When our family first moved to the Soviet Union, the Soviet economy was so collapsed and the system so broken that even the most basic supplies were difficult to find. One of those hard-to-find supplies was gasoline for one’s car—and not just for the car, but for any machinery that operated on gasoline. Because of this lack of fuel, few cars were driven, and people walked great distances. There was just no available fuel to put into the tanks of the cars parked inside people’s garages.
At that time our family lived in a remote area on the edge of a small city where people were given small plots of land to grow gardens. One spring when it was time to plow the garden and plant seeds, I looked out the kitchen window of our house and saw something I could hardly believe! Our neighbor had taken an old harness, like one that would be normally placed around the neck of a cow, a horse, or an ox, and hooked it up to his wife! I watched in amazement as this man walked behind his wife, guiding the plow as she heaved forward with her neck and shoulders, dragging the plow through the hardened soil. The two of them were working to break up the ground so they could plant their seeds and produce their garden. They owned a small tractor, but because there was no fuel, they couldn’t use it. Therefore, this couple resorted to the action I beheld that day.
I called to Denise and told her to come to the kitchen. She looked out the window with me and saw this poor woman hooked up to a harness and pulling the plow, with her husband trying to guide the sharp blade through that solid ground. Denise was speechless! What this couple was doing just outside our backyard looked so hard and difficult! We both wished we had a couple of oxen to loan them that day in order to make their job a little easier!
Many times Denise and I have worked so hard in the ministry that we felt like we had given every ounce of our strength; yet there always seemed to be so much more that we needed to give. On several occasions, I told my wife, “I guess it’s time for us to hook up the plow and press through this hard ground! Let’s go for it, Sweetheart!” We’d laugh and then remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, where He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The word “labour” in verse 28 is from the Greek word kopaio, which describes the most wearisome kind of labor. This is a person who is giving everything he has to a project or assignment. He is striving, laboring, and working with every fiber of his being. But the Greek tense describes people who have been laboring under this load without a pause for a very long time. Their work has been wearisome, exhausting, and unending.
The words “heavy laden” tell us why these people are so weary from their labors. These words are from the Greek word phortidzo, which denotes a load or burden that is normal and expected for an individual to carry in life. It was a military term that described the backpack or bag that every soldier was required to carry as a part of his career as a soldier. Carrying such a weight was a normal and expected requirement for soldiers. The weight of these backpacks and bags was determined by the length of the soldier’s journey. If his trip was short, the weight would be less. But if the assignment mandated a longer journey, the weight of the backpack or bag would be much heavier laden.
This means Jesus was referring to people who had been doing their job for a very long time—and their job wasn’t done yet. Their journey had not been a quick, short, and easy one, and much of it was still before them. They had quite a long distance yet to go before they reached their destination. Knowing how exhausted they were and yet how much further they had to go before they were finished, Jesus told them, “Come unto me… and I will give you rest” (v. 28).
The word “rest” is from the Greek word anapauo, which means to rest, to relax, to calm, or to refresh. The root is pauo, from which we get the word pause. So in Matthew 11:28, the word anapauo carries the meaning of to pause, to cease, to desist, or to refrain. In our modern-day language, it could be translated to take a breather; to have a break; to have a hiatus, a lull, an interval, an interruption; or to take time to get away from something or some responsibility.
Jesus never promised that He would take difficult assignments away from you. However, He did promise that if you would come to Him, He would give you the rest you need in order to be refreshed for the continuation and conclusion of the journey. So when it seems like you’ve given all you have, but there’s still so much more for you to do before you’re finished, just take a break from your journey and go to Jesus for some supernatural refreshing!
Then in Matthew 11:29, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you….” The word “take” is the word airo, meaning to deliberately lift or to deliberately take up. The fact that Jesus used the word airo implies that one must deliberately invite Jesus into the harness so He can help you pull the plow. The word “yoke” is the Greek word zugos, which describes the wooden yoke that joined two animals together so they could combine their strength to pull a load that generally would have been too difficult for one animal to pull by itself. This “yoke” made the team inseparable. As a result, they were stronger, and their combined strength made their task easier.
This is Jesus’ offer to the weary and tired worker. Jesus offers to come alongside the worker and join him in his assignment or affairs. However, the worker—the weary soul—has to make the deliberate choice to enter into this working relationship and to come under the yoke of Jesus. He has to take the “yoke” of Jesus upon himself, reaching out by faith to lift it up and place it upon himself.
Becoming “yoked” to Jesus in your life, your ministry, your business, and your personal affairs is a premeditated, determined choice—not something that occurs accidentally. But just as two animals that are “yoked” together make a job much more easy and manageable, the strength of you and Jesus together is unbeatable! That is why the Lord went on to say, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
The word “easy” is the Greek word chrestos, meaning pleasurable, delightful, or comfortable. This means it is a delight to work with the Lord. When you are yoked together with Jesus, even the most difficult assignments become pleasurable! Situations that would normally make you uneasy become comfortable. Being “yoked” together with Him changes the atmosphere and brings peace and strength to your soul. It is the most pleasurable experience in the world!
Jesus concluded this verse by saying that being “yoked” together with Him is “light.” The word “light” is the Greek word elaphron, describing something that is not burdensome, but light or easy. I can tell you from personal experience—what was once hard, wearisome, and troubling because you were doing it all alone becomes pleasurable and lighter when you are partners with Jesus!
So what about you, friend? Are you going to keep pulling that plow through that solid ground all by yourself? Or are you going to allow Jesus to become partnered with you in your endeavors? Going it alone is the hardest course you can take. But when you choose to be yoked together with Jesus, you suddenly have the greatest Partner in the universe who will turn a once-hard situation into the most pleasurable experience of your life!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I admit that I’ve been trying to pull the whole load by myself, and I simply can’t do it any longer. I have given every ounce of my strength; now I need You to come alongside me and help me finish the task that is before me. I’m willing to do it, but I must have Your help if I’m going to do it with all my heart and finish it all the way to the end. So today I am asking You to become “yoked” with me in my job, my business, my ministry, my family, and in all my personal affairs.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that Jesus Christ is my Partner in life. He works with me; He walks with me; and He is my biggest Helper! Because of Jesus’ strategic role in my life, my attitude, my environment, my work, and everything connected to me has become better, higher, finer, and more pleasurable. My life assignment is not a burden—it is truly a delight!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of an area of your life where you need to invite Jesus to become “yoked” together with you to make your journey lighter and more enjoyable?
- Have you been trying to do it all alone? Is this the reason you are so exhausted from your labors?
- Do you feel alone in your endeavors, or do you sense that Jesus is hooked up with you and that He is helping you pull the load?