January 31, 2010

Receiving and Enjoying Rest (Matthew 11:28-30)

by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

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Matthew 11, verse 28 lets us know how to receive rest; verses 29-30 tells us how we can enjoy this rest. Receiving and enjoying rest are two different matters. Some people obtain but never enjoy rest. Jesus wants to give us rest and he wants us to enjoy rest.

I. Receiving Rest

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus used the terms `weary and burdened’ to refer to difficulties or afflictions we encounter in life. In life, some difficulties are self-inflicted – we inflict troubles on ourselves when we insist on doing something even when we know that it is wrong, as a result we suffer the consequences. But some difficulties come by way of other people. Sometimes, other people make wrong decisions and bring upon us certain difficulties.

Difficulties or afflictions came hand in hand with sin. Genesis chapter 3 records how after Adam sinned, the Lord pronounced judgment on their sin; thus, sin brought on man’s afflictions. The Lord told the woman, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Gen 3:16) Afflictions – that is what the woman received. It is so difficult to be a woman!

The Lord told the man, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:16-19) Life is also difficult for men. We labor all day every day, and only when we sweat our brows off are we able to have something to eat, and even until we return to the ground. The life of a man is also characterized by suffering. It is so difficult to be a man! It is difficult to be a man, it is difficult to be a woman, life is very difficult indeed. It is so difficult to be a human being!

Psalm 90 describes human life, “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Moses described life as full of trouble, sorrow and meaninglessness. What is meaninglessness? The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” All our lives, we toil and we worry but in the end, it is all meaningless. I do not know if you understand the meaning of this; some people chase after fame, power, love, pleasure, but after attaining these things, they discover it is all meaningless.

“Fame” is good. Is it alright for a Christian to be famous? If the Lord allows you to become famous, then you must use your fame for the Lord’s glory. To be popular and famous is not a sin, but neither does being un-famous necessarily mean that you are a humble person. But you must know that if we are to be famous, we must be famous for the Lord, let the glory be given to Him. We must also bear in mind, that no matter how popular you are right now, there will come a time when no one will remember you. Many people don’t even know the name of their grandfather, how much more your name!

Wealth is good. Is it alright for a Christian to be wealthy? Yes, but remember money is not all-powerful. At the same time, without money, one is unable to do much. Money is neutral, money is simply a tool in our hands. The problem is not money itself, but in whose hands it lies. Luke 16:9 “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Wealth will become useless one day, use your money wisely now, so that you may be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Love is good, but if love is the central focus of your life, it is also meaningless. Two drop of tears met in the big ocean. One ask the other, “Where did you come from?” She said, “From a girl whose heart was broken. Her boyfriend broke up with her and she shed tears. How about you?” The second teardrop said, “I also came from a girl, but she is already married, her husband treats her badly, and she cried and shed tears.” One cries because she lost her love, but another one cried because she got her love. Love can be meaningless, too.

The span of life is but trouble and sorrow, our days quickly pass away, and we fly away – meaningless. But Jesus said come to me and I will give you rest. Only in Jesus can we find rest, have you come to Jesus? The Chinese character for righteousness consists of a character for lamb above a character for `me’. When `I’ come beneath the `lamb’, then I become a righteous person. Without the lamb, then there is only I, and what is `I’? ‘I’ is made up of a character for grain and spear. Grain is food, while, spear is a weapon of war. So what am I? I am a person who loves to eat and fight. That is the nature of man, we love to eat and fight. But with the lamb we become righteous. But then, the most important thing is we must come. The Chinese character for come is made up of three man and one cross. When the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross for our sins, there were two thieves crucified beside him. When we come beneath the cross of Jesus and look up, then and only then can we find true rest. Lay down all our sins, all our sorrows beneath the cross, then, we can find true rest. Have you come, have you asked him already?

II. Enjoying Rest

“I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (v.29-30) Not only are we to find rest, we must enjoy rest. How can we enjoy rest? We may use four ‘R’s’ to explain this:

1. Relaxation. We do not enjoy rest because we are too tense and worried. We must learn to surrender our worries and troubles to the Lord. 1Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” This is a precious verse. Once we believe in the Lord Jesus, we must learn to surrender all our sorrows and worries to him. We must not carry our burdens all by ourselves, we must be willing to put them down – particularly, those among us who are worry-warts. Parents, you often worry over your children because you love them. The more we love them the more we worry over them. But is worry helpful? It is better to pray for them than to worry over them.

There is a famous prayer by General Douglas MacArthur (May 1952): “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, have not lived in vain. Amen!”

Cast your children upon the Lord, for he cares for you.

2. Release. We are unable to find rest because we are entangled with problems and people. Our hearts are full of bitterness, discontent, complaints, and injustices; these are all garbage in our souls. When a person is full of complaints and bitter words because his heart is full of trash, how can he find rest? We must release all these things. We must make a general cleaning of our souls and spirits. When I was still living in Hong Kong, our whole family always performed general cleaning during year-end. We clean the whole house until it is thoroughly clean and we throw out all the trash. Afterwards, on New Year’s Day, we wear new clothes and new shoes, we were very happy in welcoming the new year. Such practice is also good for our spiritual lives. When we find rest, come to believe in Christ, we become a new being, the old is gone and the new has come, do not live anymore in the pain of the past, sweep away all the trash in our souls and spirit, make a thorough cleaning of your spirit.

3. Rest. Our body, heart and spirit need rest. A person who knows how to trust in the Lord is a person who can rest. The Lord created the heavens and the earth in six days and he added another day, which he calls the Sabbath day. If you look at it, there was no need for the Sabbath day. Did God need the rest? Our God is a God who is always at work. John 5:16-17 “So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Our Father in heaven has never stopped working. The Lord set the Sabbath day not because he needed to rest, but for our sake, so that we may enjoy his rest. I do not know how, but I have been a Christian for 26 years now, and Sunday has always been the most enjoyable day for me. To be able to worship the Lord, hear the choir sing hymns, listen to the pastor preach from the Truth, is such a pleasure. Brothers and sisters, if you feel that worship is a trouble or a suffering, then, you are not enjoying true rest. You must pray and ask the Lord to help you enjoy worship during Sabbath day; your body, heart and spirit will then find true rest. After worship, you will find new strength to work and to serve.

4. Renewal. True rest renews us. Psalm 103:5 “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” A person who enjoys rest is one who finds renewal of strength. But we have to pay a price to obtain renewed strength. Psalm 103:5 says your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The eagle has to make an important decision, it has to pay a price, and that is the same with us, too. The Lord Jesus said to enjoy rest, you must take his yoke upon you. To rest is to cease all forms of work, and to enjoy rest is to take the yoke of the Lord, to do his work; for our Lord is gentle, and when he works with us, we become more and more joyful, we will be able to enjoy rest even as we work.

There is only one way to find rest – come to the Lord and receive his salvation, receive his life into our hearts, then, we can find true rest. To enjoy true rest, we must pay a price, take up his yoke and walk with the Lord, are you willing?

January 31, 2010