by Bill J.
In Hebrews 4 we read, “So then there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works.”
Sabbatical rest here is not the same as observing the Sabbath. They are different words in the text. The Sabbath is a day of the week set aside on which to not work. The Sabbath rest seems to be an experience we could have everyday, not one day a week. We enter into God’s rest by “resting from our own works.” So what in the world does that mean?
This Sabbath rest or in Greek ‘sabbatismos’ is defined by Strong’s concordance as “(figuratively) the repose of Christianity (as a type of heaven): — rest.” This sounds like what you would expect our experience to be if “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” actually happened! In the presence of the Lord we could cease from our own labors because he is here with us.
For anyone running a business this sounds absolutely crazy. We probably are busier than we have ever been. Telling us to rest from our works can feel very irresponsible. And so, most us plug on ahead at full speed. Or to avoid burn out, we slow down and the business fails to develop into a profitable organization.
Sabbath Rest in the Real World
For us non-religious types, we need it spelled out nice and plainly. Just exactly how do we stop working when we are in one of the very busiest times of our lives? We don’t need any ineffective religious ‘mumbo jumbo’. We need something that really works in what we like to call the ‘real world’.
We are in good shape. Jesus, it turns out, is very comfortable in the real world. He created it and understands it completely. When he says in Matthew 11 “come to me”, he meant that it would work in the very circumstances we find ourselves. If we do, actually, functionally, effectively come to him, and learn from him, we will find a freedom from having to be the one that solves all the problems and works everything out. It does not actually say we stop working, but that we stop our own works.
It is helpful to remember that Jesus really is our example for how this is supposed to work. Jesus did not work on his own. He did not do his own works. He never did anything he didn’t first know that his Father was leading him to do. Then he did what he saw his Father doing. So, what looks like his work is really his Father’s.
An Offer of Partnership
Jesus is offering a partnership just like the one he demonstrated with his Dad. That is exactly what we are invited into: a partnership. He does the hard stuff and we show up, listen and follow. People see us so they often think we did it, but actually we did very little. They are seeing the effect of Jesus in us.
For example, I asked the Lord for help opening a market for a brand new product. We prayed, we listened and He led me to a gift show in Los Angeles where I ‘happen’ to meet a man at a lunch table who becomes interested, asks to see my products, and agrees within 3 days to invest $400,000 in marketing. Hmm. That yoke seemed easy!
Another time I needed to improve an entire 2000 square meter production line in eight weeks, increasing productivity by about 500%. We prayed, we listened and designs came to me early in the morning. We obeyed and built the machines necessary for the processes. We completed everything in eight weeks and reduced the floor space from 2000 to 800 square meters, manpower from 100 to 50 and output goes up 400%. With extra shifts we are able to produce what was needed. Hmm. Even that yoke seemed easy!
Then I sensed the Lord wanted me to demonstrate every position on this new production line to increase the speeds. We are working 24/7. I asked the Lord, “How long do you want me to demonstrate the positions?” He says, “How about if I give you strength, you stay and if you get tired, you go home?” Who can argue with that!
Starting at 8am on a Wednesday I work 12 hours until 8pm. I ask the Lord, “Are we done?” and he reminds me of the agreement. If I get tired I go home. Am I tired? Not really. He is giving strength, I guess. After 24 hours, 8am on Thursday. Tired? Not really so I stay on. Thursday evening? No, not really, Friday morning, Friday evening, still not tired! Saturday all day, until Sunday 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Then the Lord said, “OK, we’re done. You can go home.” and I felt tired for the first time. What happened? I think I found out how to find “his works” and partner with him so he did the hard part and I just showed up!
Dig into John 17 and we find it is entirely about the unity between a person (you or me), Jesus and his Father. It is that unity that solves our problem. If we can work like Jesus, we can cease from “our” works so that we can partner with him and be about “his” works.
A Yoke Versus a Yoke!
“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.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30
A common teaching on rest is from Matthew 11 and this has sometimes contributed to a misunderstanding of the process as we picture what it is like to be ‘yoked’ to Jesus. We picture this like he is an old experienced animal and we are the young animal learning from him.
Jesus once asked me, “How much of the load is your responsibility then?” I had to answer, “50%”. “You’ll never make it”, he said. He is right! Perhaps this is why so many don’t endure. We try to carry 50% of the load.
The Greek word for a two animal yoke (zeugos) was not used here. Instead “zygos”, literally “beam of balance” is used. This is a perfect description of a Chinese carrying pole. They are bamboo, flexible and have hooks on the ends to carry loads.
Looking carefully at the text, we don’t end up with even a light yoke. We have no yoke at all. Jesus has a light one, and we have Jesus. It is a perfect picture of how he “worked” with his Father. When he “worked” it was under his Father’s yoke. He rested from his “own works”, and joined his Father.
The offer is still there for us today, “To come, take my yoke and learn of me”. Get very close to Jesus, and determine to do nothing on your own. Take everything to Him and wait until He shows you what He is doing and put your arm around him and step off together. Let Him carry the heavy part. He is not teasing us. His yoke really is easy.
Celebrate each time you see Jesus come through with his easy yoke. Remember the miracles and keep celebrating their testimonies. Stories like the ones I shared above are all precious testimonies. Keep them honest but remember them often. It will develop an expectancy for what Jesus wants to do for you today.
Bill has been on a learning curve doing BAM in Asia for 29 years.
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