“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
–Matthew 11:29 (NLT)
When I heard the phone ring one night, I groaned and told my wife, “I hope that wasn’t the hospital.” We are both hospital chaplains, so we are supposed to care for the sick and dying. Immediately I felt guilty, and that moment was the beginning of a journey for me.
I have asked myself over time, “Am I doing my job out of a sense of duty? Or am I doing it out of love for Jesus?”
At a men’s breakfast put together recently by our church, I learned something that made me think even more, so I would like to pass it along. A missionary named Jeff was the guest speaker that morning. He had his own ministry in Mexico. He told us all about some people in the hill country who had never heard the gospel. They saw him as a threat, and they were very antagonistic towards him.
One day, a gang of men with rifles asked Jeff what he was doing. Jeff explained that he and his crew didn’t mean them any harm, but the guerrilla fighters kept their rifles aimed at him anyway.
I will finish this true story soon, but there are some lessons which we can learn here. By his own admission, my brother in Christ was not superhuman. He was super-scared. He was facing eternity, but he stood his ground.
Let’s look at what I think sets Jeff apart from those of us who might have hightailed it out of there. Jeff handled the situation by remembering and meditating on the words of Jesus who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” Whenever you face an overwhelming situation, take a deep breath and think about what those words mean.
There was know way he could have known this, but Jeff’s story struck close to home with me. In one of my former blog entries, I have also talked about putting on Christ’s yoke. today, however, I would like to take that idea further. Instead of just talking about teaming up with Christ and ending my thoughts there, I want to talk about the characteristics of the yoke he asks us to put on. Then we will discuss the byproduct of wearing it.
If you read on in this passage, Jesus described His yoke as being easy. Weneed to stop here and ask ourselves what He was saying. Before we go any further, though, I want to point out that Christ never once said that life would be easy. However, He told us that His yoke was easy to bear.
Teaming up with Christ simply means submitting to Him, and letting Him guide us. The first characteristic we see when we put His yoke on, then, is love. For God loved the world so much that He gave His all and His best. What that means for you and me is huge, for there are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom. Whatever you may be facing, God loves you with an unending love.
We don’t have to be bound any longer by the chains of fear, hatred or unforgiveness. Because of God’s love, we can live our lives in a new and exciting way. By asking Him, we can appropriate His love, which acts like a lubricant. While our feelings may not change all at once, God’s love changes our hearts as we are conformed into His image.
Unfortunately, however, we may choose to wriggle out of Christ’s yoke. Many times, when we face life’s storms, we blame them on God and go our own way. Then, instead of experiencing His joy–our next characteristic–we usually wonder why we feel depressed.
But think of the story of the prodigal son. He was a taker, but he had to pay the price in the end. When a person has a joyful heart, giving becomes a lifestyle. We are told by the world to take all that we can get, but the yoke of Jesus leads us to live quite differently. Jesus lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that true joy has an open hand.
So when hard times come, rather than blaming Him, we can know that God is in control. The Bible says that He has every hair on our heads numbered, and he knows the end from the beginning. If we choose to trust God, and take His yoke upon us moment by moment, we can experience a phenomenal sense of peace that the world can’t comprehend. We don’t have to fall apart when everything seems to be crumbling around us. We will be able to stand firm if we know God’s peace. He becomes what we need, and offers us strength through His Word.
Lastly, let’s talk about the byproducts of this kind of lifestyle. We often choose to live in defeat, and carry around heavy and unnecessary burdens. Some examples of these might be what I spoke about above, or you can come up with your own list.
But like a man taking off a heavy backpack, you can take these burdens off at any time by giving them to Jesus.
The trouble is that we often get used to our personal baggage. Our burdens may drain us, and we don’t feel right otherwise.
As I alluded to above, feelings can be a tool which Satan may use against you. He doesn’t want you to experience the love, joy and peace that I spoke about. In fact, Jesus called Satan a thief. The devil wants to steal your blessings, and he does not care if you crash and burn.
On the other hand, Jesus said that His burden was light, and this is where we will pick up the story about our friend Jeff. God had given him a burden for those guerrilla Mexican people, and he was willing to face eternity for them. Instead of living a life of drudgery and duty, Christ wanted them to know through Jeff that He could change their hearts.
We last left Jeff with a bunch of guns pointed at his head. But the power of Christ was stronger than the powers of darkness. The leader of the guerrillas told his men to put their guns down as he gave his life to the King of Kings.
This story has led me on a quest to ask myself if I have that kind of love. Christ just asks me and you to put on His yoke, and He will give you the strength to surmount those things which are holding you back.
Sound simple? It is, but putting on Christ’s yoke can transform our lives into beautiful works in progress. Doing this, however, is a moment-by-moment decision, just as it was in Jeff’s case.
Now that our story has ended, I ask you this question. Are our lives marked by routine and duty, or are they being formed by Christ’s hand, as He helps you put on His yoke?
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6498. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.