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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. —Matthew 11:28-29 NIV
You’ve read these words countless times. You have heard multiple sermons on these verses. You may have even read a book that reflected on this passage.
It’s a perplexing idea. Yokes aren’t known for being easy. Have you ever googled “yoke” before? If you haven’t, you can do it now. I’ll wait.
It doesn’t look very gentle or restful, does it? They look heavy, hard and constraining. If you’re like me, working in the church can feel that way sometimes.
I remember when I first started in group life ministry. I felt called to follow God’s leading. I stepped out in faith to see Kingdom impact and rely on Him.
At the same time I was overwhelmed getting acquainted with the type of work and the reach of our ministry. It was a big change that hundreds of people were engaged in something I was organizing. I told someone once, “It feels like I have 200 bosses.” Lots of people with lots of opinions. I often felt tense and unsure.
Group life ministry is especially prone to fatigue because you are presented with so many moving targets. Nothing is more complex and dynamic than relationships. Our response to that can be optimistic gumption or a great deal of stress.
Maybe you’re feeling the stress. Maybe your ministry has you “weary and burdened.”
In the very next chapter of Matthew, Jesus is confronted for picking grain and healing a man on the Sabbath. He bumped up against the additional rules and regulations the Pharisees had put on top of God’s Sabbath commands.
God’s people were first called to a yoke of rest. In an effort to please Him they added rules and regulations. They added weight after weight until a yoke of rest became a yoke of burden.
What was your original yoke or calling from God? Think back to the infancy of your call to ministry. Go back in time and remember the specifics. Was God exact or was He elusive? Did he whisper or shout it to you? Did others speak into it and affirm God’s call? Get really specific and remember the exact moment.
That was the yoke God called you to take. If we get really honest with ourselves we might find that the burdens we carry are decidedly not from Him. Our good intentions might lead us to add weights that were never intended. Those weights cause us to feel stress.
For every ounce of stress in group life ministry, there is a pound of joy. We get front row seats to see what God is up to in the church. When we get back to the yoke God has given us originally we find rest. It’s exactly the rest so many of us desperately need.