Rest For The Soul
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
Some of us are so burdened by life’s pressures that our concept of rest is complete escape from all responsibilities. Although that’s not a bad idea for some of us, passivity and escape aren’t what Jesus had in mind when He was speaking to His followers.
To illustrate his concept of rest,Jesus in Matthew 11, paints a word picture of a pair of oxen pulling a wagon. Typically, a pair consists of a mature, experienced ox and a young one just learning how to work. The mature ox does far more of the actual work to pull the load. The young animal’s task is to figure out how to walk it tandem with the older ox so that they don’t pull against each other. The more it learns to cooperate, the easier the task is.
In the same way, Christ invites us to get in the yoke with Him and learn to pull alongside Him. When we have difficulties figuring out how to pull our weight and walk along with Him, He doesn’t scold us. He’s gentle and humble, patiently reminding us of who’s pulling most of the load. Many of us are so tired because we’ve been pulling our own wagons, or we haven’t yet learned to walk in tandem with Christ as we pull together. Learning this lesson brings peace, relief, rest, and a heart full of thankfulness for God’s leading and strength.
I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need.
The idea of being yoked with Christ helps us in many ways. First of all we take great comfort that we aren’t left alone to carry our burdens. I’m sure there have been many occasions when the burdens of life have seemed almost too heavy to carry and yet somehow we have managed to still stand. What Jesus is saying to us is that if we look closer, we will find that we aren’t actually carrying the whole load. I know it might feel that way sometimes, but were it so we would more than likely find ourselves crushed beneath the weight. Now God doesn’t carry it all for to do so would keep us weak so in His wisdom, He allows some of the burden to rest on us. I don’t know what portion of the load I can bear, but I know that Christ will only place on me what He knows I can handle. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says it this way:
No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].
1 Corinthians 10:13
The second lesson from being yoked with Christ is timing and speed. So many times we in our impatience fail to wait on God. That young ox had to learn to walk at the same pace as the mature ox. Over the course of time the older ox had found the most efficient pace and settled into it. The young ox wanted to move at a faster pace, relying on youth and strength. It had to learn that youth and strength have their limits and while they may endure for a short distance, they were no match for the steady pace set by the mature ox. Again Paul alludes to our journey as a marathon rather than a sprint. Running a marathon has a totally different approach than running a short sprint and life is a marathon!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service].
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Ecclesiastes further says:
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise nor riches to those of intelligence and understanding nor favor to men of ability; but time and chance overtake them all.
Often we want to run ahead, step up the pace, so Jesus yokes up with us and we learn to move at His pace. On the other hand, sometimes we aren’t moving fast enough so the yoke moves us along and eventually we learn to walk at God’s pace.
The final thing the lesson of the yoke teaches us is the wisdom of God who is the one who yokes us with Christ. In the actual setting up of the yoked pair, the master would set the yoke in proportion so that each ox was pulling efficiently. As the younger ox became more efficient the master would shift the yoke and that ox would bear more of the load. As we follow Christ and learn more of Him our responsibility to walk in His ways shifts more to us. God will never drop us but He also will not just carry us along. Notice that Jesus didn’t say for us to jump in the wagon and go along for the ride but to be yoked with Him pulling the load.
If you’re tired, perhaps you’ve been trying to pull the weight or carry the load by yourself. The invitation of Christ is to come to Him and let Him share the burdens.
We’ve all heard that many hands make light work. May I say today that God’s hands lifts the burdens and in the marathon of life we find rest because of the one who shares the load. Why don’t you go to God and yoke up with Christ and find rest.
Dr. John Thompson