MATTHEW 11:29e (part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:29e (Holman) “. . .and you will find rest for yourselves.”
In verses 28-29, Jesus dealt with two different rests. The first rest (v. 28) is being sure we are saved, knowing for certain we will go to Heaven when we die.
This first rest deals with eternity, the second (v. 29) with life we live here and now. The first rest is given as a free gift. The second rest has to be found.
The first rest is limited to salvation, the second rest is unlimited. Jesus offers us rest in all things at all times in all parts of our being. Absolute, utter contentment, worth mountains of diamonds, is the special jewel Jesus offers.
Our hectic culture breeds trouble, sorrow, unrest, discontent. “The weight of human misery is enough to make the axles of the earth to break” (Spurgeon). If we could hear the tales of sorrow represented in this room we would be crushed.
We crave rest, desiring it so desperately that we are ever in danger of being easily duped into accepting counterfeits for peace. To enjoy the rest God wants to give us we must find peace in at least three main areas of life causing unrest: suspicions toward God, dissatisfaction with our outward actions, inner tension.
Jesus offers rest in all three. First, Christ removes our suspicions toward God. If we don’t trust God, have confidence in Him, life will never be okay.
We too often make the fatal mistake of looking around us to find evidence of God’s loving concern for us. This is risky business, often an effort in futility.
Proof of God’s love is not found in the fallen world we live in. We find rest toward God by commemorating what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago on a cross.
The only safe peace is in celebrating what Jesus gained for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. In what Jesus did for us, we find our peace toward God.
The mind is always flitting here and there, wandering in endless mazes, seeking God’s rest. Our minds have to believe in something. They are made to think, to cogitate, to process information, and do so endlessly, trying to find peace.
When we rest in Jesus’ love for us at Calvary, our thoughts can finally settle, our hearts can nestle. This peace steadies the spirit, keeps it on true north.
Second, Jesus removes dissatisfaction with our outward actions. If we rest in what Jesus did for us in the past, we can move on to the thrill of serving Him in the present. God’s rest is not endless sleep, laziness, or a semi-lifeless state, but rather vigorous, happy involvement in outward spiritual activities.
Much work has to be done, but should be accomplished in rest. The word translated in our text as rest could be rendered relief, refreshment, or renewal.
In Christ’s bosom we rest in order to re-tool, repair, and return to the rigors of worship, serve, and go. Our hearts rest while our mouths, hands, and feet work.
To seek to escape duty is to meet misery face to face. We miss restlessness not by plunging headlong into self indulgence. Seeking rest in pleasure, success, fame, riches, or other outward actions only increases unrest. Selfishness, evil acts, and neglect of duty are other outward enemies we must conquer to enjoy peace.
Rest is found not in avoiding duty, but in embracing worthwhile duty, doing in God’s power what He created us to do. Worship, serve, and go no more burden us than keeping time does a clock. For this we are made, and in it we should revel.
In Heaven we shall serve God (RV 22:3). Since service is what we’re going to do in Heaven, it must be fun, and we might as well start enjoying it in advance.
Third, Jesus offers rest from inner tension. His rest is more than a facade, a cosmetic, outward calm. Happy faces often hide a sad heart. Many believers look peaceful on the surface, but a storm of unrest is brewing within. They are “ship-wrecked sailors tossing on the waves of their own passions” (Pulpit Commentary).
In his book “Lessons From the Heart,” Jack Graham points out the fact the old Saxon word for worry, “wurgen,” described a wolf grabbing a sheep by the throat and strangling it. The image is brutally stark, but accurate. Worry, the lack of mental rest, chokes us mentally, physically, sexually, socially, emotionally, etc.
Jesus wants us to enjoy mental rest, to relax, to bask in freedom from stress, in sweet calm, in release from the surging adrenalin rush. I never relax without focused conscious effort. Jesus does not want this for us. He offers peace within.
Someday we will experience God’s perfect peace in Heaven. Until then we here and now are allowed to enjoy innumerable preliminary samples of that peace.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (HB 11:1). Faith lets us enjoy future benefits now, and see unseen blessings here.
True peace swells from within. Close to Jesus we find relief from life’s crushing burdens, crippling anxiety, frustration, and its guilt-ridden conscience.
If we don’t have God’s peace deep within, we won’t have rest in this life. Without inward peace, we won’t have outward peace. If we can’t find peace where we are, we’ll not find it anywhere. If we have no peace in our current circumstance, we can not have peace if we alter our life situation. If we have no peace in storms, we’ll have none in calm; if not in misery, then not in happiness.
God’s peace is spiritual, independent of circumstances. It is vain to think if we changed our situations, for instance the people and places in our life, we would have more peace. If we find no peace in poverty, we’ll find none in wealth; if not in troubles, then not in good times; if not in a cottage, then not in a mansion.
Whatever the burden, whether our attitude toward God, our actions, our tension, Jesus wants to rest us from worry. His love for us is all-encompassing. He wants us burdened in no area of life. He wants for us what we want for us.
We all want peace. Daniel Bruner, our church’s missionary to South Asia, witnessed to a man who bowed his head, saying, “I have no peace. I wake up in the night; there is no peace. I am old. I know my time to die is getting closer.”
Rest has always been the desire beating within us. Three thousand years ago, David sighed, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (PS 55:6-8).
Dante knocked at the gates of a monastery. Asked “What do you want?” he replied, “Peace.” The whole human race could have stood by him, echoing, “We too want peace.” Rest is the ultimate quest of every heart. How do we find it?
First, balance worship, serve, and go. Are we doing something specific in each area? If not, rest will remain an elusion. God will bless the structure only when the building blocks of life are arranged the way He commands them to be.
Second, find someone who will walk closely beside you. I could have never overcome my mental troubles had Ruth not been willing to be my lifeguard.
Christian living has few successful expressions apart from a small group. I’m grateful for my small group of seven men I meet with on Thursday mornings. I’m grateful for Sunday School classes I attended through the years. They helped.
Third, romance Jesus. Finding rest always devolves back to our personal, love relationship with Jesus. A life marked by worry is a life displaying distrust of God, and thus cannot be characterized by gratitude, thanksgiving, and intimacy.
Anyone who hugely sacrifices for another does not want to be forgotten or neglected. How must Jesus, One who died on a cross, feel when He looks at us and sees us so preoccupied with worry that we can’t say thanks or romance Him?
We need our spiritual vision of Jesus cleared up. We need to see Him as He is, loving, wonderful, and powerful. Worry distorts our thinking by making our troubles seem bigger than God. When we are obsessed with our problems, we fall into the trap of enlarging them to be bigger than God is. This is wrong. He is larger and stronger than our difficulties. A heart accepting this truth can be at rest.
Renounce infernal pride. Withdraw often into a secret place. Too many try to put together the puzzle pieces of their life while on the run. This won’t work. We must stop, dismount the raging beast, and take time to focus on loving Jesus.
Retreat to prayer and Scripture more often. It’s hard to run the race of life when burdened down. Don’t try to hide our griefs from Him. Instead, pour them out before Him. Why should we bear burdens He can gladly and easily carry?
Pull in for pit stops often. Remember the subtle yet all-important difference between worry and prayer. Worry is talking to ourselves about our troubles; prayer is talking to God about them. The distinction separates rest from unrest.