“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” – Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus tells us the secret to a light burden is to be yoked to him. A yoke? That sounds like a heavy, restrictive, constant burden! In making our own assessment of this transaction, we might conclude the heavier burden is the one Jesus offers. So, do we take our own assessment, or do we take Jesus at his word?
Jesus promises to exchange our heavy burden for a light one as we remain yoked to him. Is Jesus lying or is our own assessment faulty? I can’t tell you how many times I hear people in vocational ministry talk about the heavy burden laid upon them. Where did they get this burden from? Did Jesus lie to us when he offered us to come lay our burdens down at his feet and receive rest?
Obviously the answer cannot be that Jesus lied. It is not in his nature to do so. So what other conclusion can we come to? The only conclusion I can come to is the heavy burden is a result of being unyoked to Jesus.
A yoke is a device placed over two oxen, forcing them to walk in step and share the load drawn behind them. Jesus, in placing his yoke upon us, is asking us to walk in step with him. To explore this process we must ask a question: How do we walk in step with Jesus?
The answer to this is easy. SURRENDER!
I picked up a great acronym years ago for the process: SAY
Surrender your own desires, fears, plans and thoughts
Ask God for his desires, plans, thoughts, and ask your specific questions
Yield to the Holy Spirit. Let him refine and speak. Do what he says in response.
This process of submitting to the Lord is the process of taking on his yoke and unburdening ourselves from the things God hasn’t given us. A great gauge for our being yoked is whether or not we feel the burden we carry is too heavy.
What do I do if I feel like my burden is too heavy?
Find help in troubleshooting with the Lord. I believe God has called us into community. Find someone to lead you through questions to discover where the uncoupling occurred. Acknowledge the promise of rest and an easy burden. Exchange your heavy one and ask the Lord to reveal what has been left unsurrendered. Ask questions of the Lord to help lead you back in step: Where have you strayed or taken on something Jesus hasn’t provided? Have you ignored something he has provided? I have found seeking answers is much easier with a partner than it is on my own. Let yourself be led through asking God questions. Allow their faith to join with yours in the expectation that the promise of rest is true.
The act of submission to the Holy Spirit speaking in community makes surrender to the Lord much easier. It develops humility which is a requirement for submission to God. Also, others can remind you and give you courage to embrace the yoke of Jesus. Listening together can also encourage the person who joined you.
Surrender is something requiring an initial moment of commitment, but also a frequent refresh. Some call it daily surrender. The life of a mature disciple resembles frequent checking in with the Lord throughout the day, asking questions of where Jesus is and what he is doing. This is how we remain in step (yoked). If we are doing something he is not in, we have become unyoked and have taken on a burden he isn’t carrying.
Faith is a requirement in this process, something not always easy to attain. Do we trust in the promise Jesus gives? More than that, are we willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads, no matter the cost?
Was Stephen’s burden light when he was martyred? The cost was high, but was the burden heavy for him? I have to believe it wasn’t if Jesus was there with him. The account in Acts 7 tells us: “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)
When we are yoked with Jesus, we will still get tired, sore, feel pain and any number of emotions. But our soul will be at rest. We will not be anxious or fatigued as we stay in step with Jesus.
The fruit of the spirit is evidence of a life yoked. If your life is without one of the fruits of the spirit, there is something wrong. Fruit becomes more plentiful as we remain yoked to Jesus. But we do not grow or produce it. The Holy Spirit does. If fruit is absent, something within us is blocking the fruit of the Holy Spirit if he dwells within us.
What might be the blockage? It could be our lack of obedience, or a begrudging yes like Jonah finally gives in going to Nineveh. Begrudging obedience is not an obedience connected to God. If there is a lack of joy, there is a lack of fruit. Something is still wrong. There is a disconnect somehow with the Holy Spirit. God is not desiring us to simply follow a set of rules. If he was, begrudging obedience would be fine. God desires us to be renewed and our desires transformed through the renewing of our mind and time spent with him. This doesn’t mean surrender won’t be difficult. There will be a cost in our yes, but once we say yes we can rejoice because we know the value of our yes.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:16-24
The fruit of the Spirit is a great gauge for being yoked with Jesus. The burden he gives is accompanied by empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the one he sent to us. It is what we gain as we are yoked to Jesus. It is why our soul can be at rest in the midst of labor. In the midst of opposition the Holy Spirit provides rest.
Are you yoked? Don’t settle for an unyoked attempt at pleasing the Lord. It won’t please him and will leave you empty. Take Jesus up on his invitation.
“Come to me ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”