Theme: Resting in God
This week’s lessons focus on how God acts as a shepherd toward his sheep, and what we are to do in response to him.
Scripture: Psalm 23
Let us consider some of these aspects. First of all, this matter of rest: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” It is very significant that the psalm starts with resting in God, because that is how the Christian life begins. We are so restless. Isaiah says in the 57th chapter, “The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest” (v. 20). When he talked about God’s ability to provide rest, Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” 
It has perhaps always been true that the heart of man is restless in its opposition to God, but we especially see this in our time. We even have our religious versions of it, because what we think of most of all when we begin to think about Christianity is activity. And there is activity, of course. There are things to be done. Still, we have to begin with rest before we can begin with activity.
There is a sense in which we have to stop doing what we are doing in order to rest in God and allow Him to do in us what He wants to do. We have to shift gears in our lives. In a certain sense that is what conversion is. Conversion means to turn around. And, you know, you cannot just turn around easily sometimes. You have to come to a stop. You have to reverse. Then you have to begin going in the other direction.
This is also what is involved in faith. I think of a few occasions in the New Testament when people asked what they had to do so far as salvation was concerned. You will recall that in John 6, where our Lord was speaking to the people, they had this question: “What must we do to do the works God requires” (v. 28)? Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29). Or, I think of the Philippian jailer, when he realized that his prisoners had been freed from their chains in the earthquake. Seeing Paul and Silas, he asked, “Men, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (v. 31). In other words, cease your doing and rest on what God has done. 
That is not the way we like it. When we are confronted with the need for salvation, the first thing we say is, “God, what do you want me to do? Lord Jesus Christ, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to jump? Tell me how high. Do you want me to build churches? Tell me how many. Do you want me to give money? Tell me how much.” 
God says, “Just put that all out of your mind. What is necessary for your salvation is that you give up on that and rest in me.”
When John Patton, one of the pioneer missionaries of the nineteenth century, went to the New Hebrides and began to translate the Bible into the language of the people, he soon discovered that there was no word in their language for faith. He had not known what to do in his translating. Then on one occasion he had gone high into the mountains on a hunting expedition with some of the men he was working with. They caught a deer and were bringing it back on a pole carried by several of them. They made their way down a steep descent, exhausted by the weight of the dead animal, and finally reached a place where they could stop. The men dropped the deer, threw themselves down onto the lush, grass-covered meadow, and exclaimed, “Oh, it is wonderful to stretch yourself out here!” 
Immediately Patton came alive. He asked, “What is that word you used? Wonderful to what?” They repeated the word which we translate “stretch yourself out.” Patton said, “Yes, that’s it! That’s the word!” He noted it in his book, and when it came time to translate the verses that had to do with faith, he wrote: “God gave his only begotten Son, that whoever stretches himself out on him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That is what Psalm 23 says. God gives us Himself to stretch ourselves out upon, and we begin the Christian life by receiving that rest, that stretching ourselves out, which the Good Shepherd provides.
Study Questions:

What does it mean to rest in God from the perspective of a person’s conversion?
What does it mean to rest in God in terms of a Christian’s sanctification?

Application: Do you sometimes feel burned out from too much activity, including your service in the church?  What steps can you take to recapture the biblical need to rest in the Lord?

Study Questions
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