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This past week, as part of my annual physical, I had an EKG. Each year I go through the process of being connected to a machine that tells the technician and the doctors how my heart is doing. That's what an EKG does. One lies still while the machine reveals how the heart is functioning. My EKG didn't take long-just a minute or two. Within minutes the technician was scanning my personal printout. After a few quick glances, she says "Well, your heart looks okay to me but we need for the doctor to take a look."
When the doctor arrived, he too took a quick glance at the printout. He smiled and said, "You know what, Jim? I think you can sign up for another forty years." Those words were music to my ears!
And I asked him, "Really, Doc, what do you look for when you read an EKG? What is it that you are focusing on?" And he says, "I've been trained to recognize a healthy heart. I know what your heart should look like-how it is supposed to function. We can read the EKG and detect that healthy heart. So what we are looking for are indications that something is wrong. We are looking for something that would show that the heart is not healthy or some damage has been done. We know what that looks like as well. We are looking for what looks wrong-what needs addressing. And then, hopefully, we can determine a solution that will restore your heart to functioning properly."
I thought about my experience this week with the EKG, and I want to invent a similar machine-a spiritual EKG! I mean think about it. Wouldn't it really be worth our while, if we could plug ourselves up to a machine and the machine would say, "Your soul needs to be addressed. There is something wrong with your soul." Or, we could read the printout and it would say, "Your soul is functioning properly." Wouldn't it be nice if we had access to that type of machine?
Well, the reality is, for those of us who are believers-who have said "yes" to God, we do have access to the condition of our souls. The Holy Spirit, God within us, reveals to us the condition of our souls. When we listen, the Holy Spirit informs us of our spiritual health.
This has been my experience throughout my faith journey. I know firsthand what it means to be in need of a soul that needs restoring. For me, when my soul needs restoring, I am plagued with specific symptoms. I don't sleep well-I'm fatigued, irritable-relationships that should 'fill me up' literally 'drain' me. Oh, I know what it is like to be in need of some soul restoration. As a matter of fact, if I had my spiritual EKG hooked up over the last couple of weeks, there would have been days that I would have been rushed to the ER! I know what it is to feel that sense of need-to know without a doubt that I am in need of soul restoration.
What I've discovered along my faith journey is that I am in continual need of soul restoration. It is not a one-time experience. It's not that my soul is restored and then I'm good for two years or four years or until my next checkup. Keeping my soul restored does not work that way for me. What I have discovered is that I am in continual-continual-need of soul restoration.
Friends, the world in which we live can be very destructive to our souls. The world has a way of depleting, depleting, our souls. Thus, we must be on guard at all times, because we are in continual need of soul restoration. You are. You are in need of continual soul restoration. Your soul is the very 'essence' of who you are-it's your mind, your heart, your spirit, everything within you. And yet, you are in continual need of having your soul restored.
You know exactly what it's like, as I do, to make a statement that reflects an unhealthy soul. You usually make this statement to yourself, or to someone you love, or to a friend, or even to God. You utter the words..."I am in need of some relief! I am in need of some help!" Like me, you know what it is like to cry out those words. And you make the mistake that I do. I attempt to restore my soul with my own strength. I attempt to fix my soul on my own. I attempt to take care of things myself. But, friends, each time I attempt to restore my soul with my own strength, I fail. I ultimately fail.
You, too, try to keep your soul healthy and restored with your own strength, don't you? This is why so many of you right now are questioning your purpose. "There has got to be more to life than this." This is why you currently have relationships in your life that drain you. Rather than lifting you up, these relationships bring you down. Face it. You are going through this difficult season because you are in need, right this moment, of soul restoration. You are in continual need of having your soul restored. You are. You do have a soul. You may neglect it, but you were created with a soul. And if you do not tend to your soul, the consequences are devastating. They really are. You do not want to end this season of your life and look back and say, "I've wasted so much time." You don't want to have that conversation with yourself. But until you take the appropriate measures to restore your soul, you are in danger of living that life. Friends, you are in continual need of soul restoration.
Our text this morning is from the Psalmist David. We all love this beautiful Psalm. The 23rd Psalm has brought comfort to all of us at some point along our faith journey.
David understood his need for soul restoration. He could have had anything...but he knew he couldn't have his soul restored on his own strength. He understood that clearly. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." In other words, "God gives me everything I need."
I think it's interesting that David uses the analogy of the Shepherd and the sheep. Do you realize how stupid sheep are? I mean, really! Think about this-sheep are pitiful animals-they really are. They can't fend for themselves. They don't see well. They easily stray when they are not paying attention. They need somebody to take care of them at all times. The Lord is my Shepherd.
I was talking with a friend this week and telling him I was preaching on this particular text. He shared with me some interesting facts regarding shepherding. He said shepherds at night will usually herd their sheep back in their pen so they won't stray. But sometimes they will let the sheep wander throughout the fields at night. The sheep, because of the wool-it's so heavy-the sheep will sometimes just fall over in the fields-literally fall over! If they walk on the side of a hill, it is very feasible for the sheep to fall and not be able to get back up. The shepherd in the morning will go out and find the sheep lying on their backs all throughout the pasture because they can't get up on their own strength. The shepherd will have to pick the sheep up, literally, set them on their feet, reorient them, and then let go of them so they can go on their way. We are sheep, aren't we? The Lord is our Shepherd, I shall not want. Friends, that's all we need. That is all we need!
It's interesting, that phrase, He leads me beside the still waters. In Hebrew that one phrase can also be translated, "He leads me besides the waters of rest." I like that. Too often my soul needs rest. Too often I need the good Shepherd leading me to lie down in the green pastures, leading me to those waters that give me rest. You do too, don't you? You are in continual need of soul restoration. You are. You are kidding yourself if you are not attending to your soul.
I have a good friend who just restored a 1968 Cutlass convertible-it's red, beautiful. We would drink coffee throughout the week while he was restoring this car. I didn't know this, but there are companies that do nothing but sell original parts so that people who have more money than I'll ever have can just spend it on restoring old vehicles. My friend-he did just that. He would order the original parts from these specialized magazines. He would go back to the original source and purchase the parts the car was intended to have.
My friend went on to explain to me that there are people out there who will sell you imitation parts. He said, "You know, Jim, you have to know the company where you buy the parts. You need to know who is selling you what-you need to go to the right source."
I know there are many of us who do not go to the right source when it comes to our soul restoration. We would rather have that void filled in our lives with our stuff-homes, nice cars-just stuff! We had rather, some of us, read our horoscopes than go to the Almighty. What are we thinking, really? What are we thinking-that anything other than the Almighty can restore our souls. Why are we living that lie? We do it though...
Only the Almighty, only He can restore our souls as the Creator intended us to be. And you are in continual need of soul restoration. Let me share with you quickly how I restore my soul. Simply, three things I have discovered.
The first soul restoring application is making sure that I am reading God's Word and am meditating on it-listening to God. When my soul is in need of restoration, the Almighty uses the scriptures to replenish and fulfill. If your spiritual diet does not currently include some type of spiritual reading plan, your soul will reflect that. If you need a place to start, open up to the Psalms and begin reading one psalm each day and see how God will begin your soul restoration.
Secondly, I looked for individuals who are in a difficult place in life. I look for those who are worse off than I am. I look for someone else who is having a little bit harder time than ol' Ellison here. And I become the hands and feet of Christ for that person. The number one counseling advice I give to those who come to me who are currently going through a difficult time is to find someone else in need and then serve them as Christ would.
And thirdly, my soul is restored through corporate worship and partaking of Holy Communion. Coming and partaking of this holy meal restores my soul. I want to encourage you-take care of your soul. Don't neglect it. It's not worth it. It's hard work tending to your soul. It's not easy. Sometimes, it's painful. But continual soul restoration is a must for the believer. Go to the Almighty and say, "God, help me-I need you to restoreth my soul. I need you, oh, God, what else, what else do I need? Nothing! You take me to the places where I can rest, where my soul can rest and then you restore me."
Friend, don't neglect your soul. And, yes, you are in need of continual soul restoration. Amen.
Let's join our hearts together in prayer.
Gracious God, we are aware that we're in need. We're in need of having our souls restored. Like the Psalmist David, help us to see you as that wonderful shepherd that leads us to that place of rest where we can be restored, renewed, created to be the person that you are calling us to be. Lord, help us to continue to seek for our souls to be restored. Amen.
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