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“The Source of True Strength”

 Matthew 11:

  1. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  2. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
  3. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

This passage conveys a great deal of information, much more than meets the eye at first glance. It relates very powerfully…  to our present circumstances and is a source of comfort and peace unparalleled in today’s world.

First, Christ is speaking here to people that carry heavy burdens. Perhaps they are physical burdens but more likely they are burdens one carries in one’s heart. They may be only recently acquired but also may be burdens one has carried for many years. Many, Christians and non-Christians, are loaded down with heartaches that just won’t go away. They may be ready to give up on ever getting any relief and are ready to give up their lives so as to end the pain.

Second, Christ says to these sufferers that he will give them rest. They may not have had any rest for years and it may seem impossible to them that anyone could take away such great burdens as they bear. But he says he can and he never goes back on his word. There is a way to peace and Christ is that way.

Third, he tells them what to do to get this relief he promises. They are to take his yoke upon them. Now this might seem to be exactly the wrong thing to do. They are already heavily laden and he tells them to take on further burdens? Moreover, the burden he lays upon them is no small or trivial thing. To assume another person’s yoke is to make one’s self his slave. The reference goes back to the ancient Israeli custom of voluntary servitude. When an individual suffers from setbacks and is no longer able to support himself, he could place himself in servitude to another. He becomes that man’s slave until the year of release, the Sabbath year, when he would be set free and could again go out on his own. On the other hand, if he felt he couldn’t make it on his own or just preferred to stay with his present master, he could apply for permanent slave status. If his master agreed, he would stand him at the door-post, pierce his ear and set his ring in his ear, identifying him as his slave for life. The earring was symbolic of the fact that this person was no longer his own but belonged to another, that he had given up all his aspirations and personal goals and was now totally dedicated to his master. He trusted that his master was a good man and would provide for all his needs in accordance with God’s law and he no longer had an agenda of his own.

Christ calls us all to assume this status with respect to himself. In Matt. 10 he says “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” He says we must lose our lives in order to find true life in him. This is analogous to the case of the Israeli servant. We cannot run our own lives; we always make a mess of it. We need the wisdom and strength of Christ to survive in this world. Without him we lose our lives in foolishness and unsatisfying worldly pleasures that never last. With him, we can find meaning, purpose and satisfaction in our lives.

So he tells us in this passage that we can find “rest unto our souls,” relief from the burdens of life when we “take his yoke” upon us, when we submit our lives entirely to him, when we put aside all our personal desires and wishes, when we empty ourselves and live for him and him alone. This is the formula; it’s really very simple but it requires faith. If we don’t believe in him, we get no relief from our burdens. If we believe but still hold back in some respects, to the extent we do so, to that extent we retain some of the burdens. Notice please that just having faith is not enough. We must not assume that just because we’re believing Christians, Christ will give us peace and rest from all our problems. Christ says, “come unto me.” This is something we must do; conscious action is required; we must take the step. Many true believers are weighed down with troubles and concerns, wondering why the Lord has forsaken them while he is just waiting for them to “come” unto him, “take his yoke” upon them and receive the rest they long for.

Many are fearful of surrendering themselves in this total sense to anyone. The ancient Israelite that did so would have made sure his master really was a faithful, God-fearing man before he took this irreversible step. We can be much more certain about Christ’s love and integrity and need not fear mistreatment by him. To allay any such fears, he tells us that he is “meek and lowly in heart.” He isn’t the sort of master who would lord it over his subjects and make their lives miserable. No, to the contrary, he is meek and lowly of heart; he understands us and is full of compassion for his servants. He also has suffered, far more than we can even begin to comprehend and feels our pain more than anyone else could. The Lord loves us and will not place us in distasteful or undesirable circumstances. His “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light” and he will truly give us “rest unto our souls.”

Notice that he says take my yoke upon you and learn of me, not learn of me and, after you’ve decided I am really what I say I am, then take my yoke upon you. Submission to Christ cannot be dependent on one’s own analysis of him. Our reasoning is limited and very defective; we may and often do come to the wrong conclusions about many things. No, we must first take his yoke, and having done so, we can then learn of him and see that he is indeed meek and lowly of heart. We Christians too often place ourselves before Christ and before God. We think we believe in him and his word because we reasoned it out in our minds and made a decision to accept him. We forget or perhaps never learned that it was he who first chose us and gave us the gift of faith (Eph. 2:8). Yes we made a decision to follow him but only after he made his decision to send the Spirit, the Spirit that brought the new birth, raised us from the dead and opened our eyes to the truth (John 3:3-7; Eph. 2:1-5). We are too full of foolish pride and sorely lacking in humility when we insist that God is powerless to affect our lives until we make our momentous decision and release him to act in our behalf. To think that God is just anxiously waiting in heaven for us to choose him and his Son is not Scriptural; it is blasphemy. It places God at man’s mercy, a reversal of the whole tenor of Scripture and a denial of his sovereignty. No, if we find we believe in him and his Son, we should instead thank him for giving us first spiritual life, eyes to see and a heart to believe and choose him.

So when Christ says come unto me, he is speaking to those he has already chosen and given the gift of faith. They, though, still need to place their entire trust in him, without reservations or qualifications. The old ingrained habits and false ways of thinking are still very much with the new (and some not so new) believers. These need to be put aside and new ways of thought and life taken up. It’s not easy, and often painful, to do so but as we transfer our allegiances from self to Christ, we find that the burdens are lessened and we gain more and more the rest and peace he promises.

Are you someone with burdens? Is your life full of problems you can’t seem to manage? Do you feel you’ve wasted your life and are still searching for something better? You need, not just to believe in him, but to turn your whole life over to him, to submit yourself to his yoke. Stop anguishing over problems you can’t solve and resolve to living with them if necessary. Trust your new master to handle everything about your life including all those burdens. When you do so, really do so, you will feel immediate relief and eventually, possibly in ways you could never have imagined, the problems will be alleviated and eventually eliminated. Christ does not go back on his word; he is truth personified. You will receive not only the rest he promises but also a far more meaningful and enjoyable life.