James Merritt - Rest Stop
It's one thing to experience physical fatigue but I believe there's another kind and other kinds of fatigue that are a lot more debilitating and a lot more difficult to deal with and I'm talking about spiritual fatigue, emotional fatigue, relational fatigue, mental fatigue. And the only remedy for physical fatigue is sleep but the only remedy for all those other kinds of fatigue is rest and there is a difference. You can go to a drugstore and you can buy something that will help you sleep but there's no prescription for rest. That's why lots of times you can go to bed at night and you don't have a really, you sleep but you sleep fitfully and you wake up the next morning tireder than you were when you went to bed. You got sleep, but you didn't get rest.
And you can't go to a drugstore and say to the pharmacist, "Look, I'm just, I'm restless in my heart, I'm restless in my soul, I'm restless in my spirit. Can you give me something to help me"? You're tired and weary of fighting for your marriage so you just give up and check out. You get so weary of the financial pressures of life you just quit paying your bills and then you won't even answer the phone 'cause you know it's the collector calling. Some people get so tired of life they just end their life. So here's what I've learned. Overwhelmed people live in deficit. They live in spiritual deficit, they live in relational deficit, they live in emotional deficit, they live in mental deficit.
And here's, let me tell you what I mean. If you've ever overdrawn your bank account, you know the stress that that brings. If you ever write a check and you already know you cannot cash that check, you don't have the money to cover that check. You already know the emotional and the financial stress that comes because you simply don't have the resources to cover that check. Well, the same thing's true in life. You can overdraw your account in life. You can get overwhelmed with a deficit in life. So what happens is you wake up one morning and all of a sudden your spouse says to you, "You're overdrawn in your marriage". All of a sudden, as a parent, you realize, "I'm overdrawn with my kids". And you go to work and your boss calls you in and tells you that you are overdrawn in your job. And you just kinda shrug your shoulders and slump and realize you've run out of the spiritual and the mental and the relational and the emotional currency that you need to cover the bank account of your life and you have hit the wall. You are overwhelmed.
And there are people that are overwhelmed with stress, stress with the burdens of living, stress with trying to make ends meet every month, stress with trying to make kids behave, stress with trying to make a marriage work. And I have found that people like that, they need words that begin with a little prefix: "R-E". They need to hear words like "refresh," "recharge," "rejuvenate," "replenish," "revive," "renew". Jesus said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me. You'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything on you heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you will learn," now, I love this phrase. "You will learn to live freely and lightly".
Don't you wanna live freely? Don't you wanna live lightly? Aren't you tired of living in a life that feels like you're in a prison all the time? Aren't you tired of getting up every morning and you just dread the backpack of burdens you've gotta put on every single day? Jesus said, "I've got the solution". As a matter of fact, this is the way he says it in another version: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, learn from me, for I'm gentle and lowly in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light". Let me just show you two words and maybe this will kind of relate to where you are.
You see this word "labor"? In the Greek language, that's a word that referred to the exhaustion of a soldier in battle. He had fought 'til he couldn't fight anymore. It referred to a messenger who had run many miles to deliver his message and he could not literally run another step. He's talking about people who are just exhausted, physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, spiritually exhausted, emotionally exhausted. Just worn out. And then he said, "Okay, and maybe you're also heavy laden". That's not a real term that we use much today. But it's also a very picturesque word. In the original Greek language, it pictured a ship that had so much cargo it was sinking under the water. It pictured an animal that was carrying a burden so heavy it was about to collapse under its own weight. In other words, Jesus said, "If you're here today and you're somebody that's so tired you just can't go any further, you're so burdened you can't take anymore, I'm talking to you. You need a rest stop".
If you're tired of living on edge, you're tired of a life that's nothing more than another day and another dollar, if you're tired of feeling that all you're doing is marking time and taking space, you're burdened down and you're beaten up, I've got a message for you. If you're ready to quit, ready to throw in the towel, you're ready to give it up, Jesus said, "I've got a message for you". And this is what I love about Jesus. Jesus says, "Look, you can go to a psychiatrist, you can go to a psychologist, you can go to a, quote, 'therapist,' unquote, and I'll just tell you right now what they're gonna do. And I'm not against all these people," he said, "but I'm just gonna be honest. They're gonna listen to you. You'll lie on a couch and they'll listen and you'll talk and they'll listen and you'll talk and they'll listen and they'll come up with all these solutions for you. And they may work and they may not".
Jesus says, "I'm not gonna complicate the simple for you. I'm gonna simplify the complicated". And he says, "I'm gonna share with you in three verbs what you need to do and if you will do in these three verbs what I tell you to do, you're gonna find rest for your soul, you're gonna find peace in your spirit and I don't care what's going on in your life, you can handle it with grace, you can handle it with confidence, and you can handle it with confidence". He says, "I want you to come, I want you to take, and I want you to learn". And he says, "So if the stresses of life have you down, if the fight is gone, you're ready to wave the white flag and quit, you've gone as far as you can go, you've taken all you can take," Jesus said, "I just wanna ask you to do three simple things".
Number one, look to Jesus. First thing you need to do: look to Jesus. Now, listen to what Jesus says again. He says, "Come to me, all who labor," you're burdened down, you're worn out, you can't go any further, you're heavy laden, you've carried all you can carry. If a feather comes on your back, it's gonna absolutely break you in half. "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". Now, notice what Jesus didn't say 'cause this is where a lot of people miss the boat. Jesus didn't say, "Come to church". He didn't say, "Come to religion". He didn't say, "Come to the temple". He didn't say, "Come to the synagogue". He didn't say, "Come to the pastor". He didn't say, "Come to good deeds, come to seminary, come to school". He said, "Come to me". He said, in other words, "Take all these burdens that you're carrying, take all this load that you've got, take all these things that are stressing you out, just drop them. Just drop them. And just get into my presence".
Jesus says, "When you've tried everything else and you've run out of options, when you've got no other place to turn, turn to me. When you've looked everywhere else," but as U2 put it so beautifully, "you still haven't found what you're looking for, how about trying me? When you've tried everything else and you're still asking the question after you've tried everything else, 'So how's that worked out for me?' And it hasn't, why don't you come to me? 'Cause I'm the one and the only one that can give you rest, not just for your body, but for your soul where you need it the most". Saint Augustine, you've heard this quote before but it's so true. Augustine said, "The soul is restless and it will not rest until it finds its rest in God". So Jesus comes along, says, "You're stressed out, mental life stressed out. Gone about as far as you can go, ready to wave the white flag"? Yup. "Look to me. Just drop everything you're worried about. Look to me".
Step two. This is so simple. You won't believe me how simple this is. Look to Jesus. Live for Jesus. Just live for Jesus. Now, Jesus said, "There is a catch". So he never hides anything. He said, "Okay now, if you're gonna come to me, there's something you have to take from me. You can't come to me if you don't take from me". All right, well, Lord, what do you want me to take? Here's what he says: "Take my yoke upon you". Now, I'm gonna be very honest and candid 'cause I try to figure out how people are gonna think, right? I try to think, "So what if I were an unchurched person or if I was kind of a rebellious person, if I wasn't into this Jesus thing, Christianity thing, what would I be saying right now"?
And here's what I would be saying. I would say, "You know what? That doesn't really sound too inviting to me. I mean, you want me to come... oh, so what do you have for me, Lord? Do you have a gift certificate to Macy's? You've got a brand new car? You got a jet? No, got a yoke. I don't think so". 'Cause you know what a yoke is. You know, a yoke was a wooden bar that was made to fit around the neck and the shoulders of an ox. And the farmer would attach the harness to the yoke of that ox and then that farmer could control that ox and that ox had to go wherever the farmer wanted it to go. So if a farmer said, "Go," he had to go. If he wanted to go right or left, they'd go right or left. If he wanted to stop, he had to stop. In other words, he was under the complete control of the farmer because that yoke was a symbol of submission. It was a symbol of surrender. And I know what you're thinking right now.
You say, "Wait a minute, I got two problems with that picture right now". First of all, nobody wants to be under anybody's yoke. We're all born that way, right? We don't wanna be under anybody's yoke. I don't want anybody controlling me. You know, I wanna be totally free. I wanna do what I wanna do. I wanna go where I wanna go. I wanna be what I wanna be. So you say, "That's my first problem. The second problem I've got is you're kidding me? I don't wanna be pulling your burden. I got enough burdens of my own. Why would I wanna pull somebody else's burden? I've got enough problems. I don't wanna be pulling somebody else's weight". And so Jesus says, "Wait a minute, time out. Before you reject the yoke that I wanna put on you and before you reject the burden that I'm gonna ask you to carry, would you just hear me out"?
And then listen to what he says next. This is so good. He says, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light". Now, Jesus said, "My yoke's easy". Do you know what that word "easy" means? This is such a great word. The word "easy" means excellent. As a matter of fact, the word "easy" means perfectly suited for its purpose. Let me tell you why Jesus said that. Back in the day, if you were a really good farmer and you knew what you were doing, there was one thing that you would save up enough money to buy. You would go to a carpenter and you would have that carpenter custom make a yoke for your ox. Now, you say, "Why would you have a custom-made yoke for the ox"?
If you just bought a yoke off the rack and you put it off an ox, every ox is different. So if you put that yoke on the ox and it didn't fit, what would happen? It would rub blisters, it would chafe his skin and, after a while, he was so sore he couldn't pull a burden no matter how much you yelled, screamed, or beat him. He couldn't do it. It was too sore. So a smart farmer would always go to a carpenter and he would take the ox. They'd measure the ox and he would make a yoke that would fit that ox so perfectly he wouldn't even feel it, wouldn't even know it was there. And then Jesus said, "My burden is light". And you say, "Well, wait a minute, I want to be free. I just don't wanna have any burdens. I want to be free". Jesus says, "Okay, that's good. But you don't understand what freedom is. Freedom is not being out of control. That's not freedom. And freedom's not even being under your control. That's not freedom". Jesus said, "Freedom is being under the right control".
Jesus goes on to say, "Look, if I still haven't sold you on this yet, can I just say one other thing". Listen to what he says. He says, "I am gentle and I am lowly in heart". See, Jesus is not a taskmaster. He's a tender master. Jesus is not a tough shepherd that beats the sheep. He's a tender shepherd that leads the sheep. He said, "Listen, if you'll just come and get to know me, you will love to take my yoke. You'll love to take my burden because the only places I'll ever lead you if you'll follow me are the places that are best for you and the places that will give rest to you". Listen, nothing will cause you more stress in your life, nothing, than either to refuse to take the yoke of Jesus or tear off the yoke of Jesus. Nothing will give you more rest than when you come to Jesus and you say, "I'm going to take on your yoke". Because when you live for Jesus, you'll have a conscience that's clear, you'll have a soul that is at rest. And so Jesus says, "Stressed out? Burned out? Had enough? Can't go any further?
Okay, number one, look to Jesus," come. "Live for Jesus," take. Then the last thing he says: "Learn from Jesus". Learn from Jesus. Here's what he says in verse 29: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". Now this is what a lot of us don't understand, even though we know the Lord. When you come to Jesus you are automatically enrolled in school. Now here's what's interesting about this school. He's not only the teacher; he's the subject. He teaches you about himself. You're gonna learn him. Now let me tell you why that's such a big deal. Nobody in the world that's ever lived ever faced more pressure, was ever under more stress, ever carried a heavier burden than Jesus, nobody. And Jesus says, "Watch how I handle the tough times. Watch how I handle the difficult people. Watch how I manage the troubling circumstances".
I mean, you're sitting there and you think, "Boy, you don't know what I'm going through. You're up here preaching like you really think you've got the answer for me. You don't even know the burden I carry". I don't. "You don't know the load that I'm under". I don't. "You don't know the stresses I face". I don't. But you think you got a heavy load? Let me tell you something. From the day that Jesus Christ began his ministry, you ever thought about what he was carrying? The weight of the world's sin. The weight of the world's sorrow. The weight of the world's suffering. You think you've got a busy schedule? Let's just take a day in the life of Jesus. This was a typical day in the life of Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went, people were lined up ten deep and here's all they were saying: "Touch me. Bless me. Heal me. Help me. Hear me. Teach me".
Every day of his life. But he never got flustered, never got impatient, never got snappy. Always calm, always cool, always collected. Never lost his composure, never lost his patience on the inside, never lost his peace on the inside. See, there's nothing you can earn from Jesus. There's a lot you can learn from Jesus. Jesus said, "You're under stress. Let me tell you about stress. Let me tell you how being under so much stress, you're sweating blood. I know what stress is". See, that's why Jesus wants us to sit at his feet every day. That's why I love to do it every day. And learn not about him; learn from him. And let me tell you what I found out about Jesus. I'm gonna wrap this up. You will find that when you come to Jesus and you just look to Jesus and you live for Jesus and you learn from Jesus, you'll find what he says to you is revolutionizing. You'll find the way he speaks to you is relaxing. You'll find that when he walks with you, it is refreshing.
So I kind of wanna bring this to a close but let me tell you something about being a Christian and a follower of Jesus. I've heard people say things like this all of my life and I used to buy into it and I finally realized it was totally wrong. More people that I talk to about Jesus reject Jesus than accept Jesus. That used to bother me but I realized, you know, that was really true with him. It'll be true with us. And I get that. But I used to have people, they'd look at me and I would say, "Would you like to give your life to Christ"? They'd say, "No, I really wouldn't". Now, why not? And you've heard this before and I used to, and I used to say, "Okay, well, they've got a point. I guess there's nothing left to say". They'll say, "No, it's just too hard to be a Christian".
I used to buy into that. I used to say, "Well, I mean, you know, okay, I guess, what else can you say"? And then one day, it hit me. Where do people get that idea? Where do you get this idea, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no, it's too hard to be a Christian"? Let me tell you what I have now figured out after a while. Comparatively speaking, it's a lot harder not to be a Christian than it is to be a Christian. A lot harder. Now you may be sitting there and you say, "Aw, c'mon, man. I'm not buying that stuff". All right, Jesus said, "My yoke is easy". That's what he said.
So I'll ask you. You take up the yoke of Hollywood. Do you think that's an easy yoke? You take up the yoke of Wall Street. Do you think that's an easy yoke? You take up the yoke of Washington. Do you think that's an easy yoke? No, they're not easy. You think those burdens are light? They're not light; they're heavy. Here's what I finally figured out. Compared to sexual addiction and drug addiction and alcohol addiction and money addiction, life is so much easier when you're looking to Jesus and living for Jesus and learning from Jesus. I'll take that any day of the week. I've lived it. So you're still not buying it. Let me just...all right, here's the proof. How many of you... now, let's be honest. We're all just being honest today, right? This is not Liars Day, this is Truth Day. How many of you have ever had a guilty conscience? Raise your hand.
Now if you don't raise your hand, you're gonna have a guilty conscience, right? So raise your hand. All right, so have I. Quick question. You tell me which is heavier to carry around: a guilty conscience or a clear conscience? You tell me. Harder to be a Christian! Are you kidding? Jesus said, "My yoke's easy. My burden is light". You tell me which is heavier to carry around: a dirty heart or a clean soul? Which gives you a better night's sleep: a clean conscience or a guilty conscience? Jesus said, "My yoke is easy".
And by the way, if you're still not buying what I'm saying, do you understand who wrote that Gospel? You better, you understand who we're talking about here? Do you understand that Matthew is the only Gospel writer that included that teaching of Jesus? Luke didn't put it in his Gospel, Mark didn't put it in his, John didn't put it in his. Why do you think Matthew is the only guy that made sure that got in the Gospel? Hadn't been for Matthew, we wouldn't even know what Jesus said. Why do you think it was Matthew that wrote that? I'll tell you why. He was a tax collector. He was a bum. He was a crook. He was a thief. He was doing everything the world's way and he thought he had it all figured out. He said, "I know how to handle life. Get all you can, step on everybody else, get to the top as quick as you can, don't ever trust anybody, and you live for you and you alone".
And you know what he found out? Didn't work out for him. And then Jesus walked into his life and he just said two words: "Follow me". Boom! Peace, contentment, rest, joy. That's the way it works. So as we get to the end of this, let me just say this to you. I thought about this the other day and see if this doesn't resonate with you. Have you ever noticed kind of how life flows? You're born and you're a child. And then you start, you become a teenager. And in those years, we all do this. We focus on our bodies. So we go to the gym, we work out, we play sports, we get into beauty pageants, we try to make the cheerleading squad, you know, we get our teeth straightened, we go to the dentist, we have braces on.
So all this, we focus on our bodies. We kind of do that in the early years. And then we graduate from high school and now we say, "Okay, now I need to focus on my intellect. I need to focus on my mind". So we go to college and we get the degree and we try to get to that piece of paper that we hope will get us a good-paying job. And then after we do that, we say, "Okay, now it's time to focus on my emotions. It's time now, I've worked, I've gone to school. Kind of time to enjoy life". So we play the field, we hit the dating scene, we hook up, we live it up. And the fun's there but the fun doesn't last. The thrill is there but the thrill doesn't last.
It all happens for us at different times and in different ways and for different reasons but, ultimately, you come to the point, you say, "You know what? I have focused on my body, I have focused on my mind, I have focused on my feelings, but I'm not focused on my soul. I'm not focused on my heart. There is something missing in my life. There is something I'm not clicking on all eight cylinders. I've got all this stuff but this stuff doesn't satisfy. I've done all these things but these things don't satisfy. I've gone to all these places and these places don't satisfy". And you begin to focus on your soul and all of a sudden you wake up and realize there is nothing on the outside that will give me peace on the inside.
And then Jesus comes along and he says, "If you will look to me, and if you will live for me, and if you will learn from me, you'll come to a rest stop that you'll never want to leave again because my yoke is easy and my burden is light". And that's why I can stand up here and tell you that after 53 years of following this man named Jesus I am a satisfied customer. I'm a happy dude. My wife will tell you, makes her mad 'cause she can't do this. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I have a little ritual. I have a little sound machine by my bed and I sleep with a sound machine.
So I turn on my sound machine and she'll tell you, maybe ten seconds, I'm out. I'm gone. When I wake up in the morning, I wake up knowing that I serve a shepherd who is tender and lowly in heart who has a yoke that fits me perfectly. His burden is so light I don't even know that it's there. And I serve a Lord that says to me, "No matter what you face today, I got this. We will handle it together". There is no peace, there is no rest, there is no contentment, there is no joy like that Jesus brings.