Tired - Jon Fryer

ONE:

Spiritual WarfareEven youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

I want to talk about being tired. But first, lets think about temptation. Why? Well, why do we get tired? I believe that the verse from Isaiah is not talking about the good kind of tired, the kind of tired you get after a hard days work where you have actually accomplished something by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow and where you come home and collapse with a bottle of beer in the pleasant glow of a job well done. That’s a good tired, and is part of God’s plan for mankind. I put it to you that the Isaiah passage is actually talking about the other kind of tired, the bad kind of tired, where your soul is sick and you can’t face any thing more, where your passion and energy have been ground away to nothing for no good cause.

There is a fantastic homemade DC Talk/Final Fantasy tribute movie that reminds us that we are in a battle between good and evil, just as St Paul constantly reminds us with his warfare metaphors throughout the New Testament. It’s a constant grind, a never ending battle. We get tired because we’re frequently under attack, and the attacks are not always as obvious as glowing angels and demons. More often, spiritual warfare takes place in your living room, in your workplace, in your bedroom. It takes place as you wrestle with the things that tempt you, your own personal demons. We get tired of the constant wrestling, and we give in and sin. We give in and sin, and our precious joy is stolen. We lose our joy in life and it becomes a bitter slog. We get tired.

TWO:

I RobotWe get tired because we sin, and we sin because we get tired. It’s a vicious circle and a trap. The Christian life sometimes seems like you God wants you to stand alone against an army of stuff that just wants to drag you down. Man its tiring. I get so scared of doing something that will bring the name of Jesus into disrepute, of doing something that might destroy everything we’ve built, and I spend lots of energy trying to appear like I have it all together. I get tired.

Has anyone seen the film ‘I, Robot’? It’s a boys toys film with lots of explosions, so that makes me happy, and its also a clever discussion about free will and what makes us human, but the reason I mention it is that the visual metaphor of the whole film is a chase, where a single mis-step will spell disaster, and where an army of faceless hordes try to pull you down – its tiring just to watch! DC Talk do a song called ‘What if I Stumble’, which is about the same thing.

Man that’s exhausting. When you try and keep everything together yourself, you get tired. When you try and outrun the devil on your own, you get tired. When you wrestle constantly against God, you get tired. I know this from personal experience. I’m there wrestling with all seven deadlys, just like everyone else. Pride – well, everyone knows that I’m bloody marvellous. Anger – its not my fault everyone I know is a moron. Lust, jealousy, avarice and gluttony – welcome to the 21st century. Sloth – hey, I get tired ok?

THREE:

But if that’s my life, if that’s where my energy is spent, just fighting that stuff over and over, then surely I’m missing something? Oh yeah, I fell into the trap into thinking it’s all about me, and that I have to be the one to hold it together. That’d be it then. The devil loves that one. Let’s take the story of Elijah. Elijah had just had his showdown with the prophets of Baal, and had called down fire from heaven that had even made rocks and water burn. He was cooking with gas! But then the queen threatened to kill him.

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he travelled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came. I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

Elijah got tired of the constant battle on behalf of the Lord because he made the mistake of thinking that it was all about him. He was out of position – God had to say to him ‘What are you doing here?’. He had forgotten who it was who looked after him – and God had to send an angel with food and drink to remind him. Twice! And he had gotten distracted from the real story – he thought he had to do it all on his own, when God had seven thousand others ready and willing.

FOUR:

Close to HerAnd that’s our big problem. We get distracted from the promises we have from God, and we don’t wait for him. We move out of position. We forget to look for how He provides for us. And ultimately, we try to do stuff on our own. And then we get tired, to the point where we say to God – I’ve had enough. I want to die. I’m too tired to do any more. I want to be somebody else. I can’t be me anymore.And so we build up these facades and pretend to be better (or worse) that we are. We hide ourselves away, and pretend that we can cope on our own. And the crazy thing is, the energy we spend on pretending that everything is ok makes us yet more tired, until we forget who we were in the first place, just as Elijah forgot that he was just one in God’s thousands.

In the film Mirrormask the heroine, who runs away from the circus to join real life, gets tired of fighting, and the dark queen puts her to sleep and makes her believe that she is the princess of the dark realm, and makes her forget that her real quest is to find a cure for her dying mother. (Click on the picture to see the clip - its a PG, but still quite distrubing in its imagery....)

The devil does the same thing to us. We get tired, and he makes us forget that we are really servants of the Most High on a vital mission, and instead tricks us into playing exhausting roles that are not really ours, whether that’s the role of the sinner or the role of the saint. We don’t have to be defined by either. We have no role to play, no job to do, no place to fill other than that which God gives us to do, and even then, we do it with Him, not for Him. We forget that at our peril.

The scripture tells us that if we wait for God, wait on God, then our strength will be renewed, our strength will be provided for us. We can do all things through him who strengthens us. When we get tired we need to lean on the everlasting arms that are always underneath us. If you try and do things on your own, you get tired. But if you let God do the stuff with you, then He does not get tired. If you keep watch on your own for the devil then eventually you will doze off, but He who keeps Israel does not slumber, and neither does he sleep. Lean on Him, because you’re not strong. We’re never that strong that we can do it without Him.

And if you are tired because you’re playing a role in the devil’s mad fun house, then He can give you rest from that, if you stop, and ask, and wait for him. I have this picture in my head that comforts me, and this isn’t biblical at all, but after I die I have this picture of me just sitting on a mountainside with Jesus in the dark. And for the longest time there is no one else there except me and him, and we talk it all through. And on that day when death is finally dead I give him all the last gasps of my fragile ego, and all my earthly bartering with Satan, and when he takes it all away we just sit there. And then, and only then, do we see lights coming down the hillside as the rest of you come home to join us. And that’s not because I’m anti-social, but rather because I know that I will need Jesus to change who I am before I can spend eternity with you guys, because to be who I am now forever, well, that’s what hell would be like. But to be me, truly me, and yet be fixed, well, that’s what heaven is. And here’s the trick. We don’t have to wait until we’re dead. We can let Jesus start to fix us now, to start stripping away the pretences, and the deceits, and the empty and tiring roles, and just be ourselves. And that will be our rest.

And that’s what church is really all about – its time to relax, to explore, to wait for God and to seek His face. Its what we’re always about at Legacy, even though the devil desperately wants us to forget what we’re really about and trick us into playing church games. Just be yourselves guys. You don’t have to be perfect – He has to do that for you. You don’t have to be a sinner – He has to take that from you. You don’t always have to be strong, or always be tough, or always be weak, or be the quiet one, or the geek, or the font of all wisdom, or the leader, or any other role that the devil wants to trap you in. Why not just be you, and let Jesus worry about the rest? Why not let God be God and let Him carry it all? Relax, trust, enjoy. Its all about him, not about you. They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength.

FIVE:

(Many of the ideas in the following sections were inspired by or expanded from Hugh MacLeod's brilliant 'How to be Creative'. In some places I may have borrowed directly from Hugh's words since they are beautiful and powerful and were echoing in my mind while I wrote - no plagiarism is intended. The sketches are all his too!)

So TiredAnd what is it that is at stake here? Its your very heart and soul. Its not just being a bit drowsy, its about being tired of life. Its ok to be tired because of your life, but its not ok to let yourself get tricked into being tired of your life. The Bible says that God has plans for your life. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. There are desires in your heart, desires to build something, to change something, to create something, to write something, or sing, or paint something, desires that you trample down and forget in the rush to be somebody you’re not. But the thing is, God put those desires there. they’re what keep you truly alive, because they’re what living is about. And when you forget these things you’ve lost the stuff that gives you energy – you get tired. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb. And why do you climb a mountain? Because its there. Because you were made to climb it, and God made it for you to climb. And whatever that mountain is for you, whatever that desire is that God puts in your heart, then you need to climb. Being tired is a lousy reason for never doing it – it’s the devil’s lie. You may never reach the top of your mountain, and for that you will forgive yourself, and you will be forgiven. But lets say you never even try to climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself ‘Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway’ and go and watch Eastenders instead? You could try. But I wouldn’t believe you. I think that its not ok for you to never to try to climb it. I think that’s one of the saddest things in the world. If you don’t at least try to make the top, if you don’t at least try to do whatever God has put into your heart and your hands to do, then that you will regret it forever. And I mean forever.

What is HolyThe Bible says that we all live but one life, and then face judgement. And that judgement will not be for the sin we have committed and get so tired of carrying – Jesus already dealt with that and there is no judgement for that and we don’t have to carry it. The judgement we will face will be ‘What did you do with the gifts and the passion and the desire and the strength I gave you?’ Did you climb the mountain? Or did you fritter away that strength on trivial things that mean nothing? The Bible says that our lives will be placed into the fire on that day, and the things we built with silver and gold will last forever, but the things we built with wood and straw will be burnt up and blow away. The things we create in worship to God, the lives we touch, the changes we make for the better in the world are silver and gold. The time we waste is wood and straw. And I’m not talking about relaxation time as a waste here – whatever gives you joy, your BMX, your computer games, the stories that matter, the beat of your drum, all those things are silver and gold because they reflect the creator God and joy is the serious business of heaven. But did slumping in front of the tv or MySpace because ‘I’m too tired’ (and for that read ‘I can’t be arsed’) ever bring you joy? I doubt it. Those times are wood and straw and will pass away into dust.

SIX:

Change the WorldWhen it comes to the Day the question will be: Did you believe the lie that there is nothing you can do? Or did you believe God and say ‘I’m gonna make this damn thing (whatever it is), I’m gonna make this damn thing exist’. Remember, your personal mountain doesn’t have to be big, it just has to change the world. The two are not the same thing. Let me ask you a question – what are the only man-made things in heaven? Answer – the scars on the body of Jesus. The only thing we really take with us are the changes we make to other people. You only have the love that God has given you to give away. When you touch someone’s heart you build in silver and gold. And that might be by showing them love directly, or by setting an example with the joy in your life, or by reaching out and touching them with your art or your craft, a song you wrote, a building you built, a painting you made, a computer game you coded. Whatever rocks your world will rock someone else’s world too.

The thing you do, your purpose under heaven doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be yours and yours alone, the thing that God created you for that you and only you can do in this time, in this place, now. And you might say ‘I don’t know what that desire of my heart is. I don’t know what God’s plans and purposes are’. That’s fine. Relax. Trust Him to make it clear, and He will make your path clear. A voice will whisper in your ear saying ‘This is the Way. Walk in it. This is the Thing, the One Thing that I made you for in this time and place, out of all the many One Things that I have given you and made you for.’

And you may say ‘But I’m not creative. You keep talking about creating something, and I’m not creative’. That’s a lie. Everyone is creative. Everyone was given crayons in their first class at school. And then when you hit puberty they take away the crayons and give you a book on algebra instead. But deep inside everyone is a little voice saying ‘I’d like my crayons back please’. That voice is the voice of real you, and the voice of the Holy Spirit. You get an itch to do something – to write a book, paint, set up a business, make chocolate cakes, bring water to Africa, abolish slavery – that’s your voice, the Spirit’s voice, saying ‘Can I have my crayons back please?’. And what happens then? Your adult voice says ‘Don’t be stupid. Its too risky. Its too weird. Don’t be stupid. You’ll fail. I’m not going that way, its far too rocky. What’s the point? Why bother? No one else will like it. No one else will care. Besides, you can’t do it. You’re not clever enough, rich enough, bright enough, strong enough. Not only that, its hard work and you’re just too damned tired’. Let me tell you – its not doing the stuff that makes you tired. The adult voice is not your voice, its his. The Accuser. The Thief of Always. And the Bible calls him the Thief of Always in the old translations because that is what he is, and he steals away the Always, and the Forever, and the Happy Ever After. He wants to steal away your joy. His voice is the voice of the Anti-Creator, the voice that says ‘Let there NOT be…’ The voice that whispers in your ear and says ‘Let there not be… because you’re not good enough, and it will be crap, so why bother?’. The voice that says ‘Let there not be…because you’re too tired.’ We have to defend our joy with everything inside of us and listen to the still small voice that says ‘Can we play with the crayons now’, because I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it, because it is by daring to ignore the adult voice that says ‘Let there not be’ that the Kingdom of Heaven is built.

SEVEN:

I love putting together alt worship type services for you guys because I get to let my imagination run wild and say ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we…’ and I get a kick out of it and it brings me joy. But I also get a kick out of that kind of thing not just because its my worship to God, but because I get to give it as gift to you guys. I get to say ‘here, have some crayons’. The real gift isn’t in the toys, its in the permission. When we do this stuff I get to say ‘Its ok, you can play again.’ Now in that kind of service you can be a cool teenager and not let yourself have fun with what is basically kids stuff, or you can say I’m going to worship with this. I’m going to play and so is God. You may choose not to get it ‘cos you’re too adult, or you can get stuck in and say this is fun, because you can bet your life that the God who made platypuses and pelicans, Chihuahuas and chickadees, and all sorts of other stupid looking animals just for the fun it, you can bet that He gets it.

Inner Fire"Picasso was a terrible colourist. Turner couldn’t paint human beings worth a damn. TS Eliot had a full time day job. Bob Dylan can’t sing or play guitar. But that didn’t stop them right? So I guess the next question is ‘Why not?’. I have no idea. Why should it?" (Hugh Macleod)

"The only people who can change the world are the people who want to. And not everybody does." (Hugh Macleod) ... Because they got tired.

So you go ahead and make something. Make something really special. Make something amazing that will really blow the mind of anyone who sees it. Because the power of art, the power of creation, the power of love to change the world, doesn’t depend on how good you are at it, it depends on how much passion and effort you put into it. People are touched by passion, not by ability. And the children of God, and I use the word children deliberately, ought to be the most passionate people in the world, because they have met the Creator, the font of all energy, and He said ‘Have some crayons’. You need to listen to the small crayon-coveting voice in your heart, ‘cos if you ignore it, it will get taken away, and it takes a big chunk of you with it, and that’s why you get tired, because the bit of you with all the energy got stolen. Your soul depends on you kicking the arse of whoever says ‘Let there not be’, and your real life depends on you saying ‘Woohoo! I’ve got crayons and I think a purple and orange sky would look nice…’

May the love of the Lord God go with you, now and always. May He keep you blameless until He comes. And let there be… Amen.

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