"Come to Me, all you 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." Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
I’m just getting started on a path that will last the rest of my life.
I’ve thought a lot about how I’d like the next few decades to look. Every year I’m in the ministry, I want to be more in love with Jesus, more in love with people, and more in love with the church. I want my marriage to be stronger. I want my kids to be happier. I want my lifestyle to reflect the righteousness, peace, and joy of the kingdom of God.
That’s not going to happen if I’m stressed out all the time. I am convinced that as Christians, our actions must be the result of a state of spiritual rest or we will wear out before we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. What good is a season of growth if our pace is not sustainable, or if our lifestyle is so frantic and frenzied that a few years down the road we’ve lost our joy?
In Matthew 11:28–30, Jesus offers us rest for our souls—a rest that will empower us for the rest of our lives. He calls this rest a yoke. In biblical times, the rabbis used the word yoke to talk about their interpretation of the Torah and how they faithfully lived it out. Jesus offers us His yoke: his Word and his lifestyle. What a gift!
With that in mind, here are a few questions for consideration.
1. Are we taking his yoke or trying to earn it?
The rest that Jesus gives is free. We don’t earn it, work for it, or deserve it. We just receive it. It’s a natural result of knowing Jesus and understanding grace.
Sometimes we feel guilty or insecure when we rest. That’s usually a sign that we are getting our sense of identity and value from our work—a dangerous place to be.
Jesus doesn’t grant peace to just a few hard-working souls that have paid their dues. He doesn’t insist that we stress out and burn out before he gives us rest. It’s ours now, if we choose to take it.
2. What have we taken upon ourselves that is not ours?
Often, the most wearying things in our lives didn’t come from God in the first place. They are burdens he hasn’t asked us to bear. They aren’t necessarily bad things, but we don’t have the grace for them.
Sometimes these yokes are the result of trying to meet others’ expectations for our role. Everyone has their idea of what a good Christian does, what a good leader does, and what a good pastor does. If we allow ourselves to be bound by the expectations of everyone, we will end up pleasing no one, and we will always be worn out.
Comparison is another source of false yokes. We see someone else doing something good, and we assume we should be doing it too. There are a lot of good ideas that we will never carry out. That’s why we are part of the greater Body of Christ. We need to know who we are and what we are good at, and focus on that.
3. What connections produce a gentle and simple pace in life?
In the agricultural world, a yoke involves a connection between two animals for the purpose of carrying out tasks more effectively. Figuratively, the yokes we carry also imply a connection. Either we are connected to Jesus or we are connected to something else: often competition, pride, fear, or some other negative motivation. What we are yoked to determines our direction and pace.
Are we moving faster than Jesus? Are we working harder than the Holy Spirit? Are we in a bigger hurry than God? That doesn’t make us more spiritual: it just makes us tired. Jesus is in this for the long haul, and if we allow him to set the pace, we will go the distance with him.
4. Are we living lives low to the ground?
The Greek word for “lowly” in Matthew 11:29 (NKJV) is defined by the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon as “not rising far from the ground.” A person with a lowly heart is not bothered by being incognito, anonymous, underestimated, or underappreciated. Jesus is the best example: he wasn’t concerned with impressing people or building a name for himself. He didn’t worry about getting credit for his good deeds or clearing his reputation when he was falsely accused.
We find rest when we find our security in Jesus, not in our fame or success. Self-promotion is exhausting. Competition and comparison are a waste of energy. We should rejoice in the accomplishments of others rather than feeling intimidated by them.
Thirty years from now, I believe our faith will still be strong. Our courage will be high. Our joy and peace will be more abundant than ever. And it won’t be because we are super-Christians, but because we have learned to live in the rest that Jesus offers. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. His rest is what we need for the rest of our life.
Re-printed from Catalyst. Used by permission.