28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30
This is the third devotion on the theme of ‘rest’. Using the words of Jesus from Matt 11 we have already considered rest as a gift, and then rest as a discovery. Now we want to look at THE PRACTICE OF REST, how rest is expressed in our daily lives, and in our service for God.
Jesus says in v30, ‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’. When we join ourselves to Jesus, and choose to live in partnership with him, we shall not find that life gets harder. No it gets less difficult, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Jesus does not add to our burdens. But what does this mean in practice? It means two very significant things: (1) that we were made for God’s will, and that (2) God’s will is never something that will crush or harm us.
Jesus says, ‘My yoke is easy’
This does not imply that God’s will is always comfortable or free of difficulty. We know that is not true. The word ‘easy’ here suggests ‘well fitting’. A good yoke was made with the animal in mind. It was made to measure. A skilful carpenter, like Jesus, would be aware of the importance of making sure that the yoke did not rub of chafe the animal, but that it sat easily across its shoulders. In the same way the will of God fits with who we are, and the way God has made us.
This liberating truth first came home to me as I pondered Jeremiah’s calling to be a prophet. God said to him, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jer 1:15).’ Here we see that God created Jeremiah with the purpose he had for him in mind. He was designed for his calling – given the gifts, physical attributes, mental capacity and personality he would need to do the job.
What was true of Jeremiah is true of each of us. God has made us with his purpose in mind. When we discover the will of God for our lives, we discover that for which we were made. There is a perfect fit. In doing the will of God we find our highest joy.
The apostle Paul confirms this great truth. He says, ‘For we are God’s workmanship (literally God’s works of art), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10).’ God made us so that we could do his will, and that in doing his will be would find our highest satisfaction.
Jesus says, ‘My burden is light’
Again, we must not think that God’s will is without challenge or stress. Not at all. This is not an excuse for being lazy or uncommitted, half-hearted or irresponsible. What Jesus means is that whatever God calls us to do, he will give us sufficient strength to do it, even though it may be hard and require of us great resilience. We may sometimes feel stretched beyond our capacity, but if we are doing God’s will he will give us the strength we need. He will not crush us.
The apostle Paul – who lived a very high pressured life – put it like this: ‘To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (Col 1:27).’ There is a power beyond our own which is always available to us as we do God’s will.
Of course we must not go beyond God’s will. We should not take on more than God is asking us to do. That is always a danger for us because the task is never finished and the needs are always there. We need great wisdom to know exactly what we should, and should not do. What we can be sure of though is that God will strengthen us to do his will.
When we learn to live in this way, we learn to practice rest. Yes, we are busy, but because we are doing what God made us for, and working in harmony with him, we do not find it to be as exhausting or draining as if the weight of responsibility were on our shoulders. Rather we find joy in our work, and although we feel tired, it is a ‘happy’ tired!
Lord, thank you that whatever situation we are in, and whatever challenge we face, your grace is always sufficient. That grace flow towards us again today in full measure. Amen