The Rest of Faith

“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

THIS INVITATION BY JESUS extended to all who are ‘heavy laden,’ was addressed in the first instance to the people of Israel, being the closing remarks of a short sermon in which he exposed the pride and hypocrisy of the religious rulers. He gave a brief explanation of John the Baptist’s ministry, saying that to those who could accept him and his message, he fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi concerning a coming Elijah who would perform a work of reformation in Israel. (vs. 14) But not many were thus affected by John’s ministry, so Israel as a whole, held tight under the rulership of the scribes and Pharisees, remained unconverted.

Jesus likened the Israelites to children sitting in the markets, “calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Matt. 11:16-19) Under the direction of their rulers, the Israelites were not prepared to accept any teachings or leadership which were not in harmony with their humanly conceived traditions. They were prepared to find fault with and reject anything their leaders did not approve.

Jesus knew that this was true of the nation as a whole. At the same time, however, he realized that there was a remnant of the people who were sincerely looking for help; a minority who were not satisfied with their rulers, and who were more or less crushed under the burdensome load which had been thrust upon them, a load which Jesus referred to on another occasion and told the lawyers they were not willing to touch it even with a finger to make it lighter.—Luke 11:46

The Pharisees manufactured an excuse to prejudice the people against John the Baptist. Simply because he was extremely temperate in his eating, they said he had ‘a devil.’ But when it was observed that Jesus followed the usual eating habits of his time, they said he was ‘gluttonous, and a winebibber.’ This was their worldly-wise and prudent method of preventing the people from giving serious attention to Jesus’ teachings. The Master recognized their sham, and in prayer to his Father said, “I thank thee, … because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”—Matt. 11:25

It was to these ‘babes’ that Jesus especially addressed the words of our text: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’ These ‘babes,’ sincere of heart, longing to be released from the burden of the Law, and the still heavier weight of human traditions as well as the hypocritical rulership of the Pharisees, must have rejoiced when they heard this invitation, although at the time they could but partially comprehend its meaning. Not until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost did the church begin to understand the full depth of meaning contained in these wonderful words of the Master.


It is only those who ‘labor and are heavy laden’ that are seeking relief from their load. The Law which was given to Israel at the hand of Moses, while a perfect expression of God’s righteous requirements was, nevertheless, burdensome to the Israelites, for it was beyond their ability to keep. Had they been able to keep the Law it would have given them life, but they failed, so were in bondage to it. Besides, the religious rulers of Israel had heaped additional burdens upon the people. And this entire load was the result of sin. They were the servants of sin, and being led into death.

The whole world of mankind is likewise weighted down with sin. It is true, nevertheless, that any person who is sincere of heart, and honestly endeavoring to live a righteous life, realizes how imperfection hinders him from attaining the goal which he seeks. He is ‘heavy laden’ and realizes that he cannot be wholly pleasing to his God while laboring under this load of sin. To these also Jesus says, in his invitation, ‘Come unto me, … and I will give you rest.’


The Greek word translated ‘rest’ in Jesus’ promise, ‘I will give you rest,’ means, by implication, to refresh; and what a refreshing experience it is for all—whether Jews or gentiles—who, wearied with their endless yet futile struggle against sin and its degrading influence in their lives, recognize in Jesus the great sinbearer, that there was laid upon him the “iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6), freeing us from that burden insofar as its legal claims against us are concerned. This does not mean a release from the responsibility of doing the best we can to struggle against the weight of Adamic imperfection. The Lord expects us to do this. Our rest of heart and mind is in the assurance that if we do the best we can, our imperfect efforts will be acceptable to our Heavenly Father through the merit of our beloved Redeemer.

In Hebrews 4:10, the Apostle Paul speaks of a “rest” into which we have the privilege of entering, a rest of faith in Christ. He explains that those who enter into this rest cease from their own works, “as God did from his.” God ceased from his work pertaining to his human creation in the sense of assigning it to Jesus and having full confidence in the willingness and ability of his Son to accomplish it. We, too, put our trust in Jesus, knowing that through him every provision has been made whereby we can serve the Divine cause acceptably.

In Paul’s reference to Christian ‘rest’ he uses a Greek word which conveys the thought of a ‘resting place,’ or an ‘abode’ of rest. It suggests the idea of permanency, and not merely a temporary resting experience of refreshing. We are indeed greatly refreshed by accepting Jesus’ invitation, ‘Come unto me,’ and then, if by faith we continue to lean upon him and upon the Divine promises which are made ‘yea and amen’ through the merit of his shed blood, this first refreshing experience settles down into a continuous life of peace and satisfaction which results from being ‘at home’ with the Lord.

This rest, however, does not mean freedom from trials. Neither does it imply inactivity, nor a ceasing from laboring in the Lord’s vineyard and the experiencing of all the difficulties and hardships associated with these “good works” for which all of God’s purified people are zealous. (Titus 2:14) Certainly the Apostle Paul had entered into this rest, but he wrote to the church at Corinth saying, “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.”—II Cor. 7:5

Our ‘rest,’ then, does not come from having all trouble and cause for worry removed, but from the assurance that the Lord will be with us and strengthen us in our every time of need. The Lord allowed Paul to be ‘troubled on every side,’ but did not leave him comfortless, for in the next verse he writes, “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.”—vs. 6

The Lord has unlimited ways by which he comforts and strengthens his people in their troubles, and it is important to watch carefully his providences on our behalf and thus be in a position to obtain the greatest possible blessing from them. Paul saw in the coming of Titus a manifestation of God’s love and care. Let us be on the alert to recognize the ‘Titus’ he may send to comfort us in our times of need. It may indeed be a brother or sister who, with that good “word spoken in due season,” (Proverbs 15:23) helps to lift a burden from our hearts, or to comfort us in a great trial. Or it may be some refreshing and encouraging experience which the Lord permits us to enjoy—some evidence, perhaps, that he is blessing our labors in his vineyard.


No true child of God ever feels satisfied with what he is able to accomplish in the Lord’s service. We are all handicapped by imperfections of one sort or another. Our time and strength are limited, and while we sing, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise” (Hymns of Dawn, #199), we are painfully conscious of the fact that the one tongue we do have is exceedingly faulty; it is a lisping, “stammering … tongue” (Isa. 28:11), which fails to declare the glory of the Lord as we so earnestly long to do.

All the other parts of our fallen human bodies are likewise imperfect. We may sing that we would like to have our feet “swift on errands, Lord, for thee” (Hymns of Dawn, #277), yet they often stumble. Our hands, also, fail to respond to the desires of our hearts as we would like when we endeavor to put them to work for the Lord. But what great rest of soul there is in the realization that the Lord is looking upon our hearts, and that in his merciful kindness he “remembereth that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14); that is, members of the sin-cursed and dying race, so does not expect our bodies to serve him perfectly.

In one of the Apostle Paul’s experiences, we have a good example of the Lord’s viewpoint in this respect. At the time of his conversion, he was blinded by the dazzling brightness of that “light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun.” (Acts 26:13) And although a few days later when visited by Ananias, Paul received a partial restoration of his sight, apparently he had poor vision for the remainder of his life. Naturally this was a great handicap, especially in his studies and writing. He refers to it as a “thorn in the flesh” (II Cor. 12:7-10), and he prayed earnestly to the Lord that it might be removed. He believed that he could serve the Lord much better if his eyesight were fully restored.

The Lord’s answer to Paul’s prayer, and the apostle’s humble submission to the Divine will should be of great encouragement to us. The Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (vs. 9) Paul’s reaction to these reassuring words of the Lord should serve to guide and comfort us when we feel the limitations imposed upon us by our imperfections. He wrote, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”—vs. 9


The wonderful ‘rest’ in Christ can be understood and appreciated better when considered in association with his invitation to take upon ourselves another ‘yoke’: “Take my yoke upon you.” (Matt. 11:29,30) To be made free from sin and imperfection does not imply a life of idleness. Nor does it mean a carefree, aimless sort of existence. We come out from the bondage of sin that we might become servants of righteousness by taking his ‘yoke’ upon us. And it is in this yoke that we find our abiding rest.

It is through Christ’s ‘yoke’ that we become united with him. He shares the load, bearing all of it that exceeds our own strength and ability. This is the thought suggested by Paul when he said that because of his infirmities the ‘power of Christ’ would rest upon him. Paul would like to have done more and better work in the Lord’s service. He believed that this would be possible if his eyesight were restored. But since this was not the Lord’s will, and since he was assured that the Lord’s grace would be sufficient for him, he not only could ‘rest,’ but also ‘glory’ in his infirmities, because the power of Christ could thus be more fully demonstrated.


Jesus’ invitation, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,’ suggests that it is only by being yoked together with him that we can really discover that he is indeed ‘meek and lowly of heart.’ Furthermore, it is these qualities of his character which make his yoke easy and his burden light.

The scribes and Pharisees were arrogant and domineering. They were overconfident about their positions of authority, and had instituted harsh, repressive measures in an effort to maintain their lordship. This meant that their ‘yoke’ was heavy and burdensome, yet they refused to lift as much as a little finger to help those who were struggling under its load.

But how different it was with Jesus! He was ‘meek’ and ‘lowly.’ He had sympathy for the people, and was always ready to extend mercy to erring ones who recognized their sins and sought forgiveness. In spite of the “contradiction of sinners,” (Heb. 12:3) Jesus maintained his lowly attitude of heart, and was composed before his enemies. The joy that was set before him of being with his Father in his throne gave him strength to endure unjust humiliation and disgrace in the eyes of his fellow Israelites. So he was glad to humble himself under the mighty hand of God, knowing that God, in his own time and way, would exalt him.

Now we are yoked together with this meek and lowly one. We are weak, but he is strong. He knows our every imperfection, our every limitation, and will allow just that portion of the load to fall upon us which we are able to bear. The remainder he will carry himself, and in the spirit of true understanding and sympathy. Jesus knows our every weakness and adjusts our load according to our ability to bear. In this way his yoke is ‘easy’ and his burden is ‘light.’


This does not mean that the Christian way, according to the flesh, is an easy one. Rather, it is “strait” (Matt. 7:14), difficult. When we think of Paul’s experiences, for example, we realize that he did not have a life of ease. Nor was the burden of Christ’s work which he bore a light one. As a matter of fact, from the standpoint of the flesh, Paul was evidently crushed under the weight of the burden which was given him to bear. Nevertheless, Paul viewed his load as a New Creature in Christ Jesus, so he could and did refer to his burden as a “light affliction,” which was but temporary—“for a moment”—and expressed his confidence that it was working out for him “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—II Cor. 4:17

Despite the fact that Paul was troubled on every hand, he enjoyed that ‘rest’ which Jesus promised to all those who go to him in sincerity and humility, who learn of him, and take his yoke. And it is important for all who are yoked together with Christ to be guided by his example of meekness and lowliness. Our agreement to take his yoke implies humble submission to his will. If we are not ‘meek’ and ‘lowly’ we will find the yoke very burdensome, and at times, perhaps, almost overwhelming.

If we are not ‘meek’ and ‘lowly’ we will want to go our own way rather than to follow the leadings of the Master. To the extent that we do, we will be working against Christ instead of with him. Thus, instead of lightening our burdens, the weight of Divine providence will be against us in order that we might be brought back into full submission and cooperation as yokefellows with Christ. And it is a singular thing that trials which are borne in humility and submission to the Divine will are ‘light,’ while possibly the same experiences, if permitted as discipline, could be very burdensome.

Paul wore Christ’s yoke in the spirit of true meekness. He did not attempt to guide himself, but humbly placed himself under subjection to Christ, and walked together with him in humble obedience. Sometimes the road led to prison and the stock; at other times to public beatings and stonings which left him near death. He encountered perils of the sea and perils of the land. Tiring labor and painful toil also often were his lot. Yet it was all as an ‘easy yoke,’ and a burden that was ‘light,’ for Christ was with him in the yoke. Thus Paul had peace and rest and joy, even while he suffered and died.


Many of the Lord’s people can testify that they, like Paul, have enjoyed a sweet and blessed rest, even in the midst of poverty, sickness, persecution, and when surrounded on every hand by enemies of Christ. Certainly it is not a rest of body, but of the mind and heart. One of the prophets wrote, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.”—Isa. 26:3

None can know the blessedness of this rest until it is experienced, and none can experience it except by taking the Master’s yoke, and learning of him—learning what an understanding and gracious partner he is; how sympathetically he bears every burden which is too great for us; and in every time of trial comforts us with the assurance that his grace will be sufficient for all our needs.

The world is feverishly seeking rest and happiness in many and various ways, but not finding it. Some are seeking after wealth, thinking that therein is the secret of contentment and rest. Others try to forget their burdens by burying themselves in worldly—and ofttimes sinful—pleasures, only to find their efforts futile and that their cup of pleasure turns to bitterness and disappointment.

We are in the world, but not of it, and by being yoked with Christ we find a rest that is genuine and abiding. And the ‘fulness’ (Rom. 15:29) of this rest will be attained only if we seek it in a meek and quiet spirit. Jesus himself enjoyed peace and rest of heart and mind because he meekly and quietly yielded his all to the doing of his Father’s will. If in any degree we fail along this line our rest will not be complete, and the burden we are called upon to bear will seem heavy.

Let us, then, cultivate the graces of meekness and patient submission to the will of God. To do this we will need to have confidence in his love and care; and to realize that in his infinite wisdom he knows what is best for us. This will not be easy for the flesh, but as New Creatures (II Cor. 5:17) our joy will increase, and, in looking back and noting the blessings which have accrued from walking with the Lord, we will be able to praise the way he has led us day by day.


Another important secret of true rest in being yoked with Christ is to have the proper motive, which is love. To whatever extent we view our experiences from a selfish standpoint, we will fail just that much in attaining the full rest for which we labor. Love “beareth all things,” Paul wrote. (I Cor. 13:7) If love prompted our consecration to the Lord, and in love we are laying down our lives as Jesus did, trials and abuses which may be heaped upon us will be seen in their true perspective—as pertaining only to our fleshly interests—and thus, as New Creatures we will be able to endure them.

Most of our trials—the burdensome experiences of life—result from the loss of something: our health, our reputation, our friends, our money, or something else considered by the flesh to be valuable and important. But our consecration calls for giving up all of these, and we should be concerned only with walking faithfully as true yokefellows with Christ. Their loss, therefore, should indeed be looked upon as a ‘light affliction,’ insignificant when compared with the joys and blessings which come to us day-by-day as a result of taking the Master’s yoke and learning of him.

Truly, from whatever proper standpoint we consider it, his yoke is ‘easy’ and his burden is ‘light.’ There is no other ‘way’ that is so rich in meaning, and so satisfying in daily experience as the Christian way—the way of servitude with Christ. But even after taking his yoke by yielding our wills to him, our complete rest and joy will be realized only by maintaining a humble submission to him, strengthened in this by a full confidence that his way is best, and that eventually it will lead to an eternity of rest beyond the veil.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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