After preaching in a foreign country, a ministry friend took my wife and me to a remote hotel “resort” in Central America for a night and day of rest before we would travel home. After a frightful journey on deteriorating roads, we arrived for our time of refreshment.
Our resort was located in a humid jungle region. We were startled to find there was no record of a reservation. No one behind the desk spoke English, and for a while, it looked like there was no room for the night.
Finally, we obtained a key and headed to our room. We soon found the room that matched our key, only to discover that it had no air conditioning and the most unusual beds we had ever seen.
The two single beds had mattresses that constituted of barn hay cased in a heavy cloth. The hay poked through the material of the mattresses, through the sheets of the bed, and through the skin of the occupants. Additionally, our beds were approximately five and a half feet long, which is definitely not adequate space for my 6’ 2” frame.
We emerged from our “restful” night bearing in our bodies the “marks of the mattress” and ready to head home for real rest!
Most of us live without truly enjoying spiritual, emotional, and sometimes even physical rest. Our culture and our own bent toward drivenness contrive together to keep us from rest.
In stark contrast to our restless living, Jesus offers true rest:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.—Matthew 11:28–30
Most of us who have been in the ministry any length of time can quote these verses, but how often do we really take Christ up on His offer? We complain of fatigue, burnout, overload, and exhaustion, but do we accept Christ’s invitation to rest?
How and where can you find rest and renewal when the pressures keep mounting and you keep giving? Jesus’ offer can be broken down into three words:
Come—Stay in the way of the Lord
Jesus’ offer—Come—is an invitation to a better way.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.—Isaiah 55:8–9
Proverbs 13:15 plainly says, “the way of transgressors is hard.” In contrast, Jeremiah 6:16 points out that God’s way is “the good way,” and He instructs us to “walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
One of the greatest dangers of fatigue is the temptation to make major life or ministry changes that lead you off the path of God’s blessing.
When you feel tempted to quit, to change paths, to bolt, to leave it all, remember that there is rest by staying in the way of the Lord. (And it is worth noting that one aspect of God’s way is the physical rest of a weekly day off.)
Christ’s offer to rest begins with an invitation to Himself. “Come unto Me.” The deepest, most satisfying rest we will ever find is in Christ Himself.
Take—Stay in the work of the Lord
Quitting is the worst way to rest. Christ’s rest is not the rest of no yoke but the rest of an “easy yoke.” He simply offers, “Take my yoke upon you.” We find rest by serving Him.
What is the hard yoke which we are more prone to wear? The yoke of serving for people’s acceptance. Serving for the approval of people will exhaust you. Utterly.
People are fickle. People are hard taskmasters. People are unpredictable. People have shifting expectations. Serving for the approval of people is always a losing—and exhausting—proposition.
Are you tired? Pause long enough to ask “Who am I doing this for? Whose yoke am I wearing?”
When we exhaust ourselves for the Lord, He replenishes and reinvigorates by His grace. When we exhaust ourselves for the approval of people, we are left empty and eventually disillusioned.
There is always rest and renewal in the work of the Lord. Stay in His yoke.
Learn—Stay in the Word of the Lord
There is rest in growth. As we study God’s Word and apply His truths to our own lives, we learn how to more effectively live His principles.
Our culture today is saturated with opportunities for amusement. I believe that measured amounts of recreation are necessary. (See my post on why Disneyland is good for pastors and grandfathers.) But amusement is not really the answer to rest.
The word muse means “to think.” The prefix a is from Latin and means “no.” So amusement literally means “not to think.”
Sometimes we need to give our minds a rest, but a life filled with amusement is not the type of rest Jesus offers. (Do we really want to be rested zombies? Or do we want to be renewed spiritual leaders?)
When we apply ourselves to growth—purposefully learning how to wear and best serve in Christ’s easy yoke—we gain a level of rest that can only come from the Holy Spirit. We learn, both by study and personal experience, to abide in Christ and rest in Him as we serve.
Are you finding yourself without rest? Are you looking for soul-deep refreshment?
Come. Take. Learn.
Refuse to bolt because you are exhausted. Rather, draw closer to Christ Himself by taking His yoke and centering your service on Him alone. Learn of Him. Study His ways and rest in His fullness.