Labor Day Musing: True rest for those labored and burdened

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend with Monday being Labor Day in the United States. This is a time set aside to rest from our toiling at being productive members of the workforce and taking a day of ease and rest. For me today the verse Matthew 11:28 (ESV) has come to mind:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

This simple statement is profound.  Jesus is giving and invitation to a difficulty many experience.  The statement contains three elements; the invitation, the invitee, and the result of accepting the invitation.  Those elements are worth more specific examination.

First, there is the invitation: Come to me. It is a simple request and formed in an imperative tone that is very direct and certain.  Jesus directs the invitee to come to him.  The word come is not a passive word. It sets a firm direction.  It takes an act of moving from one location to another. Here that direction is toward Jesus. Wherever one is, they need to change and move toward Jesus. Now it is interesting that the word in the Greek translated as me is μέ that encompasses all elements of self, I, me, and my. So in essence, Jesus is requesting and directing others to set their direction toward all of Him.  It is a request of a directed action, not a passive response. It is a movement away from whatever direction one is on, which in most cases would be that of a self-chosen direction, and a move toward Jesus.

Now the second element is the invitees. Here Jesus addresses a particular group.  The group he is addressing are those that are tired from the work they have engaged in and are weighed down with burdens they cannot bear on their own.  He is directing any that have come to the limits of their own effort and feel unable to go further to set their direction to him.  It is a call to cease the striving of self that drains energy and adds weight and to look and move toward one that can provide aid.  If one is at a place in life where there daily refrain is “I’m tired” or “I cannot take much more” Jesus invites to turn your direction to him and cease the striving. Jesus answer is quite different from that of the world.  The world points to need for constant effort and striving followed by momentary periods of relief in the varied offerings of momentary relief and pleasure.  Jesus rather, calls to actively head in a different direction. He does not direct toward the numbing actions of pleasure and distraction but an active turn in direction.

Jesus invitation comes with an exact and defined benefit.  Jesus states that the benefit of coming to him is rest.  He offers the opposite of the state of the invitees.  Those that are “tired” and “cannot take any more” can find rest by moving toward Jesus. The act of turning toward Jesus that brings the rest, rather it is what Jesus gives.  He gives the rest if you come to Him. Now, it is worth noting that the concept of rest here is far beyond what we consider rest.  It is not just a recharging of energy, but complete refreshment at deep levels.  The rest Jesus offers is more than a good nap or a good night sleep. It is even more than an extended vacation. It is a rest that brings one alive.  What Jesus has to give is beyond anything we can do for self. It is beyond our comprehension and what we experience in the short term is only but a taste of the rest that is to come, where there is no strife and no need to be tired or heavy laden.  And everyone does reach a point of being tired and burdened. Everyone needs rest. Even God himself rested. And by coming to Jesus, we are given God’s rest.

Coming to Jesus is not a onetime action.   Yes, we all need to come to Jesus to receive salvation, which is the starting point and initial gift of rest.  A ceasing of the striving of self.  We  need to continue coming to Jesus.  In this world, much is difficult and hard.  We can become labored and burdened without physical exertion.  Some of being labored and heavy laden comes in the looking out for self, in our own affairs. We get hurt, we have desires that go unmet, we struggle.  In fact, we all experience daily the impact of sin as the whole of creation has been impacted by sin.  The very act of coming to Jesus is at heart a turn from self-focus.  When you focus on being tired or burdened, it actually adds to the drain.  The more you focus on the state of self, the harder it becomes.  The very act of coming to Jesus changes focus.  Then when we actually surrender to Jesus and accept what He offers each of us, we are uplifted and refreshed.  Now the reader may state  “well tried that and there was no immediate relief.”  This can be true, for as Jesus will give us rest when we come, perceiving the rest is not always immediate but know that Jesus always keeps His word.  When you come to Jesus you will receive rest, in His time. He will give the rest if you come. This is fact. When you do not see or perceive it, trust this truth, for He who promised is faithful. When you come, He will give rest. Place you faith in this for it is assured!

Labor Day Musings: Need for rest

Today is Labor Day. It is a national holiday in the United States since 1882 when the first Labor Day was celebrated.  According to the governmental history on Labor Day the idea of the holiday was proposed Peter McGuire who also was a primary founder of the labor/union movements in the United States of America.  The day was all about taking a day to acknowledge the American worker. It was one of many reforms to the American workplace.

Essentially labor day is centered on the principle of rest. It was recognized that Americans put in long hours for little pay and bad conditions in the late 1800’s.  Taking a day to set aside all work each year was found to be a valuable, no better way to recognize those that do hard work but to give them an extra day of rest.  And so we have this day in the United States where rest is encouraged.

It is noticeable that while the late 1800’s focus worked hard at reducing the work day and improving working conditions that people are voluntarily doing things that folks like Peter McGuire fought to change.  We care more about expanding our own personal kingdoms that we willing work long, hard hours at times even without pay. The focus is on expanding self and making sure all ends meet, and we will do whatever it takes.  Most often at the expense of rest.

Rest is important.  God rested. God in his instructions as found in the instructions of law known as Torah emphasized rest.  God even emphasized rest in the Ten commandments.  God made it clear rest is important.  God not only pointed to a day of rest from self and focus on God known as Sabbath but He also prescribed rest for land and rest for debt.  God set up a perfect system of rest designed to work in accordance with the nature of creation. Yet, those principles have not been followed. Israel failed to follow the principles of resting land and debt and part of why they paid huge consequences.   If we do not take rest, it impacts us and impacts creation. 

So the question here than is if rest is so important and God set up directives to rest what do we do.  Well, we need to build and incorporate God’s principles into our lives.  We need to take weekly rest and focus on God.  We need to take time to cease from striving.  We need to take rest important. 

The emphasis God placed on rest is really a picture of redemption. It is about not striving in self and depending on God. It is giving people  a chance at restoration when things got difficult.  Sadly God’s principles of rest were ignored and set aside while folks seek to expand self and continual seek expansion of their kingdoms.  We fail to turn our hearts and minds to God, much less seek to depend on Him.  Ongoing surrender to God is the perfect rest and is made available through Jesus the Messiah.  God made clear that work and rest need to go together and that true rest is found on dependence on him.  However, rest comes difficult so much that the majority of people reject God’s rest found in Jesus the Messiah and continue to work toward that which benefits self.  Israel paid a great price for ignoring the Jubilee and for those that reject the true rest found in dependence and surrender to Jesus, the consequences will also be severe.  Yet, the choice is for each person either continue with self-striving or turn to God’s rest.