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).
Have you ever noticed that directly after Jesus’ words, “I will give you rest,” his next words were, take my yoke upon you?” That can seem like a paradox. When we think of an animal being yoked, it implies the animal is being prepared to work.
When Jesus promises to give us rest, it doesn’t mean that we are a people who become stationary or sidelined. On the contrary, we are called to serve the Lord diligently and with a sense of urgency. “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
Yet, we can and should simultaneously find rest and fervently serve the Lord. How do we do that? Through the Holy Spirit.
To rest in the Lord means that we are serving Him while relying on His strength and provision, rather than on our own. There’s a familiar saying, “Let go, and let God.” We should discipline ourselves to relegate the reigns to God. Whenever we strain to serve the Lord in our own abilities, our strength and resources will wither down and can become depleted at some point. But as we surrender and depend on God’s abilities, we are continually refreshed in His strength and supplied with His resources. And His strength and resources are limitless.
Jesus gives us the illustration of being yoked alongside Him, while He is the One pulling the load. It is as if we are along for a scroll next to Him and watching as He moves mountains.
In Isaiah, God affirmed: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
This verse is often quoted as a promise of God’s refreshment. It is that, but it’s deeper than that. It talks about being refreshed while also being active.
God promises that those whose hope is in Him “will renew their strength” while soaring, running or walking. Soaring, running, and walking are activities. So, God isn’t giving us a picture of a “sleeping” Christian but of an active Christian whose hope is in the Lord. This is someone who is tirelessly moving onward, wholly dependent on Christ. That is a portrait of a Christian who is renewed in strength.
Consider what it means to soar on wings like eagles? There are birds that can reach altitudes two or three times higher than what eagles can. But God doesn’t speak here about flying. He specifically used the word “soar.”
An eagle must exert itself by flapping its wings when it takes off to fly. But when it reaches the thermal currents in the air, it begins to soar, using little more effort than simply spreading its wings. Thermals are caused by warm air rising from the earth’s surface, and can lift a bird thousands of feet into the air. When an eagle soars, it glides and rides the air beneath it, while expending little energy.
An eagle takes off knowing it will hit the air currents to lift it up and carry it farther. This is somewhat like faith. As we first step out in faith, trusting the Holy Spirit, we wait for Him to sustain us and strengthen us as He carries us upward and onward. Like the currents of the air and wind carry an eagle, we can soar in Christ’s sustenance. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us that uplifting support and energy.
Again, the Lord says Christians can “run” without growing weary. How so?
For a person, running can be strenuous. People can train themselves to run great distances, but even then, it drains energy. However, there are animals who can run long distances while using little energy.
Two animals most adapted for long distance running are the ostrich and the pronghorn antelope. God created both of these animals with an anatomy to run at speeds faster than 30mph for extended times. Both are physically capable of maintaining enough speed and endurance that they could complete a marathon (26 miles) in about 45 minutes.
Of these, the ostrich could run the farthest, if it needed to. The Lord created ostriches with tendons in their legs that work like springs. As an ostrich runs, with each step their muscles and tendons recoil and generate energy that propel it forward into its next step. This perpetual action allows the ostrich to exert little energy even if running long distances. So, even if an ostrich were to run a marathon, it wouldn’t be fatigued afterward.
In Christ, we, too, can run without growing weary because the Lord is the “spring” in our step who acts as the catalyst to carry us onward. Believers have the empowerment of the Holy Spirit who perpetually propels us forward. As we obediently step forward, He energizes us with each step for the next step.
What about walking without growing faint? This may be compared to the difference between an out-of-shape person walking an uphill, rocky slope on a hot day, to that of someone who is physically fit and walking on a beautiful level trail on a pleasant fall day.
Believers demonstrate spiritual fitness when they walk by faith. That means we fully trust in God for His guidance and provisions. We have a great God who is before us, beside us, and behind us. In walking with Christ, the greater our dependence on Him, the greater our rest in Him.
As an earthly father clears a path ahead of his child, our heavenly Father works to make our paths smooth. The Lord said, “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through the bars of iron” (Isaiah 45:2). And, yes, He also carries us. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I [the Lord] am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).
Therefore, we can be in a continual state of rest in Christ, even in the midst of serving the Lord, if we are faithfully walking alongside Him. “Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).