Finding Rest in the No

Give it a Rest

July 9, 2017

Romans 7:15-25a and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

What is the two-letter word that no one ever likes to hear? NO!

We learn as children that no is usually associated with something we can’t do. When our parents want us to stop doing something, we hear the word no. Yet, we can see the looks in a child’s eyes when he hears the words no, and we realize that he is going to attempt it anyway. He may even say no right along with you while he continues to do it!

Paul reflects upon his own life for the first time in our lesson from Romans. He uses the first person and admits that he does the very thing that he knows he should not do. How many of us can relate with Paul in this issue? We know what is right and we know what is wrong, yet for some reason or the other we are still compelled to do the wrong. Perhaps it is peer pressure that drives us to do it, or perhaps it is an addiction. It may even be possible that we are doing something wrong to get ahead, even at work. I know that my job as a sales representative for a beer distributor required me to step around the law from time to time so that I could help the company’s bottom line and even the bottom line of my own paycheck. I knew it was wrong, yet I did it anyway.

Quite often in the business world, we learn that it is not a good thing to say no. At least if you are not the one in authority. If you want your job or even to move up within the company, you better do what they ask of you. We may feel like Peter from Office Space, feeling that we do not really have a say in the matter, we just better go along with it.

Doing the very things that we know draws us away from grace and experiencing life where God has intended, can bring about a heightened level of anxiety and burden. We get weighed down by the things in our lives that should not have a bearing on it, yet we allow them to. This can manifest itself in unhealthy ways in which our body negatively responds.

When we want to make the right decisions in our lives, what is laying right close at hand? Temptation. As Paul says, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.” This is when we then face that inner struggle between our heart and our mind. It is here that the anxiety and burden escalates. It is here that we see some people struggle with addictions.

It is a good thing that we are not left to our own doings. If it were completely up to us, we would most likely do those things that satisfied us in the moment. Not those things that have long lasting rewards, both here and now, and in the time to come. As a society, when left to our own doings, we have experienced what will happen. We go to war. We forget about those that need help. We look more inward than we focus outward.

This is not new to us, and Paul saw it happening in his time. Paul knows where to find hope and the promise revealed. This is the reason he is traveling and preaching the good news to the people. He knows that it is in Jesus Christ that we should give thanks. He knows that through the grace of God we experience an unending love that never fails.

Our sinning does not come to an end. We are still tempted to do those things that we know that we ought not to do. Our anxieties and burdens do not always subside. It is in the words of Paul and the gospel writer that we can find our hope.

Our lesson from the gospel of Matthew is a wonderful compliment to Paul’s letter. Jesus knows what Paul will encounter in life. Jesus knows what we will encounter in life. It is in his promise that he brings for all people that we are surrounded by God’s great love. It is in this that we are welcomed into the fold. “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

We could all use a little rest. Some rest from our daily tasks. Some rest to take time out and just be with friends and family. Some rest to take time out to be with God. Jesus knows that our lives are not easy. Remember, he was human too! Because of this, he knows the importance of rest. Rest from our anxieties and burdens. While we don’t like to hear the word, no, maybe we need to learn to say it ourselves at times when confronted with something that does not get us closer to the kingdom of God. In this we will find rest.

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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