“Weary, Yet Pursuing: Obeying God When You Are Tired” (John 4:6-7 sermon)

During the Civil War, the 20th Massachusetts regiment found themselves in combat day after day after day for almost 2 solid months. And it wore them down physically, emotionally, in every way. At the end of June 1864, Captain H.L. Patten wrote:

“[The men] have been so horribly worked and badgered that they are utterly unnerved and demoralised. They are easily scared as a timid child at night. Half our brigade were taken prisoners the other day, in the middle of the day, by a line no stronger than themselves, without firing a shot. … Fifty-three days; EVERY DAY under fire, every night either digging or marching. We, our brigade, have made fourteen charges upon the enemy’s breastworks, although at last no amount of urging, no heroic example, no threats, or anything else, could get the line to STIR ONE PEG. For my own part, I am utterly tired and dis- heartened and if I stay at all, it will be like a whipt dog –because I think I must.” (“Combat Trauma In The American Civil War, by John Talbot, History Today, London, England, March 1996)

That Civil War captain could tell you from personal experience: it is hard to obey when you are tired. Many of us know that personally as well. How many times do we just “settle”, or disobey, or give in to temptation, or fail to do what we think God wants us to do, because we are tired?

In our passage for tonight, we see that Jesus knew what it was like to be tired — but He also exhibited a commitment to obey His Heavenly Father and minister to people — and if we ask Him, He will give us the strength to do the same thing as well.

 

THE WEARINESS OF JESUS

One of the things that stood out to me as I read this passage the other day was where :6 says “So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well.”

Catch those words: “Jesus, being wearied.” This is a word that many of us need to hear, who picture Jesus as being some kind of 1st-Century “Superman”, who had superpowers and who was made of steel. This reminds us first of all, of His genuine HUMANITY. We always need to remember that Jesus was and is God — This book opens by saying “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GOD.” Jesus was not merely a good human teacher, He was & is GOD. But we also need to remember that when He came to earth, He came as a real, 100% flesh & blood MAN. The same John Chapter 1 that says that He was God in :1, goes on to say in :14, “The Word became FLESH and dwelt among us.” So Jesus became “flesh”, a real man. And as we have studied before, He HAD to do that, in order to bring about our salvation. Hebrews 2:17 says “Therefore He HAD to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Jesus had to become a real, 100%, “flesh & blood” man in order to represent us on the cross and be our Savior. “He had to be made like His brethren in ALL things” that verse in Hebrews says — and Hebrews 4:15 says He “has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” But He WAS tempted; He experienced everything that we do in life — and this passage here in John 4 reminds of that. Jesus left the Jordan River where they had been baptizing, and headed through Samaria to go back to Galilee. You & I could drive that distance in a couple hours today, but in those days it would be several days walk for them. So Jesus had been walking for hours — either noon Jewish time or 6 p.m. Roman time — either way He had been walking for some time — and the Bible says He was “wearied.” This Bible word was used by ancient Greek writers to mean “weary, tired or exhausted.” So Jesus was tired.

Anyone here tired tonight? One thing I have noticed recently: a lot of people are tired. I am tired. Cheryl & I kept our grandbabies for 3 days this weekend and I told Tommy Sain this is why God doesn’t give kids to 60 year olds! We were TIRED! And we aren’t alone; a LOT of us are tired. I talk to people all the time, and it seems like almost everyone is tired.

— Now honestly, some of us should not be as tired as we are. We need to change our schedules and some of our commitments so that we are not tired all the time. Making yourself so busy that you do not get rest is not from God. God gave us the example of the Sabbath Day because He knew that we need regular rest.
— But then some of us are in situations which are beyond our control, which are making us tired, and there is nothing we can do about it.

God knows how much of each of our situations we can control and how much we can’t, but here’s the main point: JESUS KNEW WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE TIRED. If you are tired tonight, you are not alone — many others of us are tired too — but even more than that JESUS Himself was tired: “wearied, exhausted” that word means. “He can sympathize with our weaknesses” as Hebrews says. He has been there. So you can ask Him to help you: 1) plan some things differently in your life so that your schedule both honors Him and gives you the rest you need, and 2) you can ask Him to help strengthen you when your weariness is due to situations beyond your control. He will strengthen the weary if you will turn to Him, and He will help you to do what you need to do, even if you are tired.

 

THE WEARY OBEDIENCE OF JESUS

We know that Jesus can help us to obey even when we are tired, because HE HIMSELF obeyed when He was tired. The “weariness” that :6 indicates that Jesus had there at Jacob’s well was only the backdrop of the story. As you know, while Jesus was sitting there at the well, verse 7 says that a woman came to draw water from that well. And Jesus initiated a conversation with her, asking her: “Give Me a drink.”

Now do you think that Jesus felt like engaging this woman in conversation? You can picture what she must have looked like: you know how they say of some people “they have a lot of miles on them”? Well this woman had been married 5 times, and was now living immorally with someone else besides those 5, and as we see later in the conversation she had with Jesus that she was contentious and controversial in her comments — JUST the kind of person you really feel like talking to when you’re tired, right? But the thing is, Jesus DID talk to her. He spoke up; He started the conversation with the woman; He patiently put up with her attempts to divert the conversation away from her own spiritual condition to controversial religious questions instead — and He ended up bringing both the woman AND “many” verse 41 says from the village to salvation as a result. So even though Jesus was “weary”, He glorified God with His faithfulness and obedience, and many were touched and saved as a result.

So another lesson here from Jesus is that sometimes we have to obey and serve even when we are weary. Now as you undoubtedly know, that is hard to do. There is an old expression in the military: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” That 20th Massachusetts Regiment that had served so well earlier in the war would not “stir one peg” when they were commanded to charge the enemy because they were so exhausted. In the same way, a person who is usually ambitious and zealous, may instead just “settle”, because they are tired. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” — it is hard to do good work, or be ambitious for our work, or the Lord’s work, when we are weary.

So when we get “weary”, we need to ask the Lord for help.
— As I said before, sometimes the help we need to ask Him for is to rearrange our schedule so we aren’t overdoing it; so we get enough rest, and recreation, and aren’t tired all the time. Overscheduling ourselves to the point of exhaustion and depression is not of God. I love a saying I heard years ago at a conference: “God gives you enough time to do graciously everything that He has given you to do.” The problem many of us have is that we have burdened ourselves with things God has not called us to do. Others are pressuring us, or we are putting pressure on ourselves to do them — but it’s not from God. It is not God’s will for you to crucify yourself on the cross of someone else’s expectations. And if we will get with the Lord and ask Him, He can show us some things that we need to change.
— But sometimes, we face things that we really DO have to do when we are tired, and it IS the right thing to do even though we are weary: maybe it is taking care of our preschool children, but it has to be done; maybe it is ministering to someone in a great time of need in their life, and we are worn out, but they really need our help. Or maybe we are really weary, and we don’t even feel like meeting with the Lord. In those times we need to ask the Lord who Himself did what He needed to when He was weary, to strengthen us with that same strength that He had. And He WILL if we will look to Him. Isaiah 40:29 says: “He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might, He increases power.” If we look to Him, God will give us the strength we need to serve Him and do His will.

I know a pastor who just retired, who tells the story of how a few years ago, was very tired. And he asked his congregation one Wednesday night, how many of you are tired — and he said 80% of them raised their hands. They finished prayer meeting, and he was SO glad the day was finally over, when a woman they had been helping at their church came up to him after the service and said: “Bro. Joe, I have to be moved out of my apartment tonight by 9:00 or I’ll lose my deposit.” His first thought was: you have got to be kidding me! But then he thought, you know, this is a test. I AM tired, but this is a person we are ministering to, and God will help us to help her — and he called over 5-6 deacons and they all went over — TIRED — and got her moved in 90 minutes. That pastor added that some time later, as a result of that church’s witness and ministry to this woman, she ended up getting saved, and she is still attending that church today. So God used the “weary obedience” of that pastor and his people.

So … just because we are tired doesn’t mean we aren’t to do something. There are things we DO need to learn to say “NO” to because we need rest. But some times it IS a test — of our love for people, or our commitment to the Lord — and we just need to learn to call on God to strengthen us with His power for what He is asking us to do, and that He might be glorified in us.
CONCLUSION:
One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament is found in Judges 8, in the account of Gideon that many of our Sunday School classes studied a few weeks ago. The Lord has already dealt with Gideon and called him to lead, and He had given Israel the victory over the armies of Midian, and they were pursuing the fleeing enemy, and :4 says: “Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over WEARY, YET PURSUING.” I love that: “Weary, yet pursuing.” They were “weary” — weary from the battle — “YET pursuing” — yet still going after it, even though they were so tired.
That’s how Jesus was that day at the well in Samaria — He was “weary”, YET He was still “pursuing” — pursuing His Father’s will; pursuing the salvation of the Samaritan woman; pursuing the salvation of that village.
And that is how we need to be sometimes as well: “Weary, yet pursuing.” Tired, but asking and FINDING God’s help to glorify Him by our faithful obedience even when we are weary.

 

PRAYER TIME:

READ: Isaiah 40:25-31
“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the [y]strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me [z]escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who [aa]wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will [ab]mount up with [ac]wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

 

PRAY:

— Talk to the Lord about what you might need to change in your daily/weekly schedule to facilitate rest and strength to do His Kingdom work & His will.
— Ask God for to give you that strength you need to do His will when you are tired.
— Pray for someone you know, that God would strengthen them in their weariness as well.

 

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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