"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for 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." Matthew 11:28-30
Matthew 11 begins with John's disciples relaying a message asking Jesus if he is the one they have been looking for. Jesus shows compassion for John's fears and not only answers "yes" but goes on and on for several verses telling everyone that John is a wonderful man that has done all God asked him to do.
Then Jesus turns and begins a frustrated rant about all the cities that have rejected him. He even tells Capernaum that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you. Jesus is angry at the stupidity of these cities.
So why does he then take a breath and tell us to take up his yoke and it will be easy? Why does he give God praise by saying, "because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
Most ministers would take this chapter and preach on how easy God can make your life. Other ministers would preach on how dedicated we should be to God's calling and purpose. Some ministers might preach on the damnation that will come because of ignorance. A few might preach on the comfort of standing close to Jesus.
I would like for you to consider that this chapter may be giving us a sliver of insight into an honest why.
Last week it happened again, another shooting. More families hurting and more lives lost. "He was a model student. We just don't understand."
A young girl was kidnapped while sleeping on a couch. I prayed for her. Her pictures were beautiful. I couldn't get them out of my mind. This weekend she was found dumped in a vacant lot.
Friday's paper had a back page headline, "The baby in the microwave case has reached a decision." I didn't dare read that one. I don't want to know the details of that story.
Why are we seeing so much devastating news? Has it always been a part of our society and technology is just shining a light on what was already there? Is our country more violent? What are we doing about it? Is there an answer to our problems or do we simply have to endure this escalation of evil?
This morning I was praying and asking God all those questions. This verse kept playing in my head, "Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for 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." I didn't get it at first. At first I thought God was just impressing me to calm down and think about the good things in life and rest in him. The more the verse played in my head the more the word "Learn" was emphasized. Every time I repeated the verse that word became louder and louder.
The world is like an undisciplined child. Have you watched a spoiled child enter a store? His parent is trying to keep him calm and interested in one item, but the child is screaming for everything. Once his hands are on one toy, he holds it tightly under his arm as if someone is going to steal it. The other hand reaches for something else. He screams for a second toy. If he receives it, he screams for a third. When his arms are full, he begins to drop some of his treasures, but he's so busy screaming for something else that he doesn't see what he's lost. He thinks he has to have it all never realizing that it's impossible.
The saddest person in this scene is not the child. Have you ever looked at the parent? They seem weary and tired. They aren't happy and don't find joy in the child. They are overworked trying to allow this child to find happiness in "things" - never realizing that what they really want is a relationship.
Both individuals need rest and calm but neither will ever achieve it. As the child grows he will constantly be looking for something, anything to fill his desires. His search will end in disappointment. And the parent, he will be one of those parents that fuss about how futile life is and that children are a burden.
That scene is a description of our country. Are you depressed yet? Don't be. Let me explain how you can avoid this problem. Christ came to give us the good news that God lives and will save us from our sins. There is more to the good news! Much more!
The Bible is full of directions. It will help you map out a wonderful life. If you follow the directions in the Bible you will avoid all the mess that happens to other people. "I don't like to be told what to do. The Bible is just a bunch of antiquated rules. It can't possibly apply to contemporary life."
To say you don't like rules is a lie. Everyone obeys hundreds of rules every day. You can't get to work without rules. You can't order fast food without rules. Even the most dedicated atheist will obey hundreds of rules every day and he will be protected by a thousand more rules.
Think of the Bible in terms of a college course and God is your professor. If you study it and put Biblical principles into your daily life, you will get an A++. The way you receive your grade from God is by the blessings in your life.
"Okay, so maybe I do follow rules, that still doesn't tell me why this country is in such a mess?" We are in a mess because we have allowed the spoiled child to take over. Government, psychologist, sociologist, doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers and parents have all refused to ask an honest why.
Government says, "We must have freedom for everyone." That's great. Let's do. In having freedom though we have to realize that there are limits. Total freedom totally corrupts. Because people with evil motives will rise to the top and try to take over, we can not have a totally free society.
For example, we want freedom of religion. Why do we have to persecute Christians in order to allow freedom for Buddhism? Can't we have freedom for both? Or better yet, why is it such a bad idea to allow Christian principles in our system? Christian principles promote good citizenship. Those are the values we want everyone to have in order for laws to be obeyed. People who break the law are usually people who have broken the Ten Commandments. Why then wouldn't we want to promote a faith that supports our government? That's an honest why. A dishonest why centers only on one aspect of a subject and refuses to consider all sides.
Lawyers say, "Everyone must have free speech." They twist and mangle that freedom until they seem to have proven that gamers have the right to sell any type of violent game they want. Pornography can stream through our daily lives like a tidal wave. Every evil thought is played out on a Hollywood screen. "Free speech," they yell. "You can't limit our free speech."
If we were truly honest, we would ask - "If violence has escalated and our children are killing each other, there must be a reason. If sexual problems are worse and disease and death are on the rise, what are we doing wrong? If families are disintegrating and suicide is worst than ever, can we look back in history and find a time when things were better? What were we doing at that time that we aren't doing now?"
Asking an honest why gives you lots of answers. Since I don't want to write you a book today, I'll give you one example. All psychologists agree that "what you say to your child will determine their self-esteem. Therefore, don't be negative. Always find ways to compliment your child. For example, instead of only commenting on the wrong he does; find ways to say things like - good boy! You did it! You are wonderful! What a champ!"
If you step back and look at the overall implication of that philosophy, you understand that what a child hears will mold his personality. Right? Any psychologist will be on board with that. So, if what he hears will mold his personality, then it stands to reason that he should "NOT" be listening to acid rock. He shouldn't have the words pumped into his brain on a daily basis that "life is horrible and he should kill those that hurt him." It also stands to reason that if you can change a child's self-esteem, that you can probably change an adult. After all, we all know the dangers of "brain washing". If that's true, shouldn't we have laws to prevent anyone from producing that type of music and hate songs?
"Oh,no. You can't do that. We have to be free! And besides, even if it is bad - you can't make me stop unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that my music produced an evil act." I must ask...."Why do I need to waste millions of dollars trying to prove something that we already know to be true because of common sense derived from the evidence we already have?"
When we are willing to ask an honest why, we will consider the other side. If Freedom is killing our society shouldn't we be asking if "total" freedom is right? Maybe what we really want in this country is "limited freedom". Maybe what we really want is a return to a society of disciplined individuals rather than one run by a government or psychological sector that proclaims we are entitled to anything we want.
Maybe the only way we will ever achieve all that we can be and have the freedom and rest that Jesus promised is if we learn to say "no, I won't allow you to do that". Maybe it's important to take a look at ourselves and ask, "what am I doing wrong?" - rather than be defensive and worried about guilt. Maybe we should be looking for ways to change and become better parents, citizens and followers of Christ.
I am praying that God will raise up a group of men and women across this country that are more concerned about asking an honest why than they are about hiding in the shadows. We need an army of people that will stand up and say,"No. I want my way of life preserved. I'm tired of a country gone mad. I'm tired of the killings and evil."
Can you ask an honest why? Maybe if we ask an honest why first....the rest of the verse will mean even more. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and LEARN from ME, for 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."
God loves you,