Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Wednesday night I preached on an issue that has been very convicting to me recently. That is the amount of time I actually spend with God. Time alone. Time in silence. Time in prayer. When I don’t do these things my life seems to come apart at the seams…sometimes very fast…sometimes very slow. I think it may be more dangerous when it is a slow coming apart because I am often unaware of it, until it is too late. Not too late in the sense that life is over, but too late in the sense that I can’t retract a decision or choice I may have made in bad judgment because I wasn’t feeling “attuned” to God’s guidance.
These last six months have been some of the most stressful that I have ever experienced. It’s a very different type of stress than when I lost my mother to breast cancer, but it’s an exhaustive stress nonetheless. The type of stress that comes from constant business. The type of stress that makes you think when you get up in the morning, just how great it would be to get back in bed.
It’s just a busy time in life right now. Preparing for marriage. Looking for a home. Working in ministry. Being in the process of ordination. Pondering more graduate school. Etc. Etc.
But as I began to read more and more of the gospels I began to see more and more of a pattern in the life of Jesus. It is not a hidden pattern, and will not be new to anyone, but it is a patter that has been so convicting to me.
“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
“At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving.” (Luke 4:42)
“Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12)
Notice the pattern. Jesus, getting up early, and retreating to be alone, to pray, to be in silence. What’s even more fascinating, all of these passages and others are usually followed by people looking for Jesus and wondering what He is doing. Almost to say. Why are you here alone praying, when there is so much work to be done? Miracles to perform? Demons to cast out?
But I believe that for Jesus, everything that He did in life, was dependent upon the time He spent alone and in prayer with His Father. So it is with you. Everything that you do in life: The work you perform. The relationships you are in. They are all dependent upon you spending time alone, in silence before God. When you don’t do this, life begins to fall apart.
The word Sabbath is an interesting word. It is the seventh day of the week in the Jewish calendar, marked by rest from work and by special religious ceremonies. In Genesis 2:1-3 we find God resting on the seventh day after six days of work in the process of creating…Creation. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
In Genesis 5:12-15 we see in the commandment to keep a sabbath, that the sabbath is all inclusive. No one is left out. Not slave or free. Not man or female. Not animals or livestock. A sabbath is important and given to everyone.
Sabbath is a completion of work. It is a completion of creation. It bring completion. It brings wholeness. Not only did the sabbath bring completion to creation, but it bring completion and wholeness to our lives. We can not work, work, work, without rest. Our work, our lives are brought to wholeness with a day of rest. With time with God.
In Rob Bell’s NOOMA video, “Noise” he makes a compelling argument that there is a correlation between the noise and business in our lives, and our inability to hear God’s voice. Rob tells of the story of the prophet Elijah in 19:11-13, where Elijah does not find God in the wind, or earthquake, or fire, but in sheer silence. Rob wonders if we are so unable to hear God at times because we surround ourselves in constant noise. Cell phones. Radio. TV. Movies. Etc. Etc. But maybe it’s really in the silence when God speaks?
We all live very busy and crazy lives. We are often weary and carrying very heavy burdens. That’s why it is such a beautiful moment of grace when we come across this passage.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I love that passage, and so should you. Christ is giving us the opportunity to come to him when we are exhausted, and tired from life. When the burdens that we have been carrying around have finally broken our back and brought us to our knees. And when we come to Christ, He offers us rest. But it’s an interesting rest. It’s not a final resting place, but rather a place where we stop, receive rest and revival, and then head back out into life to continue about our task. It’s almost as if it’s a stopping station. Christ knows that we are tired and worn out. And because of that He has given a place for us to come and get refreshed, so that we can continue the task that He has given us in life. How can we finish our task, our mission, if we don’t receive that rest from Christ.
God has a plan for your future. You were created for a purpose, with passions and dreams and tasks to carry out. But you can’t carry them out when you feel so exhausted and disconnected from God that you can’t hear His guiding voice. What are the heavy burdens in your life that you are carrying right now? What do you need to come to God with?
When we come to Christ, He promises to take off the yoke that is so entangling our life, that is choking us off from Him. A yoke is a device that is put around an animal’s neck that keeps it on course during farming, or ranching, or other activities. And often we are carrying the yoke of the world around us, and it is guiding us in directions we do not want to go, or should not be going. And when we come to Christ, He removes this yoke, and replaces it with the gentle and humble yoke of His teaching, of following Him. When we put on His yoke we become His disciple, and we learn to live life from Him. Christ says we need this rest for our souls. We need this rest so that we can keep going. We need this rest to protect our souls from temptation. How many bad choices do you make when you are tired and worn out and exhausted? How much easier is it to give into tempation when you are weary?
We are given this opportunity, and a choice to make. Either we live with the tight, and the choking yoke of the world as it leads us wherever it wants to take us. Just like a big dumb ox with a yoke around its neck. But Christ is saying to us, “take my yoke…wear it…and you will find rest.”
St. Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”
Isn’t it about time, that you come to Christ, and rest at His feet? Isn’t it about time that you lay down your heavy burdens before God? Isn’t it about time that you let Christ take off the burdening yoke of the world, and let Him place His yoke upon you?
How are you going to do that? You need to actively carve out some time each day to be with God. Start small. Maybe 20-30 minutes. Begin your day in prayer, so that that morning time with God will sustain you through the day. You need to also carve out one day a week where you do nothing. You don’t work, you don’t study, but you rest. You seek out time to be alone, to be in silence, and to listen for the voice of God. You can start small. Maybe you don’t start off with a whole day, but a few hours in that day.
But start somewhere. Your life. Your future. Your relationships. They are all dependent upon the time that you spend alone in silence with God, listening to His voice. Don’t let the noise of this world drown out what God is saying to you.