Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
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. (ESV) Matthew 11:28-30
What a delight to see carefree children playing in the long absent and much needed sunshine! With so much uncertainty and stress, we think of those peaceful days when burdens and responsibilities were few. Living through a global pandemic highlights how life can overwhelm and crowd out needed times of rest and re-creation, suffocating our souls to the point of exhaustion and despair. Let us look to Jesus and find our true rest again.
Weariness of soul finds us by default and the path back to a rested soul seems impossible to find. No matter your circumstances, the path toward a rested soul is near, calling you gently and humbly to a place of certain tranquility and enduring peace. Finding our way back to peace and rest starts with understanding how they were lost.
Peace leaves us when we strive to earn God’s approval out of duty or fear. And, peace dims when we load ourselves down with expectations designed to satisfy ourselves or others instead of God. The resulting life rhythms become corrupted and overloaded, crowding out space for times of soul restoration. In this state, rest is elusive at best because we can never be good enough to earn God’s approval and we will never satisfy the ever changing expectations of our restless hearts and popular culture.
The enduring, soul satisfying rest that Jesus provides comes with a now and a not-yet component. Jesus wants us to experience rest in this world, right now. And, he wants us to experience eternal rest with him in heaven. What seems far off is actually close, that which feels out of reach in the overwhelm is with you right now.
Jesus wants you to know that a rested soul is found in him alone. Yes, he is aware and available in your present circumstance. The path to a rested soul starts by coming to Jesus. He is the one who gives rest that transcends all circumstances.
Coming to Jesus requires that we leave our self-imposed burdens in exchange for the “yoke” (way) of Jesus. We repent of going our own way and choose to only follow his way. Jesus then hides your life within his glorious power, protection, provision, and presence – the kingdom of eternal peace and rest.
Money, material possessions, alcohol, sex, sports, institutions, hobbies, and relationships aren’t inherently bad. They can be a means of grace and good. The problem arises when they serve as substitutes for the peace that flows only through an abiding relationship with Jesus . Savior substitutes never fully satisfy and the more we pursue them, the more we become enslaved, stressed, and anxious.
Turn from substitutes and take up the yoke/way of Jesus and learn from our gentle and humble teacher. He is the kind of teacher who knows your worst, but believes the very best about you every day. Your humble teacher and guide always has your best interest in mind. He says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus knows your soul and wants to provide the rest it longs for – the rest that only he can provide. The prophet Jeremiah encouraged God’s people to “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
Today, recall the ancient paths, before burdening yourself with good things that may not be the best things. Cast off the labor and burden of working to achieve the approval of God and others. Leave every substitute that competes with Jesus and gain the satisfying and eternal rest that he longs to give you – rest for your soul.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord Jesus, I am thrilled that I can find rest in you! I need your rest today. Help me to find the path back to when you were my only trust. Forgive me for the ways that I have allowed the things of this world to substitute for what only you can provide. May your grace empower me to leave my way and take up your way from this day forward. Thank you for being a humble and gentle teacher. Guide me on the ancient path so that I can bring your kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSES OF THE WEEK:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.