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Sermon Message

 

"True Rest for the Weary of Soul"

Mark 6:30
Theme: To those who "labor" and are "heavy laden", Jesus offers rest.
(This sermon was transcribed from a live recording.)

(Delivered Sunday, February 12, 2006 at Bethany Bible Church. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New King James Version.)

Well, I want to tell you right off the start, be very honest with you that the sermon that I planned to preach and the sermon that I spent the whole week studying, all of my notes, and all of my Greek, analytical grammar, notes, and all of that stuff that's sitting on my desk... the passage that we talked about yesterday in the men's group: men, great passage! Probably preach from it next week.

But I've had those times where the passage that I intended to preach - it just is clearly not God wanted. I'm just hitting walls left and right. As I was driving along last night, talking with Marilyn about it (I have such a wonderful and wise wife! I think I'm wiser than her because I married here. She's still very wise) and she said, "Well, maybe that's not the passage you're supposed to preach on." Now, we're just both exhausted. We're just driving along exhausted. Tired - it's been a very difficult couple of weeks, and we're drained... and we're both just kind of ... uuuunnnnhhhh. And it just automatically came. I just quoted from rote: "Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." The words of our Savior, from Matthew 11.

We're just quoting this Bible verse together, and Marilyn said, "Maybe that's what you're supposed to preach." So, here we are: Matthew, chapter 11, and you know what? We're going through Matthew, and I'm going to be getting to Matthew, chapter 11 in a few months, so I don't know what I'm going to do! Maybe I'll preach from it again; we'll find out!

I remember something from Dr. Pam Reeve at Multnomah. She is just such a wonderful, wonderful, sane, gracious teacher. She taught the counseling courses that I took in seminary, and she's just the coolest old lady. We're talking, and she just kind of came alongside me and said, "Well, Greg, I get an A. I get an A last night." I said, "Well, what do you mean?" And she said, "I had a whole pile of papers to grade. There they are, sitting on my table, and I just didn't do it. I just got a book and a nice cup of hot cocoa and let those papers go and didn't grade them, and I just enjoyed a nice, relaxing evening. I get an A."

And I said, "Are you crazy? That's not an A! That's an F!" And she said, "No, that's an A." And I'm saying, "You think differently than I do." And she said, "I know."

I'll never forget another encounter I had with Dr. Reeve. At the time I was 30, and she said, "How are you doing?" And I told her all the stuff I'm doing - I've got three jobs going on and I'm going to seminary and boy, it's crazy. She asked me, how much sleep do you get at night? And I said, not very much. And she said, "How old are you?" And I said, thirty. She said, "You wanna be 40?" That's this lady - boy, I'll tell you. But she got an A that night, because she went to bed. I'm going to tell you, brothers and sisters in Christ, I got an A last night.

Because I could've cranked out that sermon and could've given you something and you know what? It wouldn't have been from God, I can tell you that. It would've been my efforts, and clearly God is saying no. We serve a wonderful Savior. He is the easiest master in the world to serve. He is not a slave driver. He is not a hard taskmaster. But He loves us, and He cherishes us, and He cares more about our fellowship with Him than the stuff that we can do for Him.

Turn to Mark chapter 6 for a moment. I've just got to show you this, I think this is such a wonderful picture of our Savior. He sends the disciples out to minister and to preach and to tell people about Him, and to go before the different cities where He's about to go, and they come back. In Mark chapter 6, verse 30: "Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things both what they had done and what they had taught." Look what He did: He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for a while. For there were many coming and going and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves."

Jesus said, Listen, let's get away. Let's go away to a deserted place and let's just rest for a while. Jesus, the Son of God, says this. And you've got to know the rest of the story: no sooner did they get there than the crowds find out about it, and they all come there, too! Oh, great, now what? And it's interesting: Jesus didn't say, "GO AWAY, all you crowds!" He didn't get in the boat - you know, He could've sent a thunderstorm or something to make them go away - but He didn't. He welcomed them, He even fed them. And I learned a lesson from that. That there are those times in your Christian life when you're just really, really busy, and it just seems like a lot, and you try to get away to get a rest, and you go off with Jesus, and you find out the work even follows you there. But you're with Jesus, and even then, the work is a rest if you're with Jesus. Even then, He gives rest.

John Westley, the great Methodist preacher, the great "world changer", used to say, "I am often weary IN the work, but I'm never weary OF the work." And there's a huge difference, isn't there? I think this is the key. This is the passage for people who are laboring to the point of weariness, and are heavy-laden. Laboring to the point of weariness gives me a picture of something that's going on on the inside of you, and heavy-laden gives me a concept of something that's going on on the outside of you. Have you ever felt that way? Please don't lie - of course you have. I'll bet some of you are feeling that way right now. You feel the Christian-ese pressure of "you've got to do a bunch of things, and you have to be active and busy, and you've got to have a really good resume to show the Lord all the things you did for Him. And you know what? 99% of it isn't stuff He cares about because HE didn't give it to you. And He says, hey, just come away and rest!

So I've got some good news for you if you're heavy-laden and you're weary to the point of exhaustion: we serve a great Savior, who loves us and cares more about us than He cares about what we can do for Him. Like old Dr. Mitchell at Multnomah used to say - I sure had some great teachers at Multnomah! He used to say, "Young people, always remember: Jesus Christ doesn't need your service. What He wants is your fellowship. That's what He's after."

Here, the Lord Jesus calls out to us who are weary and heavy-laden, and makes a great offer. I want us to look at this passage together, and take from Jesus. He's giving us something very precious here about what He really cares about and what's important to Him. I wonder if maybe the Lord wasn't just letting me hit brick walls all night last night just so He could grab me by the ears and make look at this passage because that's what we really need this morning. I trust that that's the case.

* * * * * * * * * *

First thing I want you to notice here is that Jesus gives a wonderful invitation to His precious people, who are working so hard and are so needy. You've got to really understand this invitation in the way that He gives it. He says, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." So here's the invitation. He says, Come to me. I'd like to suggest to you that the the first word you need to notice is, "Come." You know that 99% of the time, that's our big problem: we don't come. We just don't come. We try to hunker down and do it, we try to make it happen in our own power and our own energies. We try to do it without the Lord, and the whole time long He's saying, "Come. Come unto Me."

That's the other thing I want you to notice: it's not just come, it's "come to Me." It's a personal relationship with Jesus. Christianity is not a religion, it is not a philosophy - oh, it is, it's all of the those things, but that's not what the core of it is. Above all else, it's a relationship with a wonderful Person. If we forget that, what are we living for? What are we running for? He says, "Come to Me." It's something that you have to take the initiative to do. He's not saying, "I'm going to come and get you!" He's saying, "You. Come to Me. Stop what you're doing, leave the stuff behind, and come to Me. To a relationship. To a love relationship." An experiential love relationship with Him. He says, "Come to Me", because He's the One we need all along. You don't need anything else.

Do you remember Mary and Martha? I love that story. Martha, of course, is the original Martha Stewart. She's making dinner - you remember that story in Luke, chapter 11? There are all of those thing going on: Martha's having Jesus over for dinner. Vacuuming is going to occur. Dusting is going to happen, because if you're going to have Jesus over, it's going to be a nice place! She makes a nice dinner, and everything is going on, and it's a madhouse because Martha's driving everybody crazy. That's Martha for you! There's Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus? Do you remember that story? It's such an important story to remember. Jesus said, "Martha, Martha." (I love it that He says it twice. He has to do that to me and you sometimes to get our attention too, right?)

He says, "Martha, Martha. You are worried [which is internal] and bothered [which is external] about many things." But only one thing is needed, and here's Mary, her sister, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him. He said, "Mary has found the good part and it will not be taken away from her." That's such a wonderful picture. He says, "Come to me. Let me minister to you.

"All you..." I love that. It's all inclusive, isn't it? Whoever is weary or who labor and are heavy-laden... the idea there is labor to the point of weariness. He says, "ALL of you who are in that state of being: come to Me." That says to me not only the Christian who is overachieving and trying too hard to do a bunch of stuff for God that God didn't call Him to do. But it also means, I believe, the non-believing person, the person who doesn't have that relationship with Jesus Christ. Who is feeling the labor and the heaviness of life that's not working. People always say life is complicated; it's only complicated when we exclude God from it, because we were made to be in union with Him. And even to them, Jesus is saying everybody. Everybody come to me who is in that state. "I will give you rest." He's what we need all along, and that's the promise: rest.

Look at Isaiah chapter 40 for a moment. Turn to Isaiah 40. Marilyn gave me permission to tell you this story about how she was talking to some of the ladies in her group that meets, and Marilyn was sharing how sometimes she is active and involved and trying to do things, and it's a little bit like she's doing all of these things for the Lord, and she's got them all laid out in front of her. And it's worrisome, and she's trying to get all of these things. She says it's like God just says [putting a hand beneath the chin and lifting up the head], "Hey. Look at Me." Aren't there times like that when we just need God to pull our attention up and look at Him? "Come to Me."

Marilyn and I - this week, we're trying to lean on each other. We had all of these things going on. "I'm exhausted." "Yeah, me too." And we try to lean on each other. You've got two people who are wiped and they're trying to lean on each other, and guess where they go? Right on the ground. And you know what? Jesus says, "Come to Me. Lean on Me." Why? Because He never falls over! He's never tired! Here's what it says in Isaiah 40, verse 27:

"Why do you say, O Jacob and speak O Israel, my way is hidden from the Lord? My just claim is passed over by my God. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God of the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to those who have no strength. Those who have no might, He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint."

Jesus says, "Come unto Me." The reason is because He is never weary. He never faints. He is the One we can lean on. So that's the first thing I'd like to invite you to notice in this: the invitation of the Lord. "Come unto Me."

* * * * * * * * * *

The second thing is that Jesus gives us an assignment. When we come to Him, He doesn't let us sit on a nice fluffy cloud and float along in the sky. He actually gives us an assignment. You might be thinking, "Well, I don't want an another thing!" But the problem is not that we need to be doing nothing; the problem is that we need to stop doing the wrong things. That's usually what's making us weary. Now, I want to stress; as you know, there are lots of times in serving the Lord, that the work is hard. But it's hard in an outward sense, not in an inward sense, when we're right with Him. When we come to Him, He doesn't just set us free from anything. He gives us an assignment. But it's a different assignment. It's not the one we would have picked. It's the one that comes from Him.

Here's what He says: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, from I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."You'll find rest in the work in the work that He gives. Isn't that wonderful?

First of all, He says to wear a yoke. You know what that is, don't you? You've seen those pictures in the old days of oxen that are bound together by that big beam of wood. In fact, there's a Bible scholar named William Barcley, who was a Scottish Bible teacher. He remembered that Jesus was a carpenter, and he's wondered if Jesus even made oxen yoke as a part of His work. Maybe He even had a business card that said "My yokes are easy." Could be - I don't know! But here He says, "Come unto Me and put on a yoke! I've got a rest for you." Put on this - what? Yeah, a yoke!

I want to show you something about a yoke. (Sounds like I'm telling you a yoke.) It's a verse in 1 Tim 6:1. This is what the apostle Paul says: "Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor."

You know what a yoke means in this case? It's a symbol for service. It's a symbol for duty. In Acts 15, when the Jerusalem council was gathered together to decide what should be placed on the Gentiles - anything of the Old Testament law the council was urged by Peter: "Now therefore why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" You know what the yoke is there? It's duty according to the law. Get a picture in your mind here, when Jesus says "Take My yoke upon you," what He's saying is, "Place yourself willingly under My direct supervisional service. Do the duties I tell you to perform." That's what Jesus's assignment to us is: when we come to Him as He commands us, He gives us a yoke to wear.

Then He says, "...and learn of Me." The word in the original language used for learn here is the word that basically carries the idea of learn by experience. The apostle Paul, you rememberHe says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of me." Here's what kind of manner of Teacher He is: He is "meek," or "gentle", and "lowly of heart." "Meek" meaning He's approachable. "Lowly of heart" - Jesus is not "lowly," He's mighty! He's the Almighty God! But He's lowly of heart. Meaning that, although He is the majestic King of kings and Lord of Lords, He's approachable. He's humble toward you, and He loves you. When you come to Him, He doesn't say, "What now? Can't you do anything right?" He doesn't do that - ever! He says, "Come here. I love you so. You're doing the wrong things, but you know what? I've got the right things for you. Take My yoke on you." Be just like Mary - don't be like Martha. Be like what Martha, we hope, eventually became! But be like Mary, just "sit at My feet, and learn of Me."

Do you know what the result will be? You will find rest for your souls. This is the promise that He gives us. When you come to Jesus on your terms, you find rest for your souls and I'll bet you'll agree with me, rest for your soul is far more satisfying than rest for your body. Have you ever been that way? So weary and tired in your soul that sleep won't do it? Lots of sleep won't do it! There's something else that's needed here; and Jesus promises rest for your soul. Here's the promise He gives when you come to Him: My yoke is easy. It's not a hard yoke. My burden is light. It's not a heavy burden.

You see how that answers to the need? "Come unto Me, all ye who labor unto the point of exhaustion, because I've got an easy yoke for you. Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy-laden, because My burden is light." Marilyn and I - I learn so much from Marilyn. She's just wonderful, I should pay her tuition but don't tell her, OK? - we were talking once about how she heard about a preacher that said that he was working hard and laboring hard, and he just felt under the burden all the time. Then he read this verse and he said, you know, it says here that Jesus My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I'll tell you right now, my yoke is not easy! The one I'm wearing and the burden I'm bearing is not light. It's like a light bulb went off in his head. Well then, he said, it must not be Jesus's, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Then the next $50 question came along: who's burden is it? And what am I doing wearing it? And he repented.

I stress again, liked I stressed before, sometimes serving Jesus is hard. It's hard work. But it's joyful work. His yoke, taken on the whole, is easy and His burden is light. You find more rest and joy in serving Jesus Christ than anything else. We were talking last Wednesday - here's a commercial for the Wednesday night Bible study group - we were talking about the apostle Paul in the book of Galatians, and it brought to mind a quote from Brother Lawrence, who wrote that famous book "Practicing the Presence of God". Brother Lawrence was a monk and I always like the name of his order:"The Barefoot Carmelites." (I think that would be a great band name: The Barefoot Carmelites.) He was a monk who was trying to humble himself before God, and he sought the worst jobs in the monastery. He wanted to clean and scrub the pots and pans, and clean the toilets. "Give me the worst jobs!" His mentality was, "I want to humble myself before God, and I will commit myself to a life of misery, of serving God in the most lowly, humble and despised way. I'll take the jobs that nobody wants; I'll give myself to Him and keep His presence always before me and take the worst jobs. I will let my life be a misery in His service."

Brother Lawrence said, "I did that for many years, and I've got to tell you, the Lord Jesus disappointed me, because I expected misery; but have never had so much joy in serving Jesus." When you just do what He calls you do to, He lays it in front of you and you do it in answer to His call. In His presence, and for His glory, because His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

Let me tell you another story from another professor at Multnomah. I won't say his name, because he probably wouldn't like that. But we were talking once (and he was the one who told me once that he just wished he could get the flu because he really needed some time off. Now that's sick! And I agreed - that's how sick I am!). He was talking to me once about how burdened he was in his work at the college, and oh, how horrible it sometimes is, it's just so burdensome. He was reading in 1 Corinthians 15:58, where it says, "Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." He said, I'm having a hard time grabbing hold of that, because it feels like my labor is in vain. I do a bunch of things, I've got a big calendar list of things going on, and it feels like it's in vain. I'm accomplishing nothing.

You know how God sometimes hits you with a 2x4? Sometimes a 4x8? Sometimes an 8x8! (Let's stop there!) He said, I noticed as I was reading that passage that it says "your labor is not in vain IN THE LORD." Oh! That's my problem! I'm not doing it in the Lord! I'm not doing it in fellowship with Him. I'm just doing it. Then he repented and just surrendered himself again. And what did he do? He came to Jesus, weary and heavy-laden, and Jesus gave him rest. He took the assignment of the Lord Jesus; he took His yoke upon him and learned of Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jesus is so wonderfully approachable! He is meek and lowly of heart, and we find rest for our souls, because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I'm just wondering if there might be some people here this morning.... me.... one who just needed to repent, and come to Jesus, and let Him heal my soul, because I've been doing too much. I've been doing the wrong things, not doing what He wanted. Doing a bunch of stuff I thought He wanted. But it wasn't what He asked me to. And I forgot that Jesus is such an easy taskmaster, such an easy master to serve. And I'm wondering if there might be some people this morning who needed to hear that. Let's pray together.

"Father, I feel inclined to say first of all, forgive me for the times where I've come to you on what I have to call a "performance-based" basis. I've tried to do and do and do for You, not realizing that I've worked myself into a weariness that was not Your will. And how we need so much to just pause and pull aside and enjoy You. To take our Bible with us and just go away somewhere and read, not for any reason but just because we love You and we want to hear more about You. Just to sit at the feet of Jesus.

You created the world in six days without our help, and you don't need our service. You want our fellowship. So I pray, Father, for myself, I pray for Your dear people, gathered together here today, that You would help us to take time - today, especially, on Your set-apart day - to come apart, get away, and fellowship with Jesus and be restored.

Thank You for loving us so much, Father, and thank You for giving us such a wonderful, wonderful Savior. In His name we pray, Amen."

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