For several weeks now I have been refreshed in serving and worshipping the Lord. This is very exciting and I praise God for it. However, with this has come an intensified concern for the well-being of the church where I serve as pastor. I have had a hard time sleeping on many nights and resting on my days off because this concern has been constantly reentering my mind and continuing in my heart.
During my prayer time yesterday I had many of these concerns on my heart. I was concerned about the health of the church, concerned about the church growing, concerned about individual church member’s spiritual growth and health, concerned about whether I am doing the things that God would want a pastor of one of His churches doing, concerned about why our church isn’t growing faster.
In the midst of these concerns flowing out of my heart, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the following passage:
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30.
The beginning of this verse begins with the Greek word δεῦτε. It means to “come here” and to “come now!” I find it comforting that Jesus doesn’t want us to lose heart because we are carrying a heavy load. He wants us to come to Him right away! He doesn’t want us to be discouraged for any length of time. How long do we carry heavy loads in our own strength before we actually take them to Jesus? He has promised that when we come to Him, He will give us rest and allow us to learn from Him.
Now, I want to be clear. I am not saying that Jesus doesn’t want us (any and every Christian that is) to take on responsibility of any kind. In fact, He calls many of us to bear extremely heavy responsibilities for Him. However, when we come to Him, we find rest and strength in order to carry such loads. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” I want you to notice here that the way of escape is not the removal of the temptation or of responsibility. The way of escape is the strength to be able to bear the temptation and the responsibility without giving in or giving up.
Now, back to our original passage from Matthew 11. Jesus says in verse 30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus is contrasting the gospel (that is the good news of His life, death, and resurrection that allows us to be saved from eternal destruction) with all of the demands of the law and the extra demands of the Pharisees. Under the Mosaic Covenant and Law (that is the Covenant that God made with Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai), the Israelites were required to follow the whole law. The curse for disobeying the law was death (Deuteronomy 28:45). However, Jesus came and obeyed the whole law on our behalf. He died to pay the penalty for our disobedience to the law. Now, we can come to Him, take on His yoke, and He will take ours. This means, that whenever we are weak and whenever we fail, there is no more penalty or punishment for us. Why? Because Jesus took it! I don’t have to be constantly afraid that I am going to fail God! Why? Because Jesus had victory on my behalf!
This also leads to one last idea: Jesus is in control! He is the one who works in the hearts and minds of His people! He is the one who grows His church! He is the one who will convict unbelievers to repentance and faith! I am His instrument and so are you! He has merely called us to take part in His ministry. Therefore, when we are burdened and weary in heart, it is important to remember that this is primarily His ministry and His yoke that we get to take part in! That’s what makes this yoke an easy and light one to bear. It’s because Jesus has borne it and is bearing it in us and with us!