By Rick Cowman
Do you have difficulty relaxing because you’re constantly trying to figure out how you’re going to get everything done you have to do? Are you on the treadmill of doing, doing, doing? Are you burning yourself out trying to impress others (or God) so they will accept you? Do you struggle with your relationship with Christ because you are so busy beating yourself up for not trying harder to be what God wants you to be? Or, are you in the middle of a crisis and worry and fear have a grip on your to the point where you’re ready to just give up? In other words, is rest far from you?
If you said, "yes", your life is one of trying, striving and defeat! And all of us have been there, or perhaps live there! I know, because I’ve been there and it’s easy to stay there. I have said, "yes" to all of those questions at some point in my life, but I refuse to stay there because that’s not God’s best for my life, nor for your life! Jesus said something to you and me in Matthew chapter 11 that is most encouraging: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light (vs 28-30)!" Is this your experience as a believer? Have you trusted Christ, and yet continue to be stressed out all the time? You see, the reason we struggle bearing up the load in our lives is that it’s not the load Jesus gave us! We put much more on our plate than God ever intended. The Christian life is not a smorgasbord where we put whatever we want on our plate and eat until we get sick! If we’re doing everything we want to, we’ll miss God’s best for our lives! Our plates can be so full of good things that we are missing the best things! If we are busy doing the urgent, we’re failing to do the important! (I really needed to hear that, didn’t you?)
Jesus said, "My yoke is easy!" Does that make sense to you? It’s a nice idea, but Jesus couldn’t have really meant it, right? Wrong! When Jesus spoke, He most often spoke through story pictures to help the people of that day understand exactly what He meant. Several centuries removed, we must put ourselves back into that culture to understand what He meant by this statement, "My yoke is easy." This yoke Jesus is speaking of is the double-tree yoke used in that day (and even in our early history in this country). When using the double-tree, there were two oxen pulling together in the same yoke. So, Jesus is telling us He is in this yoke with us, pulling along side us! He’s saying to you and me (my paraphrase), "Come to Me, and if you do what I want you to do, and you do it how I want you to do it, and you do it in the strength I provide, it will be easy, and you will find rest and be able to relax!"
We have been called to a "rest". That word literally means "to cause to cease". The rest Jesus calls us to is a call to cease from striving in our own efforts and in our own strength. Listen, Christianity is not a life of striving in our own strength, but a life of resting in Christ’s strength and what He’s done for us at the cross! Now, this resting or relaxing is not an excuse to just sit around and do nothing, because God has commanded us to fulfill the Great Commission. We must be obedient to work for Christ, but not with our own abilities and efforts which will weight us down and render us useless!
Next week we’ll look at the steps to finding the rest Jesus promised!