Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the largest churches in America. He is also the featured speaker for Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic outreaches that have been attended by more than 4 million people around the world since 1990. Greg is heard internationally on the daily radio broadcast, "A New Beginning." To learn more about Greg Laurie go to www.greglaurie.com.More ↓Less ↑
I read a true story about Tattoo, a basset hound, whose owner accidentally shut his leash in the car door and took off for a drive. Tattoo did not plan on going for an evening run, but he had no choice. Thankfully, a motorcycle noticed the passing vehicle with something dragging behind it, and he chased the car down. Tattoo was rescued, and he was fine. But the car had reached speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, and at times, poor Tattoo got dragged a little bit.
Have you ever felt like Tattoo? We are picking them up and putting them down as fast as we can, yet we are still struggling to keep up. I think we can feel this way especially as we enter the Christmas season, when there is so much pressure to do so many things.
And then we have Black Friday. What is it with people on this day? Is it really that important to save a few dollars? I read a couple of news articles about the measures people go to so they can get the best deals. One woman was so eager to get into a Wal-Mart that she left her two-year-old and seven-year-old sleeping in the back seat of her car. And a Wisconsin woman was arrested after threatening to shoot other shoppers at a Toys “R” Us on Black Friday because they would not allow her to cut in line in front of them. ‘Tis the season to be jolly.
With all of these pressures, we want to keep our focus. Christmas shouldn’t be about receiving presents. And really it shouldn’t be merely about giving presents. It’s about his presence in our lives. That is the message of Christmas: God is with us.
If you were to go back and think about the last two Christmases, you probably could not remember what you received. Possibly you don’t even remember what you received one Christmas ago. However, you may remember what you gave, because it’s possible that you are still making payments on that. Really, what you will treasure from Christmas are those in-between moments with family and friends that will become precious. And when a loved is no longer with you, those moments become even more precious.
So let’s think for a few moments about some words of Jesus that are relevant for any time of the year, but perhaps even more so now: “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 NIV).
These words of Jesus are for any person who is stressed out, any person who is under pressure, and any person who is carrying a burden of any kind.
An expanded translation of this statement of our Lord from the original language goes as follows: “Come here to Me, all of you who are growing weary to the point of exhaustion, and you are loaded with burdens, and you are bending beneath your weight. I alone will cause you to cease from your labor and take away your burdens and refresh you with rest.”
By the way, these words are not an invitation to a lazy person, but to a weary person. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good” (2 Thessalonians 3:11–13 NIV). A follower of Christ should be the hardest worker of all.
Presumably, Jesus is speaking to someone who has been working hard, someone who is at the point of utter exhaustion. He or she is not only exhausted, but loaded down with weight.
Is that a description of you today? Maybe you are carrying a burden of some kind. Maybe it is the burden of physical pain or the burden of problems in your family or the burden of grief. Jesus says, “Come to me. …”
And what will happen to the person who comes to him? He said, “I will give you rest.” In the original language, this word “rest” carries the idea of being refreshed or revived. Sometimes in the New Testament, the same term is also used to describe chains falling off someone’s hands. It can also mean being released from bondage. In addition, this word also could describe relief from a debt. And finally, the word Jesus used for “rest” also was used in Greek literature to describe a door that couldn’t quite be opened, but then suddenly flies open. It is the idea of gaining access to something.
We have backstage access, if you will, to God the Father through Jesus Christ. We can call upon him at any time. So if you wake up at 3 a.m., he is not asleep. He is ready to hear your cry and your prayer.
Jesus goes on to say, “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.”
If we were to update this to a more modern example, it would be like Jesus saying, “Give me the steering wheel.” He wants to be in control. Before you bristle at that idea, consider this: Everyone is yoked to something or someone. So the question is, to whom or what do you want to be yoked? Why not be yoked to Jesus?
Some people think the Christian life is just a bunch of rules and regulations. They don’t want to live by God’s commands. But the Bible tells us otherwise: “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 NIV).
Jesus tells us that if we come to him, we will find rest. Is life dragging you along today? Find rest with Jesus.