We get overwhelmed because things happen that we can’t control—or we do things that we shouldn’t have done and we feel guilt and shame or anger or anxiety. We get overwhelmed because things don’t happen the way we want them to, or something happens that we don’t want to deal with. Like having to spend $900 that I don’t have to fix our 2004 Honda Element. Or the cat coughing up a hairball on the carpet. Little things, big things. Kids that need an attitude adjustment, parents that need to lighten up a little, people that let us down and disappoint us, or infuriate us. All this pressure all the time. Stress, fear, depression—we run to all our favorite coping mechanisms, favorite distractions. They help a little, but they don’t fix anything.
So, we’ve been talking about how the solution to all this is that Jesus says to come to Him when we’re tired, when we’re weary, when we’re sad — He promises (promises!) to give us rest. When we’re carrying the weight of the world, He promises to give us something lighter to carry. Take His yoke, it’s easy. Take His burden, it’s light.
Sounds good but how do we do it? Easier said than done. And even if we do, what kind of rest will we get? How is this religious platitude sounding promise any better than all the other empty promises and distractions and tricks we use to cope? I think that’s an honest question.
Prayer: Father in heaven, we’re at Your mercy. We’re at Your mercy and there’s no better place to be because You’re rich in mercy. Help us today to trust You more, to believe in Your goodness more — to have a deeper faith in the promises You’ve made to us for today and in our hope for tomorrow. Point us to Jesus so we can find true rest and peace. AMEN
Text: Colossians 3:14-17
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Teach and admonish each other with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”
This is the Word of the Lord—Thanks be to God.
There’s a lot going on in that little passage. I think it’s a pretty good description of what we can expect to happen when we come to Jesus—love, harmony, peace, thankfulness — it’s also a pretty good list of the ways He expects us to come to Him. Let’s break it down:
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” I like that image, we clothe ourselves with love, we put it on, we have to do it—and if we don’t... You know, whatever it is we’re overwhelmed about, we can always make it worse by getting stressed out and getting sideways with the people we’re closest to. We get behind in our work or paying the bills or we don’t feel good—those things are bad enough—but we can always make it worse, right? We can take it out on someone else. Then we have to deal with that mess, too. Nothing is so bad that it can’t be taken up a notch with some good old fashioned bad attitude.
I don’t know what it’s like at your house, but at the Hart house there’s lots of little tantrums. Me, Kim, the kids, the cat—the only ones who don’t throw tantrums are the dog and my dad. They get plenty of anger directed at them—especially the dog, mostly by the cat—but they seem to be impervious. The cat’s a jerk but the rest of us are actually pretty good about stopping short of throwing a complete fit and then saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just tired, or stressed about this or that, or not feeling well.” We’re pretty bad at grumping at each other—but we’re actually pretty good at how we do it. Like I said, first, we’re all pretty quick to say, “I’m sorry. I’m just in a bad mood” for whatever reason. Second, and this is something that took years of ninja-like kung fu training, we’re pretty good at not making the situation worse. We’re pretty good at letting each other vent a little and not throwing gasoline on the fire. We’re not perfect at it, it’s really hard not to respond emotionally to someone who is throwing a pile of steaming emotion at you. Someone gets on a high horse and most people want to get on a higher horse. Burst into tears, or get mad, or get defensive. Take that “alpha dog don’t take no attitude off no one” stance. “I don’t have to stand here and listen to you talk to me this way!” Most of us are way too quick to get offended or feel disrespected. But listen to me Grasshopper, learn this kung fu—be quick to apologize when you realize you’re taking your frustration out on someone, and—AND—when you’re the person getting the blunt end of the emotional baseball bat—learn how to not take it so personally. Don’t make it worse by responding with all the emotion they just stirred up in you. If they apologize, accept their apology and be done with it. Don’t play that “I don’t think you’re really sorry” game. That’s all just pride and insecurity. Stop trying to be right. Stop trying to be the smartest person in the room. Stop putting yourself first.
Or, as St Paul put it: “clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.”
Sometimes we get all the more overwhelmed with whatever’s going on in our life because we don’t bring our relationships to Jesus, too.
“For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.” Isn’t peace what we’re looking for? Sometimes you gotta make your own peace. Put it on like a Halloween costume, like your super-suit. Clothe yourself with love and let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your heart.
There’s no problem we can’t make worse by fighting with people we’re supposed to love. You might be overwhelmed but don’t take it out on other people. We have to show people mercy for the past, grace for the present, if we want to have hope for tomorrow. He ends this thought by saying “and always be thankful.” He’s gonna come back to that again—thankfulness is the real cure for most of our problems.
Bible. Prayer. Worship. When we’re overwhelmed Jesus says to come to Him, if we do He promises to give us rest. We’ve mentioned in this series that the main ways to come to Jesus are by reading the Bible, to come to Him in prayer, and by showing up for worship on Sunday.
St Paul says the same thing here, he says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Teach and admonish each other with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly—this means reading the Bible and getting those words off the page and into your head and your heart. “Teach and admonish each other with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God.” Sounds a lot like church, doesn’t it? That’s what we’ve been doing here all morning.
Do you know what church means? It’s just a word that means assembly. A gathering. But in the Bible it always means the assembly of people who believe in Jesus. The people of God who are gathered around the promises of the Gospel. Church is what happens when we get together to worship God because of Jesus.
It’s become all too common for people to call themselves Christians and not bother going to church. This is not good. It’s become all too common for people to think of themselves as “church going people” but only show up once or twice a month. This is not good.
Our nation is in crisis. Our culture is a wreck. It’s not gonna get better unless people start believing in God. And when I say God, I mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I mean Jesus. No one’s gonna believe us when we say Jesus is Lord, that He’s the way, the truth and the life, the most important thing in the world—if we continue to act He’s not very important to us. God sent His Son into the world—meh. Jesus died on the cross to forgive you of your sins—meh. He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, rules and reigns at the right hand of God the Father so you can have the promise of eternal life and glory—whatever. I wish this sermon would be over with so I could go home and watch TV.
When it’s Sunday, we gotta be here and act like we’re excited about it. Like it’s the most important thing in the world. Like it’s a priority. Joy is contagious. So is apathy. In our culture, apathy is winning. I think that’s mostly the church’s fault.
But I do see some excitement here. It’s been awesome over the past few weeks that our little church is growing. That guests are coming back. I’m very encouraged. But this apathy I’m talking about is a nationwide, cultural problem. There’s too much lukewarm, unfaithful nominal Christianity. It’s not an acceptable response to Gospel and the love of God. Let’s continue to do our part to keep the flame of true, faithful worship going so we can pass it to the next generation. Okay?
American Christians are too individualistic. The idea that we can do it on our own—just me and Jesus at home—it’s a lie. It’s a refusal to come to Jesus the way He commanded us to. It keeps us apathetic, overwhelmed, depressed, stressed out and lost.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Teach and admonish each other with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God” and then he adds “with thankful hearts.” Go to church. Worship together. Do it with thankful hearts.
Or don’t. Stay overwhelmed, stressed out, filled with inner conflict and nervous anxiety, see if I care.
I do, I care. That’s why I brought it up.
There’s no problem we can’t make worse by being lazy and unfaithful in our worship—finding every excuse in the world to skip church. There’s no problem we can’t make worse by being unimpressed and unthankful. Responding to God with thankful praise is what worship is all about. It’s where we find mercy for the past, grace for today, and hope for tomorrow.
The last chunk of our text says this, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” This means that we do everything as Christians—representatives of Christ. Whatever we do, we represent Jesus to each other and the world when we do it. At work. At school. At home. At church.
So, how do we do that? How do we represent Jesus? Grow our hair out and wear a toga? Walk around with a sign that says “the end is near” and scare people? Point our fingers at their sin and say God hates them? No.
We represent Jesus by loving people. We clothe ourselves in love. We’re the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in the world. We clothe ourselves in love like it’s our super-suit, and we get out there and show the same kind of love to other people that Jesus has shown us.
When we do that it’s gonna be obvious. You’ll know when you’re loving people the way Jesus loves us because it’s gonna bring joy to your life. Loving people will bring joy to your life and it’ll bring joy to all the people you love. You’ll not only find yourself feeling peaceful—you’ll go around making peace, creating peace. Love brings its own peace. When you love people, you’ll not only show them patience, but you’ll actually be patient and feel patience. Loving people means you’ll show them kindness. You’ll have kindness in your heart for them. You’ll want goodness for them and you’ll be good to them. You’ll help them do the right things. When you love someone you’ll be faithful to them, they’ll be able to count on you, you’ll be loyal. You’ll be gentle, with your words, with your actions, even with your thoughts. And because you love them, you’ll have self control—it’s the opposite of what our culture thinks: if you love someone then you’ll show sexual self control. You’ll control your lust. You won’t use people for selfish pleasure. If you love someone you’ll control your emotions. You’ll control your temper.
All of that’s what it means to clothe ourselves in love. To love people. This is our gift to each other and to the world. It’s our best defence against making bad situations worse. St Paul says in Galatians 5:22 that this is the actual fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Love is what grows out of us if God places His spirit in us. This is what becoming holy is going to look like in our life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
That’s good news for us. Not only because it means we can expect fellow Christians to treat us with at least a modicum of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—and we can expect to grow in our own ability to love people. But it’s mostly good news for us because this is how we can expect Jesus to treat us when we come to Him.
It means that the One who came to earth and lived a perfect life for us, the One who died as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—your sin and my sin, the One who rose from the grave on the third day and promises that one day you and me are gonna do the same, the One who ascended to heaven and sits on the throne of heaven—so that you and me can bring our prayers to Almighty God. We can worship God in Spirit and in Truth. We can sing songs of praise with thankful hearts in the presence of God. It means that Jesus, who is the judge of us all, with all power and authority over all creation and all kings and all rulers—that when we stand before Him on the last day—it means we don’t have anything to be worried about, because He loves us. And His love is perfect.
No matter what we’ve done or what we do, we can come to Him and He will be patient with us, He will be kind to us, He will be gentle with us and not punish us according to our sins. He will be infinitely more faithful to us that we will ever be to Him, and He’ll keep all His promises even though we’re gonna falter sometimes. He’ll control His anger and disappointment and show us mercy and grace. He’ll give us joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He’ll give us peace. The peace of God passes all understanding. This is what it means for Jesus to love us. This is what we can expect, every time, when we come to Him with our troubles and our sorrows and our burdens—our sins.
Come to Jesus. So come on. There’s no problem, no trouble, no season of being overwhelmed that we can’t make worse by refusing to come to Jesus. We need to come to His unlimited, boundless love every day. Every week. All the time. This is where we’ll find mercy for the past, grace for today, hope for tomorrow.
One last thought about hope. The Bible says there are two paths. One leads to the grace and mercy of God—paradise, heaven and joy everlasting. The other leads to judgment and death, the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his demons. C.S. Lewis said wherever a person finally ends up, they’ll most likely look back on their life and it will seem to them as if they had always been going there. The damned will look back on their overwhelmed, miserable existence and think, “life is pain, then you die, there never was any hope—it’s always been hell.” But the redeemed will look back on their life and see God’s hand working grace and mercy in everything, it will all be worth it because it led to overwhelming joy and beauty and glory. They’ll look back and see this thread of hope that guided them through every trial, every pain, and every disappointment—all the way to everlasting life and salvation. When we are overwhelmed, for any reason, Jesus says to come to Him. He promises we’ll find mercy for the past, grace for today, and hope forever. AMEN