“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT
As I am sitting here watching a Food Network Challenge, I am inspired by the work of these sugar artists. As these sugar artists work, they face many challenges. This hot, liquid sugar can give a severe burn if it gets on your skin. If it’s not heated to the correct temperature or does not set up properly the integrity of the piece can be compromised. They heat the sugar then, working quickly, they pour it into molds or use it to make blown-sugar pieces, in a similar manner to glass-blowing. It is quite remarkable to watch. Then, comes the really tricky part. Connecting the pieces into an amazing sculpture. These sculptures are quite fragile. Too much weight, too much vibration, not perfectly balanced and it can crack, lean or completely shatter.
Sometimes we feel as fragile as a sugar sculpture. We may feel as though the slightest weight or imbalance will make us collapse or completely shatter. But we have promises from God that we can use to prop us up and give us added strength to endure the weight of trials. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and guide us, so we can withstand the vibrations that threaten to shake us to our very core and shatter our mental stability. In the Deuteronomy verse (above) God assures us that He will not fail us or abandon us and that He goes before us. He knows what will be coming our way. We can be confident, strong and courageous, because the Lord is completely trustworthy.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4 NIV
There is no situation that we cannot handle, so long as we keep our eyes on Jesus. This verse in Isaiah gives me such comfort and peace. He has made us. We are His. He will always be there to carry, sustain, and rescue us. The word that touches me the most here is, sustain. The merriam-webster.com dictionary defines sustain as:
1 : to give support or relief to
2 : to supply with sustenance : nourish
3 : keep up, prolong
4 : to support the weight of : prop ; also : to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)
5 : to buoy up
6 a : to bear up under
Such richness in this word, sustain. God promises to support us, to nourish us, to keep us going, to support and carry us, and hold us up when we feel the weight of life dragging us down. And then there’s number five, to buoy up. I have never felt buoyant in water. I almost drowned as a child. I do not like being in the water. I cannot relax enough to float. Yet in the sea of life God promises to help me float and not sink. I am reminded of Peter walking out to meet the Master on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. So long as Peter kept His eyes on Jesus he stayed on top of the water. But, as soon as he looked at the wind and waves Peter began sinking. When the weight of life gets us down we just need to remember God is there to sustain us. He has not promised to take away our troubles, but He has promised He will never fail us or abandon us in our troubles. He will not let the troubles become more than we can bear with His help. These bolded words are key. We have to realize we are not meant to face life alone. Our strength is still weakness. We need the Lord’s strength to see us through. Jesus also made a promise that He would relieve our burdens.
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” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).
Like many promises in the Bible, these verses have an If/Then scenario. We have a part to play in this promise — If come to Jesus, give Him our burden and take His yoke, Then, He will teach us, give our souls rest and lighten our burdens. I used to think of the yoke Jesus gives as just a lighter, easier version of the one we already have, but I never thought about how a yoke works. I did some research online. There are a couple different kinds of yokes.
A yoke for animals is made from carved wood that is shaped to tie two animals together to make the most of their strength, but they must work together. If they fight each other they won’t get anywhere. A lot depends on how well the yoke itself is made. It should fit well, so it does not cause pain or sores. The animals being yoked together must be equally matched in size, strength and family. You cannot yoke a donkey with an ox and expect to get anywhere. Also, there can only be one lead animal.
I get this picture now of what I think Jesus is describing to us in these verses. He has a yoke that is made to fit just right and enable us to work the most efficiently. I see us yoked with Jesus. He is the lead. When we submit to his lead and put our all into the work God has for us, it makes the work easier for us, because we’re not carrying the burden alone. A yoke also makes it easier to keep looking ahead, so we are not distracted by other things around us. But, if we try to go our own way against Jesus’ leading, not only will we not be productive, but we will hurt ourselves fighting against the yoke.
There is another kind of yoke, a human yoke, made to fit over the shoulders of slaves. It allows them to carry a heavier load. The Bible calls it an “iron” yoke (Deut. 28:48). In a spiritual sense this is the kind of yoke we are born with, that has us in bondage to sin. In 1 John 5:3 says, “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (NLT). The Lord does not want us to live burdensome lives. He wants to set us free from sin and lead us in a life of freedom in Him. It means if we love Him we will be obedient to His Word and listen to His voice.
When we choose Jesus and allow Him to trade our yoke of bondage for his easier (double) yoke joining us to Him, our burden is shared and He leads us on the right path. When temptations come our way that would seek to make us fight against that yoke or even try to get us to change back to the “iron” yoke, we have these verses to give us strength:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT)
This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).
Following the discipline of Christ’s yoke is work, but Jesus said if we choose it, we will find His yoke is easy. That does not mean no troubles, but we don’t have to go through them alone. Our struggles will not overwhelm us, because Jesus said if we take His yoke we will find rest for our souls.
I spent too much of my life with a very restless, frustrated, and stressed out soul. Why? Because I tried to do everything in my own power, not following Jesus and not cooperating with the Holy Spirit. I have been learning that the more I cooperate with the Spirit following where Jesus leads me, the more rested and at peace I feel. Following Him isn’t always easy and it can be painful at times. The Good News is that this pain is not as hard as the pain of the life I left behind when I chose to receive Jesus as my Savior AND Lord. Sometimes we forget that He is not only Savior but also the Lord and King of our lives. That can be hard for control freaks like me to accept, but when we do learn to submit to God and His leading through the Holy Spirit, even our trials are easier, and I believe shorter in duration, than if we choose to fight against the yoke that joins us to life in Jesus.
You may balk at the thought of being yoked in any way. But, every person is born with the “iron” yoke of slavery. Jesus’ offer of a lighter yoke is the better choice and the only alternative to that “iron” yoke. There is no such thing as a yoke-free life in this world.
If you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your Savior and Lord, why not do it today. Read my welcome message for a guide to receiving the joy of salvation through Jesus Christ.