How many of you feel rested right now? Or, how many of you would describe your general state of being as one who sits on pins and needles? In life and ministry in particular, I find more and more that I have a burden to go and do and never feel as though I get anything done. Rest does not dominate my life. Can any of you relate? I imagine you can and I want you to take a moment think about some of things that prevent you from finding rest.
Now, are any of those things that came to mind bad? No, likely most are not. Work is good. Feeling obligated to do good things is a good thing. Work and busyness, the doing of things, held in their proper place and directed by God’s word is good. We ought to have a drive to do good, to make better this world both socially and through the spreading of the Gospel. It is right to be burdened with our children and the lost and the Lord’s people.
Paul was burdened.
“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:1-3 ESV)
Paul uses an interesting word here to describe his feeling toward the Colossians. The word that is translated as struggle or conflict αγων (ag-one) in many of our bibles describes an assembly for sport or games. And further, it can be used to describe any trial or struggle with the accessory idea of peril.
We need to hear this point lest we think that being a Christian grants one the privilege of living in a blissful utopia, free from pain and work and burdens. I don’t want to infomercial you here. I don’t want to sell you Christianity as a product under false pretenses. And beyond that, work is good. There is joy and meaning and life in it. And burdens are necessary often to propel us into action.
The Christian life is not free from burdens, but those that place upon them the yoke of Jesus find light ones. So working is good. It was God ordained even before the fall of man. And in work comes exhaustion and restlessness, the feeling that you are never done.
But God’s word has truth that guides us into right working and resting. And that is part of what I need to save for another day. I know many of you are thinking, “But that is what I need right now!” And you are right. You do need right instruction from God’s word to live, work, and rest rightly. But there is another aspect to rest that is even more important than overcoming physical exhaustion or anxiety.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
This is a familiar verse, but what is not is the context. Beginning in chapter 11 we see that John the Baptist, who is in prison, has sent a question to Jesus through the disciples. Here is John’s question:
“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
And here is Jesus’ answer:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:3-6 ESV)
Just as a quick side note, because this not the main thing that I want us to see here, what does Jesus think of John? The answer is in verse 11.
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11 ESV)
Isn’t it good that we are allowed to ask questions like John’s. Isn’t it good to know that our Lord is gentle with us in our doubts.
Now, to the thing I want us to see. After giving an answer for John, Jesus goes onto rebuke certain cities for their unbelief saying that if the works he had done in their midst had been done in other cities, those other cities would have surely repented and escaped the wrath that was poured out on them. This brings us to Jesus’ words at the end of 11. Let’s read them and the last 3 verses again.
At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30 ESV)
Rest For Your Souls
You will never find rest unless you repent and come to Jesus. Repentance merely means that you have seen the works of God. You know that He is real. You know that he should be followed. And so, you turn from how you are presently living and follow him.
I can say this even simpler. Repentance is replacing your current leader with a new one, Jesus. There are things that you are following that are bad, that are destructive. When you repent, you stop following those things and you follow Jesus. He becomes your new master. And when you learn from him, you find rest for your souls.
Many of you have not come not unto Jesus. You have taken sin’s yoke. You are learning from another master, one who is not gentle or humble. And his yoke is very heavy. To be clear, many of you have no rest in your life because of sin. You have forsaken the ways of the Lord and you are following a wicked and prideful master, one that is laying upon you a heavy burden.
It is ironic isn’t it. Often we run from Jesus thinking that we will find freedom. We take what we think to be the easy road only to find it filled with step hills, and mud, and hidden roots, and slippery rocks, and a perilous cliff that is beckoning us to our death.
I fear for many of you. Though I don’t who, I do know that there is sin in some of your lives that is finding a nice home. You are allowing it to remain. Maybe you are letting it stay because you are enjoying it, just playing around with it thinking that it’s not hurting anyone. Or maybe you are allowing it to remain because you feel defeated. You have tried to rid it before but it always comes back. You now think it is a part of you, your identify.
Whatever the case may be, sin cannot be toyed with. It cannot be neglected. It will destroy you and those around you if you let it. And you will never find rest for your soul.
I would encourage you to stop right now. Have a time to be still and be quiet and then have a time to pray and confess. Do not fear this silence. Be open to the loving kindness of your Lord. Let him show you what he wants to show you. Then take his yoke joyfully for it is lighter than the one you are wearing.