“Consider Carefully” (Part One of Three) May 18, 2014
Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Most of us do too much and reflect too little. We are so busy with activity that we neglect time for reflection. Billy Graham once said to 600 ministers that if he could start his ministry all over again, he would study three times as much as he had done. “I’ve preached too much and studied too little.”
Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse, of Tenth Presbyterian Church, once quipped, “If I only had three years to serve the Lord, I would spend two of them studying and preparing.”
John Stott, in Your Mind Matters, writes, “One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read His mind and think His thoughts after Him, both in nature and in Scripture.”
What about you? Do you usually find yourself usually going from one task to the next, with little time to slow down and get some perspective on what you’ve been doing and where you are heading? Even when we have some down time, we are tempted to fill it with activities that keep our minds from meditating and reflection, such as watching TV.
For today and the next two Sundays, Lord willing, I want us to consider what the Bible tells us about considering. I want us to reflect on what God says about reflection. I desire that we ponder the things that Scripture calls us to ponder.
Look with me at Psalm 32:8-9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
Verse 8 contains the wonderful promise of divine guidance: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Isn’t that wonderful? The Lord promises to direct our future steps and give us the guidance we long for.
But in v. 9 we are cautioned that we must do our part; we must use the understanding that God has given us as those made in His image. “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” In other words, God will not guide us for the future as if we were animals who have no part in the process. Rather, God calls us to think, to reflect, and to consider. John Stott writes: “It is then, through the use of our own understanding, enlightened by Scripture and prayer and the counsel of friends, that God will lead us into a knowledge of His particular will for us.”
Brothers and sisters, God wants us to spend time in deliberately slowing down, in considering, in reflection, and in meditation.
This is one reason I have been granted a “semi-sabbatical” this summer. This is my 25th year of ministry at this church (not counting a previous three year stint here as the associate pastor), and I have asked and been granted a “semi-sabbatical” for the summer. I will preach once a month and still do the necessary administrative and pastoral work, but Keith Howland, Tom Sanders and Mark Sanders have graciously agreed to help out by preaching, teaching, leading services, and handling other responsibilities that I normally do.
Think about the analogy of taking time out once or twice a year to sharpen the blades on my tractor mower, so that those blades will be more effective. It takes time to stop and re-tool, but the net result is not only being more effective; it also means better discernment of the Lord’s will and drawing closer to Him.
Today’s Principle: God calls you to regularly curtail your activities so you can consider carefully your aims. How does He want you to do that? In at least four ways:
A. Through the one in seven principle (or pattern) of rest.
God Himself sets the pattern and example of resting one day in seven, as He rests from His six
days of creating the universe. (Gen. 2:2-3);
He commands us to observe the Sabbath Day of rest, in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8),
He provides a Sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4 “But in the seventh year the land is to have a
Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD., and the year of Jubilee.”)
These all required God’s people to stop their normal activities and to rest, so that they had to slow down and trust the Lord more, and get their priorities back in order, God’s order. And when they failed to curtail their activities, such as when they failed to stop working every seventh year, God said to them that He would curtail their activities the hard way… He would send them into exile for 70 years, to make up for all the years they had failed to slow down!
See 2 Chron. 36:20-21 “(The LORD) carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.”
In the New Covenant, the Sabbath day of rest finds its fulfillment in the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the first day of the week, as we rest in the finished work of Christ in His death and resurrection. Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.”
God calls you to regularly curtail your activities so you can consider carefully your aims through this one in seven pattern of rest.
So, carefully consider whether you are taking advantage of this one in seven pattern… and if you aren’t, what will the Lord have to do to make you stop and rest?
B. The need for nightly sleep reminds us of our limitations and God’s providence
Ps. 127:1-2 “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. (creating)
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. (conserving)
2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those he loves. Or, “for while they sleep he provides for those he loves”
Here is the vanity and futility of labor and long hours that is not based on trusting the Lord.
To work harder, to put in more hours, and to neglect needed sleep is not the answer.
So in the areas of building (projects, houses, ministries, etc.) or of security (physical protection, financial reserves, etc.) or of trying to raise a family and have your children turn out the way you want them to (Ps. 127:3-5), in all these areas of our labor and long hours, either the Lord ultimately does it, or our efforts are pointless and futile!
How interesting that God designed our minds and bodies that we require 6, 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night! He could have created us so that we could have kept going 24 hours a day, but He didn’t, so that we would know that He is in charge and we are not. He forces us, through our need for sleep, to recognize our limitations and to carefully consider our aims.
“Together with Matt. 6:25-34 (where Jesus commands us to consider the birds and the flowers!) God condemns on the one hand our anxious worry, and on the other hand, our feverish, self-confident labor. Both are unbelief.”
In John 15:5 Jesus said “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
God calls you to regularly curtail your activities so you can consider carefully your aims through your need for restful sleep. Is that message getting through to you?
C. Jesus called His disciples to get away and rest:
Mark 6:31 “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Jesus had sent out his disciples into the area to preach the gospel, and in so doing, they drove out many demons and healed many sick people. (Mark 6:7-13). Now they have returned to Jesus, no doubt tired, with their tanks on empty- physically, emotionally, perhaps even spiritually – and Jesus calls them to get away for a retreat and to get some rest. He who commands His disciples to go out and minister is also the One who commands his disciples to come in and be renewed by resting and slowing down. Literally, the text says that Jesus called them to “rest in the wilderness,” and this theme, of God providing rest for his people within the wilderness is a recurring one in Scripture. (See Dt. 3:20, 12:9f, 25:19; Josh 1:13, 15. 21:44: Ps. 95:7-11; Isa. 63:14; Jer. 31:12; Heb. 3:7-4:13). This theme, by the way, will be fulfilled in Jesus, who provides his disciples today with eternal rest, in Him.
Practically speaking, this getting away for rest can be done through taking a retreat, through a sabbatical (as I will be doing this summer), through a restful vacation, or by just getting away to a quiet place for an afternoon or evening, such as in a park.
It is very interesting what happens when you get alone and turn off all your electronic devices and quiet your mind and your soul. In the book Unbroken, Louie Zamperini is shot down over the Pacific Ocean in WWII and is on a raft in the ocean for 47 days… talk about getting away for some quiet rest!… and he is able to recall names and details from when he was 5 years old! The same was true for the POWs in the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War.
God has designed our minds that we must have some down time to be able to digest and sort through all the stuff we’ve crammed into our heads!
God calls you to curtail your activities so you can consider carefully your aims through your need for getting away and resting. When was the last time you did that?
D. The Lord Provides Us with His Perfect Peace as we Take Time to Carefully Consider.
Phil. 4:6-9 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Note the contrast: you can be anxious and worried about anything and everything (v. 6), or you can have the God of peace (v. 9) giving you the peace of God (v. 7.) Which one would you like?
How do you have God’s peace? Note how His peace is sandwiched around the idea of thinking about things. (v. 8) That is, God calls you to curtail your activities and your anxiety by carefully considering the good and godly stuff that He wants you to ponder.
What you think about will impact your life and your character. What you allow to occupy your mind will determine your speech and your action. So… do you let your mind dwell on problems you can’t control? Or do you meditate on good and godly stuff, which brings God’s peace?
2 Tim. 2:7 “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”.
Are you slowing down, from time to time, to carefully consider your aims and your activities?
Are you resting in Christ, and in His finished work for you, on the cross?