Matthew 11:28-30 (Amplified)
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.
Walking along the sidewalks of our neighborhood in early fall, little squirrels were all along the route dashing back and forth with large acorns in their mouth. Furiously burying one here or there in preparation for a long winter. Racing in and out of traffic with some fatalities along the way, it seems senseless considering that we live in Florida without the harsh winters experienced by our neighbors to the North. Yet these little guys driven by something engrained in their DNA put them in hoarding mode with the first breeze of fall that keeps them in ceaseless activity until the winter begins. I have always wondered if they truly remember all the many places they have hidden these nuts along the way. How could they in such a rush? Solomon called man’s pursuits in life as “ceaseless activity” in their quest to outdo God. (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17) That’s what we do when we rely on human nature rather than the Spirit of God within us assuming responsibility for our life after coming to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Those who now know the Lord because He lives inside of them are freed from “ceaseless activity” if they choose to let it go and rely on the Lord for all that they need, want and desire in life. The Lord invites those who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened to come to Him. He promises those who do will find rest. In humbling our life to the Lord, we become yoked with Jesus Christ who carried all of our burdens to the Cross and nailed them there never to return as an oppressive weight any longer. It was our weakness and burdens that led to His Death. (Isaiah 53:4-5) Now He lives by the Power of God and so can we. However, it requires gently and humbly given our heart and life to Jesus Christ. There you will find relief, ease, refreshment, recreation, and blessed quiet. For some, this sounds like Heaven on earth. This may not sound at all appealing to you! Praise God you may have it all together with your life neatly compartmentalized and manageable. However, as the New Year approaches many people do not know if they can bear another 365 days like the last. They are holding in their hands what is left of a broken heart while attempting to stand beneath burdensome loads that they were never meant to bear. I am talking to those whose lives resemble the squirrels with ceaseless activities that never seem to lead to fulfillment. They cannot seem to please other people and feel as though they have let God down, too. Faith is wavering. Hope is weak. Jesus is calling, “Come to me!”
Psalm 84:1-4 (NLT)
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God! What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.
I love Christmas, but the day after I take down the tree in preparation for the New Year. I usually begin cleaning and reorganizing the house in anticipation of it. I am ready to put the past behind us and move forward. There goes that “ceaseless activity” thing again. I am ready to move on whether it is in God’s Timing or not. But God did not remind me of the squirrels and how they scurry about but rather of the sparrow who seeks the Kingdom of God, the shelter of His Altar and dwells there. The sparrow finds her home and resides there. She raises her young there. She does not move from this position and finds joy there. I cannot change the past but I can step into the future. I cannot escape the trials of life but I can endure them in His Dwelling Place. Rather than moving out of the past, I must take a step up into His Presence and learn to remain there. But first, I must figure out what is holding me back. I wonder if a sparrow ever worries about tomorrow as people do. Or is it possible that when she opens her eyes to be greeted by a new day she is totally overwhelmed because it is unexpected. If she does not expect another day, then I am certain she gives all that she is to the present. “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7) I have never seen a sparrow in the frantic frenzy that overtakes the squirrels so perhaps I should pay attention especially since I am more valuable to the Lord than both of these.
Psalm 37:3-7 (Amplified)
Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass. And He will make your uprightness and right standing with God go forth as the light, and your justice and right as [the shining sun of] the noonday. Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him; fret not yourself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass.
In these verses, I believe are five steps to thinking living like a sparrow rather than a squirrel. It may seem silly to someone who does not struggle with worry and anxiety. It may seem too simple for the super spiritual or overly religious. But for regular people who are trying desperately to live in the Power and Presence of God – these could be the difference between entering the same ole same ole or having a brand new year. The Lord promises rest for those who find their way into His Presence remaining there which is comprised of relief, ease, refreshment, recreation and blessing. I need that kind of rest. I am weary. I have labored. I am heavy laden and overburdened. It is time to take the necessary steps to move deeper into the Presence of God and have the life that He promised in the coming year. Here is how I will do it:
1) I will trust the Lord enough to continue to do what His Word says. He promises that those who remain in His Presence will have all that they need and prosper right where they are. Not because of our ability or inability to do what He says all the time, but by faith in His Faithfulness. I need to get this through my head over and over again. I cannot seem to remain true to this concept that God is faithful even if I am not. I want to somehow thing that His Hand opens and closes based on what I do rather than who He is. God wants to bless me. It is His Intention for my life. The only way that I in any way play a apart in this is by remaining righteous. Righteousness is solely dependent on faith. (Romans 4:5) So the less that I am able to do (weakness), the more God does in my life. It is okay to let go and let God. He is working out every detail for your good. (Romans 8:28) I need just enough faith to trust the Lord today. I need only do what He tells me to do now and stop trying to figure out the next step. That is God’s Job! He is very good at it. (Psalm 37:23)
2) Delight in the Lord. In doing so, He will give you the desires of your heart. We must seek the Kingdom of God first. (Matthew 6:33) Delight means satisfaction and joy. Do you delight in the Lord? You cannot find joy and pleasure in Him unless you know Jesus. Knowing the Lord as an acquaintance will not work. Faith grows in our relationships as we learn to love and trust each other. The same can be said of the Lord. If you can recite every line of a movie, but hardly a verse in the Bible – you probably do not know the character of God very well. If you can sing every song on the radio, but seldom listen to a word that is said – then you probably have polluted your mind and are now insensitive to His Voice that says something entirely different. If you spend more time watching television or visiting social media, you probably are quite uncomfortable when invited into His Presence. There is no condemnation in these statements just a little more truth than some would like to handle. If you spend the majority of your time doing other things with other people, how will you delight in the Lord because you do not really know Him. To know the Lord, you must spend time with Him. Not the time you have left, but carving out moments from each day to come into His Presence and listen for His Voice. The more you know Him – the more that you will delight in Him. You will want more and more of His Time. He will give you the desires of your heart. “You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11)
3) Commit EVERYTHING you do to the Lord. This gives the Lord complete control of every single outcome in your life taking the pressure off of you to perform. What glory does the Lord get if you go without? What praise will come out of neglect? We seldom commit everything to the Lord and hence we carry burdens that we were not meant to carry. Entering the brand new year, it is time to inspect our load. What am I carrying that belongs to the Lord? Anything that is weighing me down with stress, worry and anxiety is a manifestation of doubt in my life. Doubt reveals a lack of faith in God. Fear is disbelief that God is able to do everything that He promised so we take control. Before facing the New Year and expecting God’s Best, I must roll and repose each weight and care on Him. It is highly unlikely that in our humanity many of us will be able to successfully just dump all of the excess baggage we carry at one time, and run the race of faith successfully in everything…at first. So the Lord invites us to “roll and repose” by giving something to Him and when we are satisfied in His Safekeeping to give Him a little more. The Lord knows our weaknesses. He only is asking us to try not for His Benefit but for our blessing. He doesn’t want you to struggle overburdened any longer but gives you the freedom to do so if you choose to. Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you! (Psalm 55:22)
4) The Lord will make it clear who you belong to! “He will make your uprightness and right standing with God go forth as light…” Just because everything does not look like you think it should, do not give up. God is perfecting all that concerns you! (Psalm 138:8) He will settle for nothing less than perfection, completion and satisfaction in your life. So even when we try to compromise settling for something less, the Lord is pushing and pressing for something more. More than you could ever think or ask, nothing you can even imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) All of His Promises are yes and amen because it brings Glory to the Father when we prosper and are blessed. (2 Corinthians 1:20) You do not have to help the Lord but trust Him enough to wait on Him.
5) Be still and wait on the Lord. I must admit this is my biggest problem time and time again. Just when I think I have developed enough patience and endurance to wait on the Lord and finish the race, I find that I have fallen short as worry, anxiety and stress overtake me once again. In our stillness, we just keep doing what God’s Word says. His Commandments are not burdensome to those who love Him. (I John 5:2-5) Those who love God will do this while they wait not because they have to but because they want to. Waiting on the Lord does not mean being idle or lazy. We should work hard to lead by example in our life never letting our freedom get in the way of the Gospel. We must not worry while we wait either. (Proverbs 12:24-25)
Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT)
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
The primary pursuit of these five steps is to live in the Presence of God. It is not a place that we run to but a place of refuge where we can build our life by faith and trust in the Lord that becomes the anchor of confident hope that keeps us there. (Hebrews 6:19) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. To eliminate worry, stress and anxiety in the coming year, we must evaluate what we carry into it. Those things that belong to the Lord should be rolled and reposed into His Care. He can handle it. He has EVERYTHING concerning you under control if you will just let go of the responsibility. The sparrow has decided to trust the Lord and live in His Presence daily. She delights in the Lord singing out the joy of her salvation basking in the Light of His Love. She is not aware that a new day is coming so she fully embraces each moment of life. Worry cannot add a single one to our life but will rob us of precious time if allowed. (Matthew 6:25-27; Luke 12:25-26) The sparrow commits EVERYTHING to the Lord even building her home and raising her children there. The Lord is well aware of her presence there and makes it clear who she belongs to. She is still in His Presence waiting for His Hand to open and satisfy her every need. I need to think like a sparrow and live like her, too! I refuse to give another moment, let alone another year, to worry, stress and anxiety choosing to build my home in the Presence of God. (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10) I will live each day like there is no other. “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen. (I Peter 5:6-11) The New Year is coming, it is a brand new day. We are not promised tomorrow or the next day…why not live like a sparrow today? When we live for today, not worried about tomorrow – we remain in His Presence claiming righteousness by faith! Worry and anxiety take us from that place that we may never go, but trusting God keeps us in His Blessings and Promises never missing a thing!
Philippians 4:6-7 (Amplified)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.