(May 15, 2022) Richard Winter reminds us that…

It’s often been said that it’s been a hard life and there have been many tough times. Well, l guess most of us can resonate with that… after all, who hasn’t lost a little sleep through worrying?

We’ve all carried burdens real and unreal… and, if we are honest, we have worried most about some things that never materialised. So here is the word of God that applies to our worries –

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

A yoke is something Jesus would have made in a carpenter’s shop. It’s a wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) at the neck, enabling them to pull a plough or wagon together. The function of the yoke is to make the burden easier to carry.

I love the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message: ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I will show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’

With this encouraging scripture in mind, let me highlight five burdens needlessly carried when one knows God… therefore especially needlessly carried by some Christians.

1. Anxiety
In this current world in which we live the most common drugs prescribed for people are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety. I don’t know about other lands but here there’s some thirty-seven million Americans who use them!

Psalm 68:19 is further good news for Christians… King David praises God, acknowledging Him as the one ‘who daily bears our burdens.’ 

And John Newton the former slaver who wrote Amazing Grace inspiringly said, ‘We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.’

Each day, you can commit to God your fears, worries and anxieties. It makes all the difference for He daily bears your ‘burdens’ (verse19 above)!

2. Failure
Let’s look at one of Jesus’ disciples greatest failures.

Peter is waiting for the interrogation of Jesus with the high priest to be completed when a servant girl says, ‘You are a disciple of Jesus – right?’ He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’

Then another guy says, ‘Didn’t I see you in the garden with Jesus.’ Again Peter denies Jesus… the second denial. And then a third time he denies knowing Jesus – and the rooster begins to crow, just as Jesus had warned him (Matthew 26:33).

Peter realised, as most of us do from time to time, that he had failed Jesus! But this incident is not the end of Peter’s story. After His resurrection, Jesus met with Peter and reinstated him, obviously forgiving him for this failure and commissioning him once more (John 21:15–17)!

Come June 5 many churches and countless Christians will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday!

Let’s remember even now that despite his earlier failure Peter would become the great apostle of Pentecost, explaining the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the power that comes with receiving this baptism. And went on to define world evangelisation – yes the whole world! (Acts 2).

Although Peter failed him, Jesus took the burden of his failure, forgave him, reinstated him, and used him as powerfully as anyone in human history.

Have you ever failed Jesus? I know I have! A sense of failure can be a great burden. But with Jesus, failure is never final!

3. Sin
We’ve just celebrated Easter and Jesus’ resurrection… but let me remind you of the burden that was lifted back then some two thousand years ago…

Despite the unjust trial of Jesus, Pilate concluded, ‘I find no basis for a charge against him’ (John 18:38b). Jesus is completely innocent, and Pilate wants to release Him. But the crowd shouts, ‘“No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion’ (John 18:40).

Jesus, the innocent, is condemned to crucifixion. Barabbas, the sinful, goes free.

The symbolism is clear. On the cross, Jesus, the innocent, died so that we, the sinful, may go free. He bore the burden of our sin (John 3:16-17). This particular burden is one of condemnation but John 3:18 declares that  ‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.’

Of course we must genuinely repent of our sins! Then freedom from the burden of sin and condemnation is ours! James reminds us that we must acknowledge our sin (breaking God’s laws) and confession leads to repentance and forgiveness…

1John 1:7-10:  ‘But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.’ 

4. Guilt
Guilt is another horrible burden. A guest in one of our Alpha small groups described the physical feeling of guilt as being like ‘a very bad case of indigestion.’

But guilt is more than just a physical feeling. It has even more serious emotional and spiritual consequences.

God has given us all a moral sense – a conscience. Often, we feel guilty because we have done something that we know is wrong.

However I must mention something important about conscience…for, unfortunately, it can be yet another burden, a subtle one.

5. Conscience

  • Sometimes, as fallen human beings, our consciences are not perfect, and we experience false guilt. We feel guilty about things that are not actually our fault. Consequently we need our conscience to be educated by the word of God.
  • At other times we don’t feel guilty about things that we should feel guilty about! In this case we need our conscience to be awakened by the Spirit of God.

David was given an opportunity to rid himself of the person who was trying to kill him – King Saul (1 Samuel 24). But instead of taking that opportunity, one night as Saul and his men lay asleep, David merely cut off a corner of the king’s robe in order to later prove to Saul that he could have killed him had he wanted to.

Nevertheless, David wasconscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe’ (v5). ‘He felt guilty’ reads the Message Bible. David clearly had a very sensitive conscience and felt the burden of guilt for having done this to ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (v6). Yet he was able to declare to Saul, ‘Now understand and recognise that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you’ (v11b).

For a moment, it seems, Saul himself was conscience-stricken, ‘… he wept aloud: “You are more righteous than I… You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly”’ (v16c–17). In the midst of his jealousy, Saul had the odd moment of sanity – where he experienced true guilt. David avoided taking any further burden of guilt on himself.

Whether we have the feelings that accompany it or not, the burden of true guilt is real for all. But, as intimated above, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross takes away the burden of both guilt – and conscience real, false, or misguided.

We owe God and our Saviour Jesus so much. As a result, let’s ensure that we’re not sidetracked by carrying unnecessary burdens!

Recalling Jesus’ Matthew 11:28-30 encouragement above, perhaps this simple prayer helps… ‘Thank you, Lord, that you take my sin away! Thank you too that daily you bear my burdens of guilt, fears, worries and anxieties.’

Dr Richard Winter pastors The Connection Church, Huntington Beach, California

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