Of all our Christian T-shirts, the Bible Emergency Numbers is easily the most popular. You can see why. It lists 25 important Bible verses for 25 different situation you might face. Each verse can help guide you through a tough time, remind you to be faithful, or give you the lift you need to get through the day. In this post, we’ll dive into the first of those Bible emergency numbers to help you understand how that particular passage can help. Today we’re going to look at Matthew 11:25-30, for when you need peace and rest.
Peace and rest. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? What a wonderful thing it would be to have no stress, to be at rest, to not be on the go all the time. I don’t know many people who can say they feel that way most of the time. Stress seems to be an ever-present part of life.
I am told that a human being’s stress response is perfectly designed to give us the edge we need when we’re physically in danger. Our pulse quickens so we’re ready to spring immediately into action. Our body pumps adrenaline into our blood so we can use our muscles to their maximum ability.
That stress response, sometimes called “fight or flight,” is the perfect reaction to help us jump away from a careening car, but it doesn’t work as well for other perceived stresses. Most of us don’t face physical danger on a regular basis, but we do have social stress.
Social stress depends more on how we perceive a more vague or abstract stress. It’s different than dodging a car or running from an angry dog. Social stress comes from an imagined future situation.
We worry that we will make a mistake in the big presentation, so our hearts race the night before. We wonder whether our children will get the education they need, so school keeps us worried all the time. We become awkward when we meet people, because we don’t want to make a bad impression.
Spiritual distress, however, can be even worse that social stress. Our minds cling to past sins, rolling them through our psyche over and over again. When it get bad enough, we might even wonder whether God forgives us. We might believe that he could never love someone like us.
That spiritual distress can get even worse when people tell us that the only way to get out of it is to do more. Consider this story:
Jane (not her real name) was a counselor at a Christian campground. Every week, they’d get a new batch of kids, and it was Jane’s job to help them connect with Christ over that week. She’d guide them through Bible studies or help them with crafts. She loved the work, and felt connected to God.
After a while, though, she felt like there was a widening gap between her and God. The fire she felt early in the summer wasn’t as hot. It seemed like he was more distant. It kept getting worse every week, so she approached the camp pastor. He told her to pray more and read the Bible more. If she worked hard enough on her relationship with Jesus, she’d feel close to him again.
But it didn’t work. The pastors advice eventually made it worse. The harder she tried, the more distant she felt, and it sent her into terrible despair.
The pastor told her that her own works and struggles would help her feel close to God, but it only made her distress worse. What should he have done instead? What could have made her distress less distressing?
Instead of pointing her to her own prayer and her own reading, the pastor should have pointed her to what Jesus has already done for her. Jesus came down from heaven for her. He lived a perfect life for her. He suffered and died for her. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven for her.
Do any of those things depend on her prayer? Of course not. Does her salvation and relationship with God depend on her spiritual struggle? No. It depends on the work that Jesus has already done on the cross. Jesus died for Jane, and that doesn’t depend on how close she feels to God. It doesn’t depend on her living a good life or how much she reads her Bible. It only depends on Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28-30, 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.”
Jesus gives us rest, not because we follow the right spiritual practices or do the right works, but because he has died for us. He extends his grace no matter our circumstances or feelings.
That’s why he tells us. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He has done the heavy lifting for us. He has done the work for us. He has carried the heavy burden of God’s law, because he knows we can’t do it.
So, it doesn’t matter if we feel distant from God. Jesus has come near to us. It doesn’t matter if we can’t live up to God’s law. Jesus was obedient for us. It doesn’t matter if we’re horrified by our sin. Jesus sacrificed himself to forgive us. We have peace and rest through him.
The same applies when we face terrible stress, too. So what if we mess up that big presentation. Does that change Jesus’ promise to us? No. Jesus has already won the victory for us. If our kids don’t get the education they need, it doesn’t change that Jesus gives us eternal life. If we end up hungry and homeless, that doesn’t take away Jesus’ promise of resurrection.
In the best or worst circumstances, Jesus gives us peace and rest, because he has done the work already.
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