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"The Psalmist's Secret Of Stress Free Sleep"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

'Preach The Word'
You only have to walk into any bookstore, and look on the bookshelves and you will see the fallout of the stress levels in our society

Now we're turning first of all, for our first reading - we've two readings - to 2 Samuel chapter 15, beginning to read at verse 13. This is the chapter about Absalom's conspiracy against his father David, he wanted to overthrow his father and take the crown and the throne. We take up the reading at verse 13, and this is David's reaction to Absalom's rebellion: "And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint. And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house. And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off".

Then Psalm 3, and beginning to read at verse 1 - and you will see, if you have a reference Bible, or a marginal version of the Scriptures, you may see a little note below the title of the Psalm in Psalm 3: 'A Psalm of David When He Fled from Absalom His Son'. Psalm 4, incidentally, is probably also a Psalm written at that occasion. "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah".

I want to speak to you this morning on: 'The Psalmist's Secret of Stress Free Sleep' - the Psalmist's secret of stress free sleep. I'm sure you will agree with me that technology is advancing at a rate that we can hardly observe, everything seems to be so fast. Now when you go into PC World, or some other electrical establishment to buy a computer, as soon as you walk out the door it's out of date and there's a new one on the shelf taking its place! It's the same with a car - everything is either depreciating, or increasing in technological advance. Technology has, believe it or not, advanced to such a stage that people in a workplace were there is a great deal of noise, perhaps in a factory - many of you worked in the shipyard and maybe had to listen to a lot of noise, or worked in Shortt's, and daily are exposed to this 'noise pollution' as it's called today. But the technology around can silence that noise in the workplace - it's called the anti-noise device. What happens is - I don't understand it all, but I'm told that it produces a mirror image of the sound waves that are creating the disturbance, and it sort of acts against it and cancels out the positive waves with these negative ones. All you have to do is put on these earphones, and it emits these sound waves and cancels out the noise, and the result is absolute silence.

Now where we find ourselves today, and indeed where we find ourselves throughout the whole year that is past, and perhaps in your individual life and experience, and problems, and trials, and so on - the question begs: can we, as believers, cancel out our fears, our anxieties, and our troubles? Does God have, if you like, an anti-noise device? As we read 2 Samuel 15, and indeed look at the Psalms in 3 and 4, we see that David, like ourselves, found himself in stressful days. The context, as we've already looked at in Psalm 3 and 4, was probably written when David was exiled from Jerusalem because his son Absalom wanted to steal the throne and the crown and the kingdom from him. Where we find David in Psalm 3 and 4 is running away through the valleys and the hills of Judaea for two whole nights, laying himself down to sleep not on a bed, a regal bed of comfort and luxury, but on a bed of anxiety - lying out on the rough rocks of the hillside.

Can we, as believers, cancel out our fears, our anxieties, and our troubles? Does God have, if you like, an anti-noise device?

There there was no protecting guard in the palace corridors and chambers, but rather there was the fear and the threat and danger of wild animals all around him. I think we can sympathise with David in his despondent spirit in Psalm 3: he is living in stressful days, perhaps some of the most stressful days of his life, when even his son - a son that he loves so much, so much so that when he passed away he said: 'Absalom, my son, my son, O that I would have died for thee!'. What a dagger it must have been in David's heart to have that son stab him in the back. David describes his problems and trials, stresses and pressures, in verses 1 and 2: 'Lord, how are they increased', his problems were increased. Then he uses this word: 'Many are they that rise up against me', in verse 2 he uses it again: 'Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah'.

If you're familiar with the Psalms, you will know that 'Selah' is a pause that may have been used for the musician, or for the person who was reciting the Psalm - but the pause is there not just for a musical interlude, but for a moment of contemplation. It suggests that David was listening to his accusers saying: 'Is there no help for me in God', and thinking to himself: 'Are they right? Is God there at all? Is God a God of salvation? Is God a God of deliverance? And if He is why am I out on the hilltops of Judaea fleeing for my life from my own son?'. I wonder have you ever asked the question, if you're not asking it today: 'Is there any help for me in God? Is there any help for us in the circumstances of life where we feel that everything is caving in upon us, and we're living in stressful days and can't cope with the circumstances?'. David was there, and that comforts me, and I hope it comforts you to know that the great Psalmist of Israel comes to God and opens his heart, and pours out all the strain and stress of life.

Robert Orban (sp?) said these words: 'Sometimes I get the feeling the whole world is against me, but deep down I know that that's not true - some of the smaller countries are only neutral!'. That's the way we feel, don't we? The whole world is against us, everything is against us, nothing is going for us. It seems that the stress of life's pressures today in our 21st century are at epidemic proportions. Whatever we cite the problems to be that are causing our stress and our strain, it seems that everybody in some shape or form to a smaller or larger extent is suffering from the pressures of life. I am told that 43% of adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress. According to USA Today, the newspaper, a survey of 501 adults was conducted by the Research and Forecast Syndicate, and they isolated the sources into these results with regards to what causes stress in people's lives. Believe it or not, no surprise I would imagine to you, right up there at the top was work - 36% of people said that work was the biggest cause of their stress. 32%, coming a close second, was money, financial concerns, pressures, anxieties and fears. 10% said that children caused them the most stress. 7% said it was their ill health. 5% said it was their marriage, and the problems they are in. Another 5% said it was their parents that caused them stress. Only 5% said they had no stress, and 19% said they had little stress.

You only have to walk into Eason's or NPO, Waterstones, any bookstore, and look on the bookshelves and you will see the fallout of the stress levels in our society in the retail market where books, tapes, you name it, are being sold to relieve our stress. The American Booksellers Associates estimates that more than 2000 self-help titles are published each year, and have produced sales every year of half a million dollars. From cassette tapes reproducing sounds of forests, oceans, birds and rainfall, to yoga and eastern exercises of the mystics, not to mention stress balls, stress beads, and body rollers that you roll up-and-down your head and your back to relieve stress! What does that tell us? I think it tells us that for many people in our society, and Christians are not exempt, they find it hard to cope with the pressures of life.

It's hard to cope at times, isn't it? Problems in your family, amongst your friends, perhaps marital problems, financial strains and stresses, bills that have to be paid no matter what the wage is coming in

I wonder am I talking to you today? It's hard to cope at times, isn't it? Problems in your family, amongst your friends, perhaps marital problems, financial strains and stresses, bills that have to be paid no matter what the wage is coming in. Annie Johnson Flint, who wrote so many poems that speak so vocally to all of our hearts, wrote one on pressure and stress, and it went like this:

"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength!
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul;
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends!"

I'm sure there's not one of us here that have never known stressful days - but stressful days can lead, as we see in this Psalm, to sleepless nights. Sleepless nights are the potential fallout of stressful days, and there was great potential for David to experience - out in the wilderness and the hills of Judaea - night after night on those rocky uncomfortable beds, great great stress and anxiety as he thought of what was going on in the palace. I'm sure that there's not one of you that has not experienced sleepless nights at some time, when you just can't get something out of your mind and it robs you of that tranquillity and that peace that is necessary, that is physiological where the muscles of your body relax and allow you to sleep.

The port Amy Lovell, whenever she went to a hotel had to rent five rooms - the reason being, two on either side so that she didn't hear any noise from those ones, one across the way so that no one was coming in and out the door noisily late at night, and then one below that she wasn't hearing any sounds from underneath - that's the only way she could have a peaceful night's sleep! Charles Dickens, the great author, could not sleep until his bed was laid along a north-south axis, only then did he sleep like a baby. The American National Institute of Mental Health says that 800,000 dollars of drugs are consumed each year, and more than 200 types of sleeping tablets are available to get you over to sleep.

Please look for a moment at the danger that David was in: he threatened to lose his kingdom, his wealth, he even threatened to lose his life - and the great King of Israel is running away, many would say running away scared, although he wasn't that may have been the way it seemed to most. Running away from his problems, and I think he had plenty of stresses to keep him sleepless, don't you? Yet what did he say? Look at verse 5, will you: 'I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me'. Psalm 4, again written in the same circumstances, ends with the same sentiment in verse 8: 'I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety'.

Now one thing I love about the Psalms, and I think this is one of the reasons why we all love the Psalms so well, is that we can identify with his circumstances and his situations, and he is brutally and blatantly honest with us. There is no false piety and hot air with the Psalmist, he tells it like it is! He pours his heart out the way he feels, he breaks it before God, and then we often - don't we - find this crescendo that he starts being down in the dumps, and there's a scene change to where he moves his eyes upon God in Christ, I believe, and his depth of heart despair is raised to the heights of heavenly glory. It tells us, if nothing else, that it is possible in the depths of life's most darkest experience to still have hope in God - even to still get a good night's sleep!

It tells us, if nothing else, that it is possible in the depths of life's most darkest experience to still have hope in God - even to still get a good night's sleep!

Is it possible for you? Well, yes, isn't it? You have the same God, don't you? David's God - and although everything was against David, what made the difference to David was he knew that God was for him! If God was for him, all those things, though they were against him, could not prevail over him. Look at verse 3, he took comfort in the fact that God surrounded him: 'But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head'. Do you know that God surrounds you? No ill can come to you against the will of God. As one great man of God said many hundreds of years ago: 'I am immortal until it is God's time'. God surrounds us even when we lay our head on the pillow after a day when everything has gone against us, and the thoughts of the evil one would penetrate our mind to disturb us, we can have God round about us - 'God is round about us', the hymn says, 'and can I be dismayed?'.

In verse 5, the second thing he takes comfort in: 'I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me'. Not only does the Lord surround us, but the Lord sustains us, He keeps us going when we feel we cannot keep going, when there's nothing to keep going for. Even when we are unconscious to the rest of the world, He sustains us. Verse 7: 'Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly' - save me! He is a shield, circle it; He sustains me, circle it; and He saves me! Here is David discouraged through all his circumstances, lying on a hard rough bed of anxiety and fear in the wilderness - yet he knows that even if people are against him, even if his own flesh and blood was against him, verse 3: 'Thou art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head'. If the whole word is against me, God will allow me and enable me to lift my head up high and face whatever comes my way. God will keep on keeping me going on!

I think that's some pill for sleepless nights, isn't it? A God who surrounds, a God who sustains, a God who saves, and a God who - when everything's not going your way, not the way you would like - a God who lifts up your head and brings you glory. Let me leave you with this thought: when there are stressful days and sleepless nights, the pill for those sleepless nights is a sleepless God. Look at his prayer in verse 7: 'Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God'. Arise! The battle cry for God to take the field, to defend His people. I'll tell you, whenever we find ourselves in circumstances where life is against us, and we're experiencing such stress that we cannot even get a night's sleep, we need to give ourselves to prayer and pour out our hearts to God and say: 'Arise O God!'.

David could pray this prayer - why? Because he knew, turn with me to Psalm 121, he knew that the one who was hearing his prayers, who would answer them, was the one who he said already in verse 3 of this Psalm, and verse 4: 'He will not suffer thy foot to be moved'. Even though I'm out of Jerusalem, and out of the palace, and off the throne, He will not suffer my foot to be finally moved. 'He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep'. He knew that God's salvation was real, because God's sleepless eye is ever on His children. We have a sleepless God. Maybe you're here this morning, or in the past recent days you have said to yourself: 'God hasn't come through for me. God hasn't arisen for me and let my enemies be scattered. He wasn't there when I needed Him most - where is God in my circumstances? Where is God today? Where is God in all our bereavement? Where is He?'.

Do we really believe that the power of God within us is greater than anything that can come to us from without and encompass around us?

Turn with me for a moment to Mark's gospel chapter 4, this is a very famous portion of Scripture that has blessed me immensely in the week that has gone by, verse 36: 'And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'.

They thought the Lord didn't care: 'Carest thou not that we perish? Lord, do you not care?'. And the Lord rebuked them and said: 'O ye of little faith, how is it that you do not believe?'. R.D. Johnston said well these words: 'The Lord rebuked them not for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears'. Isn't that what we do? We disturb ourselves with our fears! 'Carest thou not that we perish? Lord, do you not care? Do you not know what we're going through?', and the Lord seems at times to us to be asleep, doesn't He? He's not there to help when we need Him, when we most need Him. He doesn't intervene at the time that we feel that it's necessary, indeed it's imperative for Him to intervene!

Listen to what Alexander MacLaren says: 'The boat may be covered with the waves, and He sleeps on, but He will wake before it sinks. He sleeps', this is wonderful, 'but He never over-sleeps, there are no 'too-lates' with Him'. What did he say at the end of Psalm 3? 'Salvation belongeth to the LORD' - our God is the deliverer! David could say in Psalm 114: 'The sea saw it', God's salvation, 'and it fled. Jordan was driven back, the mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs', and there our blessed Redeemer, Lord Jesus Christ, Master and risen glorious Conqueror and Friend stands in the storm and says: 'Peace, be still' - and the wee faithless creatures turn to Him and marvel and say: 'What kind of human being is this that even the winds and the waves obey Him?'. He used that word that the shepherd uses to the sheepdog: 'Lie down'.

The Psalmist asked the question, and we must ask it to today: why should I stay awake all night when the Lord never slumbers nor sleeps - what's the point of the both of us staying up all night? Do we really believe that the power of God within us is greater than anything that can come to us from without and encompass around us? Doesn't John say in his epistle: 'Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world'. What is in the world today? Marital breakdown, divorce, murder, abuse, bereavement, drugs, alcoholism, rape - we could go on, and on, and on - and there's none of us unaffected by trouble here today. But greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!

"God gives to His servants a promise:
You'll not have to face life alone,
For when you grow weak in the struggle,
His strength will prevail, not your own".

Can I read Annie Johnson Flint's poem to you again as I close, but this time I'll read a verse that I didn't read at the beginning:

"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength!
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul;
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.

Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends;
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends!
Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving the Staff and the Rod!

Pressed into Liberty where nothing clings;
Pressed into faith for impossible things!
Pressed into tasting the joy of the Lord;
Pressed into living a Christ-Life outpoured!"

Our Father, when he was stripped and robbed of everything that he knew in this world's sense, and he didn't have perhaps the guards around him; our Father, he wasn't trusting in man's strength, but he encouraged himself in the Lord. He cried to Thee: 'Arise O LORD, save me, O my God'. Because he turned affections on things that were above, where moth and rust and even death cannot corrupt, because of that he could say: 'I laid me down and slept, I awaked, for the Lord sustained me'. May we all have this experience in our life, our Father, whatever the strains and stresses and causes of sleeplessness may be in our experience. We pray for ourselves as an assembly at this time of deep grief, we pray for June and the whole family, and Lord we pray for others who have been bereaved in this recent year. We find it hard, and Lord we are passing through a difficult time, but we thank Thee for Thy promise - blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. We pray that through our experiences individually and as an assembly, that we would have the Christ of the lake of Galilee manifest to us, and that He may speak into our hearts and into our experience the necessary words: 'Peace, be still'. Bless us now we pray, our Father, and may we know the experience today of putting our trust wholly and totally upon Thee, being still and knowing that Thou art God. Amen.

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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins,
Preach The Word.
July 2003
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Psalmist's Secret Of Stress Free Sleep" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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