This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 31, 2022.
Do you not know?Isaiah 40:28—31
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He never becomes faint or weary;
there is no limit to his understanding.
He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may become faint and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint.
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28—30
Have you ever felt not only tired, but weary or exhausted? Some of us even get burned out. We push and we run and we keep doing it until we can’t.
Of course anyone can get tired and weary. None of us has an endless well of strength. And when I say strength, obviously I don’t only mean physical stamina. I mean emotional, mental, and spiritual strength. Life will tire all of us out sometimes.
And sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We think we need to be the source of our own strength. We don’t think we should get burned out or tired. We feel guilty for feeling weak.
I think of the main reasons for this—perhaps the main reason!—is that we lose focus on who our God is.
“The Lord is the everlasting God”
Consider how our passage from Isaiah starts. Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.
Right away our passage reminds us—refocuses us—on who God is. In other words, take your mind off yourself and redirect it to God. Because who God is—what he is like—always needs to be our starting point.
Our passage begins with questions that point out how, even as people of faith, we can forget who God is. Or how we can believe something in our heads about God but not actually live it out or have it work its way into our everyday lives.
In other words, we don’t always act like people who believe what we say we believe about God.
But here the prophet reminds us that our God—the God we confess and trust—is the eternal God, the one who made the heavens and the earth. The God of our salvation, the One revealed in Jesus, with whom we have a relationship, is the sovereign Lord of all creation and history.
This God is almighty. This God is holy. This God—our God—is worthy of our worship, worthy of our praise, worthy of our obedience, and worthy of our trust. He is God and we, most definitely, are not.
But if we’re honest, how often do we perhaps forget these things about God? How often do we neglect to contemplate these truths about God?
Or how often do we make the mistake—even unconsciously—of cutting God down to our size, reducing him to our expectations, of limiting what he is able and willing to do? How often do we—in one way or another—remake God in our image?
Because the truth is this: our God is not like us. He is infinite, eternal, and perfect. He is the everlasting God. And everything that exists only does so because he created it. He spoke it—all of the cosmos, including us—into existence. To think of God in any other way means not thinking of the God of the Bible.
We’re told something else about God in our passage that we need to hear: He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding.
You know, sometimes you or I can be strong. We can be strong in a trying situation. But you and I don’t have strength on our own. Our strength isn’t limitless. For this reason, we get tired. We need to eat. We need to rest. We need a source of strength outside of ourselves.
This is not true of God, however. Our Lord has strength in himself. He doesn’t need to turn to another, outside source for replenishment. He doesn’t need to recharge his energy. His strength never wavers or varies.
Not only does his strength never wane, but there’s also no limit to his understanding. That is, there is nothing he does not know or understand. There is nothing that confuses him. There is nothing that surprises him. There is nothing that escapes his attention. Nothing at all.
Think of this when it comes to your circumstances. Think about this when it comes to the challenges we face as a church. He knows everything. We don’t need to let him know what’s going on. We’re not privy to information he doesn’t have.
And more importantly, he actually cares about our circumstances more than we do. Not only does he never grow weary, he’s never complacent or disinterested. We don’t have to persuade him to care about what’s going on in our life or in our church or in our family or in our community. God cares for us and our circumstances more than we ever could.
Let’s hear the words of Isaiah again: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding.
We need to get these words—this truth about God—into our heads and hearts. We need to ask God to plant these truths deeply into the soil of our lives.
Perhaps think of it this way. God’s love for you never grows tired. God doesn’t grow weary of you. Of loving you. Of forgiving you. Of listening to you. You can’t wear God out or discourage him.
“He gives strength”
So if all of this is true, where does this bring us? Because if we need to have a source of strength outside of ourselves and God has limitless strength in himself, what might that mean?
Isaiah continues: He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless. We’re being told here, of course, that God is our strength. And we’re being told that our Lord and Creator is willing to strengthen us.
Unfortunately, this means doing something we are sometimes loathe to do: to admit we’re weak and that we lack strength and that we don’t know what to do. Because shouldn’t be able to do what we need to do without help? Shouldn’t we know what to do?
This applies to us individually—whatever circumstances we face in life—and it applies to us as a church. Are we willing to admit our powerlessness? Are we willing to admit—and to admit prayerfully and collectively—that we need God?
Listen to Psalm 18:1: I love you, Lord, my strength. Psalm 22:19 says: But you, Lord, don’t be far away. My strength, come quickly to help me. And then Psalm 29:11 says: The Lord gives his people strength; the Lord blesses his people with peace.
Part of what this involves is a willingness to be vulnerable. It involves the risk of loosening our grip on what we thought we could, or wanted to control. It means coming before our ever-wise, tireless, gracious God with open—and therefore empty—hands.
Is this something we do or are willing to do? Do we really see how needy we are and how able God is?
Often in churches like ours where people are, say, mostly older, we think the secret is acquiring more young people and young families who will help keep things going.
Yet, what does our passage tell us? Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall. Even younger people can get worn out from church and from life. And feel powerless.
So even if half a dozen new young families walked into church on a Sunday morning and eventually committed themselves to being a part of our congregation, they would not be the answer to our lack of strength.
Our passage tells us what the answer ought to be: those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint.
Do we really hear that? Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength. Isn’t that what we heard the psalmist doing in the verses we read?
And what we need to get is that trusting God like this is not only believing certain things about God. It includes what we believe about God, for sure, but it doesn’t stay there.
It’s coming to a place where we are able to allow what’s true of God to transform us. We’re trusting a person, not just believing an idea.
Here’s the thing: as long as we cling to the illusion that we can control things or have strength on our own, or refuse to admit our profound need for God, we’re going to find it awfully hard to receive the strength he seeks to give.
God can strengthen us; are we willing and ready to have him do so?
It should be obvious to say this. But the Lord isn’t worried about the things that worry us—whether in our lives or in our church. But if God isn’t worried or bothered by these things, what should that mean for us? How should that affect us?
All I’m trying to suggest is that we have a good, faithful, loving, all powerful, all knowing God who sees what’s going on in our lives and in our church and that this should affect how we deal with the things that worry and bother us.
Because even though these things don’t worry or bother our Lord, he cares about us more than we do. He cares about our situation more than we do. He also knows what we need more than we do.
We began this morning with the words of Jesus from Matthew 11: Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
In Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, the passage goes like his: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
It is in the presence of Jesus that we receive strength. And how do we actually do this?
We need to pay attention to what the Bible says about who God is and what he is like. We need to take what Scripture says seriously.
We need to come to God in prayer with honesty. We need to pray truthfully. We need to put our weariness into words.
And we need to do this together. Read and contemplate Scripture together. Pray honestly together. Be a vulnerable family of faith together in the presence of the One who is the everlasting God, Creator of the whole world, who never gets worn out or tired of us and who knows what we need.
Jesus is inviting us—even here and how—to come to him for rest and to learn how to live in his kingdom. Our Lord is our strength. How will we respond to his invitation? How will you?