(originally appeared in Songs in the Night, may not be reprinted without permission of 2ProphetU.com)
He stood in the busy marketplace in Capernaum, and everybody knew who He was. He was Jesus of Nazareth, the teacher, the healer. And He looked at the crowd as they rushed here and there, just the way the crowds rush at State and Madison in Chicago or Fifth and Vine in Cincinnati, or 42nd and Broadway in New York City…and this is what Jesus said: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest! The thing millions of people are searching for today.
You can go to any drug store and purchase sleep, but you cannot purchase rest. Rest is not a condition of the body, it is a condition of the spirit—the inner man. I recall a patient saying to me in the hospital one day, “I slept last night, but I didn’t rest. I woke up as tired as I was when I went to sleep.”
Over a century ago, Henry David Thoreau looked at the busy people of his day, and wrote in his journal: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” One afternoon I visited Thoreau’s hideaway at Walden Pond, and he should see it today! Super highways surround the unruffled pond; and thousands of vehicles pass it daily, polluting the air and disturbing the quiet atmosphere. There is a restlessness in the hearts of people today, and this restlessness reveals itself in many different ways.
Think, for example, of the health problems we face. Doctors tell us that half of the people in our hospital beds are not physically sick at all. People complain of headaches, backaches, neck problems, fatigue and a host of other problems; and yet the doctors often can find nothing physically wrong with the patient. More than once a medical doctor has phoned me and said, “Pastor, I have a patient who needs spiritual help. Can you see him? I can give him medicine, but it would only relieve the symptoms. He needs God’s help to remove the causes.”
Think, took of the social problems we face because of this inner restlessness. Husbands and wives cannot get along with each other. Children rebel against their parents. And one of the reasons there is war on the outside is simply because there is war on the inside. When a man is not at peace with God and with himself, he can never be at peace with his fellow men.
The tragedy is that people fail to recognize this inner restlessness; so they blame their unhappiness on everything else or everybody else. Then they try to find peace in “going places and doing things.” They start to live on substitutes, and substitutes can never give a man peace. You can buy entertainment, but you cannot buy real joy. You can purchase pleasure, but nobody can sell you inner satisfaction. There is only one way to secure peace in your heart, and that is by receiving it from Jesus Christ. Peace is not a goal that we achieve, it is a gift that we receive. Jesus said, “I will give you rest.”
The root cause of man’s restlessness is sin. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah diagnosed the sickness of society when he wrote, “There is no peace, saith my Lord, to the wicked. The wicked are like the troubled sea” (57:20-21).
What is there about sin that takes away a man’s peace? Well, to begin with, sin is basically rebellion against God; and when you declare ware on God, you can never have peace. When a man lives by faith in Christ, then everything in the universe works for him. But when he declares war on God, everything starts working against him.
Something else is true: sin makes us feel guilty. God made us that way. He put into our very personality a judge called “conscience,” and this judge cries “Guilty!” every time we disobey God’s law. Of course, it’s possible to strangle the conscience, or even train it to approve what is evil; but even then, something deep inside keeps accusing us and robbing us of our peace.
Sin causes restlessness because sin is not a part of God’s plan for our lives. Sin is an intruder. God made man to worship and serve Him, to enjoy and glorify Him; but sin makes a man worship himself and glorify himself. And when a man becomes self-centered, he loses that peace that comes only when God is controlling his life. To be sure, there is pleasure in sin for a season; but before long, we start reaping what we have sown.
I think another reason why sin makes people restless is the fact that sin makes us feel lonely. Sin cuts us off from God’s fellowship, and when we lose that contact with God we feel lonely down inside. This explains why we have a difficult time sinning alone, and why we always have to tell somebody about it or, worse yet, get somebody else involved in it. Lonely people are restless people, and nothing will isolate us from God and form others like a life of sin.
But Jesus Christ can take care of that sin problem for us. He said, “Come unto me…and I will give you rest.”
Rest is not a goal that we achieve by our own efforts. Rest is a gift that we receive from Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of doing something religious, or remodeling certain areas of your life. It is not by giving up this or avoiding that, No, this rest that we so desperately need can be obtained only one way: we must receive Jesus Christ into our hearts and Lord and Savior; and when we have Christ, we have His rest. Either sin and self rule our lives and we are restless, or Christ rules our lives and we have peace. There is no middle ground.
God’s way of salvation is simple, but it is not easy or cheap. For Christ to be able to give us rest meant that He had to go through the agony of Calvary. It meant yielding His body and being nailed to that tree. It meant taking your sins and mine on His own body and suffering our judgment. The gift of rest was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary.
Sin is like a fever in our system; and we toss and turn, this way and that way, trying to get relief. The hymnwriter Isaac Watts puts it this way:
So when a raging fever burns We shift form side to side by turns. And ‘tis a poor relief we gain To change the place, but keep the pain.
No, the solution is not to “change the place.” The solution is to change the heart, to turn away from sin and receive Jesus Christ. “Come unto me and I will give you rest,” is His promise. The word is come—not do, or try, or hope, or pay, or work. Come! This means turning your back on the substitutes that are killing you and turning your face toward Jesus Christ, who alone can give you life and peace. It means throwing off the blistering yoke of sin and taking by faith the easy yoke of Christ, the yoke that sets you free.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
This is His loving invitation to you. Will you right now accept His invitation and receive for yourself His gift of rest?
copyright, Warren Wiersbe
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).