Some people say “Life is a walk in the park.”
I’d say they’re probably right, wouldn’t you? Yeah, life is a walk in the park, the only problem is, it’s kind of like Jurassic Park.
No, I don’t have hungry velociraptors chasing me every day but I do have a 1 year old and a 3 year old and that’s pretty much the same thing.
But on a serious note, life can be incredibly difficult and we all have times and situations in our lives which are especially difficult, leave us feeling beaten and broken and sometimes feeling like it’s a struggle to survive, but you know, we have a good Father who loves us and who we can come to in times of joy and in times of struggle. So we’re going to sing a few songs now to worship our good Father.
I’m going to read you a couple of verses now from the Gospel of Matthew –
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day taught that in order to be right with God, you had to keep the Old Testament law. Should be easy enough I suppose, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, something about coveting…umm..there’s six more laws right? Well, there’s actually 613 laws in the Old Testament. You can see why people were weary and burdened. It would be exhausting trying to remember every one of these laws, never mind trying to obey them all. Trying to be right with God by obeying the law was an impossible task, but one that people were encouraged to do.
If we are honest, today, very few of us feel pressured by religious leaders to obey the 613 laws of the Old Testament but we do still feel very similar pressures. We are still taught that we have to meet impossible standards. The world puts pressure on us, and we put pressure on ourselves to live up to certain standards, and when we can’t we are often left disappointed and feeling incomplete. We are told from a young age how important it is to be successful and to get a “good job” (how crazy is it that so many jobs that put food on the table and a roof over our heads are not considered a “good job”?) We are shown images on social media of the perfect family, or the perfect home, or the perfect life. We are only good enough if we have a career, if we have children or if we look a certain way. There are mobile phone apps that instantly make you look more attractive, making our young men and women think that the beautiful face that God has given them is not good enough and they need to make it better. The pressure of working to be good enough, working to feel complete, working to find wholeness and to find acceptance is all around us. It is all we are taught from a young age, “make something of yourself”, don’t be “lazy”, be a “high achiever.”
Now I know something, and I suspect that you already know it too, but I’m going to tell you anyway. This belief we have that if we work hard enough we will achieve joy and wholeness and acceptance is a Lie. Just like the Pharisees belief that they could ever be perfect by following the Jewish Law, we too follow a belief system that involves working impossibly hard towards an impossible goal.
Is it any wonder that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem this year? 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems weekly. It comes as no surprise when the world feeds us this lie that we are not good enough unless we continue to work harder and harder.
But what does Jesus say? He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Notice the difference. The World says, “Go out there and work harder and you will earn a perfect life”. Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest”. What Jesus does is in complete contrast with the world. While the world keeps moving the goal posts further and further away, Jesus brings the goal posts right in front of us. You see, Jesus is the living Word of God and he saw a broken, beaten, weary people, who could never achieve their goal and he came to earth, lived a human life, experienced humanity in all it’s ups and downs, and then sacrificed himself so that we could be reunited with our Heavenly Father who we had turned away from. Humanity is broken, and we have turned away from the one who made us and yet we are reunited with him in Christ. So we have a hope of eternal life, of eternal wholeness and we can rest from our constant striving to be good enough.
As I said, Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to me and your life will be perfect.” in fact he says “Take my yoke upon you” Now I know it’s nearly Easter but we’re not talking about eggs. A Yoke is something that goes around an Ox’s neck so that it can pull farming equipment. So Jesus definitely says we will still have a “Yoke”. We will still have work to do and challenges to face. Any Christian who says they have perfect life is lying. But now the challenges are different.
He carries on to say, “learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart.” You see, when we come to Jesus, when we become his disciples, we start to learn from him, and we enter a relationship with him and from that we draw nearer and become more like him. He is gentle and humble. Think of the many situations which lead to people feeling hurt that could have been avoided or rectified by a humble attitude, or by a little gentleness.
When we take Jesus’ yoke upon us. We no longer work to achieve our salvation or to feel complete or accepted. We work in response to it, in thanksgiving, out of humility and towards his will and his goals instead of our own will or the will of the world. And when we do that, we have the power of God on our side.
All this striving and all of this searching for wholeness is pointless. Jesus already gave us true wholeness on the cross, and by accepting the invitation to come to him we take hold of that wholeness and we do not have to make ourselves weary any more, for he has taken the burden from us. He is gentle, he is humble in heart and he alone will give us rest.
So, how do we come to him?
As I said earlier, it’s a relationship. It starts with a prayer and from there it’s a journey of discipleship, of learning his ways, from the Bible and through prayer and through those who already know him. And no it might not be “cool” or “normal” but you know, in a broken world being considered “normal” probably isn’t a good thing anyway. Let’s be a little weird, find out who we are really supposed to be and what life is really supposed to be, in a relationship with Jesus.
We meet on nights like tonight and we pray for miracles, we pray for healing. And it is right that we do this, Jesus healed many people by the power of the Holy Spirit and that same Spirit lives in us. But the greatest miracle is that Christ has made us whole on the cross, he has reunited us with our Father, he has given us a true hope for the future and he has offered us rest.
Jeremiah 6:16 says – This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
We all stand at a crossroads, and whether we have stood here fifty times before or are standing here for the first time, we have a choice to make. We can choose the road of constant struggle, the one where we will never reach our destination, or we can choose Jesus. He is the good way and we can walk with him and find rest.
Coming to Jesus is life changing. Jesus is calling you to come to him. You are standing at the cross roads. Which way will you turn?