Discover the Art of Slowing Down: Finding Joy in Life

Transcript from Ps. Bek Cruise’s sermon Fruitful Simplicity, preached on the 17th March 2024.

So we are in the middle. Well, we just started actually a series called fruitful and This is Richard Foster’s celebration of discipline book. I think a couple of you guys might have this who’s reading this at the moment Yeah, there’s a few and I think think we even have a small group going through this or talking about it.

It’s a really great book, and I honestly have only read my chapter, but it’s brilliant and I’m excited to read the rest. So I would encourage you guys if you have it to get into it. It’s got some really good stuff.

So Pastor Nathan introduced this series Fruitful two weeks ago. He had some pretty challenging questions for us on that first week, including how is your fruit looking? He reminds us, he reminded us that day that fruit points to the quality of the tree. A tree is identified by its fruit.

If we see a tree, maybe we’re in a nursery or walking around Bunnings looking at the trees. A little green tree, leafy tree. tree, we walk past and we look at it and we think oh yeah that might be a lemon tree or an orange tree or something or those of us who maybe you’re a bit more of a green thumb might know but I think most of us look at the tag and go what kind of tree is this? Oh look it’s a Eureka lemon or it’s a Lisbon lemon or whatever it’s called.

So I bought these chillies chilis from my house. Who here likes fresh chilis? Excellent. So my husband Nathan loves fresh chilis and he eats them with nearly everything.

So the last plant that I bought from Bunnings was about two years ago around Valentine’s Day. And I wanted to get something other than chocolate for Valentine’s Day. And so I thought I’m going to buy him a chilli plant.

plant. So I went in pretty quick. I saw a potted plant with little red chillies on it.

It was like, great. There was no doubt in my mind what kind of plant that was. I knew instantly.

I didn’t have to look at the tag. I grabbed it. I also got a green one for good measure and I took them home.

I was confident that these were chilli plants because they had… chillies on them. So my question, when we think about a tree being identified by its fruit, is does my fruit show that I’m a disciple of Christ? Does my fruit show maturity, growth? Does it show integrity and faithfulness? When people encounter me, can they see my fruit? Do they see Christ in me? Can they identify me as a Christ follower? The only way that these fruits are developed in us is by us remaining connected to Christ.

So John 15 .4 says remain in me and I will remain remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” It’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? The chilli plant that I bought, we planted in front of, near our door, we’ve got this little skinny garden, along the front of the house, and we planted it right there. and it was great for a little bit.

But then last year, remember it got real dry? Whose garden suffered a little bit in that dry winter that we had? Because mine did and that little chilli plant started to look really sad. In fact, I actually thought that it might be dead and I considered pulling it out because I was just like, oh, I failed. It’s dead.

I’ll have to get another one. one, you know, all those things. But then, the rain came, and summer came, and the sun shone in, and the rain watered it, and it grew, it went green again, it got taller.

And finally, I saw little baby chilies. And that was when I knew that that plant was growing. okay.

Why did I know that? Because of the fruit. When the fruit’s looking good, we know our plant’s okay. If I’d ripped it out of the ground when it was looking really sad and dead, that would never have produced fruit again.

But it remained connected. It would have been completely disconnected if I ripped it out the ground and chucked it into my chickens or whatever it is that I do with my weeds. But it stayed in the ground and because I didn’t rip it out, it came back and it produced fruit again.

And to me that speaks to me of how patient God is with us because sometimes in our life we don’t have a lot of fruit on display. but He never gives up on us, and He promises that as we remain connected, that He will bring that fruit. Fruitfulness comes from being connected to the vine, which is Jesus, and the spiritual disciplines that we’re looking at, not all of them, but some of them we’re looking at in the next couple of weeks, we won’t get through every single one, but these disciplines are the doorway to us.

being better connected with the Lord and as we practice these disciplines, as we allow God to meet with us, then he will bring transformation to our lives. That’s why we practice spiritual disciplines. The spiritual discipline I’m focusing on today is simplicity.

Now simplicity isn’t one of the typical ones, in fact some of you are probably going. going, “Simplicity? What exactly is simplicity?” Because we talk about things like fasting and prayer and meditation and worship and study of the word and their things we’re familiar with. So what is simplicity? I think we’ve got a general definition that’s gonna pop up.

Simplicity is appreciating the small things in life. Simplicity is free. freedom from material desires and emotional desires.

Permission to simply be. Simplicity avoids waste and teaches economy. It is a state of being uncomplicated and uncompounded, free from complexity, excess and ambiguity.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? According to Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, simplicity is an inward spirit of trust. It means the freedom to trust God for all things. So I’m going to read just a little section in here that I’ve highlighted.

He says, “To receive what we have as a gift from God is the first inner attitude of simplicity. We work.” work, but we know that it’s not our work that gives us what we have. We live by grace, even when it comes to our daily bread.

We are dependent upon God for the simplest elements of life, air, water, sun. What we have is not the result of our labor, but of the gracious care of God. When we attempted to think that we’re we own is the result of our own personal efforts, it only takes a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how utterly dependent we are for everything.

Simplicity means slowing down, being more intentional, choosing between things instead of adding them on. on. Clearing space in our lives and in our minds.

Simplicity is taking time to be grateful. To focus on relationships instead of on things. To look up from our busyness and enjoy nature.

To be still sometimes. To trust that God has us no matter what we’re facing. To just stop and jump.

breathe. Our busy world is craving simplicity. If you go on to YouTube, there are hundreds of videos about simplicity.

Here are a couple that I found. How slow living changed my life forever. The end of fake living.

Ten minimalist rules that changed my life. life. A rich life with less stuff.

Simplify your life. Start slow living now. Designing a simple life and 17 things I quit to simplify.

The list goes on and on. But it’s not just us in the church. I think as a society we are craving some simplicity in our crazy busy world.

Joshua Becker is an American author who’s written many books on intentional living and minimalism. And this is his quote, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things that we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” So Church, what do we most value? The Lord, right? Right? This is a powerful quote, not from a Christian, by the way. What do we most value, and what do we need to remove to allow our focus to be there? This can be said of simplicity, as well as minimalism, even though that’s his example.

Simple living, the two biggest things that get in the way of us practicing this discipline of simplicity. are time and money and the world agrees the two biggest hindrances to people being able to slow down in life and simplify are that we don’t have enough time and we need more money. The Bible talks about money and I think a few verses are going to pop up on the screen for the love of money is the root of all.

kinds of evil. And some people craving money have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Matthew says, “No one can serve two masters, for you will hate one and love the other.

You’ll be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” And Luke says, “Beware, guard against any kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” God clearly shows us in his word that money is something and the love of money is something that we need to battle with in this life.

All of us will need to battle with this to a degree in our life. We live in a world of consumerism. I’ve been reading another book called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comar.

Has anyone read that book? Powerful book, such a great book. I actually had to stop myself reading it in order to finish my message because I was so caught in this book. But in this book, there’s a chapter about simplicity and he talks a lot about consumerism and advertising.

So I think that we have a pretty picture that’s gonna pop up on the screen for us. Did you know that after World War II… advertising changed significantly? Before this point, advertisements were all about usefulness and the durability of an item, something like this.

This typewriter will be the best that you have ever had. It is durable, reliable and easy to use. It’s all about functionality, right? But after the war, they needed to find a way to keep factories open and people employed.

And so a lot of effort was put into advertising to encourage people to spend more money. So if you look at advertisements today, they’re actually selling us happiness, or trying to, in the form of a car. car, or a drink, or a jewellery, or a house, the world sells us the lie that as we buy this, or that, or the other, that we’ll be happier.

We’ve become a consumer society, searching for happiness in stuff, in things. We replace things before they’ve worn out, or stopped working for the newer newer better model We’re buying more and shopping more But we’re actually in pursuit of happiness Not a collection of things Charles Spurgeon said this is not how much we have but how much we enjoy That makes happiness. Let’s remember church that our joy in life our happiness is based in Christ.

It’s found in Him. Let’s check ourselves regularly and make sure that we’re keeping that focus on the Lord and trusting in Him and not in money or things. Paul talks about finding contentment in every situation.

Philippians 4, 11 to 13, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need.” and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. So it’s based in God. We need him to bring change.

I can’t just decide. Oh, I’m just going to do this. now,” because without fail, we will fail, because God is our strength, and it’s through Him that we’re able to bring change.

But there’s, of course, a balance in this, because money isn’t bad. We all need money to live. We’re not being called to live in poverty.

If we look at Matthew 6 again, the warning is for us not to become enslaved to money. We’re not asked to give everything away or to live in self -denial or severe self -discipline. Now, some people may feel called to an aesthetic lifestyle like monks do, but this is not a requirement for us as Christians.

God promises in His word that He will provide for us and He does. He has good things in store for us and for our families. God has provided us with jobs, a regular income, a roof over our heads, a car to drive around, and many, many, many more things that we take for granted every day.

He’s the ultimate provider. In the Old Testament, God told the Israelites that he’d take them to a land flow with milk and honey. He didn’t just leave them in the desert, right? Our Father God desires to bless us.

And in Philippians it says, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Relationship with others. others is the biggest blessing in my life by far. And I think if we boiled down our happiness, it would come down to that.

I thank God for the way that He’s provided for me in regard to my family and my friends. But sometimes without realizing it, we can value things over people. Like when we allow our time and responsibilities at work, we don’t have the courage to do it.

school to overtake the time with the people that we love. It’s nice to have a great job, lovely house, a nice savings account, but these things won’t bring us true happiness. A few years ago I ran into a friend of mine from high school and at the time I had two little girls and I was pregnant with Phoenix and we had bought this house.

house in Redcliff. It was listed for demolition actually, the cheapest house on the market. And Nathan and I bought it and we spent nine years renovating this little post -war cottage.

And there were times in those years where I was frustrated because I didn’t have flooring in my kitchen. It was just raw wood on the floor. Probably had the glue from leftover liner on top of it.

It was just raw. rough, right? But yes, we were in a time where Nath was doing Bible college full time, working on the weekends, and I was home with the kids so we didn’t have a heap of money. So we’d save and we’d do something.

And then we’d save and we’d do something else. But it was a long time to renovate this little house. So in the midst of this season of us renovating this house, I ran into this friend of mine.

And… comparison he had left school. His grandparents had bought him a new car.

He’d moved to Sydney. He’d studied. He’d started a business.

It was going really well. He’d just built his first house and I was saying to him man you’re doing amazing. For 27 you’ve got it sorted like your life is so successful.

successful. And I remember him just looking at me and saying, “Bec, I would trade it in a moment for what you have.” And then he shared that he was lonely and he would love to get married and have a family. And, you know, things never compete with people, ultimately.

My perspective was really tough. challenged that day and I went home feeling really grateful. Simplicity is about our heart focus.

Is our trust truly in God? Simplicity is singleness of heart, it is intentional. As we choose to seek God and His kingdom, God promises to provide for us. Matthew 6, 31 to 33 says, “So don’t worry about these things, saying what will we eat, what will we drink, what will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows your needs.

Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and He will give you everything that you need.” The Discipline of simplicity requires trust, and trust is hard for us. We naturally worry about tomorrow, what the future holds for us, for our kids, for our family, particularly after COVID came along and tipped everything upside down, especially now with expenses so high and the interest rates going up and up and up. we try to have a buffer.

We save for a rainy day and we work hard and we look for job security and we do our best in our human way to cover our bases. Just in case, and we tend to hold our finances tightly, we tell ourselves that we’ll be generous when we’re earning more or when we have a certain amount of money. of money put aside.

This means that we are closely guarding our hard -earned money and we’re not necessarily generous to people around us. We aren’t really trusting God to look after us. If our situation changes we’re actually trusting more in our saving and budgeting ability.

ability. Now hear me out, like we’re called to be good stewards, you know. We have good brains, God has gifted us with those and I’m not telling you not to save or budget, of course we should do those things.

But the balance is that we’re also called to trust, to trust the Lord with our future. future, to trust the Lord with our finances. Just as God is a generous God, he desires for us to be generous people.

In a world where you pay for everything, us being generous can change someone’s life. So let’s practice generosity. 1 Timothy 6, 17 to 19 says, “Teach those who are not in the right place, are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money which is so unreliable.

Their trust should be in God who richly gives us all that we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” This world is a busy busy place.

I feel like life speeds up more and more each year. Who agrees? Yeah. Every day it’s go go go life rushing by a hundred miles an hour and sometimes we can feel like we’re stuck on a roller coaster or a bullet train and we can’t get off.

Or maybe we feel like we’re running. as fast as we possibly can, but not actually getting to our destination or meeting our goal by the end of the day. We go home and sleep and we get up and we try again tomorrow an endless to -do list, an endless race as it just goes on and on and makes us feel depleted and exhausted.

Keeping up with the Joneses used to be be all about money and things, but now time has become our most precious commodity. So now keeping up with the Joneses is also about how much can I fit into my life. To quote Lex Akers, “We need to get off the treadmill of busyness.” Almost everyone I speak to.

tells me how busy they’ve been. Man, it is flat out. It’s been the busiest week.

I feel like I’ve been running behind the entire week. I’m trying to catch up. I’m so tired.

Where does my time go? We all hear these things. We are people who are time poor. We’re hurried and busy.

We’re overwhelmed. and over scheduled, we’re trying to work on our work family balance all the time, we’re pressed for time, we’re running out of time, we’re constantly trying to catch up. And you know, I actually had a bit of an internal laugh when Pastor Nathan asked me to speak on simplicity because this is what I struggle with.

Business is hard. I tend to fill up my life with stuff that I need to do. Now, some of that is just being a working, studying mum with five kids, but some of it is also just not a balanced time schedule in my life.

Some of it is just me wasting time on things that don’t really matter. Yeah. and spending my energy in that space.

But when I come home absolutely shattered from whatever it is that I’ve been really busy with, and I have no time or energy for my family, then that’s not a healthy balance, is it? I’ve had many moments of feeling convicted this week while I’ve been preparing this message. message. But it’s good, it’s how God challenges us and grows us, right? So why are we so busy? There are so many reasons.

In our society, there is a glorification of busy. Some people wear busyness like a badge of honour. I’m so important.

See how busy I am? Busyness can be a sign of productivity. It can show that you’re a hard worker. worker.

Sometimes, business is because of FOMO. Fear of missing out. You don’t want to miss out on anything, and so we cram in far more than we should to make sure that we can have it all and we can do it all.

Business can be a way to fill our time up so that we don’t have to be alone with our thoughts. It can be a form of escapism. If it’s easier, well…

than at home, maybe I’ll just stay on a bit longer. Sometimes busyness is out of necessity. I heard on the radio the other day that the amount of people who hold multiple jobs in Australia has increased dramatically in the past few years following COVID.

So by the time you factor in two jobs, family time, sleep, social commitments, check it out. church and everything else, there isn’t a lot of down time to speak of. But constant busyness isn’t actually good for us.

That constant feeling of go, go, go creates feelings of stress and eventually exhaustion in us. We weren’t designed to live without rest. However, our body body is amazing.

Our incredible Creator God has made our bodies amazingly and so as we push our body, it adapts. So we can actually push ourselves far beyond our normal comfort zone and our body will continue to respond. Also important to me is that this adrenaline rush that we experience in times of high stress is actually really addictive as we push ourselves more and more we are experiencing adrenaline more and more and so we keep going and if we get to the stage where we’re living in that adrenaline zone we can think we are and even appear to be doing really really well.

well. But you can’t live in that space long -term because the constant release of cortisol is going to burn you out. So constant busyness of contributes to those high levels of stress.

What happens when stress hormones keep getting dumped into our bodies, proven over and over again to be lethal? Chronic stress is the key. to cause heart disease, cancer or even death. When a busy lifestyle is out of control it is also said to isolate you from others and to negatively impact your sleep.

Too much cortisol also slows down your immune system. This information is from a study that two doctors in Texas did. They tested 300 adults in regard to busyness and cognition.

Anxiety and stress are both big issues in our world today. And I think that a lot of that anxiety comes from us feeling like we need to do more, to fill up our lives, to keep busy. We need to be more intentional with this.

We need to choose carefully what we aspire to do. our energy and time on. Some good questions to ask are, is it going to matter in eternity? Is it negatively impacting me or my family? In our busyness, we often miss out on enjoying life.

We’re so busy being busy that we don’t slow down to smell the roses Or to sit on the beach or walk through nature or play a board game with our kids or listen to the birds and the veranda Whatever that is for you. We need to be better at prioritising what is most important in our life Think how can I be more intentional with how I spend my time? And then we need to put boundaries in place. Boundaries will protect us from running on adrenaline and potentially burning out.

I would encourage you this week to make a list of everywhere that you spend your time– family, work, school, church, social, online, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. It all adds up. And be honest with it.

I did this and I found that putting it in front of me and writing actually made it a lot clearer, where my time was lacking and where I really needed to reshuffle things. Freedom from anxiety comes from first seeking the kingdom of God. Philippians, 4, 6 to 7, which I know is a lot of our favorite verse.

I’ve had so many people tell me this is my favorite. And it’s powerful. Don’t worry about anything.

Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need. Thank Him for all He has done.

And then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything that we can understand. His peace will guard our our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. The discipline of simplicity isn’t just about clearing excess stuff or creating space in your busy week.

It’s also about clearing space in your mind. Pastor Mark last week spoke about prayer and we had that time of meditation at the end, reflecting and spending time with the Lord. Lord.

And he talked about how important it is to set that time aside every day. As we trust in the Lord and as we allow Him to take our mental load, we will find our anxiety and stress melting away. We can then enjoy the freedom of simplicity.

We can choose to live in a different way to the world around us. The Bible actually tells us in Romans that we’re not meant to live the same way as the world. It says don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Living with simplicity brings peace to our lives. We can trust God with our future.

We are invited to live in freedom. Freedom from anxiety and stress that keeps us busy and trapped and bound up. By giving these burdens to the Lord and releasing that stress and anxiety to Him and choosing to trust because it’s a choice.

We can live freely and simply. He promises us a good future and we know church that we can trust his promises. In Psalms it says the Lord is trustworthy in all his promises and faithful in all that he does.

Foster says in his book, the Christian discipline of simplicity is a blessing. an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. Both the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential.

We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without it having a profound effect on how we live our lives.” Taking this in mind, here is the list of some practical ways that we can practice simplicity. One, buy things for their usefulness rather than for their status. Two, create a habit of giving things away.

Be generous. Three, develop a deeper appreciation for nature and creation. creation.

Four, put boundaries in place regarding your available time and respect them. Five, spend time just being. Breathing, meditating, listening to the Lord.

Six, practice being grateful and thankful for God’s amazing provision. And seven, get rid of anything that distracts you from first seeking the kingdom of God. Our fruit is the evidence of a transformed life.

As we set our focus on the Lord, as we trust Him in His provision for us, as we hold our money with open hands and practice generosity, as we’re more entangled with our time and as we value and put time into relationship with those around us our fruit will begin to show and hopefully the people who encounter us will be able to recognise that we are disciples of Christ. I’d like to invite the worship team to come up. I’m just going to pray for you guys for all all of us, actually.

Lord, we just give you praise. You are such a good God. I thank you that your desire for us is to be free of stress and anxiety, worries around money and time.

I thank You, Lord, that You desire for us to be able to live simply and happily, trusting in You. But Lord, we need You. We’re not strong enough without You.

We need You, Lord, to help us to be able to do this better. I pray, Lord, that we will be able to step into a new space in this area, that You will help us to be able to do this better. identify areas that you can work with us, that you can help us to bring a better balance.

But Lord, we wanna put you first in our lives, above all else. You are our first true love, Lord God. God.

I pray, Lord, that you would help us to repent of things that we have put ahead of you, things that we have put ahead of our families, maybe. Help us, Lord, to balance this better. We don’t want to live as the world lives.

We want to live for you. I pray that you will bring bring change in us. Help us Lord to give you our burden and leave it there.

Help us to give you our stress and anxiety and trust. We love you Lord. We love you so so much.

We’re so grateful for all that you do for us every day Continue to grow us Lord God. You want to be used by you You want to be soft and open -hearted and listening to you and your whole life Spirit. Help us, Lord, to be able to live in freedom and simplicity and ultimately to put our trust in you for everything.

(upbeat music)

Watch the full sermon here