Summary: We all need spiritual renewal from time to time. Where does it come from?
My text this morning comes from the book of Isaiah, chapter forty, verses 28 through 31:
"Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." – Isaiah 40:28-31
Is there anyone here this morning who could use some of this "renewal"? Anyone who’s feeling weary, or weak, or tired? Anyone who would like to receive some of the power that is promised to those who place their hope in the Lord? Of course there is. Every one needs to have their strength restored from time to time. People like:
The new mother, juggling midnight feedings, and diaper changes, and laundry, and dishes, and shopping, and cooking, and housecleaning, and a husband who can’t understand why she’s so tired all the time. Or the single mother, carrying the whole load by herself. Or the expectant mother, wondering if this baby is ever going to come.
The professional, going to the office every morning, sitting in meetings, writing reports; trying to please so many different people – customers, co-workers, superiors, subordinates – doing that for eight, nine, ten hours, then fighting the traffic to get home, only to start a second job, as a mom or dad. Soccer practice, piano lessons, homework. Then maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll have an hour after the kids are in bed, or a couple of hours on the weekend, to divide up between preparing the Sunday School lesson, and attending PTA meetings, and mowing the lawn, and baking a cake for the church potluck, and taking the dog to the vet.
Or one of the older folks, who thought that when they retired, they’d have all kinds of free time, but who find that they are busier now than they ever were when they had a "real" job. And they wonder, how did I ever have any time to go to work?
But what really tires us out isn’t the work, or the children, or the hectic pace of life in general. What really saps our strength is dealing with the stuff that goes on inside us; the emotional and mental stress. Because life is hard. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to you, but it needs to be acknowledged. Life is not easy – not for you, not for me, not for anyone, no matter how green the grass may look on the other side of the fence. As a pastor, I’ve talked with enough people to know that, no matter how calm and trouble-free and idyllic someone’s life may appear, we all have our own struggles; we all have to deal with sorrow, and loss, and disappointment, and confusion, and fear. Sometimes, it’s all you can do just to keep functioning. And even when things are going pretty well, life is still tiring. Like a juggler trying to keep all those balls in the air, it eventually wears you out.
So what do we do? The world offers an abundant supply of false solutions and counterfeit remedies. For instance, you could try to block it all out, by numbing yourself with alcohol or drugs. Some people’s choice of anesthetic is more socially acceptable: instead of whiskey or cocaine, they dull their senses with hours of television watching or internet surfing, or they stuff themselves full of food. You could throw yourself into a hobby, and give every free moment to woodworking, or bass fishing, or rose gardening. You could fill your days with more and more frantic activity, joining clubs and serving on committees, so that you won’t have any time to stop and think about how you feel. You could give yourself over to pleasure, seeking temporary relief in whatever makes you feel good. Some people give up altogether. Quit their job, abandon their family, stop going to church. Or they just check out mentally, quit caring. People try all kinds of things to cope with the stress and fatigue of daily life. Maybe you’ve tried some of them yourself.
But they don’t work, do they? Although some of these things are fine in moderation, when they are pursued as an antidote to stress, when you go to them for relief and comfort, they will inevitably disappoint. They cannot give you what you need. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God has told us in the Bible about how we can be refreshed, how we can be renewed and restored, from the inside out, so that instead of giving up on life, or being defeated by life, or trying to escape from life, we can find the power to live life to the fullest. That’s what we really need, and that’s what we’re going to look at this morning. I promise, if you listen to what the word of God has to say on this topic, you won’t be disappointed.