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Introduction

Updated: Aug 9, 2022


Papers are flung everywhere: to-do lists, planners, business spreadsheets, three-ring binders, study notes, sermon notes, game and skit ideas for summer camp, and books that I’ll never have the time to read...


“This is crazy!”


I check my phone for some temporary relief. Facebook. Twitter. Back to Facebook. No, I’m not old. I just hate TikTok...insert relevant eye-rolling emoji here.


I scroll YouTube for ideas for this or that. Remember that I have to send a text to someone. Grab the fancy new book on my shelf. Put it back with yet another eye roll and big sigh. Finish sending my text. Stare off into space, glance back at all the papers on my desk. I beat my head against the wall. Well, I seriously contemplated it.


“Stop!”


I take a deep breath. Finally, about to break, I admit, “I can’t do it. I just cannot do everything that needs to be done.”


My stomach is aching, and my head feels like Venus and Serena Williams are playing tennis up there.


“Is this really what my life is going to look like?”


***

I grew up in a pretty average home. Nothing fancy. I was surrounded by the southern charm of just plain country folk and North Carolina humidity. I guess you can say I had it made in the shade—literally. That North Carolina humidity doesn’t play around. Shade is a must in July.

I was an average boy. I played with toy guns, rode my bicycle with a baseball card between the spokes, and often visited Mamaw and Papaw’s house.


My church and Christian school were the hub of everything I did. Youth activities, sports, school plays, student government, camp, choir—you name it, I did it. But I think one of the greatest blessings of my childhood was the person in charge of all I was involved with—my pastor. He was amazing in all respects! His faithfulness and compassion were unprecedented, and his daily walk mirrored Christ more than any man I’ve ever known. God only knows where I would be had it not been for my pastor’s wisdom and guidance.

I think one of the greatest proofs of his sincerity and love for people came with the decision to start a summer camp. His heart was to reach young people for Christ, and he made every effort to do so. By divine orchestration, he started the church’s camp in the hills of southern Virginia. You know, God’s country.


That place would mean a lot to many people, especially this ole country boy. It was a place of solace from the crazy of everyday life. No school. No cell service. (Yes, we did survive.) No Internet. No TV. No distractions! Just God and His crisp, mountain breeze that swept the valley and refreshed every weary soul that passed by.


I was privileged to serve there for almost a decade. So many memories that I don’t have time to tell: snakes in the dining hall, skunks in the cabins, afternoons tubing down the river, camper-counselor softball games. Yea, it was awesome! But out of all the summers of wild fun and spiritual revival, no summer would have as great an impact on me as the last summer that I served.

***

Back to my sad, depressive saga...


I was preparing for my last summer at my favorite place in all the world. Pulling my hair out was a daily ritual as I tried to get everything into place for several hundred screaming kids who would probably die of video game anorexia by the end of the week. And not only that, I had to make sure my business back home would survive the summer. Running a window cleaning company is not easy when you spend seven weeks of the summer in the middle of nowhere without cell service or internet.


As the days began to count down to the commencement of camp, my anxieties and fears began to surface. I knew those kids were worth every bit of effort and preparation; I just didn’t know how I was going to do it all. Doubts filled my mind: and what once was a joyful song of a heart ready to serve God, was now a dreadful tune of frustration and restlessness.


Would I lose my business? Would my customers welcome me back after a whole summer away? Would I even make a difference in the lives of those kids?


I didn’t have a clue.


Right before the launching of summer camp, God began to work. I was out on the job and reasoning through a thousand possibilities. I was sick of the rat race in my head trying to figure it all out. I was about to break. Jerking the tools out of my truck and mumbling some sarcastic remarks, I put my headphones in to drown out the world around me.


I quickly surfed to one of my favorite preachers, Dr. Scott Pauley. His fiery spirit and humble attitude behind the pulpit don’t compare to his genuine love for Christ. Growing up, I had heard his messages at youth conferences and had salivated over his ability to communicate God’s truth. His messages just seemed to hit home with me. Maybe it was the Appalachian dialect or the Clark Kent hair, I don’t know.


My thumb landed on a message entitled “Finding Rest in a Restless World.”


“Yeah, I think I might need this one!” I chuckled as I pushed play.


That ordinary day on the job would be a monumental day for my journey. It was not so much a man’s message or delivery, but the God of the message Who was present with me that day.


I rushed home to see the passage for myself.


“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).


“Easy? Lord, this whole 6:00 a.m. to midnight camp schedule is not going to be easy! And I have a business to run!”


Slowly but surely, He began to show me my fast-paced life from His point of view. Sure, I was busy doing all good and moral things, but was my focus really on Him? Was my end goal a destination, or was it Jesus? Like an arrow swiftly finding its mark, Jesus began to pull back the ugly layers of my restlessness. He began to show me it was not so much a matter of the physical condition, but a colossal disruption of my soul that had left me in the grave of fear, discontentment, and unbelief.

Then it hit me.


I’m living like a lost man. I am living the life that Jesus saved me from—controlled by fear and not by faith. Look what Isaiah said about the wicked (lost) man:


“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked,” (Isaiah 57:20-21).


This is the description of a restless soul—stuck in utter darkness and troubled day and night. This is more than a matter of stress or sleepless nights; it is an aching on the inside that screams when all is silent. It’s the stirring in your heart that shakes with every worry. It’s the pit in your stomach when fear’s vice grip gets ahold of your thoughts. Restlessness is the monster that hides in the secrets of your past. Its father comes from our old Adamic nature and is passed down from generation to generation. It has destroyed many souls from the inside out and has carried away captives of God’s precious children.


My friend, Jesus has not called his children to live a life of unrest! No! He has made a way for us to find rest in a restless world.


Restless: Finding Rest in a Restless World is two years’ worth of prayerful meditation and a study of Christ through Matthew 11:28-30. It is a discovering and rediscovering of rest in a very restless world. This book is not a finding-yourself type quest for happiness. You will not have to dig that deep to understand it. So don’t try to over complicate it. Soul rest is simple, as Christ intended it to be.


We will begin Part One with examining how we have gotten where we are. What is it about our world that is so restless? What are the direct reasons for a restless heart? What prescription has the world come up with to deal with the longing in their soul? You will come to find that the very things that the world proclaims as the cure to restlessness can in return only produce more restlessness.


In chapter 1, we will examine the Delusion of Prosperity. These are the lies that culture has begged us to believe in order to find peace and happiness. Many of God’s children have swallowed up these lies hook, line, and sinker:


You will miss out.

More stuff equals happiness.

The more money you have the better of a person you are.

Power only belongs to the rich.

If you had more you could finally have rest.


This is the delusive ideology of the world that we must reject in order to follow Jesus’ way of rest. We must stop pursuing something and start pursuing Someone. Our inward peace lies in the character of a Person, and that Person is worth pursuing.


The next reason for the restlessness within our souls is the Drive for Productivity, which we will discuss in chapter 2. Many people choose to medicate the hurt of their soul by simply getting busy. It’s not just a matter of checking something off their to-do list, but it is an indictment on their character if they cannot be a success or build an exuberant empire. This is a persuasive violence as it will deceive you into thinking that you are making progress, when on God’s time-table, you have stopped growing in His love and grace. You have worked hard to build your life and have forgotten God has made your hands for the work of His kingdom.


We will dive into several habits of toxic productivity and see how they play out in Jesus’ way of thinking:


Work-a-holism

Hyper Multitasking

Neglect of the Essentials

Hurry Sickness


These are habits that strip your mind from the gift of being present and stem from a heart desperate to stop. And before you know it, you are so busy that you begin to miss your life happening right in front of you. It’s almost as if you have stepped into this virtual reality where interactions with people have become more like business transactions. But is this truly at the heart of our Lord? Was He so busy in His work that He could not stop to focus on another? Was He so self-absorbed in His own agenda that He could not help the hungry soul? I think you will find that our tendency is to be more like the restless man of Isaiah 57 than to be like Christ.


That moves us into the next reason of a restless soul: the Demand of Perfectionism. If having more or getting busy doesn’t fix the pain of restlessness, then certainly being perfect will do it, right? Wrong! Perfectionism can transform a perfectly good character trait into a vice of selfishness and pride. It is why many people find it hard to lay their heads down at night because they can never meet up to the standards they have set for themselves. In chapter 3, we will put ourselves through the test of perfectionism and see if our rest got lost through confines of our own making. We’ll ask ourselves several questions:


Are you extremely irritable?

Would you rather just do things yourself so that they get done “right”?

Do you have Eternal Syndrome where everything you do must have a strong sense of purpose, leaving time for recreation?

Do you have an all-or-nothing attitude that makes you into a sharp and presumptuous critic?

Do you procrastinate because it’s just not good enough yet?

Do you fear failure to the point that you never try anything that is hard?


We can often become enslaved to the high demands of perfectionism we place on ourselves. And that is where the restlessness creeps in. We aren’t supposed to live by our own standards; we are supposed to submit in complete obedience to the standards that Christ alone gives.

The final reason in chapter 4 is the Dangers of Pleasure. Some medicate the restlessness in their soul by “getting after it.” Sometimes they put unrealistic pressure on themselves, and see if they feel any different. But I believe one of the greatest narcotics of inner turmoil is the slow drift of a man into his comfort zone. We just want life to be easy. No problems. No heartaches. No cares. We have cultivated an environment inside the Christian church of isolation from the world. And I truly believe it’s not for the sake of being separate from the world (as we’d like to think it is), but that we push the world away because we long to be safe and secure. We want relief from our wounds, but relief and rest are not the same thing.


So now in our new bubble of isolation we must shut out the noise from our own hearts. We reach for a socially acceptable narcotic to scratch the itch: drugs, alcohol, sex, overeating, binge-watching movies and shows, browsing social media for hours on end, pornography, etc. These are all pleasures that will only “do the trick” for a short time, but like a begging stray, it will eventually come loitering back for more.


These four reasons of restlessness are what we, in our best efforts, can come up with to find rest. They are produced from a restless heart in desperate need of God. But for every reason we are restless, Christ has a remedy! Part Two is all about how you can find rest in Jesus. Each chapter is Christ’s direct rebuttal to our skewed view of peace and soul rest. Matthew 11:28-30 lays the foundation for your soul rest. Can you see it?


We believe the lies of the culture that prosperity is the key to our rest, but Jesus says, “Come unto me.” In chapter 5, we will learn how true rest is found in the person of Jesus Christ, and by learning who He is, we can learn to have (and keep) rest. We will dive into His compassion, His consistency, and His closeness. These are the characteristics of our Lord that breathe a cool sense of His love into our dry and desolate hearts.


We believe that productivity will merit the kind of rest we are looking for, but Jesus says, “I will give you rest.” Soul rest is not something you can develop, strategize, or produce. It is given to you solely by the works of Jesus Christ. We will be reminded in chapter 6 that work is good, that God will not forget our physical needs, and that soul rest can be obtained through any circumstance. But one of the greatest lessons to be learned, is the power of nothing. Literally, the power behind putting Christ’s desires above everything that what we feel or think is right.


We believe that setting our own standards for living will create the perfect environment for rest, but Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” In essence, Jesus is saying that in order to keep your mind and soul at rest, you must learn through a process. In chapter 7 we will enroll in the school of Christ and learn of His meekness and lowliness. We will dig deeper into the mine of Christ’s humility and expose the filth of our own pride. It will not be a one-and-done decision, but it will take some time and patience to clean out our preconceived notions and embrace Christ’s righteousness. There is no standard we can set, no environment we can create to ensure “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”


We believe that rest is simply a utopia of comfort and ease, but Jesus says, “ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Why do we persist in searching for peace through worldly pleasures? It’s because we do not believe His promise that if we “come,” we “shall find rest.” In this closing chapter, we will deal directly with the problem of unbelief and why we run to the medication of the world to ease the pains of life. But if we truly believe in His promise, we will begin to see that He is enough.


So, if you are restless...


Aching to stop...


Longing to slow down...


Or finding your heart hurting when everything is quiet...


This book is for you!!


Not because it will lead you to rest, but because it will lead you to Christ and His love.


It is in this love that we can find rest for our souls, for His love is the sweet melody that bows the strings to the revived life and gives man his song!


Like the wave of the sea

That crashes day and night,

The soul of man can find no rest

For darkness is his plight.


But Christ does not leave him there;

In compassion comes his plea,

That all the weary shall find rest

“Come unto Me.”




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