This is a series about being overwhelmed. When we feel like we have too much to do, too much to deal with, when life seems like some kind of chaotic attack, bombarding us from every direction. Nobody wants to be overwhelmed like that. Jesus promises He can help.
Last week we looked at a promise that Jesus made to all of us. He said,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you that I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I don’t think we can get enough of that promise. I don’t think we can hear it too much. This week we’re gonna look at a very specific and practical application of what it means to “come to Jesus.”
Prayer: Father in heaven, we need the rest You have promised us. We need to be overwhelmed with Your love and kindness and mercy. We need to be challenged so that we are serious about how You want us to abide in Your Word, and we need to be comforted with Your promise of forgiveness and mercy for when we neglect You and fail. Speak to us today, Lord. Direct us and change us, in Jesus’ name. AMEN
Back when I had a little bit of money and was trying to be a good rock star, I hired a physical trainer to help me get in shape. His name was Andre, he made it his personal mission to torture me so I could look good in leather pants—should I ever have a need to wear such things. He had a thick German accent and would follow me around the gym correcting how I lifted weights, tell me when to run, when to go faster, when to go slower—and he was constantly reminding me to breathe. “Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, slowly. Deep breaths. Exhale. All the way.”
Breathe Deeply. There have been studies that show most of us don’t really know how to breathe. We just kinda sip air all day. We don’t get enough deep, lung-filling breaths to give our cells the oxygen they need to do what they need to do—replicate, heal, keep us alive and healthy. To fuel our brains and keep us thinking clearly, sleeping well... Go ahead, take some extra deep breaths right now, try to make up for all that wimpy, shallow breathing you’ve been doing all morning. Andre was constantly reminding me to breathe slowly and deeply. Anyone who teaches meditation or how to deal with panic attacks or what to do when you’re having a baby—they’re gonna have you concentrate on breathing. According to Dr Matthew MacKinnon, a resident physician at the University of Washington, there’s nothing you can do that’s better for relieving anxiety and stress than mindful, slow, deep breathing. Breathing. Something you think you already know how to do. Something you do all day every day without thinking. But he says you have to be mindful about it. Be deliberate about it. He says you’re probably doing it wrong.
Andre was also all about what I ate. He said, “You can’t outrun your diet.” He had me keep a food journal and show it to him every day. I was supposed to write everything down that I put in my belly. But you know how that goes—I didn’t want to have to justify chocolate donuts and pizza, so my food journal ended up a bit “curated.” “Frank, I’m not sure why we’re not seeing the results we’re expecting.” “Yeah, it’s quite the mystery, Andre—can’t be explained. No idea.”
If you’re overwhelmed. Stressed. If you don’t feel like you’re experiencing the rest that Jesus promises—if you’re not getting the expected results—could it be because you’re not actually following through on the program?
What does it mean to “Come to Jesus?” Let me ask you this: When Jesus says to “come to Him,” what do you think He means by that? How are we supposed to come to Him? We talked about it last week. He invites us, and we come to Him in prayer, we come to Him in worship, and we come to Him by reading our Bibles. We lay down our heavy burdens and we start carrying His light burden. We can’t lay down our heavy burden—which is sin—unless we trust Him and have faith that He did that for us on the cross. When Jesus talks about “rest,” He’s talking about the kind of rest that comes from trusting that He’s loving and kind—that He’s not out to get you. That it’s His idea to forgive you and save you from all the damage that’s been done in your life. But if you think you know all that—you think you know all about Jesus—and you still feel stressed and overwhelmed and not getting the rest that Jesus has promised—it’s probably because you’re not actually coming to Him. You’re probably just trying to fool yourself.
We’re either running away from our problems and trying to hide from them, or we’re running to Jesus and trusting His promises.
I did eventually see results from my training with Andre. When I started, I wore a size 44 pants and weighed 250lbs. It took over a year, training almost every day, but I got down to a 30 inch waist and 160lbs. I even tried on some of those leather pants—that was not for me, I don’t know how anyone wears those things, they don’t breathe, they’re so miserably hot. No thanks. But I got skinny, I went on tour and did all the rock n roll stuff, it was a blast—but then one day the ride was over. Record label dropped us and we came back to Houston with our tail between our legs. Really hit me hard. I got depressed. I tried to drown my feelings with lasagna and Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. I couldn’t afford Andre anymore so when I went to the gym, I was on my own and just wanted to get it over with. No deep breathing. No proper technique. Just kinda half-hearted workouts doing the things I didn’t mind doing. Skipped the boring and painful stuff. I went to the gym a few times a week, but I didn’t outrun my diet. I didn’t run at all. Eventually I just stopped going. I got super big over the next 20 years with some type 2 diabetes on the side.
I was overwhelmed and I turned to the wrong things to deal with it. I tried to eat my way out of sadness but the more weight I gained the more depressed I got. My faith got flabby, too. I didn’t stop believing, I still prayed and read the Bible—but it was kinda like my exercise routine. I just did it to get it over with. I would have told you I was following Jesus, still coming to Jesus, but the result was not true rest. I was just sipping His grace. Just enough to survive. God never gave up on me and He sustained me through it all—but I was getting as unhealthy spiritually as I was physically.
What do you turn to when you get stressed? Overwhelmed? For me it was food. Food and my favorite distractions. Like movies, TV shows, music—all the things that go really well with fajitas and cheesecake. What about you—what do you want to do when you feel overwhelmed? Sportsball? Social Media? Talk radio? Watch the news—that’ll really help you relax. Nothing like the deteriorating state of the world to give a little peace of mind. Maybe you like to read. Romance, Science Fiction, self help. Or maybe a little self medication—reach for a bottle? Try to drink your troubles away? Smoke it away? Maybe sneak away and look for some escape in a private browser? Maybe you clam up and crawl inside yourself when you get stressed. Maybe you take your frustration out on other people? Get into destructive relationships—looking for love in all the wrong places? A lot of people just pour yourself into your work, into your hobbies, keep busy doing projects, or literally try to run from your problems by running, or biking, or working out like your training for the Olympics.
Some of these things are fine as far as it goes, but some of them are completely destructive and evil. But when we’re stressed and tired and feeling heavy—overwhelmed‚ none of these things are gonna give us the rest Jesus promised. None of them will give us the promised rest that we actually need.
We’re either running away from our problems and trying to hide from them, or we’re running to Jesus and trusting His promises.
We need to come to Jesus. We need to be deliberate about it. Faithful about it. We need to do it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We need to breathe deep. Go slow. Take our time and make it count. Read our Bible and pray like Andre was watching us and coaching us. Show up for Bible study and worship as if each one of us was Andre and like it was our job to help encourage other people in their spiritual growth. One of the most encouraging things you can do is just show up. When your church friends know that you’re expecting them to be there—worship on Sunday, your Sunday School class before church, your midweek Scattered Bible Study—your friends are gonna be far more likely to do the right thing and show up if they know you’re expecting them to be there. That’s part of why a personal trainer is helpful—accountability.
There was about fifteen years when I was trying to lose weight but nothing worked. I did Atkins, Nutrisystem—whatever goofy diet that popped up—well, half-hearted attempts at them anyway. I did everything except what I knew would work, because I wasn’t willing to actually cut out the things that I knew were making me fat—bread, rice, pasta, beer. I wasn’t willing to eat less and move more. It actually wasn’t until April of 2018 that I made myself start doing the things that would actually get results. But amazingly—that was 40 or 50 pounds ago—It’s working but it’s still a daily struggle. No more diabetes, but I still need to lose the equivalent of a Thanksgiving turkey before I’m done—and I’ll never really be done.
It’s gonna be a daily struggle. And it’s no different with our spiritual disciplines. I turned the corner on daily prayer and Bible study a long time before I got serious about my diet—probably about the time my kids were born. In both cases, though, I knew what to do a long time before I actually started doing it. But it you want peace. If you want the promised rest that Jesus says He’ll give you when you come to Him, you’re gonna have to do it for real.
You’re gonna have to come to Him in prayer every day, you’re gonna have to come before Him in worship with your church family at least once a week, and you’re gonna have to make real time in your daily schedule to get the words that are in that Bible into your head and into your heart.
30 Minutes. You’re gonna need to find a block of time every day that you can devote to prayer and Bible reading. There’s no way around it. No shortcuts. It needs to be at least a 30 minute block. If you gotta get up 30 minutes earlier so you can have uninterrupted quiet time before your day explodes into chaos—then that’s what you gotta do. If you gotta turn off the radio on your drive to work so you can pray for your family, your friends, your church—then turn off the radio and pray. Out loud, like you really believe it. If you have to use the Bible app on your phone and listen to one of the many audio Bibles that are completely free—then figure out how to do that.
Or stay spiritually flabby. Stay weak and overwhelmed.
You’re either gonna run away from your problems and trying to hide from them with all your favorite distractions, or you’re gonna run to Jesus and actually trust His promises.
This block of time needs to happen every day—every week day anyway—and don’t approach it like you’re just trying to get it over with. To get the rest that Jesus promises you, you have to come to Him, you have to really believe and make it a priority to really do it.
Hebrews 4:12-13 is a perfect example of what it looks like to come to Jesus through His word. It shows that reading the Bible is like a deep breathing exercise, you can’t rush it. You have to go slow. God’s Word is alive and powerful. Don’t be in a hurry. You need to handle it with care. It’s like a really sharp knife—you need to be mindful of what you’re doing. It’s sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword. We read it, we hear it, we meditate on it, and it goes deep into us—cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. You need to take time to let it do what it does, let it marinate. It’s going to expose your innermost thoughts and desires—God’s going to use His Word to show you what’s really going on in your heart and mind. Nothing’s going to remain hidden. You’ll see yourself the way He sees you. You’re gonna be naked and exposed before Him—which can be very uncomfortable and challenging—but you’ll also see yourself the way He sees you because of Jesus. Through grace and love and mercy—through forgiveness.
Another verse that really lets us know what’s happening when we spend time reading the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Because the more time you spend in His Word, the more you’ll learn. You’ll know what it’s supposed to look like to be faithful. You might think you already know—let me assure you, you don’t. Stop fooling yourself. None of us have that all figured out, even if we started in childhood and kept learning our whole life, there’s always so much more to learn. We gotta be at it every day if we want the wisdom and salvation that only comes from trusting Jesus. God inspired the Scriptures and gave them to us, passed down from generation to generation, so we’d know what’s true, what's wrong in our lives—it corrects us when we mess up and shows us what’s right and good. We can’t know what we’re supposed to be doing and not doing in this life unless we come to Jesus through careful, deliberate attention to the Scriptures.
God’s Word is the standard, not our opinions, not our grandma’s opinions. If we at any time find ourselves at odds with God’s Word, if we find ourselves disagreeing with what it says, if we think God’s being unfair, or too demanding, or too intolerant—we need to check ourselves. We’re the one who’s wrong.
Matthew 11:28-30. If you find yourself doubting the promises of Jesus, because you don’t like the way things are going in your life—then you need to come back to Jesus. You need to remember that He’s gentle and kind. You need to come to Jesus and remember that God’s not out to get you. If you doubt that God can forgive you because you’re having a hard time forgiving yourself—or forgiving someone who hurt you. You need to come to Jesus and lay all that heaviness down. Trust Him. Lay down that burden of thinking you know better. That’s too much to carry. You’ll never make it if you keep holding on to that kind of prideful arrogance.
You’re either gonna spend all your time trying to run away from your problems and hide behind your favorite distractions, or you’re gonna deliberately run to Jesus and start actually trusting that He promises to give you rest. He’ll give you something lighter to carry, but you’re gonna have to actually carry it.
Come to Jesus if you’re tired and He promises to give you rest. One way to come to Him is to come to the divinely inspired written Word of God—the Bible. The word “inspired” means that God breathed it out. He breathed it out so that we can breathe it in. Breathe deeply. Slowly. Let God’s Word do its proper work in your heart and your mind and your life. Breathe in the promises of God that are found in Jesus. He lived, He died, He rose from the dead. For you. To give you the rest you long for. To save you, redeem you, forgive you—of all your sin, even your inability to perfectly do all the stuff I’ve been talking about this morning. Even becoming His disciple and carrying the lighter burden He offers is only possible because of the Gospel, because of grace. It’s all an undeserved gift—rest that He gives from the troubles you’re facing now, and the eternal rest in the life to come. It’s all yours.
Breathe His life into your life. Receive His promised rest by faith. Breathe in “the overwhelming, never ending, perfect love of God.” The more we’re overwhelmed by what Jesus has done for us, the less we’re gonna be overwhelmed by all the stuff we have to deal with in our daily grind. The more we’re overwhelmed by the grace and kindness that God has shown us in Jesus, the less we’re gonna be overwhelmed by the heaviness of the world. Breathe in His mercy and love and forgiveness. Then, with every breath, let thankful praise pour out of you. Now and forever.