It has been talked about and reported so often that Americans are too busy, too driven, and, as a result, chronically fatigued, that it’s not news any more. But it is worth talking about, because it affects every aspect of our lives AND because God created us to rest. Remember our discussion of Genesis 1. From the beginning, before there were calendars and clocks, before businesses and bosses were even thought of, God commanded that one day of the week be set aside for rest, recreation, and renewal.
As I have thought about this topic the last three weeks, I decided a little context might help. I went looking for some information that might objectify this sense that we are a nation of walking weary. I found a couple items. I’m not offering them as proof, but as numerical anecdotes that illustrate the pervasiveness of the problem of weariness.
“Americans Are Tired Most Of The Week”by Niall McCarthy, Jun 8, 2015
“How many days of the week do you wake up feeling exhausted? If you really feel like a slave to your alarm clock, you aren’t alone. Only one in 7 Americans wake up feeling fresh every day of the week, according to a poll conducted by YouGov. Experts have recommended eight hours sleep, though seven hours should also be sufficient.
“45 percent of Americans sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night reported feeling tired or fatigued up to three times a week. 27 percent of people said they wake up tired on 4 or more days per week. Those only managing six hours sleep or less each night are, quite unsurprisingly, the most tired. 54 percent of people getting six or less hours sleep wake up tired 4 or more days a week.”
<Retrieved at https://www.statista.com/chart/3534/americans-are-tired-most-of-the-week/ on 2/16/17.>
“The Enormous Cost Of Sleep Deprivation” by Niall McCarthy, Dec 2, 2016
“Are you getting enough sleep every night? According to a new study from Rand Europe, sleep deprivation is a serious and costly problem for the globe’s major economies. In the United States, 1.2 million working days are lost every year due to insufficient sleep, costing a whopping $411 billion. That equates to 2.28 percent of the country’s GDP. Japan is also suffering the effects of sleep deprivation, losing 600,000 days and $138.6 billion annually.”
<Retrieved at https://www.statista.com/chart/7052/the-enormous-cost-of-sleep-deprivation/ on 2/16/17.>
These statistical snapshots seem to support the general conclusion that we are weary and our weariness is costing us. Fortunately, God has provided several things we can do to combat weariness. We will continue that study today and learn another step faithful people can take when trials threaten to weigh us down.
What do we do when we are wearied?
- Continue to do good anyway.
- Wait on the Lord.
- Stand firm; hold tight; hang on to Jesus’ hand.
Do not take your eyes off the prize. Please read Philippians 3:12-16 in your favorite Bible, I have used the NIV for these remarks.
In vs. 12-14 Paul admitted that he had more to learn and room for improvement. But he did not focus on his failures or the wearying parts of life. Instead, he oriented himself toward the future. We clearly see that orientation in the following: I PRESS ON…FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND AND STRAINING TOWARD WHAT IS AHEAD, I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL.
PRESS ON is a hunting term; “to pursue, chase, run down.” This is an aggressive term, indicating the passion Paul had for knowing Jesus Christ and expressing His character in the way Paul lived.
FORGETTING WHAT IS BEHIND means whether we see the past through rose-colored glasses, exaggerating its good points, or through dark glasses, exaggerating its ills, the fact is that it is behind us and will always remain unchanged. A concentration on the past contributes to weariness. Looking to the future – with optimism or pessimism – gives us strength and excitement.
STRAINING TO WHAT IS AHEAD = STRAINING is an athletic word, picturing a runner giving everything he’s got to finish first. Think of that final lunge across the finish line. His emphasis was on the time frame over which we can exert the most influence: the future. Human nature is such that we move in the direction we’re looking. That is a physical truth and a spiritual one as well.
I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL turns the hunting imagery to track and field. In any case, “pressing on” is not necessarily easy and does not always feel like a success, but it is necessary, and it is a path toward healing weariness. The Greek word translated as “goal” pictures a physical marker that indicates where the finish line is located. In spiritual terms, the GOAL is becoming more like Jesus as we move ahead toward eternal life.
In v. 15 Paul confidently asserts that all maturing believers will share this orientation toward the future. There is no room for disagreement on this matter. Well, he was an APOSTLE, after all!
In v. 16 we are told the bottom line is that we don’t regress. We are committed to not moving backward. When we are weary we may be truly incapable of moving forward, but we should at least not give up any ground.
Please read Hebrews 3:1-14; 4:14 in your favorite Bible. I use the NIV. Keep the faith you received.
In 3:6 we read BUT CHRIST IS FAITHFUL AS THE SON OVER GOD’S HOUSE. AND WE ARE HIS HOUSE, IF INDEED WE HOLD FIRMLY TO OUR CONFIDENCE AND THE HOPE IN WHICH WE GLORY. The object of this verse is to teach us about the essential role of Jesus Christ in our salvation. Based on that fact, we have something substantial on which we can HOLD FIRMLY. Our CONFIDENCE and HOPE are safe and secure as long as they are based on the truth about Jesus Christ.
When we dilute that truth by allowing modern culture to change our minds, then our CONFIDENCE and HOPE are less reliable. Notice the phrase IN WHICH WE GLORY. This means that our CONFIDENCE and HOPE is what gives us true joy, real strength.
In 3:14 it is written WE HAVE COME TO SHARE IN CHRIST, IF INDEED WE HOLD OUR ORIGINAL CONVICTION FIRMLY TO THE VERY END. We tend to focus on beginnings, don’t we? We get sentimental about firsts and that includes our Christian faith. We also lump beginnings and endings into one, deleting the process in the middle.
These tendencies come back to bite us when we think that baptism or joining a church is the end of it. This is why people sometimes disappear from church once they have achieved milestones like this.
However, Paul here reminds us of a central truth: how we begin our journey of faith is important, but it is of greater importance how we continue it and how we end it. Commitments to Christ can be easily made in a moment, but professions of faith must be proven true by doing the hard work of living for Jesus each day, through the end of your life. Our CONFIDENCE and HOPE are safe and secure as long as they are based on the truth about Jesus Christ.
For example, He is superior to any human priest because He is THE SON OF GOD. Our faith asserts that He is fully God and fully human at the same time. Any teaching that shrinks from this assertion is false. The human side of Jesus’ nature assures us that He is sympathetic with our condition, having experienced it Himself. The divine side of Jesus’ nature assures us of our salvation: because He is God He is able to save us.
In 4:14 we are told THEREFORE, SINCE WE HAVE A GREAT HIGH PRIEST WHO HAS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, JESUS THE SON OF GOD, LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO THE FAITH WE PROFESS. The object of this verse is to teach us about the priestly role of Jesus Christ. In the OT system, a PRIEST was a mediator between God and His people. The HIGH PRIEST had an especially important role in that he offered the annual Day of Atonement sacrifice for the sins of the nation. Jesus is superior because HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, a greater feat.
Notice Jesus is our GREAT HIGH PRIEST, far superior to any person who ever held that office. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sins and that was done once and is effective to save all people in all places at all times. Everyone who accepts this act of grace will be saved.
This is a question that pains me as a Minnesota Vikings football fan. HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF WALTER PAYTON? Walter Jerry Payton from the state of Mississippi. Payton lived from July 25,1954 until November 1, 1999. He was 45 years old when he died of a liver disease.
Mike Ditka was Payton’s coach and he said: “Walter was a great player, but he was even a greater man.” Payton’s nick name was “SWEETNESS.” Payton played for the Chicago Bears and so was constantly a thorn in the side of the Minnesota Vikings. The worst was setting a single-game rushing record that I believe still stands.
Because it is too painful for me to recount and to avoid boring you good folks, I will spare you all the statistical evidence and just say it can be argued that Payton was the greatest running back of his time, perhaps of NFL history.
Someone once asked Walter, “Where did your greatness start?” Walter said: “When I started playing my junior year the coach told us to run up and down the hill behind the school 25 times.” Most of the players ran up and down the hill a few times and went to the locker room. I started to go with them and then I thought: “No, the coach said run the hill 25 times, so I went back and was the only one who would run the hill 25 times. That may have been a turning point for me.”
Payton’s Motto? “NEVER DIE EASY — ALWAYS GET UP — NEVER QUIT — KEEP ON TRYING.”
<By Wade Martin Hughes, Sr. Kyfingers@aol.com, retrieved from https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-wade-m-stories-84249 on 02/17/17.>
“Never die easy;” that has a strange ring to it, doesn’t it? But I think it has a great similarity to the words we’ve just studied in Hebrews. Weariness is going to happen. Discouragement sets in. When these trials come against us, what are we to do?
One of the things we are to do is resist the urge to quit. Instead of giving up as a way to try to ease our pain, we need to hang on more tightly to the truth. Here is one essential truth to which we must cling: Because God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us. If we remain in Him, the outcome is assured. We will triumph.
- Focus on the basics: prayer and the Word.
- Rely on the Lord’s strength, not yours. (RMS 8:13)
- Share your burdens. (GLS 6:2)
- Spend your sorrow on service.
- Invest in wellness.