Sermon Notes – Thriving in Today’s Time.
Psalms 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
If I asked you name the most recited scripture spoken during a funeral, most likely you would say Psalms 23 or maybe Ecclesiastes 3 (A time for everything….). So, why is that we turn to this scripture at the end of our lives, instead of the beginning? It seems to me that a careful read through of these verses shed light on how to not just live your life, but to thrive in life.
To begin with, I think it best to look at three of the most common ways people live their lives:
- Striving – A constant struggle in opposition.
- Surviving – Just getting by. Neither hot nor cold, lukewarm.
- Thriving – Thriving is not just “doing well”, it is doing well enthusiastically!
Now that we have listed 3 ways in which people live their lives and a brief definition (for the sake of this message), let’s begin with a simple question; Why do people Strive?
Keeping in mind the definition given above regarding striving (struggling in opposition), we must realize that striving takes on two different aspects depending on the Salvation status of the individual. In other words, the lost and the saved. To the lost, striving is brought about from their separation from God. On the other hand, for the saved person striving is brought on by sin. In fact, there is no better place we see strife for the Christian than in Romans 7:14-25 where the Apostle Paul describes his internal struggle with sin. In fact, Paul states in verses 14-15, “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”(NLT). I love the fact that he owns up and takes responsibility by the admission that, “…the trouble is not with the law”, it is with him. Like all of us, he is describing the weekly, daily, hourly struggle we have with our fleshly desire and our propensity (an often intense natural inclination or preference) towards sin.
For this next reason that people strive, I want to address specifically the Christian. Christians strive because they take their eyes away from God. For the Christian, this is the number one and first reason why Christians strive. Permit me to explain, the next reason Christians find themselves striving is because they have taken their eyes from God. A great example can be found in Matthew 14:22-33 when Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water and begins to walk towards Jesus. He was doing fine, as long as he kept his eyes on the Lord. He was WALKING ON WATER! This teaches us many things but for today’s lesson we see that there is nothing we cannot do as long as we stay focused on the Lord.
Now that we have spent some time looking at striving, I wanted to only say this about surviving. You were not meant to just survive. Surviving is nothing more than the status quo and God desires more for you than getting by. In fact, Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God wants us to prosper, or thrive!
With both striving and surviving discussed, let’s look at how we can thrive using Psalms 23 as our guide. For today’s message I will only be focusing on the following three items:
- Make the Lord your shepherd.
- Being restored.
- Living a life of expectation.
Note: Although authorship cannot be 100% determined, it is widely agreed by scholars that David is the primary author of Psalms and for the sake of this post David is the author.
The Psalmist begins saying that the Lord is his Shepherd. So, if we are looking at this chapter as our guide to thriving, step one must be salvation. It is through salvation that we are transformed. It is through salvation by which the Holy Spirit enters in to our heart. Don’t take my word for it, look at Romans 8:9, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”(NASB) Moreover, Ezekiel 36:26 states, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”(NLT). Basically, the transformation these two verses mention is the process of turning us in to His sheep and sheep need shepherds! In fact, sheep are some of the most prone to wonder away animals. They seem to have a compulsion to want to always stray. In all honesty, I cannot think of a better comparison to how we have this compulsion to sin and how we need a protector and guide.
Next, the key to thriving can be found in verse 3. David writes that “…He restores my soul”. So you might be saying, “What does restoration have to do the health of our relationship with the Lord?”. Simply put, restoration is the result of repentance and forgiveness. Because we are prone to sin, it important that we seek restoration as soon as we sin. Again, sin causes the Christian to strive(struggle). Don’t take my word about the importance of restoration, look at what scripture states in 1 Peter 1:16, “because it is written, you shall be holy for I am holy”; With our propensity to sin, we need to realize that we must not stay in a sinful state. We need to be restored immediately! Don’t forget that David was a murderer, adulterer, and full of lust and regardless of all of his very human characteristics, David taught us about the need for restoration before anything else in verse 3b he writes, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”.
Moving on to my third point, people thrive by living a life of expectation. From the scripture above, David tells us that we can expect God to lead, guide, and direct our steps; as well as, how He will protect, provide, and promise our future. Even through there are many different examples in these verses, I want to bring out three areas that encompass all those individual items which are necessary to thrive.
First, you must pray with the expectation of God moving in that prayer. When you pray, are you confident that God has heard your prayer? While this article is not going to address the number of times you should pray for things, it will speak to your expectation of God’s answer to your prayer. John 14:13 states, “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” Now there are some key factors to address here:
- Asking for something in Jesus’ name, not your name.
Too often we find out selves asking for things we want and not need. Keep in mind, God wants to give you all the things you need to bring glory to God and it is through the exercising of those gifts you will truly thrive.
- Bringing glory to God, not you (or other earthly things)
Do you expect God to answer your prayers? When you pray, are you all in or do you leave a back door to keep you from being let down? Do you pray seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help identify those things that you need to pray about? All of this is expected of you when you pray. Scripture reminds us in John 14:13 – “You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.” That there is a certainty to be found in prayer when asking for something in God’s Name and I encourage you to seek that certainty through Christ.
Psalms 23 gives us some great direction for how we can, not just survive in the world, but how to truly thrive. David tells us that we should make the Lord our Shepard. A simple but yet profound change in your relationship with God. Next, David writes about the importance of being restored and living a life of constant restoration. Finally, the key for thriving in the world is to live a life of expectation. Expecting God to answer prayers, provide and protect should help you to find peace and not be fearful when you go out in to the world. I would like to thank you for reading this somewhat lengthy post and encourage your feedback and thoughts. You can send me your comments to:
Blessings and Peace to you!