MATTHEW 11:29e (part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:29e (Holman) “. . .and you will find rest for yourselves.”
Christ’s rest is multifaceted and unlimited, covering every part of life, and causing all the pieces of life to blend harmoniously, reducing friction and conflict.
First, Jesus helps us enjoy physical rest. You ask, “Physical rest? I thought Christianity is spiritual.” It is, but has physical ramifications, benefits for a body.
God offers rest from feverish activity, exhaustion, constant pressure, endless deadlines. He wants us to rest our bodies. At Jacob’s well, Jesus was weary. He rested. He tried to escape the crowds to rest, and told His disciples to do the same.
Three thousand years before labor laws, child labor legislation, and labor unions, God became the champion of common people, the working class, by commanding they were to be allowed to rest one day in seven.
To ensure this one day in seven brought its best and highest benefit, its rest was to be taken in conjunction with public worship. The day of physical rest was to be a day of spiritual renewal, picturing the fact physical rest, as important as it is, points us to a more important rest, spiritual rest, knowing and enjoying God.
Within my lifetime, our USA culture repealed the blue laws, which forbade most businesses to be open on Sunday. Since we ended the Sunday closing laws, we have been an exhausted society, again proving we are not smarter than God.
Lest we point an accusing finger at government, some individual believers are also guilty of thinking they can outwit God. We work seven days a week, as if this is the best way to live, but a frantic pace only serves to spawn a frantic life.
Many take a weekly day of rest, but are guilty of doing it not in conjunction with worship. They think rest without reference to God is sufficient, yet wonder why physical and mental rest in and of themselves never seem to satisfy.
Our best hope for rest in body and spirit is one day per week set aside from work and for worship. Both are essential. No other prescription for producing peace can outperform these two combined ingredients in bringing about rest.
An occasional long weekend or extended vacation can help, but not as much as one day of rest every week. Scripture emphasizes the latter above the former.
Don’t try to outsmart God. He created our bodies, and best knows how they can function at peak performance. Physical rest is its best if we seek it God’s way.
Second, Jesus helps us enjoy social rest. Hurt from others is excruciating. The first 72 psalms deal at length with the pain people inflicted on the Psalmist.
People can often be hollow, selfish, and ruthless. Maybe a friend betrayed us. We looked for a kiss, but were slapped instead. Life can leave us breathless.
You may have loved in vain, having been jilted or ditched. One of my aunts, after her divorce, agonized, “What will I do with my broken heart?” Dad said, “Let Jesus be your husband.” This word carried her through the darkness.
What parts of each day were those special times you were used to spending with the loved one you lost? Let those be the hours you now fill with prayer and Bible times. Romance Jesus. Tell Him the love words you once used for another.
Our minds and hearts hate pain, but it is better to be pain-full than pain-less. Much mental illness is caused by our refusal to let our emotions be traumatized.
However hurtful, broken interpersonal relationships are best handled by Jesus. He heals us. Also, when we rest in Him we take offense less often. He helps take the chip off our shoulder. Jesus makes us tender, kinder, more loving.
Respond guardedly to hurt from others. Our response can create more pain than the original blow. Many Christians’ problems with others would be cured if they acted like a Christian. No revenge; vengeance is God’s (RM 12:19). No striking back; turn the other cheek (MT 5:39). No yelling; a soft answer turns away wrath (PR 15:1). No stewing; let not the sun go down upon your wrath (EP 4:26). The Bible is the best interpersonal guidebook ever written. Live by it.
Third, Jesus helps us enjoy cultural rest. Many are brokenhearted over our society’s moral decline. All around us we see the Lord profaned. Even Christians often grow numb to the jarring profanity hurled at Jesus. The sweetest name ever uttered is trashed into a byword by the very society His teachings made possible.
The moral sewage creeping in on us from every front makes us sometimes want to flee, to live in a tent in the middle of a corn field, no TV, no radio, no newspaper, no contact. But Jesus rests us not in isolationism, but in Himself.
Our culture can weigh us down. Believers, we are not bosses of society. Jesus rules in the affairs of men. We are but servants. Our task is to do our part.
Holiness matters most, remember the poor, comfort the feebleminded, salt and light decaying darkness. Leave to Jesus the big picture, it’s His responsibility.
Fourth, Jesus helps us enjoy lifelong rest. One of life’s hardest tasks is to stay soft over a lifetime. Repeated disappointments make it easy to become jaded. One of Earth’s saddest sights is a Christian whose heart has hardened or given up.
Many mature believers suffer a general sadness because life did not turn out the way they had hoped. Goals died, dreams failed, disappointments took over. Maybe health failed. Sickness and disease can bring one almost to the ground.
Many are tired of life, feeling they have borne the burden and heat of the day way too long. Sensing the oppressive weight of years of trials, they quit, give up. This is not allowed. Successful Christian living requires diligence to the end.
We retire from jobs, but never from being a Christian. If we grow weary of life, it’s time to find a new, fresh love for Jesus. He intends our life to be enjoyed, fulfilling to the end. Fight apathy and cynicism to the grave. Never let them win.
This pinpoints what may be the most common sin of older believers–a hard heart, a critical spirit, a cynical attitude. If we are careless, the passing of years does not automatically make us better, but makes us more of what we have been.
Fifth, Jesus helps us enjoy career rest. He helps us find the right rung on the corporate ladder. Wrongly directed, ambition exhausts. Many toil to exhaustion to gain fame, wealth, or the power surge that comes from being King of the Hill.
Professional success usually isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Kings of the Hill find their hill isn’t all they thought it would be. In addition, they learn lofty peaks are slippery places. Many a Christian has stumbled on success’ slick slope.
Jesus can remove the career beast raging within. He may not make us best or first, but can make us as content where we are as we would be at the top.
Sixth, Jesus helps us enjoy spiritual rest. This is the best rest. To sense we are loved by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit satisfies, brings us the most desirable rest. In friendship with Him our spirit finds its haven of rest.
As we love Jesus more, “holiness increases, and holiness is rest” (Vaughan). If our heart becomes one with Him, the undercurrents of life are not as violent, our existence becomes integrated, spun into one beautiful tapestry of devotion to God.
Rest is ours when the unrest of self-will is gone, when we truly pray, “Jesus, take the reins. Rule me. Guide me. You know what’s best for me. I trust You.”
Jacob illustrated this (GN 32:24ff). Determined to live life his way on his terms, Jacob spent the majority of his life wrestling against God.
God, tired of Jacob’s rebellious spirit, came to wrestle him into submission. God loved Jacob so much that He was finally willing to fight him to win his heart.
Esau, who had threatened to kill Jacob, was coming with an army. In this perilous moment, the most frightening of his life, Jacob slipped away to be alone.
When a hand grabbed him, Jacob reacted the way he had responded to all of life. He wrestled. All night he fought, capsulizing in one long, grueling evening his whole life in microcosm. Jacob had been fighting against God his whole life.
By morning Jacob realized his adversary was supernatural. He asked to be blessed, but God refused. Jacob said he would not let go until he was blessed.
God, refusing to bless one who wrestled against Him, crippled Jacob, who could then only cling. When he could no longer wrestle, when all he could do was hold on, God blessed. Jacob painfully learned God’s rest comes via surrender.
What have we not surrendered? A sin, a worry, a disappointment? George Mueller said the most important time in prayer was the 15 minutes after we say amen. If time in prayer did not bring rest, it was ineffective. When we reach the place of resting in Jesus, we shall not fret and fuss after saying amen (Barnhouse).