influence us to see contentment in our everyday lives.
So what makes us content? I would suggest that it is found in the following statements of Psalm 23. What makes us content is doing all we can to get as close as we can to the only One who can meet all of our needs. It takes a great resolve know a Great Shepherd. So who’s up for a vacation with God? Here are four steps to having God give you all you need.
1. Choose the right travel agent (v.1). If you have ever used a travel agent, or planned a trip yourself, you are fully aware that you cannot underestimate the value of having someone in your corner who knows the way. The writer of Psalm 23 utilizes the metaphor of a shepherd to let us know that the person who knows the way is the LORD. Jesus even took the truth one step further when He declared of Himself, “I am the way…” (John 14:6). The bottom line is that you will never get quality time with God until He is your shepherd, and He cannot be your shepherd through any other way than faith in Jesus Christ. Without a good travel agent, you lose a good vacation, without the Lord as your shepherd, you can lose eternity.
2. Choose the right destination (vv.2-3). So many of us simply want the wrong things and all too often find ourselves on the wrong path to those things. Our goals are self-serving and therefore limited. But by allowing God to ‘make’ us and ‘lead’ us, God can then ‘restore’ us and give us better paths to pursue.
3. Expect vacation distress (v. 4). Even the best trips can include lost luggage, delays, and even sickness. So it stands to reason that a journey with God, as long as it is in this world, can include some distress. But don’t worry, because even if you find yourself in the ‘valley of the shadow of death,’ you have nothing to fear because God is with you. Yes, you read correctly, even in the worst of times, God is with us. Even if that involves His discipline (rod and staff), we can be sure that the motivation is His love and care for us. That equals the capacity to have joy even in the midst of great trouble.
4. Enjoy the blessings (v.5-6). Ultimately God’s goals for us are good and involve His blessings. The reason for this is that when God’s people are right with Him and enjoying their relationship with Him, He is glorified. The greatest thing you and I can do to further God’s agenda is to find ways to glorify Him. In fact, that is what life is about. To find rest is to find that place where you and I can be free from the trappings of this world and cling to God’s goodness for the sake of His glory.
So what do you do next? Carve some time out of your schedule this summer and get alone with God, read your Bible (a journey through the psalms is a great summer study), pray lots, worship Him (sing to Him, write to Him, write about Him), try a summer ministry or Bible study, or pray about some people with whom you can reach out to and possibly share God’s love with.
Whatever you decide, don’t let this summer be a wasted time. Be active with God and for Him and in the process let God ‘restore your soul.’
Posted on Tue, July 9, 2013
by John Hill