Tired? Weary? Come to Jesus…

I try so hard. I really, really try hard. I give everything I have to do all the things. As I try I get tired. Weary is a word that I am becoming more acquainted with. I am finding it to be an apt description of my state of being many times.

Weary is more than tired, it won’t be solved by taking a nap. Weariness comes from a depletion of the soul within us. We have given so much of ourselves that we just don’t have anything left to give. We are like cups that have been poured out and never refilled. To be weary is a state of the soul, not the body.

When our body is tired we nap or go to bed early and we can recover. What do we do when our soul is weighted down, heavy, and exhausted?

Jesus said, “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)”

“Yoke” is a weird word. What is it? Here’s a picture that I think explains it better than words:

It’s like an ancient form of the three-legged race. The yoke allowed the farmer to control both oxen. The two animals would work in tandem to accomplish the work set out before them. If one was weaker the stronger would do more work.

Jesus is saying, we will get weary. When we do we come to him and we will find rest for our souls. Our soul work will be light and easy because he will carry the weight of it. He will carry the burden, not us. When we live our lives partnered with Jesus our souls find rest.

Jesus is gentle and humble. Because of this reality of who he is we don’t need to worry about coming to him. We can come to him in our weariness and know he will welcome us and partner with us.

When I find myself weary the reality is that I have disconnected myself from Jesus. I have begun to try and live this life on my own strength. The brokenness of this world and my own life will make me weary if I am not partnered with Jesus.

So, how do we do this? How do we stay connected and partnered with Jesus? We can’t see him or touch him. So how do we do this?

I am learning that we are to find our connection to Jesus in three important ways.

  1. First, through prayer. When we pray our hearts, minds, and souls connect to Jesus.
  2. Second, through Scripture. This includes private reading, meditation, and the corporate engagement of the Scripture with the people of God.
  3. Finally, in community. The Scriptures use the word “koinonia”. Being involved with the life of the people of God. This is not just sitting in a worship gathering with people. It is knowing and being known by them. It is doing life together.

As we live out these three things, we will find our souls lightened and the weariness will drift away. Why? Because we have partnered with Jesus who carries the burdens and pulls the weight for us.

Life Is Hard

Too many of us believe that life is supposed to be easy. We are surprised when it turns out to be hard and difficult. When bad things happen we are taken aback and we can’t figure out why “bad things happen to good people.”

The sad reality of living in a world that is broken and marred by sin is that bad things do happen. There is trouble, there is pain, there is sadness. We live in a state of entropy. There is randomness and a decline into disorder. Because of this there will be trouble.

I am grateful that the Scriptures do not sugar coat this life. They point us to reality and if we listen will be better prepared for when the heartbreak and sadness comes.

Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we are ourselves are consoled by God. (2 Cor 1:3-4).”

What strikes me from the outset is that Paul assumes trouble affliction. There’s no “if”, it simply stated as a reality. God will console or comfort us in our affliction. We must engage and enter into the world knowing that affliction is part of life. It will come, we ought not be surprised by it. If we know it’s coming we can be prepared. We can know that there is a God who will comfort us and care for us. He will be our rock in times of trouble.

God is a consoling God, he is compassionate and merciful. God does not just have sympathy for his people. He has compassion and enters in to console. He is moved to action in light of our affliction. In a very real way, God moved into the neighborhood in the person of Jesus.

His care for us extends to “all our affliction.” There is no pain or sorrow that God won’t meet us in. He will join us in our pain and console us. We never have to fear being alone in our trouble.

His care for us is not for us alone. It is also for those in our lives. When we are consoled and cared for in our hurt we can turn around care for others. Our lives can reflect our all comforting God. We are to become wounded healers. In our wounded-ness we can enter in and be God’s representatives to those around us. This is how God works. He is represented by his people to his people.

Often when we are in the midst of our affliction and pain we ask, “Where is God?” God is in the neighbor or friend who takes you to coffee and listens. He is in the friend who asks, “What can I do?” God is among us in one another.

“I AM”

Some words mean more than others. They point us to a truth or depth that is beyond what the words mean on the surface.

“Lord Stanley’s Cup” means something so profound to many people that they get a chill just thinking about it. I remember the first time that I was in the presence of “The Cup” and I stood there wondering if I should even touch it. It was awesome.

In the Bible we learn that the name of God is “I AM.”

This little phrase was so significant that many tried to avoid using that construction in reference to themselves.

Then Jesus comes along and embraces it as his own. In the gospel of John, Jesus self-identifies as “I AM” seven times.

I am the bread of life. John 6:35

I am the light of the world. John 8:12

I am the gate the for the sheep. John 10:7

I am the good shepherd. John 10:11

I am the resurrection and the life. John 11:25

I am the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6

I am the true vine. John 15:1

Perhaps I am making to big of a deal out of the “I AM” construction. It may not be anything significant. It may just be language and that is how it works itself out. Nonetheless, Jesus is at the very least telling seven important things about who he is. He is helping us know God through him beyond just his name.

For a long time John 14:6 has been most interesting to me. It has captured my imagination. Early on in my Christian life the emphasis was on “the truth.” This demanded me to prove Jesus as the truth. I jumped from this verse to the necessity of objective truth. I look back at those days and am grateful for the study that it propelled me into. I am thankful for the friends who gently and not so gently called me out on being “puffed up” in my own intellect and my arrogance.

These days, I can’t seem to escape from “way” and “life.”

There’s a bit of this verse that I left off above, “no one comes to the Father but through me.” To come to the Father we need to walk the way, truth, and life of Jesus. We come to the Father through Jesus this means that we must live into his way, truth, and life.

How? What is the way, truth, and life of Jesus?

I think that the best picture we get of that is in the Sermon on the Mount. The beatitudes really function as a summary statement in the opening of Matthew 5 and then through the rest of 5, chapter 6, and chapter 7 we get them all fleshed out.

Consider this life,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is the life of the way. The way of Jesus is marked by these things. These are not nice little ideas. No, these are calls for us who claim to follow Jesus to live his life. These are flesh and blood, here and now realities of how to live. The Christian life is not an intellectual pursuit. It is a lived faith. We enter into this world and empty ourselves by living the Jesus way. As we do we find out that he offers us so much more. We discover that on the way, we come to truth and life.

Don’t Lose Heart…

Life is hard.

Fact.

We have seasons of life being “easy,” but by and large, life is hard.

Why? Because the reality is that we live in a world that is broken. It’s a marvelous and beautiful world, but there is brokenness everywhere. In Christianity, we call this “sin.” Because humanity has set aside it’s identity as image bearer of the Creator we experience sin and brokenness. We were made for Eden. Deep down in the core of our being we are drawn to the beautiful and the good because that is who we are. Yet, as a result of our choosing idolatry and self over the worship of God, this world, within which we live, is no longer perfect.

We long for a better world. In the face of struggle, strife, and toil it would be easy to lose heart.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)”

Paul’s life was marked by pain, sadness, heartbreak, and persecution. He experienced real tragedy. When he writes this it is not coming from a position of privilege. He was not a man who lived a charmed life. This was written by someone who truly knew the pain of life.

He highlights three key things that helped him not to lose heart. First, he embraced an inner reality that allowed him to be “renewed day by day.” I think this inner reality is based in what he had just written in the previous paragraph, “It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. (2 Cor 13-14)” The inner reality that he knew was that of the risen Jesus. Because Jesus was raised he knew that he too would be raised. This allowed them to renewed every day, in a sense, a daily resurrection.

Second, he looked toward glory. Knowing that there was an “eternal glory” that awaited him he saw the troubles of his life as momentary and light. The word “glory” is closely related to “heavy.” Paul’s play on words here draws his readers into his reality. What awaits him (and us) is substantial and weighty, glory. The here and now in comparison is light and momentary. This reminds me of the way the Preacher in Hebrews describes Jesus as he faced the cross, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:2b-3)”

Finally, Paul looked at existence in light of eternity. He understood that there was more to existence than what he saw in the moment. Eternity awaits each of us. When we live in light of eternity it provides for us perspective. Compared to eternity this life is but a blink of an eye. We can endure the pain and brokenness because we know of an eternity where pain, sorrow, and death is no more. In that land we will live forever.

Life is indeed hard. But, because of the resurrection, the hope of glory, and the perspective of eternity we can endure and not lose heart.

Remain In Me

How do we live the Christian life? What does it mean for us to be the “Church”? How do we experience continued spiritual growth?

Jesus said this, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).”

The stark reality for the Christian is that to live the Christian life we must stay deeply connected to Jesus. He uses this beautiful picture of the vine and the branches to paint this picture for us.

Every spring I prune my landscaping. I cut back the branches. I cut down the old growth from the previous year that has withered over the winter. When I’m finished the landscape looks a bit empty. Yet, something amazing happens. In a few days there is new growth and it happens fast. The branches that have been removed dry out over night and become useless.

We as people are just like that. For us to bear fruit we are pruned and we must remain the vine. If we become disconnected from Jesus our faith withers and dies. Yet, if we remain connected to Jesus our life is marked by fruit. This fruit is laid out for us by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (vv 22-23)”

The “do nothing” of Jesus’ statement is related to this fruit. He is not saying that if we are disconnected from him we will become catatonic. Jesus is saying that we will not see this “fruit of the Spirit” developed in us. If we remain in him then we will see “much fruit” developed in our lives.

The idea of the Greek word translated “remain” has the idea of staying with, dwelling, and living with. To “remain” in Jesus is to live with him, in a very real sense to be with him. As we are with Jesus we will see that fruit of the Spirit begin to grow and develop in us.

But how? How do we be with Jesus? How do we keep on being with Jesus? 

First, be in community with the people of God. The Scriptures use the metaphor of “body of Christ” for the people who seek to follow him. What better way than to stay connected with Jesus than to be deeply rooted and connected with his body in community? I can’t think of one. This goes well beyond the 90 minute Sunday “experience.” This means living life with one another in community. If your faith community is dislocated from you, then I’d challenge you to consider a community of faith more closely connected to where you physically live.

Second, be in prayer. When we pray we mystically come into the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a difficult spiritual discipline. It is awkward and hard. It can feel boring. Yet, when we commit ourselves to prayer we will find a deeper connection to our God because it grounds us in him. How do you start with prayer? Try praying through the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) and dwelling on each line allowing it to direct you.

Finally, be in the Scriptures. When we read the Scriptures they open our minds and hearts to God. We learn about him and ourselves. How do you start with this? First, just read. Start with the Gospel of John and just read. Allow yourself to be immersed into the story. When you are ready to go deeper I have found asking five questions of the text to be helpful:

  1. What stands out in the passage?
  2. What do I not understand about the passage?
  3. What do I learn about God?
  4. What do I learn about people?
  5. What do I need to do in light of the passage?

If we are connected with the people of God, consistently in prayer, and consistently in the Scriptures we will remain in Jesus and we will bear much fruit.