I love the “Peanuts” characters and comic strip, probably because I can so easily relate to Charlie Brown. In one of his strips, Charlie visits Lucy at her psychology booth, and she gives him this advice: “Life is a lot like a deck chair. Some place it to see where they have been, and some so they can see where they are at the present.” To which Charlie sighs, and says: “I can’t even get mine unfolded.”
Do you feel a little like that today? Burnt out? Used up? Worked over?
Someone recently said: “Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.”
And another put it this way: “The trouble with life is that it is so daily!”
James Dobson calls the daily grind – the straight life. He describes it this way:
“The straight life for a homemaker is washing dishes three hours a day; it is cleaning sinks and scouring toilets and waxing floors; it is chasing toddlers and mediating fights between preschool siblings. . . . The straight life is driving your station wagon to school and back 23 times per week; it is grocery shopping and baking cupcakes for the class Halloween party. The straight life eventually means becoming the parent of an ungrateful teenager which I assure you is no job for sissies. (It’s difficult to let your adolescent find himself – especially when you know he isn’t even looking!)
The straight life . . . is pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, fifty weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the kids. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms.”
It wears us out even thinking about how much there is to do, and how little time to do it. I’m tired just thinking about it. How about you?
All of this stress leads many of us to adopt other alternatives to satisfy us and give us some relief. One of my favorites has been the stress diet. Have you tried it yet?
1 piece of whole wheat toast
8 oz. of skim milk
4 oz. of lean broiled chicken breast
1 cup of steamed zucchini
1 oreo cookie
rest of the Oreo cookies
1 qt of rocky road ice cream
I jar of hot fudge
2 loaves of garlic bread
large pepperoni pizza
large pitcher of root beer
3 milky ways
entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the freezer
It is funny but true. We all look for some relief to the stress in our lives. A little peace, but like the old saying: “the only peace we find in this world is that glorious moment when everybody stops to reload.”
Is this what Jesus intended for us? Is this the abundant life He promised his disciples? Where is the Sabbath-rest proclaimed by the Lord?
The writer of the book of Hebrews put it this way:
“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.”
God invites us into His rest! Will we enter by faith!
Turn with me to the promise of rest found in Matthew 11:28-30
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light."
I. THIS INVITATION IS FOR YOU!
Notice the open-wide invitation: “All who are weary and who carry heavy burdens!” Does this describe you in any way today?
How sad it is when people who are weary and weighed down in their lives don’t turn to Jesus. What might have happened if that several disturbed man who killed the innocent children in Lancaster County this week had turned to Jesus instead of his guns? He obviously was weary and weighed down with burdens from his past. He was tormented by the sin of his youth, and angry with God about the loss of a child born pre-maturely. But instead of turning to the only one who could help him, he buried his burdens deep within until they exploded in a violent rage.
Think of how many lives could be spared, of how so much violence and turmoil could be avoided in people’s lives if they would simply come to Jesus.
Jesus first invites those who are weary:
This word ‘weary’ literally means those who are exhausted from their hard labor. It describes those who collapse into bed at night – weary from the day’s trials.
There are all kinds of weariness we can experience in this world:
A. Emotional Weariness:
Some of us lack peace in our lives, we worry about not having anything to worry about, we worry about our worst fears coming true, and we doubt that anything good can come to our lives!
Corrie Ten Boom once wrote: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows, it empties today of strength!”
It’s like the woman who worried for 40 years that she might die of cancer. She finally died of pneumonia at age 70, but she had wasted 40 years of her life worrying about the wrong thing!
There are emotional stresses that wear us down!
B. Physical exhaustion
There are also physical stresses that exhaust us! Not enough sleep, too little exercise, poor nutrition, too much noise and hurrying about, trying to fit 2 or 3 things into the same space of time. We can do a great deal of damage to our bodies, and because we are whole people, in other words because we are body, soul and spirit – out physical exhaustion can lead us down a path of emotional depression or despair and spiritual apathy.
c. Spiritual weariness
There are also spiritual stresses. The weight of sin and the struggle to overcome its hold upon our life can lead us into a time of great spiritual exhaustion. This last stress is one that we at times do not fully appreciate, but I believe it is one Jesus was directly speaking about in this passage. There is a weariness of trying to live a good life in one’s own strength and energy. You fail time and time and time again – and that can really drag you down! That is really what he is referring to when He uses the word: BURDENED.
John Bunyan in his classic work “A pilgrims Progress” describes the moment when his character “Christian” is freed from the weight of sin that he has been carrying around on his back throughout his journeys. He comes to the cross and at the foot of the cross is an empty tomb and as He approaches the cross the burden falls off his back and is swallowed up by the tomb.
We all know of this burden of sin and how it can wear us down!
This invitation from Jesus is for you! Today! Admit that you are weary!
To truly experience the rest that only Christ can give us, we must be truthful to ourselves and with God. We must humble admit our own weariness. We must be willing to recognize the burdens that we are bearing. We must confess that we are burdened. We must agree with God that the journey has been long and hard! And we must be willing to submit our lives to the only one who can truly help us, laying aside our pride and our self-sufficiency.
This leads us to the second point this morning:
II. WE ARE FIRST INVITED TO ‘COME’ AND THEN TO ‘TAKE’!
The order is significant. We can not and should not reverse them.
The first order of business is to COME to Jesus. We must get up and go. We must detach ourselves from what we have held on to, and the direction we have been heading up until now – all these things that have contributed to our weariness; and we must now redirect our lives; we must reattach ourselves TO the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus’ first direction to you and to me is always “COME”
Vance Havnor put it this way: “If we don’t COME apart, we WILL come apart!”
Where are you headed this moment? I don’t mean your eternal destiny. Most of us in this room, have settled that question. But, I do mean – in what direction is your life headed? Are you pointed towards Christ or away from Him? Weariness and burdens come when we are pointed away from Him!
By that I don’t mean that everything is wonderful and we don’t ever have trials when we are walking with Christ. Jesus promised that in this world we would have tribulation. Life is not always easy. But there is a promise for those who are walking with Christ and in His power and strength. When we are in step with Christ and His Spirit, we find rest! We live beyond our circumstances and difficulties. We are able like Isaiah wrote: “To mount up with wings like eagles, to run and not be weary.”
Too often, I think we are a lot like the television repair man who climbed on top of the roof to check the wiring for the cable. The wind was blowing hard, and he lost his balance and began to slide off of the roof. His foot was caught in one of the little metal rain gutters. In panic he screamed to heaven:
“Is there anybody up there who can help me?”
And a voice from heaven came:
“I can help you. Just let go and I’ll catch you!”
To which the repairman replied:
“Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”
We hear that cute little phrase “Let go and Let God” and we reverse it in real life to say “Let God and then I’ll let go!”
But Jesus directs us to make the first move: COME!
You see God has already reached down to you and me. He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ has come to this world. Christ has delivered us from sin. Christ, while we were enemies, has loved us. He entered our world. But now we must respond.
Will we come to Jesus! Not just for salvation, but daily for the filling of His Holy Spirit and for the leadership in our lives. We will come to Him moment by moment so that we can say with Paul: “I live, and move, and have my being in Him.”
The only way to live the Christian Life is to live it in daily surrender to Christ. We must understand ourselves as having been crucified with Christ and the life we now live is “Christ living in us!” Jesus said: “Apart from me, you can do nothing!” You must abide in Me, and I will abide in You.
It begins with coming! I must move towards Christ. To come means that I turn (repent) away from myself and from whatever led me into my path of weariness. I must turn around, and turn towards Christ.
What do you need to repent of today! Are you emotionally weary? Is there any sin that you need to confess and agree with God concerning? Have you been carrying emotional baggage around with you that Jesus wants you to bring to Him? What about physical exhaustion? Have you been trying in the flesh what is only possible in the Spirit? Have you been trying to produce results in your life that are spiritual in nature? Admit you have been foolishly doing this without Christ. He waits with open arms to receive you.
We come to Jesus BEFORE we can TAKE from Jesus. You cannot receive anything from the Lord, with out first COMING to HIM as Lord.
The second invitation is to TAKE!
This implies that it is mine. Jesus freely offers Himself and His rest to us. But I must be responsible to pick it up! I will have no peace, I will have no rest, I will have no abundance in my Christian Walk – if I do not turn towards Jesus and take what He freely gives to me. I must take what is His and make it my own!
And what is it He invites me to TAKE?
The yoke is an interesting symbol. It was a familiar one to an agricultural community. Two oxen where united together with one YOKE between them. The farmer would take a big and more experienced ox who knew the path and who was strong and capable of finishing the task. He would then pair up this mature ox with a new ox that was weaker and did not know what to do. They were bound under the same yoke, but the old ox bore the weight of the yoke because His shoulders were large and strong. The young ox did not feel any of the weight of the yoke, but he felt the constraint of trusting the more experienced Oxen. The young ox would wander and try to get off of the path, but the yoke and the older oxen would consistently pull the young oxen back to the path until he learned what he was supposed to do.
All of the weight fell upon the older oxen’s shoulders. The younger oxen needed only to stay in step with the mature, experienced oxen. As long as He submitted to the leadership of the mature oxen, he would not feel any pressure. But as soon as he started to tug and pull away and in a different direction – the weight of the yoke would shift and he would feel the yoke become tight around his neck. !
What made this symbol so significant and such a visual picture for the early church was its design. The ancient yoke consisted of a single beam of wood placed across the shoulders of two oxen with one long beam connected to the cart. If you were to take a yoke and tilt it upwards from the card it would be in the form of a cross! Jesus had invited His disciples at other times and in other places in scripture to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. In effect what He was saying was to come and connect your life to mine. Let my cross become your cross and together we will walk side by side in the path God has laid out for us.
We are to daily put ourselves under the YOKE of Jesus Christ.
Now He says that His yoke is Easy. The word literally means soft and sweet. The young ox does not feel the burden anymore, because the older ox is bearing the weight. The scriptures encourage us to “Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you!” When we come to Jesus and pray about those burdens we are bearing up under, Paul said that ‘The peace of God which surpasses all understanding can guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Not only is His yoke easy, His burden is light. There is no pressure involved. It is not cumbersome or heavy to us. John had written in I John 5:3 that “The commands of Jesus are not burdensome but light!”
At first the yoke is uncomfortable. A young ox is not used to being tied to another. The touch of the yoke seems strange. It tries to break free, and as it does the yoke cuts into its shoulder blades. It suffers pain from its attempt to be independent of the yoke. But with time, as it follows the lead of the elder oxen – it no longer feels the yoke – it is keeping in step with the older, wiser oxen.
“Learn of me” is the same word from which we get our word disciple. The Lord is calling the weary and those suffering under a burden to become his disciples. Discipleship is the only real rest we will find for our souls.
Now this is the thing we must realize:
It is possible to be a Christian, a regular churchgoer, even someone who is active and busy in the church – and not be a disciple of Jesus Christ!
Someone was talking to a professor about a young man in his class. He said: “John tells me that he is one of your students.” To which the professor replied: “He may attend my lectures, but believe me, he is not one of my students!”
It is possible to study the scriptures and to faithfully attend meetings and never really come under the Lordship of Christ in our lives. To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ means that I daily COME to Him (detaching myself from whatever I am holding on to in this world) and TAKE from Him (His yoke for my life)
This leads me to my third and final point:
III. Rest is not found in idleness, but under HIS YOKE and in His footsteps!
The YOKE is a symbol of work. Jesus is not saying: Your burnt out, overworked – why take a break. Sit back. Do nothing. NO. He is saying the exact opposite of that – come to me, TAKE MY YOKE and let’s work together!
3 Steps to rest I see in this passage:
Step 1: It begins with personally connecting to Jesus Christ. “COME!” No one else but Jesus could say what He says here. Buddha can’t say it. Mohammed can’t say it. The YMCA can’t say it! Television can’t say it. There is no rest apart from Jesus!
Remember we began by speaking about the rest that is entered into by faith and through obedience. I must come to Jesus daily. He is the gateway to rest! He is the door!
Step 2: I must daily surrender my life to His rule! “TAKE” Only as I submit to His path will I find peace. Peace isn’t found in following my own schedule, doing my own thing, managing my own life! Peace is found in dying to my ambitions, by goals, my activity list and submitting to His!
George Mattheson wrote:
“Make me a captive. Lord,
and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be!
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thy arms,
And strong shall be my hand.
My heart is weak and poor
Until it’s master find;
It has no spring of action sure –
It varies with the wind;
It cannot freely move
Till thou hast wrought its chain;
Enslave it with thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.
My power is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve
It wants the needed fire to glow
It wants the breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world
Until itself be driven
Its flag can only be unfurled
When thou shalt breathe from heaven.
My will is not my own
Till thou hast made it thine.
If it would reach a monarch’s throne
It must its crown resign
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife
When on thy bosom it has leant
And found in thee its life!
Surrender of your life to His, your path to His, your will to His, your dream to His, your design to His, your desires to His, your time to His is the only way to real REST!
Step 3: Learn from the Master how to walk!
What kind of a path will the lead oxen take us down? What must we do to get in step with Him? When we wear His Yoke – what will we do?
a. You will learn to be gentle as He was and is gentle. To be gentle means that you are not easily angered, you are kind, considerate, patient and helpful towards others.
b. You will learn to be humble in heart. A humble person is someone who has a correct view of God and of themselves. They understand that God is God and they are not. They submit by faith to His Lordship. They lean upon Him in all things.
So, are you weary? Are you weighted down with burdens? Do you feel like you’ve tried it long enough your way? Are you ready to try it His way?
Come. Turn from your self and from sin. Repent, and believe.
Take. Surrender your life to His leadership and Lordship.
Learn. Listen to His Holy Spirit. Take steps of obedience in the things God is showing you. Learn to obey without hesitation.
Enter His Rest. He is ready to give you peace that surpasses understanding, and joy unspeakable. Stop your striving and turn towards God.