Running On Empty part 2
Lightening Your Load
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 19, 2009

This is our second week in our message series called, “Running On Empty”. Last week we talked about how the disciples of Jesus after His crucifixion were depressed, discouraged, felt defeated… as if they had all their energy and ambition and confidence and faith siphoned right out of them. They were running on empty. But then they were reenergized and refueled by the resurrection and their encounter with Jesus after He rose from the dead. And we saw how, just like Jesus refueled those disciples when they running on empty, He wants to do the same for you and me. That was last week.

This week, we’re going to talk about how sometimes we allow ourselves to get overloaded in life, and because of that we run out of gas. And we’re going to see how Jesus wants to help us lighten our load.

I remember years ago after I graduated from Bible College, I took a job at my first church. This church was in South Dakota, and I didn’t even own a car at the time. So I had to somehow get me and all my belongings from New Brunswick all the way out to South Dakota. And I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get there… until my brother volunteered to help out.

My brother is a couple years old than me, and at the time he owned a pick up truck. So I rented a trailer from U-Haul, hooked it up on the back, and we set out.

Now, my Dad is a long distance truck driver. So he’s very familiar with all the different highways leading down through Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont… and all up and down there. And if we were smart, we would have asked him which highways we should take.

We weren’t that smart. So we just looked at the map and thought, “Well, that looks like the shortest route”, and that’s the way we went. What we didn’t account for is that the highway we took led us right up through the mountains of New England.

So we were driving along pretty well, hauling this trailer full of stuff… including a whole lot of books… and then we hit these mountains. And I remember that poor pick up truck struggling to make it over those mountains. We’d be going up a steep incline, my brother would have to gear down and floor the gas pedal, and we were still loosing speed. And the whole time, the gas gauge was just… We were overloaded. For those highways, we were overloaded. And it sapped all our fuel, and we were lucky we didn’t end up stranded on the side of the highway.

I think most of us… actually, I think all of us know what it’s like to be overloaded.
Some of you may be on overload right now. You’re overloaded physically, you’re overloaded emotionally. Some of you are overloaded relationally. You’re overloaded with work you’ve got at school, or work you’ve got at work or kids or health issues, finances – all these different things. And they load you down.

In the Bible there was a guy who really understood overload. His name was Job. Job said this about his life…

Job 6:2-3 (NLT)
“If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales, they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.

That guy is on overload. That guy is burning out. That guy is running on empty. Just like so many people today are overloaded and running on empty. So we’re going to talk this morning about three secrets Jesus gives us for managing this kind of overload and surviving this kind of stress.

And I think a lot of you will really identify with what we’re going to talk about. For some of you, if you were to go back four or five years, your lives were very different than they are now. You were living far from God, and you were consumed with making ends meet and watching your investments and succeeding in your jobs, and you were constantly overloaded and running on empty. But since that time you’ve come into relationship with Jesus, and you’ve applied the types of things that we’re going to talk about, and your lives are drastically different today because of it.

For others of you, if you go back a ways, you’ll remember what it was like to be living in a high-demanding job in a high-pressure environment with high risks and high rewards, and the high blood pressure that came with it all. But you reassessed your priorities, you identified what was really of high value for you, and you made some changes that have slowed down the pace of life some and have made life much better.

And others of you, you live day to day in a very competitive, even cut-throat work environment. Maybe you carry a lot of responsibility, maybe you oversee others, and maybe even your job performance is constantly under scrutiny. But yet, you survive and even thrive in that type of environment because it doesn’t get the best of you. You’ve already discovered the truths that we’re going to talk about here this morning… the wisdom found in the words of Jesus.

Sandra just read that passage from Matthew chapter 11 for us. In fact, you see those verses printed out for you in your sermon notes. I want you to underline three key phrases that Jesus says, and then we’re going to go back and see what we can learn from them one at a time.

Matthew 11:27-30 (NLT)
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

“Come to me”
“Take my yoke”
“Let me teach”

If you are overloaded, I believe Jesus wants to say these three things to you this morning. So let’s take a look at the first one. If you want to lower the stress in your life, if you want to reduce the overload…

How to Lighten Your Load:

1.    Come to Jesus

That’s the starting point. Turn to Him. That’s the very first step. What did Jesus say?

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you
---more to do?---

In the Bible people come to Jesus for lots of different reasons. People come to Jesus to ask Him a question. People come to Jesus in the Bible to be healed. People come to Jesus because they’re upset, they’re got a conflict, they have a problem, they want advice, they want eternal life. But in addition to all that, Jesus says, “you can could come to Me for rest.”

And I don’t think that just means you’ll get a good night’s sleep. I think what Jesus is saying is much more significant than that. I think He’s offering a special kind of rest. It’s not just body rest, it’s soul rest. And that is the deepest kind of rest that you need. You can’t make it in life without soul rest. You’re going to fall apart. You’re going to throw in the towel. You’re going to go nuts. Some of you are way out in front on that one.

Your soul has to have rest. And this is much, much deeper than physical rest. Because when you’re overloaded, the biggest source of your stress is not worn out muscles. Your soul is worn out. You’ve got a tired mind, you’ve got tension, you’ve got worry. You’ve got fear and anxiety and guilt and resentment. You’ve got problems that you’re dealing with and you’re thinking about them over and over and over in your mind and that’s what you need relief from. You need to find rest for your soul.

Let me ask you a question: How do you normally, typically unwind? When you’re stressed out how do you typically unwind? How do you de-stress yourself, when you’re exhausted and overloaded? Maybe you’d say, “Well, I watch TV.” Or you decide to go to a movie. Maybe you turn to your spouse and say, “Let’s go out to dinner. I don’t want to cook tonight.” Some would say, “I have a hobby,” or you might have a sport that you like to do. Or maybe you try going for a drive, or some form of exercise, or maybe you just take a nap.

Well, all those things are good. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things I just said. And they might help you press on just a little further. But they will never give you rest for your soul. You can take all the naps in the world but it’s not going to de-stress you in the soul region.

There’s only one way that can rest your soul – Come to Jesus. Come to God. He can rest your soul. He can give you that inner peace that de-stresses you.

Isaiah 40:29, 31 (MSG)
He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts… But those who wait upon God get fresh strength… They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.

Circle “wait upon God.” The antidote to your overloaded soul is to wait on the Lord.

Well, fine Greg, but what does that mean? It means that if you’re stressed out, the answer is not a plan, a purpose, a priority, a program, a philosophy, a pill. It’s a person. It’s Jesus. He’s the One saying, “Come to me.”

He doesn’t even say, come to church. He doesn’t say come to Bible study. He doesn’t say come to LIFE Group. When you are overloaded, Jesus say “The starting point is for you to come to Me.”

That means that what you really need more than anything else when you are overloaded is more time with God alone. I think this is a key difference you see between people who are overloaded and overwhelmed and those who… aren’t. The people who aren’t overloaded and overwhelmed have learned how to spend time with God alone.

It says, “Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.” So what does it mean to wait on the Lord? It means you just sit there and be quiet and wait alone with God. You’re not reading the Bible. You’re not going through your prayer list. You’re just sitting there… listening and waiting. Oh, maybe when you start you pray this one thing… “God, is there anything You want to say to me?” But beyond that, just shut up and listen. Wait for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. Wait on God and see what happens.

And you know what? For most of us, I don’t think it’ll be like a big flash of lightning. I’ve never actually heard God speak audibly and say something aloud to me. But He does speak to me through impressions, through thoughts, through my conscience. You know what that’s called? It’s called inspiration.

In fact, can I tell you about something that happened to me this past week? It’s kind of like one of those weird God stories. Tuesday night while I was sleeping I had a dream. And I don’t normally remember my dreams. I mean, once in a while I do. When I was a kid, I remember dreaming that Bigfoot was chasing me. But I don’t remember most of my dreams.

But this past Tuesday, I remember dreaming that I was back in Bible College, and I was actually being tested on a Bible verse. I know, how boring is that? I mean, if I’m going to have a dream, I want to be able to fly or be Indiana Jones or save the galaxy or something like that. But when I woke up Wednesday morning all I could remember was having this dream about this Bible verse—Psalm 16:7—but I didn’t even know what that verse said.

Anyway, I went through the entire day, and then finally on Wednesday night I was still thinking about it so I decided to look it up and find out what it said. This is what I read…

Psalm 16:7 (NLT)
I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.

Even at night, even while I was sleeping, my thoughts were of God. I was waiting on Him, and He spoke to me. And yeah, I know. That’s kind of a weird story and some people would say it was just a coincidence. But for that one verse out of the over 31 thousand verses in the Bible to be the one I dreamt about… well, I found it inspiring, uplifting, empowering.

Oh, and let me say this, too. While you’re waiting on God, turn off the radio. Turn off the TV. Maybe even go out to a park someplace where you’re alone and everything’s quiet.

You know, most people don’t know how to be quiet. They always have to have the radio on. They always have to have the television on. They get nervous without it! If I were to stop right now and say nothing for five minutes some of you would start to get really nervous. In fact, let’s give it a try…

Okay, we’re not really going to do that this morning. [Although that would be an interesting experiment.] But I would encourage you to do it on your own. Spend some time in silence before God, simply waiting on Him.

In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Jesus says…

Matthew 6:6 (MSG)
“Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Be still. Wait on God. Come to Jesus for rest. Some of you have never done this. Others of you, you haven’t done it in weeks or months. That’s why you’re overloaded. You need to spend time alone with God in silence. And then pray and read some of the Bible.

If you’re running on empty, the first thing Jesus says to you is

Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

The second step is a little harder…

2.    Give up control

This is so important because the reason why you’re on overload is you are trying to control too much. You think it all depends on you. “If it is to be, it is up to me. I’ve got to hold it all together. I’ve got to make it all work.” You feel like you’ve got to be in control. And the greater your need to control, the more stressed you’re going to be in life. So it’s to you that Jesus says…

Matthew 11:29 (NLT)
“Take my yoke upon you.”

But you say, “Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound too relaxing. Take something else on? That sounds like a burden. I don’t need to take any more on. This does not sound like a good solution here. I’m already carrying way too much and now Jesus says, ‘Take My yoke upon you.’That sounds like I’m going to get more burden, more overload, more pressure.” Well, that means you don’t understand what a yoke is and what it’s for.

What is a yoke? It’s not the yellow part of an egg. [PowerPoint] A yoke is a single piece of wood that brings two farm animals together, so the load is shared, so the load is lighter.

A yoke is not a harness. A harness you can put on one cow or one horse or one camel or elephant or one whatever. Then they have to pull the whole load by themselves. With a yoke you team up two or more together so the load is cut in half. It is lightened. The purpose is to make it easier, not harder. And Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you.”

Which really symbolizes a couple of things. First, it symbolizes…

A yoke symbolizes…

A.    Partnership

Jesus is saying, “I never meant for you to carry all your problems by yourself. Let Me help you. I never meant for you to carry all that stress, all that burden, all those difficulties, all those worries by yourself. Yoke up with Me… partner with Me and I will help you carry the load.” He isn’t saying, “I’m going to add to your load.” He’s saying, “I’m going to take some of your load off of you and put it on Me.” So a yoke symbolizes a connection or a sharing or a partnership.

The second thing a yoke is a symbol of is…

B.    Control

Farmers yoke up farm animals so that they will go in the same direction, to the same place, at the same time, at the same pace. When you are yoked to another animal you can’t go faster and you can’t go slower and you can’t run off in a ditch because the other animal’s not going to let you.

You know, we get into trouble when we’re not yoked to Jesus. What happens is we do go too fast, or we go in the wrong direction, or we get sidelined and fall off into a ditch. Every time you’re disconnected you’re going to get into trouble. But if you’re connected to Jesus—if you’re yoked with Him—then He can help regulate your pace and make sure you’re headed in the right direction.

Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.

Now, remember that Jesus grew up as the son of a carpenter. Carpenters in that day would have mainly made small pieces of furniture and farm implements. So Jesus in His lifetime probably made many, many yokes. So Jesus would have known all about yokes not just by virtue of Him being God in the flesh but also because it was his family’s trade. And Jesus knew that a good yoke maker would often go find the animal that the farmer wanted the yoke for and they would measure the animal and they would make sure that the yoke they were making would perfectly fit that animal so that it didn’t rub the wrong way, so that it didn’t create bruises or scars or burns or whatever… The yoke maker would custom fit the yoke so that it fit perfectly.

And that’s what Jesus says about His yoke…

Matthew 11:30 (NLT)
“For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

That phrase “My yoke is easy” means “My yoke fits perfectly.” So Jesus is saying, “My yoke custom fits you. It perfectly fits. It’s easy to wear because it’s specifically made for you.” Remember, He knows you. He knows how you’re made. He knows how you’re wired up. He knows your personality. He knows what you can handle and what you can’t handle. So He is able to custom fit a yoke for you.

So Jesus is saying you can take that heavy, uncomfortable load you’re trying to bear on your own, and you can hook up with Jesus in a perfect partnership and exchange that heavy burden for a light one.

You see, the fact is, if we were to really examine your life, we’d discover that you’re not carrying one yoke. You’re carrying dozens of them. You’ve got all kinds of yokes on you. You’ve got financial yokes, physical yokes, relational yokes, work yokes, community yokes, church yokes – all these different yokes. The yoke’s on you!

You’re piled with dozens of yokes on you. Jesus says, “Why don’t you just take all of those heavy yokes off of you, yoke up with Me, and I’ll help you pull the load.”

But the thing is, that means you’re giving up control. It means you’re going to let Him set the direction and set the pace. You’re going to follow His guidance and respond to His promptings. And giving up that control is so difficult for so many of us. But if you’re looking to lighten your load, Jesus says, “Come to Me.” He says, “Give up control.” And then He gives us the third key and this is extremely important.

3.    Use Jesus as your model

This is how Jesus put it…

Matthew 11:29 (NLT)
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

“Let Me teach you.” Well, okay, but how does Jesus teach? Well, how did He teach His disciples? He lived life in front of them. He was a mentor for them… a model of how to do it. Yes, He taught using words and telling stories, too, but the most powerful that He taught was by simply living and having His followers watch how He lived.

And I think He wants us to do the same thing. Look to Him. Watch His example. And then replicate it. Do what He did. If you want to be balanced and healthy in life, nobody lived a more balanced and healthy life than Jesus. Learn from Him and follow His example.

So, what am I supposed to learn? What can I learn from Jesus that will lower the stress in my life? He says, “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble.” Gentle and humble. You say, “Wait a minute! That’s not exactly what I want to learn. Gentleness and humility?” I mean, if I’m overloaded and stressed out, why didn’t Jesus say, “Learn from Me. I’ll teach you endurance and stamina.” Or, “I’ll teach you confidence and courage.” Or, “I’ll teach you time management and goal setting.” Jesus doesn’t say any of those things. So why gentleness and humility?

Well, could it be that in life we want what we want and we want it now, and so we tend to be aggressive in life and we go for what we want and we get involved in too many things and we just keep piling things on because we don’t want to miss out on anything and we don’t want to disappoint anyone… And so Jesus says, “Don’t overload yourself. Don’t be so aggressive. Learn from me and I’ll teach you gentleness.”

And could it also be that we tend to be a little arrogant? I know, you wouldn’t use that word about yourself. But don’t you tend to think that you know what’s best,  so you ought to be in control, you ought to be in charge, people should do things your way… Well, that’s arrogance. But Jesus says, “Learn from me, and you’ll learn humility.”

If you are overloaded—and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some of you are feeling like that this morning—then come to Jesus and wait on Him, hand over the controls to Him, and learn from His example. If you will do those three things, as Jesus described here in Matthew 11, I really believe that the heavy load you’ve been carrying will be lightened, you’ll discover more joy in life, and you’ll experience the peace of God like you’ve never experienced it before.

[This series adapted primarily from material by Rick Warren and Doug Fields]



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