Getting rest

We don’t get rest. At least that would seem to be the case. We live in a society that seems to reward those who skimp on sleep and rest, yet research indicates that we are far more productive when we are well rested and have had adequate sleep.

The days when Sunday was a day of rest are long gone. There was a time when Saturday was the last day of the week to do any serious shopping. And it was only people who were employed in the most essential services who worked on a Sunday. Perhaps it helps to explain why we find it difficult to rest and difficult to sleep. In 2011, 15.3 million NHS prescriptions were made for sleeping tablets.

Without wishing to overreact, such a statistic does suggest that we are an anxious society.

Perhaps it has never really been any different. In Matthew 11.28-30 Jesus holds out the promise of rest to anyone who is weary and burdened. People needed rest in Jesus’ day, and struggled to find rest then, every bit as much as they do today. Jesus was and is the ultimate provider of rest.

How do we find the rest that Jesus offers?

Firstly, Jesus says come to me.

Turn toward Jesus. People try many other things to give them rest. Some of them are not necessarily bad things. Career, image, money, pleasure even friendships and family are all sometimes unwittingly sought as a source of peace. And of course, when they fail to deliver, we can be left to wrestle with darker temptations. Taking time out for ourselves, which is very necessary, can even take on a semblance of self idolatry; “me” time needs to be “Him” time as well, if we are going to discover real spiritual renewal.

Coming to Jesus for rest means no longer going to other things for rest.

Secondly, Jesus invites us to connect to Him:

Take my yoke upon you” (v.29).

The people of his day had been “yoked” to an interpretation of God’s law which was proving unbearable. Lots of demands, but little help to obey them.

When a yoke was applied to oxen it joined the two animals to each other. Once an ox was yoked to another, it had to go where the other went and do what the other did. Either that or it had to try and impose its will on the other, which would result in conflict.

Religion either subdues our will or turns us into rebels. We might not have the experience of religion that people a couple of thousand years ago had, but the pressures modern society puts on us to have a particular kind of lifestyle that will supposedly make us happy, can become as oppressive as the laws of the scribes and pharisees. And of course there are many who suffer the ill effects of legalistic Christianity.

Jesus invites us to throw off the yoke of religion and pressure and come under His leadership. The yoke of Jesus brings true direction into our lives; the yoke of religion brings only destruction.

Finally, Jesus calls us to consult with Him:

“…and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart “ (v.29).

Jesus promises to be our teacher. In John 14.16, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to the disciples. He describes Him as another advocate (NIV) or helper (NKJV). In this  verse “another” means  another of the same kind. The Holy Spirit is our teacher.

The great thing about our Great Teacher is that He is gentle and humble in heart. He is approachable.

A few years ago some research was conducted into humility. The actions of people who were considered to have traits associated with humility were assessed. The results concluded that humble people were helpful people.

Jesus is helpful. He helps us. And because He is God, that means that God helps us. What a shock Jesus’ words must have been! Here He is, the Son of God, describing Himself as gentle and humble.

It is humility that marks out the whole life and ministry of Jesus. In Jesus, we see that humility was God’s strategy for reaching a lost and broken world.

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Remember to remember

Robert K. Massie is an American historian who became well known in his field after the publication of his biography entitled Nicholas and Alexandra, a work detailing the tragic life of Russia’s last Tsar and his family.

Massie tells the story of how he visited Russia in the 1960s. He recounts on one occasion a conversation he had with some Russian women.

He was in the Kremlin, looking at one of those famously expensive Faberge eggs. In the egg were miniature pictures of four little girls and one little boy. The women asked him if he knew who they were. He explained that they were the children of Tsar Nicholas. They looked bemused. He went on to tell how they, along with their father and mother, had been murdered in 1917 and that Lenin had sanctioned the killings. The ladies were completely bewildered. They had never heard of the murders. The memory of the last royal family of Russia had been almost forgotten by ordinary people in less than fifty years after their demise.

It doesn’t take a sophisticated propaganda machine to bring about a loss of memory. The apostle Peter writing towards the end of his life was concerned that the Christians within his circle of influence would soon forget the key elements of their faith:

 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. 2 Peter 1.12-15

If people who had such close contact with an apostle who had been trained by Jesus Himself were vulnerable to spiritual forgetfulness, I think it’s fair to say that we might forget to remember as well.

Just what was it that Peter was concerned they would forget? The first eleven verses reveal what he wanted them to remember. He wanted them to remember that their salvation was the work of divine persons,  the Father and the Son (v.1).

Furthermore they had been given divine power to live a godly life (v.3). That power became active as they believed precious promises (v.4). And because of God’s power with them, they were able to plan and attain their own spiritual growth (v.5).

Sometimes we forget that God is one hundred percent behind not only our conversion but our ongoing growth and development in the Christian life. He gives us power and promises. That is real heavenly backing and back up whatever way you look at it. We have everything we need. Yet so often believers act as if it depends on their own best efforts. They forget that their salvation was actually God’s idea. They forget that God is committed to their growth and has given them everything they need to attain it.

Remember that. Believe that. Remember to remember.