Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weary and Burdened In The Face Of The Promise Of Rest

I am currently working through a time crunch in my life. It has created an invisible stress in my life that I can't seem to get my hands on to take care of. Most of my stresses I can recognize and deal with before they start affecting me. Having experienced burn out a couple of times, I am very eager to avoid it again. However, time has always been in a deficit in my life as I take on too much and refuse to rest until each and every task is completed. There is a lack of prioritizing and willingness to leave lesser tasks unfinished until another day. This time deficit or time crunch leaves me with an invisible stress that I am unaware of until it has already started to have an affect on my health and mental well being.

I am not alone in carrying unnecessary burdens. Millions of people every day are feeling the stress of the pushing and pulling on their mind and heart. Some of it will be caused by problems at home or financial situations. Others are due to failing relationships or the burden of people's opinions. Much of it is imagined problems, things that might be but have yet to happen. Face it, we are an overburdened society and much of the blame falls on our own head. These words of Jesus should be like cool water on a hot summer day:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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)

This is the beautiful invitation from Jesus that many of us admire and talk about but few of us take advantage of. Oh yes, I feel weary and burdened but I am also a great one for excuses. "This is the Lord's work." "What could I possibly let go of?" "I'm too busy to even consider priorities." "There are people busier than me." This last one is true and I have to ask myself why they don't feel this same time crunch. It could be because they have taken Jesus' yoke upon them whereas I am still wearing my own.

I am ashamed to admit that much of what I do is done on my own accord. Tasks present themselves and, like the great general Joshua, I just plow ahead. But when Joshua moved on from the battle of Jericho he made the mistake of assuming what God's will was instead of consulting him. It led to a defeat that saw people killed. We, or I should say I, often assume that the tasks that are presented are what God wants me to do. I don't consult and so many times it leads to my defeat in that I become overburdened, stressed and no good for anyone. My yoke, my decision, my burdens, and they are slowly killing me.

Jesus is telling us to set aside our notions of how to do things, our thoughts, our methods, our choices, our priorities. We are to allow him to place his yoke on us. This is how he will guide us, give us commands, direct us in his paths, send us to do his work. His yoke is very important for us living for him and bringing him glory, which is the desire and purpose of our life.

He tells us that we are to learn from him. We have to admit we don't know or at least that we don't know as we aught to know. We need to admit our need to learn and then humble ourselves before Jesus and say, "Teach me Lord". If we think we know then we cannot learn. It is like a student coming to school thinking he has nothing to learn. With such an attitude we will not be able to learn. We have to admit to Jesus that we need him to teach us because we don't know.

It is in Jesus' humility and gentleness that we find rest. Rest doesn't mean that there is no work to be done. The rest is from our personal burdens that threaten to destroy us. Oh, there is plenty of work but it is different because it belongs to Jesus. It is his right to lord it over us, to force us, to push us but that is not his character. He is patient with us, never giving us more than we can bear, training us over time to be stronger, to be better, to be able to handle more responsibility. His training is gentle and we find rest in his methods and love.

The yoke on myself is too great, too burdensome, so heavy it will kill me. Even though I am a long time Christian, a pastor of many years, it does not mean that my own nature does not often carry me away with my own ideas and agendas. I am not the only man to make this mistake often; many of us are ruining our lives according to our own agendas. This is why we need more time in prayer and reflection, in conversation with our Lord. We need to make sure that we have allowed him to put his well fitted yoke on us, a yoke tailor-made for each of us individually. We also need to make sure we are carrying his burden which are much easier than our own. When we are busy with his agenda, doing his work, we can trust that he is looking after us, watching out for us and that he will not destroy us.

It is time for me to re-examine the yoke I have on me. It is time for a re-assessment of what I am doing, why I am doing it and if it is the Lord's burden or my own. One thing I know, there are only 24 hours in a day and the Lord would not ask me to do 36 hours of work in a 24 hour day. He will tell me to move mountains and to exercise great faith in many situations. He will tell me to dream big and receive great vision but he will not ask me to go beyond my capacity. I am not the worker of miracles, Jesus is. He will accomplish great things through me but it will be Jesus accomplishing them, not me. He is capable of working past my capacity but it is him who is doing it. He just tells me to be faithful to the yoke and burden he has given me which will allow him to work the miracles. He says the same thing to all of us.  "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."

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