The Problem of Rest

by PastorErick | 5/9/17, 7:09 AM

[25] At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; [26] yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. [27] All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. [28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

- Matthew 11:25-30

Tim Kreider in an op-ed for the New York Times points out that in today’s world, “being busy” has become a sort of self-justification for our existence. He writes, “If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.”

Kreider says, “Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work.”

Indeed. As a result of this frantic busyness, in a constantly connected smart-phone world, we don’t know how to rest well AT ALL. As a matter of fact, many of us actually fear real rest.

Into this overbusy, stressed out world our Lord comes and gives us the simple solution: “COME TO ME all you who are weary and burdened and I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” To fight against rest is to fight against something God has promised as a direct result of knowing Him! So, why do we fear real rest? Well I think first and foremost our text shows us it’s….

Because it means God is in control

Look again at vs. 25. You’ll notice that this passage comes at a particular time as it says, “At that time Jesus declared” something…. What was going on at “that time”?

Well in the context of the passage Jesus has just gotten done declaring condemnation to major cities of importance because of their unwillingness to repent and recognize His Lordship. He says back in vs. 17 (of this chapter) to this generation of people that they were “like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” What that essentially means is that the reason they refused to repent is because they wanted control. Like kids playing a tune and demanding that God dance the way they want him to. They wanted to be in control of their own lives, their own salvation, and their own relationship to God. In contrast we come to our passage here:

Jesus says, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (literally “infants”); yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

What is Jesus saying? I am the One who is in control. You see we’re prone to fooling ourselves into believing that what we do or don’t do makes God indebted to us! But Jesus says just the opposite. Instead of working to get God’s favor, Jesus tells us that the thing we need to do most of all is simply rest in God’s favor through Christ. When we simply rest in God’s gracious will, it is us acknowledging that God is ultimately in control of our lives, our salvation and our relationship to Him. Sounds easy, but it’s not.

Robert Capon pictures the prayer of someone with a heart averse to simply resting in the grace of God:

Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

So I think the first reason we fear rest is because it confirms that Jesus is ultimately in control. Along with this, I think another reason we fear rest is….

Because it means we’re not as important as we think we are

Here’s the deal: Some of us very easily fall into the trap of actually believing that if we’re not always available to do everything someone asks of us that the world around us just might fall apart. What Jesus is essentially saying to us when he says rest is “No, in reality, the only way the world falls apart is if I say it falls apart. You doing something or not doing something isn’t going to alter my plans for this world one iota.”

Applying this in a spiritual sense, many of us have been led to believe that a truly Godly life is one in which we’re constantly serving or doing something. There’s a story found in Luke 10 that addresses this issue. Jesus is coming for a visit and you just know that the house has got to look spotless when God visits! And so Martha is doing what most of us would do in this situation: She busies herself with making everything just right for the Lord. Luke tells us that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” Meanwhile, her sister Mary isn’t doing ANYTHING! How annoying is it when you are trying to make the house look just right and your roommate is just sitting there hanging out. Martha is working herself into a tizzy and has finally had enough: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” I’m telling you, I can picture the look on her face and her tone of voice when saying this perfectly. Can you hear her? Can you identify with her? But what does Jesus say? “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

You see, Martha was afraid to let go for fear that it wouldn’t work itself out and was unable to rest because of it. Jesus says, “Nope, it’s better to rest with me and acknowledge that you’re not as important as you think.” When we rest we are saying that we trust that God is in charge. We are far more likely to make ourselves look like the busy and harried Martha preparing something for the Lord in the kitchen than we are to be like Mary who was commended for simply sitting at the feet of her Lord.

And that leads to I think the last reason we are afraid to rest.

Because it means we have to admit we need help

By its very definition, rest implies that we can’t always do it. We are “wearied and heavy laden”. What does that mean but that we are weighed down with anxiety and strife over our lives, our salvation, our relationship to God, and really when it comes down to it, our sin.

To rest in Jesus means inherently we must admit our need for help.

So then, how do we find rest? Well it means coming clean and admitting that we need that help. It means remembering Jesus has already carried our sins to the cross and has left them there. It means remembering that our lives are too much for us to handle. It means coming to Jesus as you are now, taking up his easy yoke and his light burden that you might find true rest.

Tim Kreider, at the end of his article for the New York Times says this: “I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.”

Yes my friends, it is. Work is good. Hard work is good. It can bring great satisfaction and create great good for many. But never forget, your Savior has called you to rest.

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