by: Denise Robinson
The 4R's: Restore
1 Peter 5:6-11: Ps. 71:17-21
God is a God of restoration. Last week we began a stewardship sermon series, but one which admits that we can’t be good stewards of the church until we are in a right place spiritually. It’s impossible to give of ourselves if our spiritual tank is empty. So, last week we looked at what God has to say about rest. We all need times of physical and mental rest, but too often we forget about, or overlook, our need for spiritual rest. We carry baggage with us, and forget Jesus’ words, “Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Last week we wrote out those things weighing us down and watched them dissolve in water. But I suspect many of you this past week picked back up the baggage you released. It’s hard to let go. Rest is only step one in the process of letting go; today we move to step two, restoration. Rest gives us a break, but restoration begins the healing process. If there is a one theme above all running throughout the Bible, it’s that God is a God of restoration, as God continually tries to restore first Israel, then all humanity, back to himself and as Christ works to establish and restore the church to power through the working of the Holy Spirit.
The word “restore,” in one form or another, appears over 135 times in the Bible. Restoration begins as a personal process, in answer to a spiritual problem we face. Feeling abandoned or alone? “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters, he restores my soul.” Feeling like you have separated yourself from God and have done things that can’t be forgiven? David committed the worst sins imaginable and came to God praying: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” After that prayer, David wrote a praise song saying: “You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? … from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again … and comfort me once again. I will praise you for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you … you have rescued my soul.” Feeling run down and listless? Isaiah reminds us, “God does not faint or grow weary … he gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” And from Jeremiah, “For I, the Lord, will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Feeling depressed and wondering how life will turn out? From Ps. 119: “Your promises, O God, restore me and comfort me in all my troubles.” Jeremiah 29:11-14: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
Just as we need to feel God’s restoring touch in our personal lives, the same is true for us as a church. We are not the only church wondering if and how we can impact the community around us. We are not the only church wondering what the pandemic means in terms of church attendance. We are not the only church struggling with how to be relevant in a world today where increasing numbers of people don’t see God as relevant to their daily lives. And in such times, doubts and questions creep in. Does what we do matter? What if we try new things and fail? It might be helpful to remember that Christians in first century had the same doubts and fears. Peter wrote to the early church in our Scripture reading today: Cast all your anxiety on God, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Remain steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And, remember, the God of all grace will himself restore, support, strength, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart … We are afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … We believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. So, we do not lose heart.” The church has gone through difficult times for over 2,000 years, but it belongs to Christ. As Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
If it’s important to be restored, individually and as a church, how does restoration happen? There are several ways God offers restoration for our souls. While it may begin with spiritual rest, restoration doesn’t come to the passive. We are to seek it, desire it, ask for it, and claim it. One way is through prayer. Ps. 91: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue … I will protect the one who acknowledges my name. You will call on me, and I will answer. I will be with you in trouble, I will deliver you.” Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” A second way is worship. As Paul writes in Colossians: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … be thankful … Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” A third way is through devotional time and reading the Bible. There’s a way of reading the Bible called Lectio Divina (or sacred reading), that I want to introduce you to today if it’s something you’ve never done. This is something you can do daily in only a few minutes. Start by picking just a few Bible verses. Unsure of where to begin? Google “good verses for Lectio Divina” and that will get you started. This morning we’re going to look at Philippians 4:4-7. The verses are inside your bulletin on the inside to the right. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I’m going to sit down for a few minutes and I encourage you to pray that God opens your heart and mind to what these verses would say to you this morning. Then, after praying, read the verses to yourself several times. As you read and re-read the verses, think about what words jump out at you. What is the message for you today? (Break)
What immediately struck you from what you read? I’ve prayed about, thought on, and read these verses every day this past week. One day, when I was feeling frustrated, I was struck by, “The Lord is near.” I thought about what it means to me that God is close by my side. Another day, I needed reminded to rejoice in the Lord always. My car broke down this past week and had to be towed to the dealer and suddenly I wasn’t rejoicing. I needed to be reminded that I have a lot to be thankful for, and maybe I should focus on that since whatever is wrong with my car is wrong and stressing over it isn’t going to make a bit of difference. Another day, I was struck that we’re to pray in “everything” and to pray with thanksgiving. Don’t pray and wait and then give thanks. Pray always with thanks. That changes the focus of my prayer. And yesterday, I wondered what it means that God’s peace will “guard” my heart and mind. Not just be in my heart and mind, but guard it.
Here is my challenge for you this week. Take the bulletin home and put it on your refrigerator or your end table or wherever you will see it daily. Every day, whether in the morning, at noon, or at night, pray – read – reflect, on these verses. Let’s do this as a church. Let God speak to you through these verses. Make some notes each day on the message you hear most clearly. Consider making this way of reading the Bible part of your daily walk with God. It will restore your soul.
God, we have seen the damage that storms and stresses can cause in our lives and in our church. The past couple of years have been especially difficult and if we are being honest, at times it seems impossible that anything beautiful or good can come from such storms. We know within our hearts that this isn’t the end of the story, that you have something far greater to come, but some days it’s hard to see. God, we ask today for your healing presence in our lives. We pray restoration and peace. We place our hope and trust in you, knowing that because you see all that is, was, and is to come, you will do what is best. Restore the faith, hope, and joy of each person here today and restore the faith, hope, and joy of our church. In Jesus' name, Amen.
1 Comments on this post: