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He Leads Me beside Still Waters, He Restores My Soul: Psalm 23:2,3

He Leads Me beside Still Waters, He Restores My Soul: Psalm 23:2,3

By Ted Schroder,
May 8, 2016

God is in the soul restoration business. He takes lives that are broken down, or run down, or worn down, and in the process of self-destruction, and restores them. Humanity is thirsty for satisfaction in life. There is an unquenched thirst for personal fulfillment and happiness that drinks deeply from the wells of the world. It is really a search for God but often drinks substitutes instead. The Psalmist expresses this thirst: "My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, In a dry and weary land where there is no water." (63:1)

For many, daily life is a dry and weary land in which there is no water. There are many alcoholics who have known the transformation that Christ has brought to their lives, and the truth of the promise that he restores their soul. I grew up with two doctors who were alcoholics: our family doctor, and the Head of Psychiatry at the local mental hospital. Despite their education, they had rejected Christianity in favor of salvation from the bottle. I can see them now, drowning their sorrows every night, cynical about life, depressed, and destroying their bodies with their addiction. My family doctor would have frequent spells in the hospital in order to dry out. He and people like him, are described by Jeremiah: "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (2:13)

The 23rd Psalm promises us restoration: "He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul."Jesus is in the life restoration business. He comes to restore us to the full image of God. He says to a woman who searched for love in her life, who had five husbands and was then living with another man: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13,14)

How does the Good Shepherd satisfy our thirst for love and authenticity and restore our souls? Take the example of another person who experienced failure, and who ran away. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in the court of the High Priest. After his resurrection Jesus came to him to begin the restoration process. He led him beside the still waters of Galilee, and he restored his soul. He said to Simon Peter: "Do you truly love me more than these?" Do you truly love me more than anything else? Are you willing to love me, your Maker and Redeemer, in your heart and spirit, more than any other source of fulfillment? Do you truly want a genuine relationship with me? Do you truly love who I am and what I have to give you - life in all its fullness? The first and great commandment is that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Do you truly love me? Peter had to answer that question three times: one time for each denial: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Like Peter, if we want to drink deep of the waters that satisfy we need to have a genuine relationship with Jesus. "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17)
Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers almost died on Mt. Everest when eight other climbers froze to death on that mountain in a sudden storm in May, 1996. Weathers lost his nose, his right hand and forearm, and all the fingers on his left hand, to frostbite. He has undergone eight major surgeries and several minor ones to care for these injuries. Achievement had been his life focus. He had reached the top of his profession, but was not satisfied. He took up mountain climbing in hopes of finding genuine satisfaction and personal fulfillment. He had conquered six of the seven tallest peaks on the globe, but still had not found that elusive sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. He almost died.

Dr. Weathers said in a television interview: "What I was seeking on all those mountain tops, I've found in my own home." He was speaking of his relationship with his wife and children. "If all this hadn't happened, I could see myself achieving everything that wasn't nailed down and winding up alone at the end of my life." Dr Weathers came to see that basic fulfillment and satisfaction is not really to be found through our achievements but through our relationships, especially with those we love. We are made in the image of God for love relationships.

Jesus gave Peter a task to do: "Feed my lambs...Take care of my sheep...Feed my sheep." He was restored by being entrusted with a significant mission in life. He was given a vocation to fulfill. He had to share with others what he had learned. His life was given a new purpose. Jesus gives all those who have been restored the purpose of serving others. We are called to find the lost sheep and lead them to the Good Shepherd who will restore their souls. Our soul experiences restoration as we share with others what we have discovered for ourselves.

When an old house is sold and the new owner restores it so that it is like new, the whole neighborhood rejoices. Morale in the community, as well as the value of the house, goes up. It is a costly business to restore old houses. You have to love doing it, and be willing to invest the money needed to complete the work. It can take a long time. It cannot be accomplished in a moment. The Gospel message is about the Lord investing in soul restoration. The story of the Bible is that of God pouring out all his resources in Christ to restore souls. He calls us also to invest our time and effort into restoring souls.

The house restoration business is a never-ending project. There is always something going wrong in an old house. Similarly, our lives constantly need restoration. We can never rest in this life thinking that we are finished. We must expect the unexpected, and the need for spiritual repairs to be made. When we are discouraged by the task we must remember that this life is not perfect, and that it is of the nature of fallen creation that physical life deteriorates. As we age our bodies are constantly in the need of repair and maintenance. The Second Law of Thermodynamics calls it the law of entropy. Paul put it this way, "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

How can we be renewed day by day? How can our souls be restored? While our earthly body deteriorates as we age, we have another building from God, "an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling... so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Cor.5:1-5).

If we are being moved into a new resurrection body -- a new dwelling that has been fully restored and made ready for our arrival -- then we will spend the rest of our lives preparing for that move. We will be getting rid of that which we cannot take with us, which does not belong in heaven, and instead replacing them with those that do. So we rid ourselves of anger, rage, malice, slander and bad language. "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the image of its creator....Therefore as God's chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these virtues put on love...Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (Col.3:8-15).

How is the Good Shepherd restoring your soul? How are you investing in soul restoration?

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