When I'm Empty
Message by Dr. Rick Mandl at Eagle Rock Baptist Church, February 21, 2021
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA.
Sermon Manuscript: Living In The Goodness Of God Message 4- When I’m Empty
Sermon preached by Dr. Rick Mandl, Eagle Rock Baptist Church, February 20 & 21, 2021
The date was May 25, 1979. It was Memorial Day Weekend. American Airlines Flight 191 was taking off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. 31 seconds after that flight took off from O’Hare, it crashed, killing all 273 people on board. This was, and still remains, the worst single plane crash in American history. I have some memories of that day, more than 40 years ago that Flight 191 went down.
My wife will never forget that day. She was working at a travel agency at that time. One of their clients was a passenger on that flight. Shortly after the news broke that this flight had crashed, she answered a phone call that was coming into the travel agency where she worked. The person calling was the father of their client who was on board that ill-fated flight. Dad was calling to ask . . . “Was there any possibility that there was different American Airlines flight, that had left Chicago at the same time, heading for the same destination as Flight 191.” My wife checked the flight schedules, and then had to deliver the news, that there was not another flight that his man’s son could have been on. This was the only one.
As a result of the crash, of American Airlines flight 191, all of the DC 10s in the United States were grounded until an investigation could be completed to determine what went wrong. That investigation revealed that what went wrong was that one of the plane’s engines fell off. Plane’s engines are not supposed to fall off. The reason it happened to this plane was what was referred to as “A SUSTAINED NEGLECT OF MAINTENANCE”, and as a result of that accident and that investigation, changes were put in place for the entire fleet.
I share that story with you because . . . Our soul is in many ways like an engine. It’s the thing that powers your body and causes it to do what it does. But much like an engine it requires maintenance. Today as we continue our study of The 23rd Psalm we come to verse 3, and our focus will just be on the first four words. And those words are . . . “He Restoreth My Soul.” That’s what we’ll be talking about today. “He Restoreth My Soul.”
What does it mean to restore something? It means to bring it back, or to return it to its previous condition. And that’s exactly what God does as He brings healing and restoration to our souls. But what IS your soul? Your soul is made up of your Intellect, your Emotions and your Will. If you’re taking notes, your soul is the part of you that. . . Thinks, Chooses, and Feels. It’s the way you think, the way you feel, and the choices that you make, because in large part those are the things that really determine who you are.
It's very easy to get these damaged. Think about it . . . Can your mind be damaged? Of course it can. It can be damaged by what you put in it . . . By your experiences, by trauma, by chemistry, by all kinds of things. Your mind CAN be damaged. You don't always think straight and neither do I. What about your EMOTIONS? Can your emotions be damaged? You can get emotionally depleted. You can become emotionally numb. You can be emotionally overwhelmed. Our MINDS can be damaged. Our EMOTIONS can be damaged. What about your WILL? Can your will be damaged? Well let me ask you. . . . Have you ever looked at your life and thought. . . "I really know the right thing to do, and I want to do the right thing, but I still don’t choose to do it." That happens because our CHOOSERS get broken. We're all flawed in many ways.
At the top of your notes there’s a verse from Isaiah 53 that says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. . .” (Isaiah 53:6a). There are numerous metaphors that God uses throughout all of Scripture to describe the way God relates to his people. Sometimes he uses the metaphor of a parent to a child, or he'll use the metaphor of a king, to a servant. But in the text that we’ve been looking at over these weeks. . . In Psalm 23, David, the one who wrote this Psalm, uses the metaphor of a shepherd to sheep, to illustrate God's tender care for his family, for his children, for his sheep. Because God is our shepherd by implication here in the text, David is implying that God's people are to be referred to as what??? Sheep.
And as I’ve mentioned over these past weeks, to be referred as a sheep is not exactly a flattering thing. And yet, that’s the reference he makes. He doesn't refer to us as anything else. We're not strong like lions. We're not fast or agile, like cheetah. We're not smart, like dogs. We are dumb - Like sheep - - not the most flattering term.
In fact, in 2005, there were some shepherds in Eastern turkey that got together for a lunch and all of their flocks had gathered together in one place about 1500 sheep. And one of the sheep was close to the edge of a ledge. . . And that sheep thought to himself, “I wonder what's down there, I think I’ll go check it out. . . He walked right off the side of hillside, falling to his death.” Well, some of the other sheep out in the pasture saw the sheep go over the edge, and they thought, “I wonder if there's something over the edge, that I might be interested in?” And so they followed. All 1500 of them followed. All of them going over the edge, and dropping 15 meters to the rocks below. The only reason that just 400 of those 1500 died, is because sheep are soft, and wooly, and fluffy. And the 400 who died provided a soft cushion for the others that would follow.
Sheep are SPECIAL. There is no animal in the animal kingdom that requires more care, more focused attention than sheep. They cannot fend for themselves. They cannot care for themselves. They require more care than any other animal. And yet over 200 times throughout all of Scripture God references us, his people, his love his prized possession as sheep, and as such we are easily distracted, we are easily deceived, we are easily scared, we are easily overwhelmed, we are easily confused, and easily lost. Which is why Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” Now that might not sound very loving, for a God who created us to call us sheep. Except for one thing . . .
Remember, the Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” It'd be one thing if we were sheep without a shepherd, but we are not. We are sheep with a great shepherd who has promised to care for us. And one of the things that he has promised to do in caring for us is to restore our souls. . . Now, what is it that damages your soul? Why don't you always THINK right? Why don't you always FEEL right? Why don't you always CHOOSE right? There are many things that could damage your soul but I want us to focus on the three most common. You might write these down.
Number one, the first thing that damages the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you decide is Unconfessed Guilt. Unconfessed guilt, nothing damages your life more, your soul more, nothing will rob your happiness quicker than to go around carrying a boatload of guilt. Many people have a misconception of God. And their misconception of God is that they think that God wants us to walk around feeling guilty. He doesn’t. God hates guilt. In fact, God loves to forgive guilt. God doesn't want you to be guilty all the time. In fact, he didn't make your body to handle guilt. And when you do try and carry that around with you, it will take a physical toll on you . . .
Look at these words from King David, reflecting on that time in his life when he was hiding his sin and carrying around unconfessed guilt. He wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).
Now, there's a couple problems with guilt. One of them is that every one of us have a good reason to feel guilt. The reason is because we don't always do what's right. We hurt other people. We do selfish things. Why is that? Because at our root, we're selfish. We want what we want, when we want it.
Look at this verse, Proverbs 20:27 tells us the other reason why we have problem with guilt is because we run from our own consciences. Proverbs 20:27 says, "The Lord gave us a mind and a conscience; we can't hide from ourselves." You see, you can hide all kinds of stuff from me, and I'll never know about it. You might even hide a whole bunch of things from a friend, or your boss, or your spouse, or your kids, but you're not hiding anything from God. AND, you're not hiding anything from yourself. When you try to hide it, it just starts eating you on the inside because “The Lord gave us a mind and a conscience.”
So, what do you do with guilt? You've got to ask God for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession! Coming clean before God. Now, normally we do everything except that. We’ll try DENIAL. Pretending that the guilt isn’t even there. Other times we’ll try to MINIMIZE the guilt. We’ll tell ourselves that "Okay, I did something wrong, but it's no big deal. Everybody else does it. It wasn't that bad. It's just a little teeny tiny, teeny tiny sin." Other times we’ll RATIONALIZE. You try to convince yourself in your head that something is no big deal, even though your heart knows that it’s wrong. None of those things work. There's only one thing that works to get rid of unconfessed guilt. And that is to Confess it. Just admit it. Own up to it.
The word "confession" in the Bible in Greek is the word homo-logeo. A compound word made up of two individual words. Homo, we know what that means. It means same. Logeo means “to say.” Put them together, and what the word “Confess” means is “To Say The Same Thing.” To say the same thing as who? To say the same thing as God, as it relates to our sin. Confession simply means to agree with God. “You're right, God.” “What I did was wrong.” I don't deny it. I don't minimize it. I don't rationalize it. I just admit it. Why? Because UNCONFESSED GUILT damages my soul.
A second thing that damages my soul is . . . Unprocessed Grief. Grief takes a toll on all of us emotionally and physically. In Psalm 31, David wrote, “Lord, have mercy, because I am in misery. My eyes are weak from so much crying, and my whole being is tired from grief” (Psalm 31:9). Don’t miss those last three words. . . . “Tired from grief.” I wonder, can any of you relate to that feeling?
Sooner or later all of us will have to deal with grief, because all of us will experience loss. In life you're going to have losses. There is no growth in life without change. There is no change in life without loss, because you give up some old to get some new. There's no loss without pain and there's no pain without grief. It’s important to learn how to grieve well.
Now, grief is not a bad thing. Guilt's a bad thing. Grudges are a bad thing. Grief is actually a GOOD thing. It's the way we get through the transitions of life. What is a bad thing is UNPROCESSED grief. When I mention grief, your mind might immediately jump to the things we most often associate with that word, like the loss of a loved one. And that is definitely one of the things that this pandemic has drastically and cruelly affected.
Never before, in my life, have we ever had so many people ‘dying alone.’ And when I say ‘Dying Alone,’ I don’t necessarily mean people dying alone at home. . . Although that has happened to some. I mean dying alone in hospital beds without loved ones by their side, to hold their hand and say their final goodbyes. That’s one of the things that COVID has stolen from us. But there are many other varieties of grief that we’re having to deal with.
I was reading an article put out by the Mayo Clinic, titled "Coronavirus Grief: Coping with the loss of routine during the pandemic." The article said that . . . In addition to feeling grief over the loss of life caused by COVID-19, you're likely grieving the loss of your normal routine. It said that . . . Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have affected people's jobs, where people work, the way kids go to school and play, and the ability to gather in person with family and friends. These measures have also changed how people shop, worship, exercise, eat, seek entertainment and celebrate holidays and special events. As a result, the pandemic has had a major psychological impact, causing people to lose a sense of safety, predictability, control, freedom and security.
Why is the loss of your routine so upsetting? You might not realize it, but you don't only feel attachments to other people. You also probably feel powerful attachments to your work and certain places and things. The result of losing these attachments is GRIEF. On the one hand we know that all we’re going through is temporary. But on the other hand it sure doesn’t feel that way, and we realize that because of what has happened to us, things will be different in the future. Just as going to the airport was forever different from how it was before 9/11, things will be on some level forever changed because of this pandemic. We need to realize that, and we need to process that. If we don’t, it will damage our soul.
Unconfessed Guilt, Unprocessed Grief... A third thing that damages our souls, and this can hit very close to home for a lot of people, and that’s . . . Unaddressed Grudges. When you get resentful, when you get bitter, when you start thinking about retaliation or revenge against somebody's who hurt you, it damages your soul. The writer to the Hebrews warned us . . . “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15).
We're all broken people. We're all imperfect. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally. Sometimes we hurt each other unintentionally. The truth is you're going to be hurt in life. Sometimes people hurt you, and sometimes you hurt them. When that happens, we start to build up grudges. We hold on to hurts, and we do so to our own detriment. One man who suffered much, and endured a lot of hurt was Job. . . But he was also the one who said . . . "To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do" (Job 5:2). Why would it be a senseless thing to do? He tells us . . . "You're only hurting yourself with your anger."
We hold onto hurts. We nurse grudges in an attempt to punish the person who hurt us What we don’t realize is that. . . When you hold onto a grudge, it's not hurting the other person. It's hurting you. What’s the cure for bitterness? It’s forgiveness. God’s Word tells us . . . “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). You hear me say that and you think . . . "But Pastor Rick, you don't know how much they've hurt me." And I’ll be the first to admit that “You’re right, I don’t.” And you feel like “But they don’t deserve to be forgiven.” And again I’ll tell you, “You’re probably right, they most likely don’t.” But then neither do you, and neither do I. But God has forgiven you us and he calls us to forgive others not because they deserve it. . . . But because we’ve been forgiven . . . And because by forgiving others we experience healing and restoration in our souls. . . Don’t let any root of bitterness grow within you.
Dr. Martin Luther King once said, "Bitterness is blindness." He said, “The old law of an eye for an eye, leaves everyone blind.” We need to learn to forgive others, just as God through Christ has forgiven us. And I don’t believe you can ever do that apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Earlier on I referenced a portion of Isaiah 53:6 Where it talks about us as straying sheep.
Let me share with you a little bit more of what Isaiah wrote. Looking ahead 700 years to the cross, speaking about Jesus he wrote. . . But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Jesus was pierced, crushed and wounded... Why? So that you and I could be FORGIVEN, healed and restored. Let’s thank him for that together . . . Would you pray with me?
From Series: "Living In The Goodness Of God"
We live in a world that so often focuses on what’s missing. But did you know that God invites us to experience his goodnes.
God invites us to live a life without scarcity or lack. In Psalm 23 we find a compelling picture of this kind of life. Join us for our new sermon series, “Living in The Goodness of God,” as we learn how a life of goodness is available to anyone who will allow God to be their Shepherd.
Living in the Goodness of God begins January 30th.
How to join:
In-Person during our Outdoor Worship Service on Sundays at 11 am (for details visit: https://www.erockchurch.com/outdoor-worship)
Watch online at www.erockchurch.com/live Live Stream Service Times: Saturday at 5:30pm Sunday at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 6pm Wednesday at 7pm