So, today, let’s pick up our teaching on the subject of stress again and learn a little more about what God’s Word has to say about how we can deal with it.
The first thing we learned in this series of teachings is what the spirit of stress is—that is, we found out what it truly is and learned a Biblical way in which we can deal with it when it tries to creep up. We then learned how we already have peace in our boats, so we do not ever have to let our hearts become troubled. Yes, we have learned that stress is not an acceptable part of our lives and saw how we can speak to those waves that crash into our boat and experience a great calm even when the storms of life try to sink us.
Then over the past couple of weeks, we have been looking in depth at Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you 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.”
Now the first thing we learned is how the Lord was addressing “all you who labor and are heavy laden” and this is just another way of describing stressed-out folks, right? And we saw that those who are experiencing this stressful life need only do one thing—Come to Him! Yes, Jesus invited everyone who labors and is heavy laden to come to Him in order to receive rest for their souls.
And this is what we covered last week—what this rest truly is. We learned that one rest is given and the other is found. Yes, one is experienced when we come to Christ upon making Him our personal Lord and Savior. This is the positional rest we have entered into—and many of us can attest to immediately receiving this rest the moment we called on the name of Jesus and were saved from the burden of sin. However, we saw that there remains a rest that we can partake of experientially—and that is when we exchange our weakness for His strength and learn to wait on the Lord and draw near to Him in fellowship. But like we saw, this rest for our soul must be found—which indicates that we have to search for it.
We looked at the 23rd Psalm where we see the heart of our Good Shepherd to lead us beside these waters of rest. In other words, if we’ll let him, the Lord will lead us into restful and relaxing places in Him where we can experience a perpetual “Sabbath”—that is, experiencing life in the promised land as opposed to a life of stressing out in the wilderness.
We saw how that Jesus, being the fulfillment of the Sabbath, offers us this promise of rest—where we can rest in His finished work on the Cross. Therefore, this rest is rooted in knowing that the work of salvation is complete—everything from our eternal security to the temporal situations we find ourselves in. All of these battles belong to Lord, and He has already fought them for us. So, us learning to enter into His finished work is a big part of finding rest for our souls.
However, we learned that this is not to say that the physical observance of the Sabbath has no benefits: Yes, although we are not bound to legalistically observing a day like the Sabbath anymore, this does not mean that there are no benefits to observing a day of rest every week. Yes, like it is with many things contained in the Mosaic and Levitical laws, there are certain natural benefits to observing certain things that the law tells us.
For example, we have come to learn that it actually is a good thing for everyone to rest one out of every seven days. Therefore, we said that this is a good principle for each of us to live by in order to live free from stress: have a day each week where we detach, disconnect, and decompress—that is, where we lay down every project, where we turn the phone off, where we don’t even try to problem-solve in our minds; just a day of rest where we put our relationship with the Lord as our priority and we even enjoy some nice recreational things that do not require a lot of physical or mental energy. I bet if we would make sure to schedule this on a weekly basis, we would live more stress-free lives. Amen?
But I also made the point last week that I think it is wise to schedule periodic times of rest throughout the year where you can cease from the physical and emotional labor and focus on the spiritual side of our life. Not only that, but we learned that we also need a certain period of time every day in order to find rest for our souls. What I mean is, we need that period of time every day to “come to Him,” simply meditating on His Word, praising & worshipping Him, etc., to where that rest is found daily.
And, finally, the last point I made with this is what we do during those “sabbaticals” is important as well. Yes, reading the Bible is important, praying for others is important, but there is something very specific that you and I can do that actually causes us to enter into His rest. And one of those things that we can deliberately do to enter into His rest is to speak in tongues! Yes, Isaiah chapter 28 teaches us that this is the rest!
Church, I’m convinced that if we did these four things: Made sure we scheduled a week or more of rest during the year, made sure we had a day every week where we rested, and made sure we spent a period of time daily in His rest, we would live in this supernatural Sabbath that Jesus said was ours. Especially, when we include praying in other tongues all along the way, every day.
Now, this week, I want us to look at one of the qualifiers that Jesus mentioned for finding this rest for our souls: It is what Jesus said at the beginning of verse 29: Notice how Jesus said, “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.”
WHAT IS HIS YOKE?
So, what did Jesus mean by saying, “Take My yoke upon you”? This is an interesting way to describe how one can find rest for their souls, isn’t it? I mean, to use the example of wearing a yoke—which was used for laboring, not resting—that seems like contradicting terms.
First of all, let me say that I think it is obvious that the Lord was differentiating between the former and first yoke—that is, the first covenant, which came to be called by the apostle Paul, the “yoke of bondage” (see Galatians 5:1). So, His yoke—which would be this new covenant that Jesus’ blood provided for us—is what He is offering for everyone who labors and is burdened down to take up. And in this new covenant of grace is found all the rest and freedom from stress that we will ever need!
Now we also need to understand what Jesus was not saying: He was not saying that there is another yoke out there other than the yoke of bondage—the law—that we are to take up and put on in place of the old yoke. Jesus did not go to the Cross to provide us with another updated and improved yoke of religion. That is not what the new covenant of grace is and is not what Jesus was saying here.
You see, the example that is being used here is not of us exchanging one yoke for another, but of us getting yoked up together with Him. Let me explain: The word Jesus used for “yoke” here came from the Greek word zugos, which literally described a wooden yoke that joined two animals together. So, it was not describing one yoke for each animal. No, the purpose of this particular yoke was so that they, through their combined strength, would pull a load that generally would have been too difficult for one animal to pull by itself. Therefore, this “yoke” made the two one.
So, back to this yoke Jesus referred to: As a result of being yoked up together, these two cows, bulls or ox were collectively stronger, and their combined strength made their task easier. Now the obvious reason that they did this was because even the strongest “beast of burden” could not pull the load on some jobs. There were certain things that needed to be done that required more strength than their strongest animal could carry alone.
You see, we might be the strongest one in God’s flock, but we still have our limits on what we can carry on our own. Yes, every single one of us has a limit to what we can do for Him. But the error I see most of us making at times is that since we feel we can do it, we do it, and because we might seem to be strong enough to handle something, we grin and bear it. While that might sometimes be what needs to be done, I don’t think this is the primary way that the Lord would have us live the Christian life. That’s right: I believe that we need to have the wisdom to know that things like working harder, toughing it out, and doing things in our own strength is generally not God’s best. So, what is God’s best? Getting yoked up together with Him, and letting Him provide the strength and power that we need to carry our load.
You see, there is One who is stronger than I—and His name is Jesus! And He has promised me that if I will take His yoke upon me, I will experience a light and easy load and that I will find rest for my soul. And why? It is because Jesus is the strongest Ox of them all and, therefore, He is carrying the brunt of the weight. In fact, if we would just consider the strength of the Savior, I think it would be clear that He doesn’t need any of our help. Yes, Jesus is doing just fine pulling the full weight of the work, thank you very much. We are just along for the ride. Glory to Jesus!
And this beautifully illustrates this new and better covenant. There is nothing you and I can do to add to the work of Christ! Jesus paid it all! He carried it all! Our sins are no longer to be carried. Our cares are to be cast over on Him. Jesus, and Jesus alone, has done the work of salvation. And this is not just in regards to our eternal security. Jesus also wants to carry the full brunt of the things you need in your everyday life as well.
I’ll tell you—this is the LIFE. Learning to do things His way and resting in the finished work of Jesus is a stress-free way to live.
NOT HARD AND HEAVY
As He goes on to say this about His yoke in verse 30—It is easy and it is light.
The word Jesus used for “easy” literally describes something that is “fit, manageable, and pleasant.” Therefore, His yoke is “easy” because it fits, is easy to handle, and is simply pleasant.
He goes on to say that His burden is light: Now the word “burden” is a poor translation. It is actually the same word we looked at in Galatians 6:5, which was correctly translated as “load” in the NKJV. You see, nothing in the New Covenant is “burdensome.” The moment we begin to feel “burdened” is the moment we have become unyoked from Christ. Yes, every believer is called to carry their own load (see Galatians 6:5), but when a Christian is burdened down, that is when we are supposed to help alleviate those burdens from our brothers and sisters. So, the Lord was literally saying here that His load is light. In fact, the only other time this word for “light” is used in the New Testament is in Second Corinthians 4:17 when the apostle Paul referred to our “light” afflictions.
My point is that the Lord said that His yoke and His load are easy and light, as opposed to hard and heavy. The moment things begin to get hard and heavy is the moment that we are carrying those cares ourselves. “Burnout” comes as we do all the pulling ourselves. This is not what the Lord intended. If we are yoked up with Christ, what we will sense is a much more light and easy experience in the difficult situations we walk through in life. This is when we must learn to yoke ourselves up together with Him to where He does the majority of the pulling.
Friends, the Christian life is meant to be light and easy, not heavy and hard. And the moment we begin to feel like our burden is heavy and hard is the moment we have simply realized that we are taking our own yoke and are not benefiting from Him pulling the weight for us. The only time that it becomes laborious is when we, of our own accord, unyoke ourselves from Him and try to carry the weights of this life ourselves. This is when the Christian life becomes burdensome and overbearing and we, as a result, lose our peace.
But, no, Christianity is not intended to be burdensome. Certainly, there is discipline over the flesh and the resistance of temptation involved in the life of a Christian, but in regard to our growth and increase in every area of our walk, it is God Who carries that entire burden. Praise the Lord!
HOW DO WE TAKE HIS YOKE?
So, a good question then is—How does one take His yoke upon themselves? I believe that to find that answer we need to go back to verse 28 and see what Jesus said there again: Jesus said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest.” So, it would be incorrect for one to start assuming that we take His yoke upon ourselves all kind of other ways without considering the context. Amen?
So, I think it is safe to assume that the way we take His yoke upon ourselves is by first coming to Him. Now, again, coming to the Lord describes both proximity and perspective—meaning, it describes us literally drawing near to Him and abiding in our True Vine and it also describes us turning our attention to Him and looking unto the Author and Finisher of our faith. Therefore, when we do that, we take His yoke upon us and benefit from the strength He has to offer.
Let’s now look at some other Scriptures that talk about how we can “Come to Him”:
You have likely heard me say before that our attitude determines our altitude, and this is so true. Do you know where I get this from? From the Scriptures! Let’s look over at Isaiah chapter 40 and see one place where this principle is described:
Beginning in verse 27, the Lord said to His people through the prophet— “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? So, what the Lord was asking His people was why were they letting come out of their mouth that He didn’t know what they were going through and was not concerned with helping them? Now I know that none of us have ever let things like that come out of our mouths 😉, but when people talk like that, would you characterize that as faith? Of course, not! And I’ll promise you this: when one talks like that, they are even further away from the help they need than they were before. Why? Because the way we talk, determines where we walk.
And I just love the Lord’s response to their negativity: He said in verse 28— “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Did you know this is why it is important what you hear and what you know? So, be careful what you allow in your ear-gates and what you believe—because that will determine what comes out of you when you’re in a squeeze.
He then says in the remainder of verse 28 through verse 29— “The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.” What I hear the Lord saying is that He is all-powerful and all-knowing! Therefore, there is nothing He cannot do and there is nothing He does not understand! Glory!
You see, He is not like us—who even at our strongest point can faint and be weary. That is why He says in verse 30— “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.” But His promise to us is found in verse 31— “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Church, I think we have missed what it really is that causes us to experience this life where we run our race, completely dispelling the weariness, and where we walk (by faith and in love) without fainting. And did you know that this is available to us? A life where we renew our strength?
As a matter of fact, the Hebrew word for “renew” here literally means “to exchange” and was used to describe someone changing their clothes. So what this promise is describing is not us having our own strength renewed (notice that the word “their” is in italics—meaning it was not in the original text), but rather describes us exchanging (or changing) our own strength for another kind of strength (which I believe to be God’s strength). So, what we are seeing here, that is available for us, is an “exchanged life,” not just a “changed life.” Amen!
This is a supernatural strength that would also cause us to mount up with wings like eagles! This here is some supernatural grace given by God where we begin to “rise or ascend” (definition of “mount up with wings”).
Have you ever noticed how these larger birds like eagles seem to rarely have to flap those wings? They just seem to glide and soar with the wind. Well, most Christians do not operate like this. They are flapping their wings trying to stay at the level they are at. They are doing things in their own strength, just “flapping” around, and are therefore getting weary and fainting. This should not be so with us, saints! We are to mount up with wings like the eagles—letting the wind of His Holy Spirit carry us! Hallelujah! I liken this to that law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:2) where the law of lift supersedes the law of the gravity (or, the flesh).
Saints, this is a place in God that we can all experience and consistently walk in—where weariness and faintness never set in, where a supernatural strength is tapped into, and where we just seem to soar with the Lord by His supernatural grace! Amen!
But there is obviously a part we have to play in it or we all would be experiencing it. Amen? So, what part do we have to play in it? Isaiah says at the beginning of this verse— “But those who wait on the Lord.” These are the ones who shall renew their strength. These are the ones who will mount up with wings like eagles. These are the ones who will run and not be weary and walk and not faint.”
So, what does it mean to “wait on the Lord.” Well, the word “wait” comes from the Hebrew word qavah (pronounced kah-vah) and means “to wait for” but also means “to look for, expect or hope.” This verb qavah is actually the root of the noun tiqvah which describes “hope or expectancy.” Therefore, this word for “wait” literally means to “wait on the basis of hopefulness and expectancy.” So, what we see in the word “waiting” is what the Bible refers to as “hoping.” Amen!
You see, nowadays when we see this word “waiting,” we see a passive and lethargic kind of waiting. So, when we see the phrase “waiting on the Lord,” we might think that this is just us patiently waiting on God to do something—if it be His will, whenever it’s His timing etc. But, as we have seen, this is not the picture this Hebrew word is painting. When we are waiting on the Lord, we are actively looking for and placing our expectations on the Lord and His promises. That is a far cry from just sitting back and waiting for God to do whatever He wants to do!
My point is that the key to us clothing ourselves with His strength is our hope. Yes, if we expect to walk in His strength, we will. And if we don’t, we won’t. This is where our attitude determines the altitude we reach in resting in the Lord’s strength. It is that simple.
Now there was someone else who possessed this positive mentality—the apostle Paul: In Philippians chapter 4, after talking about the varying circumstances that he had in His life, he boldly declared this. In Philippians 4:13, he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I think it’s just awesome the faith this man possessed. He didn’t moan and gripe about his situation or focus on what He didn’t have and couldn’t do. He confidently declared what He could do and how He could do it. Church, don’t major on what you cannot do; major on who He is on the inside of you—for this is a part of walking in His strength. Amen!
Oh, how this applies to us: You see, when we are stressed out and overburdened, what is our tendency? To tell someone. To give them that “woe is me,” “it’s tough,
and “I’m just so busy” kind of talk. What is the wise thing to do if we are feeling this way? To major on His grace that is available and frame the world we want to see with our faith filled words. Amen.
So, our attitude and mentality play a big part in how we take His yoke upon us—for the way we think and the way we talk is another way we can “come to Him.” But like we said, another way we come to Him is by drawing near to Him and drawing our strength from Him that way.
We see this described in Isaiah 41:10 when the Lord said, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God…” Now while these terms describe things that we are afraid of or worry about, we’ve learned that those are the things that lead to stress in our lives. Therefore, the Lord is addressing those who are living in stress. Not to mention, the word “dismayed” literally describes the feeling of distress. What word can you see in the word “distress”? Stress!
So, what does the Lord promise to us when we are being tempted to be stressed out? He said, “… I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
Praise God! He said, He would strengthen, help and uphold us! How? With His righteous right hand! Well, that denotes that we are close to Him since His right hand is what is strengthening and upholding us. Amen?
You see, this being yoked up together with Him is critical to even being able to carry the weights that He has commissioned us to carry. We see this in Ephesians 6:10 when the apostle Paul said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
You see, the apostle Paul prefaced his teaching on the spiritual warfare and the armor of God with us first being strong in Him. Why is this important to understand? It is because in order for a soldier to wear all of that heavy armor and be able to fight in it, he would have to be a strong person. Likewise, for us to be able to carry the things that the Lord has called us to carry into our wrestling with the kingdom of darkness, we have to be spiritually conditioned first. And can you guess how this spiritual strength comes? It’s found “in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Amen. So, again, it is all about staying connected with the Lord Jesus and benefiting from His strength.
So, church, it is imperative that we learn to “come to Jesus” when we are feeling overburdened and stressed out. And we come to Him by setting aside times to draw near to Him and draw our strength from Him that way, but we also come to Him by putting our focus and attention on Him and what we say as a result.
I can assure you that if you make your personal relationship with Jesus a priority in your life and then adopt the mentality of faith that takes His Word at face value, you can “take His yoke upon you” and as a result “find rest for your souls.” Like we learned—it is an easy fit and not a burden in the least. It is a light and easy yoke, and that is because Jesus has both done the work for us on the Cross and because He is doing the same today, carrying the load.
May we all learn to take His yoke upon us daily and consistently lean on His strength. Amen.