What obstacles hinder you from consistently experiencing God’s rest in your life? You may immediately think about work obligations, family responsibilities, or religious commitments as the main obstacles to experiencing God’s rest. However, consider that God designed life with daily work and rest rhythms (see Genesis 1) and weekly rest expectations; one day a week set apart to give God your full attention to enjoy Him and worship Him without the distraction of work (reference Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 16:23; 20:8-11; 31:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 4:16-21; 6:5; 23:56). God also designed life to be lived in community with Him and others. Whether with your family of origin or adoption, family by marriage or family through faith in Jesus, being a part of a family is how God designed life to be lived (Genesis 2:18; Romans 12:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Since work, rest, family, and faith are all God-designed components of life, these things (i.e., work obligations, rest expectations, family responsibilities, faith commitments) should not be considered obstacles to experiencing God’s rest consistently in your life. If you think these things are hindering you from experiencing God’s rest, you may want to consider another cause.
In the Bible, God describes “unbelief” as the true cause or primary obstacle to you not experiencing His rest consistently in your life.
In the gospel of Matthew, the writer addresses unbelief specifically in Matthew 11 with the examples of John, the Baptist, his disciples, religious leaders (called Pharisees), and specific cities of people. John, the Baptist was imprisoned, and he sends his disciples to question Jesus: “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)
John, the Baptist lived his life as the announcer that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies (Luke 1:8-17). He taught everyone that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us – the promised Messiah, even baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River with God’s affirmation of who Jesus is – “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11, NASB1995) However, imprisonment either made John, the Baptist question his belief in Jesus or John, the Baptist sees the unbelief growing in his disciples, so he wisely instructs them to go see Jesus to confirm for themselves that Jesus is God. Regardless of John, the Baptist’s circumstances (i.e., imprisonment) or his disciples’ wavering belief in Jesus, their concern is that Jesus is not being the God they think He should be. Jesus is not fulfilling the expectations they had about God and how God works in this life.
You may not be familiar with the Old Testament, but the audience of Matthew’s gospel were primarily Jewish Christians who knew the Old Testament so they would be aware of the Old Testament references. For example, in Matthew 11:5, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 35:5, a prophecy about Himself to combat their unbelief and assure John, the Baptist and his disciples that Jesus is indeed God.
To have a relationship with God, you place your faith in Jesus, believe Jesus is God. Some people who experienced miracles, specifically the people living in the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum did not believe Jesus was God in human form – the promised Messiah. Jesus describes the consequences of their unbelief both in this life and for all eternity (reference Matthew 11:20-24).
Combat your unbelief to enter God’s rest.
The context of Matthew 11:28-30 is Jesus identifying the unbelief in specific individuals and cities of people where Jesus had revealed Himself and performed miracles. Jesus concludes that they would not enter God’s rest because of their unbelief, yet Jesus responds by providing them with a choice.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
The choice is yours to believe – “come to Jesus” or not. Jesus does not make a demand, but rather makes you an offer to be a recipient of God’s rest – peace, wholeness, and the promised abundant life.
The description of the person Jesus is inviting to receive God’s rest is “weary” meaning they are tired and exhausted from things and expectations they have put upon themselves. Also, they carry “heavy burdens” which describes the things and expectations they have allowed others to put upon them.
Jesus invites you to “take His yoke upon you” and “let Him teach you” what a relationship with Him is truly like and how to enter God’s rest – live this life with peace, wholeness, and abundance. The inference of Jesus’ offer is you can continue living a life characterized by weariness, exhaustion, tiredness that you have put upon yourself and carry burdens that others to put upon you, or you can exchange that type of living for Jesus’ yoke which is “easy” and His burden which is “light.”
The word used for “easy” means Jesus makes the yoke (i.e., life with Him) well-fitted to you, something that corresponds to who He has created you to be. The word used for “light” means Jesus’ burden (i.e., His teaching/expectation) is realistic and achievable for you in relationship with Him.
Life with Jesus is “easy” not because life suddenly becomes less difficult or challenges vanish, but rather because Jesus is the stronger one between you and Him.
When His yoke is placed on you Jesus does His work in and through your life. You participate through remaining teachable, humble, and gentle – the attributes you see modeled in Jesus. You find ultimate rest for your soul by living life “yoked” to Jesus, not separate from Him.
The “lightness” of Jesus’ burden is because Jesus bears the weight of His teachings and expectations for your life and your relationship with Him. You benefit by living Jesus’ teachings which results in you establishing clear boundaries for not allowing others to place their “heavy burdens” on you without Jesus’ approval. You go through this life with Jesus doing His work by you participating as Jesus’ learner or disciple. You learn and model Jesus’ humility and gentleness toward others while living life.
God desires you to experience His rest consistently in your life. So, take Jesus up on His offer – “take up His yoke” that is well-fitted for you and “learn from Him.” Making this choice puts you on the path to experience the peace, wholeness, and abundant life God intended for you! God’s rest is found in living life with Jesus. If you think work obligations, family responsibilities, or religious commitments are hindering you from experiencing God’s rest. God says, it is your unbelief, not those things! You don’t believe uniting your life to Jesus (yoked to Him and learning from Him) is the way to experience God’s rest in this life. You would rather be weary, exhausted, and tired by the expectations you put on yourself and spend your life taking up unrealistic, heavy burdens from others than to believe Jesus at His offer. If you were to fully believe Jesus and submit to His teachings, you would experience great peace, the weariness and heavy load could be gone, and you would experience God’s rest for your soul. It’s your daily choice to live life “yoked” to Jesus. Combat your unbelief, the true cause for you not experiencing God’s rest consistently in your life, by taking Jesus up on His offer!
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