Pastor Dan Haugen
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who, together with the Holy Spirit, are three in one.
Time magazine did a story back in the 1960’s on time management. In that story Time noted that expert testimony was given to a senate sub-committee on time management that predicted that advances in technology would radically change how many hours a week people would have to work at their jobs. They forecast that the average American would be working 22 hours a week within 20 years. “The great challenge,” the experts said, “would be figuring out what to do with all the excess time.” Now over 50 years later, after major advances in technology – how many of you are wondering what to do with all of the excess time on your hands?
We all would like a little more time but it seems the more we advance in technology to make our lives easier, the more things we try to cram into any extra time it might give us. Trying to find an hour and a half to teach theater during the week with 6 kids is nearly impossible because today parents schedule their kids with so many things that they don’t really have time to be kids anymore.
Today we are more burdened than ever before, and time is not the only burden we share. Many have other burdens that they must carry in life like physical disabilities, chronic sickness, and mental anguish.
Some struggle with spiritual burdens, relationship burdens, job burdens, marriage burdens, and emotional burdens. On and on it goes and nobody seems to know where it goes and too many don’t have a clue where to find relief. They try to cope the best way they can on their own, hoping not to have their burden, burden other’s. Because of this, stress is at an all-time high and anxiety seems to ruin more and more lives.
A Chinese woman lost her only son and could not find comfort for her grief so she visited a wise old man and asked what she might do to find peace. He said, “Go to a home that has no sorrow or grief, and bring back a mustard seed, and I will restore your son.” Days turned into weeks, finally the grieving woman returned to the wise old man and she said, “I have been so selfish in my grief…I have found that sorrow is common to every home.”
Yes, we all have problems, we all have fallen short, we all have something weighing on us. We don’t all have wealth or power or fame but we all share in one accord, we all have burdens. Every day in our lives presents a new opportunity for burdens to weigh us down with still more.
So, where does God fit into the equation towards our relief? Does He really care about what we are going through? Who will lift this weight off our shoulders? Who can understand the burden we are under enough to help us?
There is an answer and it’s an answer we all know is there, but rely on too little. God truly does care. In our Gospel lesson in Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Come to me all of you who struggle with too little time and too many responsibilities. Come to me all of you that have been crushed by the weight of the world. Come to me all of you who are suffering from sickness and grief. Come to me all of you and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
God knows our every weakness and He knew that, because of sin, our lives would forever be a challenge. Sin makes life difficult for us because it’s put into our world all those things that God would have kept us from because He knew these things would bring us mounting burden upon burden. He knew that life would be difficult because now through Adam, we have come to know too much.
We wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil. We wanted to know what He knows, so now we share the burden He wanted to save us from.
Now, we must carry our problems, our guilt and our shame. Now we are forced to deal with broken relationships, imperfect bodies and a whole host of other trials and failures.
But, though we forced these burdens upon ourselves, our God has given us relief. He sent His Son to take the greatest of these burdens upon Himself. He sent Him to teach us and His Holy Spirit to guide us. He has prepared a way that He might help us carry our load. He sent us a Savior because, alone, our backs could never stand the weight that sin has placed upon them.
Alex, my youngest son, called me soon after he got engaged. Now, this was a big step because Alex tends to overthink things and, because of this, he’s afraid of commitments and this is the biggest one imaginable. He was stressed about it all, “What if I screw this whole thing up? What if I never become the guy she really deserves? What if my eyes wonder and my mind starts thinking things it shouldn’t? What if? What if? What if? He was burdened.
We had the greatest talk. First I reminded him that he comes from a long line of over-thinkers. His dad, for example, couldn’t commit to being a pastor until he thought about it real well…..for 32 years.
Next, I told him that marriage is a challenge and that he was bound to make mistakes just like we all do because we are faulty people living in a faulty world.
Then I told him, as I am telling you, where to go when your burdens are heavy. It’s so curious how we so often forget about Christ and the comfort and peace that He gives. In the end, I am happy to say, he felt much better. Just a case of pre-marriage jitters many future husbands get.
Jesus used the lingo of the day to make His point about His ability to help us carry our load. He said that his “yoke” was easy. In those days they had different sized yoke for their oxen. On strong, sturdy animals they would place the heavier yoke. It was His way of telling us that our burdens would never be more then we could handle as long as He was the one to guide us.
In like manner, his yoke is made after the same pattern, the heavy end is upon His shoulders and the lighter upon ours. Christ came to earth so that He could bare the weight of the problems that sin had caused us.
Jesus is telling us, loud and clear, that we don’t have to carry the burdens of the world alone, we don’t have to let the weight of our failures stop us on our journey through life, we don’t have to let the frustrations we feel rule who we are, we don’t have to let sickness or death be the end.
He offers us the chance to bring all those burdens to Him so that He might shoulder them with us. He will carry our burdens, He will lighten our loads.
Jesus knows our struggles more than we do and he has promised us that the burdens He will place on us will never come out of malice and will never be placed on us to the point we cannot handle them. No, He tells us that He is gentle and lowly of heart. The burdens we so often find ourselves in are usually those that we have created for ourselves. We are our own worst enemies because we try to lead our lives by carrying the heavy yoke alone. We fail to take God up on His offer to help us in our times of trouble because we would rather figure them out on our own. Meanwhile we fall deeper and deeper into the abyss of anxiety and misfortune.
Often this is caused because people don’t truly realize just what God is offering here. They see Christianity as just replacing one set of burdens with another. We might find a way to give us direction but now I’m going to be forced to be perfect all the time. To get relief, I’m going to have to pass the test. They imagine a somber life with their head hung low, never celebrating but always feeling bad because we could never measure up.
But a life in Christ is anything but that. Jesus wants to release us from our burdens so that we might have reason to celebrate. He died so that we could hold our heads up high with our eyes turned toward heaven.
He has given you every answer for the things we will be tested on in life and I would venture to say that every one of us owns the textbook where the answers might be found.
Jesus wants us to enjoy the life He has given us, so He bears our burdens and replaces them, not with the strictness of the law but with the beauty of His grace, the security of His love, the gentleness of His mercy and the tenderness of His forgiveness. In fact, he provides us with the only option that will cover the whole multitude of troubles.
So, am I saying that if you trust in Jesus with your whole heart that all your troubles will go away? No! We will still have the scars of sins to deal with, we will still have temptations that will attempt to drag us off the narrow path, we will still have hardships and pains. But those who put their full trust in Christ will know where to go when their burdens weigh them down. Through faith, we will understand the gift that God is offering and take Him up on His offer to carry the load with us. He has broad shoulders so that He may carry the heavier yoke.
This is important for us all to understand because all of us have our own burdens. Our life stories are riddled with problems and setbacks that we have tried to fight alone with little success. One of the greatest gifts I receive as your pastor is when I am blessed enough to visit you in your homes. It’s here I learn of some of the burdens you have been forced to endure in your lives, all with varying degrees of success.
In many stories of hardship, however, I hear another story of deliverance. I hear the same story over and over about how God has rescued you from the grips of torment, how He has released you from guilt, how He has strengthened you in faith. Beautiful stories from faithful members of God’s family. I am often inspired by what I hear, clearly getting the most benefit from our visits.
All of us need help now and again. All of us need to hear that we are loved and that everything will be OK in the end, all of us need to know that we don’t have to face our burdens alone from time to time.
Well then, let me be the bearer of Good News:
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock.”
“Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Some of you today are feeling crushed under the burdens life has given you and you may even be getting bitter towards God for not taking those burdens from you…but please realize it may be His will to lift you up, to mold you and shape you, but not to make you face anything alone.
We complain because of our hardships in life never fully realizing how terrible things would be if God didn’t care and were not there for us, believers and non-believers as well.
Jesus wants us to come to Him in our times of trouble. He wants for us to give Him the burdens that weigh us down. He wants to free you in this life so that we might look forward to our life with Him for all eternity. Jesus takes our heavy burdens of brokenness from us, and replaces them with the burdens of caring for others, being an example to others, helping others with the burdens of life that weigh them down and the most amazing thing is that a burden carried out of love will seem so much lighter than one that is carried because of all the brokenness of this world. Jesus helps us carry our burdens so that we can, in turn, be His instrument of love to others.
Why does God care? Because He created us to be His own, in His own image, so that we could be in a right relationship with him. He cares because His love was so potent that it simply had to be shared. Cast your burdens on Him. Accept His invitation to be your one hope. He waits with open arms.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Amen