• Matt Beaney

#519 (6/1/22) OVERCOMING SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION THROUGH RESTING IN CHRIST



On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Yesterday, we looked at the importance of physical rest, today, I’d like us to consider the spiritual rest that we must learn to live in. It’s vital that when were are working - I use the term very broadly - that we are working from a place of rest. What does it mean to live, work, serve, parent…from a place of rest? Carey Nieuwhof once said,

“Time off won’t heal you when the problem is how you spend your time on.”

Giving yourself days off, sabbaticals, naps… are good, but your problems with spiritual depression are fundamentally spiritual! Time off is good, but it’s more important that we learn to live at all times from a place of spiritual rest in Christ. How we carry things is as important as what we carry.


Elijah was exhausted and fell asleep, but that not the same as being at rest in our souls.

‘Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.’ (1 Kings 19:3-5)

Elijah was exhausted and needed physical rest. However, he also needed to rest in God. Jezebel’s threat had filled him with fear and had caused him to run for his life into the desert, rather than resting in God’s power, he is believing the lies that the enemy was greater than God! Elijah says of himself, ‘I am no better than my ancestors’; in effect, he seems to be saying, “I am a sinner and worthy of death like my sinful ancestors.” Elijah has lost his sense of being accepted by God and felt that he deserved death.


Like Elijah, we need to rest in Jesus’ protection over all evil that is against us. We need to rest in our justification and peace with God, no matter who our ‘ancestors’ were or what dark situation we find ourselves in.


REST IN CHRIST


Elijah had forgotten who God was and who he was. Likewise, it’s vital that we remember who Jesus is, what’s He’s done, who we are and what we have as a result. Lloyd Jones wrote,

“A Christian is something before he does anything.”

Our living must come out of a firm conviction of who we are in Christ. We read of Elijah,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”’ (1 Kings 19:5-10)

This narrative is illustrative of our need to feast on Jesus - the bread of life. Jesus teaches us,

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35).

Spiritual depression or apathy will afflict everyone who fails to feast on Christ by resting in him.


I believe that the Old Testament command to ‘keep the Sabbath day’ is, for New Covenant believers, principally, about resting in Jesus. You will search in vain for any command for Christians to keep a ‘sabbath’ in the epistles. Although setting aside at least one day from your usual work is wise, the New Testament focusses on resting in Christ. We read in Hebrews,


Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.’ (Hebrews 4:1)
‘There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.’ (Hebrews 4:9-11)

Many of us are spiritually depressed because we have not been ‘careful’ to enter the rest of Christ. The rest of Christ means that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Our sins are forgiven. We are justified. We have the hope of glory. God is at work in us to change us. We are adopted into God’s family. No works in this life can save us and no sin can cause God to reject us. This rest enables us to say “no” to unhealthy demands put on us. We are able to forgive as we have been forgiven. We are able to entrust our provision to God. We can work hard knowing that God will give us success as he deems fit. We can remain un-promoted because we don’t feel the desire to prove ourselves. Jordan Raynor in his excellent book ‘Redeeming Your Time’ writes,

‘Jesus offers you peace before you do anything. Nearly every time-management expert says that the path to peace and productivity is found in implementing his or her system. This is what we might call “works-based productivity,” which claims that if you do exercises X, Y, and Z, then you will find peace. This book begins with the opposite premise, in what we might call “grace-based productivity,” which says that through Jesus Christ, we already have peace, and we do time-management exercises X, Y, and Z as a response of worship.’
‘God loves us no matter how productive or unproductive we are in this life. And ironically, it’s that truth that leads us to be wildly productive. Why? Because working to earn someone’s favour is exhausting, but working in response to unconditional favour is intoxicating. For Christians, the key to being wildly productive is realising that we don’t need to be productive. Once we realise that God accepts us no matter how many good things we do, we want to be productive for his agenda as a loving act of worship.’


OVER TO YOU - PRAY AND WORSHIP OUT OF THE BIBLE

I’ve made a few comments. However, it’s more important that you engage with the text yourself. Take a moment to pray and listen to God’s voice out of today’s text.

‘There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.’ (Hebrews 4:9-11)

I find it helpful to use the following questions which are based upon The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13).


1. Praise - What does this text teach me about God? What can I praise Him for?

2. Petitions - What does this teach me about His will for me and others? What could I pray for from this text? This is a good time to pray for our non-believing. friends. It’s good to ask, Is the Holy Spirit leading me in any specific response?

3. Peace-making - Is the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin for which I need forgiveness? Do I need to forgive others?

4. Protection - Ask for God’s protection generally and for any specific areas of vulnerability. Am I believing lies regarding the truths in this text?

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY

1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

Important - this Sunday, our service is both live in the building and on Zoom from 10:30. Please go to the website for the Zoom link.

 

2. Icebreaker

What have been your high's and low's over the last few weeks?

Secondly, do you have anything encouraging to share on how God spoken to you from the Bible recently?

 

3. Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group


On Sunday, we saw how Elijah, a great man of God, got so spiritually depressed that he didn’t want to go on living! This is included in the Bible so as to encourage us as we, and most of us do to different degrees, go through such dark times.


Elijah had just had an amazing, miraculous victory. He had seen fire fall from heaven and had defeated the prophets of Baal. He should be on top of the world. Instead, Elijah was in despair. We read,

‘Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.’ (1 Kings 19:1-5)

God wants to renew and revive us. Elijah is illustrative of this. We read,

‘Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.’ (1 Kings 19:5-8)

MEAN S OF SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

God keeps and renews us from spiritual depression in many ways. Here are some examples:

i) Eat and drink what is good - Do we eat and drink in ways that promote health?

ii) Eat and drink spiritually - Elijah's story of illustrative of how we need to feed on Jesus by the word and prayer. He tell us,

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35)

iii) Rest - Sleep and rest are God's gifts for our physical and spiritual health.

iv) Resting in Christ (resting in grace) - Knowing that our salvation (justification) is a gift through faith alone. Knowing that our fruitfulness rests on the Spirit rather than our overworking.

v) Friendship - We need friends who will strengthen us in God. Christopher Ash in his book, ‘Zeal Without Burnout’ wrote about this,

‘One of the best things I did during my year of nervous exhaustion was to restart a prayer triplet with two other men. I should have done this years before, but somehow it had been postponed until the crisis came.’

Discussion questions

i) Did you feel that God spoke to you from any particular aspect of Sunday's message?

ii) Out of 10 (0 being really bad) how spiritually excited are you and what are the reasons for your answer?

iii) Out of the 5 means of spiritual renewal that I've included above, what do you most need to work on and how could you do that?







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