A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Rest In Jesus

 

Jesus now sent out the twelve, but Jesus was not one to stand by idly, He went out too. The Supreme Disciple-Maker was one who taught by example. Once in the field of soul harvest, Jesus is met by two disciples of John the Baptist, (who is in prison for openly condemning Herod Antipas for adultery – Luke 7:18-35). These two disciples bring a question to Jesus from John. This is not a question rooted in unbelief because God had clearly revealed Jesus as His Son and Messiah at Jesus’ baptism, and John had recognized Jesus as such (Matthew 3:11-17). No, John was not questioning Jesus’ identity and purpose, but he was questioning his own predicament in light of it. You see, John was restless. John the Baptist couldn’t understand why he was still in prison. Why hadn’t he been released to participate in ministry with Jesus? Why was he still going through what he was going through? Why was God allowing his imprisonment to continue? There are times when God works in ways that we do not expect and that often causes the disciple to become restless.

 

In Matthew 11 we will see two kinds of restlessness. First we will see the Righteous Restless Wrestling With The Will of God, of John the Baptist and how Jesus deals with it. Second, we will see the Unrighteous Restless Wrangling of those in the cities in which Jesus was ministering who refused to accept Him or His gospel message.

 

Righteous Restless Wrestling With The Will of God

 

Matthew 11:1-3 – “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?[1]

As we mentioned earlier, John the Baptist had been called by God to prepare the way for Jesus. His ministry culminated in baptizing Jesus. During the event of Jesus’ baptism God spoke from heaven and confirmed who Jesus was and John accepted and understood who Jesus was and what His mission was (John 3:11-17). Things were going well for John leading up to that baptism of Jesus. People and even religious leaders were flocking to his ministry to be baptized by him. But once Jesus was baptized, everything changed; John knew it would and accepted this change by saying:

  • John 3:27-36 – “John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.28 “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’29 “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.31 “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.32 “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.33 “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  [2]

John knew who Jesus was and what His mission was. Then why and what was John questioning? Perhaps John was like so many of the Jews of his day and expected Messiah to usher in a political and material kingdom. Perhaps John misunderstood Jesus’ mission to some degree. But there was more to John’s question than this.

 

Trials and the timing of the Lord can sometimes cause the disciple to question God’s planning and will. John was in prison while ministry was taking place outside. It may have seemed to him that Jesus was doing much of the same work that he was doing. John was in seclusion, isolated from the world and left to ponder his position and place in the will of God. While he pondered and prayed the enemy may have brought doubts to his mind. Or John may have just not been certain of how God’s will was to be worked out. Whatever John was thinking, he asked, “Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?” (11:3). John had been thrown into prison because he stood for righteousness against an ungodly king. Now Jesus was here, the Messiah, preaching a message of freedom for the captives (Luke 4:18), why wasn’t he being released? Was Jesus indeed who John had thought He was? John’s question may have been a subtle nudging of Jesus to break him out so he could join His ministry.

 

Sometimes we are like John and ask, “Lord, how come I’m still in prison? Why haven’t you broken me out? Why haven’t you set me free? Why haven’t you worked this out? It’s been going on for weeks, months, years now, where are you in all of this?” Have you ever thought like that? Sometimes we just can’t figure out what God is doing in our lives and so we question Him. How did Jesus respond to John’s question?

 

Dealing With Righteous Restless Wrestling

 

John the Baptist was restless and wrestling with God’s will while in prison. He just couldn’t understand what was going on. How did Jesus respond to John’s inquiry?

 

First, Jesus did not go into a long doctrinal dissertation, He simply pointed out that scripture was being fulfilled, God’s plan was continuing on.

 

Matthew 11:4-6 – “Jesus answered and said to them, Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.6 “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  [3]

Jesus simply pointed out that He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies and was fulfilling His mission (see Isaiah 26:19; 29:17 ff.; 35:5,6; 61:1f.) Jesus directed John to the Bible and so too when we question what God is doing in our lives, we need to go to His word.

When John heard this response from Jesus, he must have regretted his questioning. He must of thought, “Of course, He’s fulfilling God’s word, the prophecies of Scripture, and how could I have been so shortsighted, so stupid!” You see, trials and isolation often cause us to lose perspective, it takes a return to God’s word to get us back into the proper perspective with the right frame of mind. Jesus gently, but firmly corrected John by telling him that though he was in prison, God’s work was continuing.

Second, Jesus spoke of the greatness of John the Baptist, but not to John or his disciples.

Matthew 11:7-11 – “As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?8 “But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.9 “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.10 “For this is he of whom it is written: 1 ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  [4]

John had fulfilled what God had called him to do. In fulfilling God’s will in his life, Jesus commended John as the greatest. John was not easily swayed like a reed blown by the wind, no, he was steadfast and true to God and His word. John was not fickle and swayed by peer pressure. John wasn’t one who came to enrich himself at the expense of the people; he wasn’t in ministry for a cushy position, “soft garments . . . in kings houses.” John was steadfast and stable and an honorable man of integrity no matter the circumstance or persecution.

Think of it, greater than Abraham, than Moses, than all the prophets. Think about that, that’s quite a commendation form Jesus. What does Jesus statement imply? It implies that John and all disciples are determined to be great not based on the quantity of what they do, but on how they minister with what they are given. Remember the parable of the Talents that Jesus gives later in Matthew, which states:

  • Matthew 25:14-30 - “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.15 “And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.16 “Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.17 “And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.18 “But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.19 “After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’21 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’22 “He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’23 “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.25 ‘And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.27 ‘So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.28 ‘Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.30 ‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”  [5]

God determines greatness based on what we do with what He has given us. Therefore, everyone has a chance at greatness in God’s eyes, not just the privileged few.

Jesus spoke of John’s greatness, but not to John or his disciples, why? God challenges us and corrects us and builds our trust in Him by causing us to depend on His commendation rather than the commendation from people. Jesus could have given John a tangible commendation by word, but instead He chose to let John depend upon God in prayer for assurance. In doing this John’s motives were purified and his faith in God strengthened.

Just as John was called great by Jesus, so are we. The last phrase of verse 11 states:

Matthew 11:11b – “but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  [6]

In what sense can we be greater than John the Baptist? We are greater than John the Baptist in the sense that we have a greater and fuller understanding of God’s plan than he did. We have the completed canon of God’s word that reveals the full redemptive plan of salvation. 

Just as Jesus commended John, He commends you and me, His disciples. Just think of what Jesus might be saying about us, “Look at those people of Calvary Chapel of Hope, aren’t they awesome and dedicated?  Cleansed by My blood and wrapped in My robe of righteousness. Reading My word and living it in the Spirit. Praising and worshipping Me, praying to My Father through Me in the Spirit. They’re giving their all for Me. They love Me and I love them, they are great!” Now you might not feel like that is what Jesus is saying about you, you might feel as though you are in prison, kept from involvement in the really important stuff of ministry, but Jesus doesn’t feel that way. If you are trusting Him and surrendered to Him in all you are and do, He has admirable words for you.

When my wife was pregnant with our youngest son she experienced a great deal of discomfort toward the end of the pregnancy. In fact, her discomfort was increased as her delivery date came and passed. We prayed and questioned God about why the baby hadn’t yet come. We prayed and prayed for the baby to come, but to no avail. Finally, more than a week past the delivery date, the baby did come, and he was BIG! 10 pounds, 1 ounce. What we also learned soon after the delivery was that Stephen was born with a heart defect that endangered his young life and would require open-heart surgery. A few days after birth he was operated upon. The surgeon performing the surgery commented on Stephens’ size saying that he was one of the biggest newborns he had every performed this surgery upon and that his size definitely helped was a plus. I site this experience to show that we may not always understand why God has us in the spot that we are in, but we can rest assured in Him that there is a reason and that it will work out for good if we love and trust in Him (Romans 8:28). (For the full story of Stephen see the article “God’s Blessed ‘No’” under the God is 4U section at www.calvarychapel.com/hope.)

Unrighteous Restless Wrangling With God

Matthew 11:12-19 - “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.13 “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.14 “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.15 “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,17 “and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’18 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”   [7]

There is a righteous wrestling with the will of God born out of the progressive outworking of one’s faith, and then there is the unrighteous restless wrangling of those who are simply making excuses to not submit to God in Christ. There are those who live in darkness and live restlessly throughout their lives because they refuse to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is to the later which we turn now.

Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (11:12). By this statement Jesus could mean either of two things. First, Jesus could mean that the kingdom of heaven is under the attack of violent enemies. Secondly, Jesus could mean that the kingdom of God is taken or received by people who aggressively, enthusiastically, zealously take it. Both of these interpretations are of equal value. The church and God’s kingdom work are and always have been, and always will be, attacked by evil violent people seeking to destroy it and desecrate God. Also true is the fact that the kingdom of God is not something to be meandered into apathetically, but it is to be received, dived into wholeheartedly.

Earlier in this chapter Jesus said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (11:6). Jesus came in a way that was not expected by the Jews of His day. They had been hoping for and looking for a Messiah King to come and free them from the oppression of the Romans. Jesus came as a lowly humble servant teacher of a kingdom that was spiritual first, (then material later at His 2nd Coming). The term “offended” is translated from the Greek term SKANDALON (Strong’s #4624) that means, “to put a snare or stumbling-block in the way.” [8] The Old Testament prophesied that there would be many who would reject Messiah Jesus (see Isaiah 52:14). Those who are offended by Jesus and His message often use unrighteous restless wrangling as their means to excuse themselves from accepting Jesus.

Jesus said, And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (11:14).  He confirmed His own identity as Messiah by making this statement about John the Baptist. He pointed out the importance of this truth by emphatically pronouncing, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (11:15). But unfortunately, many refused to hear.

Of those who refused to accept Jesus He said, “‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’” (11:17). This statement meant that nothing could satisfy them, they had predetermined to reject Jesus and so whether He and John came dancing or mourning so to speak, they would not be accepted.

Excuses of the Unrighteous Restless Wranglers

What is an “excuse”? In John 15:22 Jesus states:

  • John 15:22 - “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”  [9]

The word “excuse” translated in this verse is derived from the Greek term PROPHASIS (Strong’s #4392) and means, “ pretense, pretend, pretext, cloke, alleged reason.” To offer an excuse is to attempt to remove oneself out from under a command or sentence of justice.

The first sinner confronted by God responded with an excuse, “Eve made me do it.” (Genesis 3:12). The second person confronted by God concerning their sin responded to Him with an excuse, “the devil made me do it!” (Genesis 3:13). An excuse is the sinners way of evading the issue of their sin, it is an attempt to cast off blame and sin by taking a shortcut rather than confessing sin and be cleansed from it through faith in Christ.

There are as many excuses as there are unsaved people. We could spend a lifetime cataloguing them and answering them. (There is a reasonable response to all excuses and questions concerning Christianity.)  The problem with excuses is that with God, there are no excuses. In the book of Romans Paul is inspired to write:

  • Romans 1:18-20 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”  [10]

So during the course of witnessing to a person all the excuses meant to divert attention from responding to salvation in Christ are to no avail with God. He looks at the person’s heart and knows what they are truly thinking. People may have legitimate questions about salvation, the Bible, Jesus Christ etc., but very frequently questions are excuses in disguise. In our next chapter of Matthew we will look at the “unpardonable sin” the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. There is really no viable excuse for not accepting Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior.

Woe To The Unrepentant Unrighteous Restless Wranglers.

Matthew 11:20-24 – “Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent:21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.23 “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.24 “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”   [11]

Saving faith is characterized by repentance, a life changing transformation by God in the life of the believer which leads the person to forsake all to follow Jesus. There is no salvation without repentance. It is presumptuous and fallacious to think that a few words uttered before God will mean anything if they are done so wholeheartedly in a way that allows God to begin a life changing transformation into the likeness of His Son in the believer (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2).

Jesus “rebukes” the cities listed in the above verses for not repenting. He performed many miracles that should have shaken them to their knees in repentant prayer, but they excused themselves from following Him. Jesus pronounced “Woe . . . !” “Woe” is an expression of grief as well as impending divine judgment. It grieved Jesus to see the lack of response form these people.

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were cities on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee where Jesus focused His ministry. Capernaum was a kind of ministry headquarters of Jesus. Surely these cities had been blessed by the frequent exposure to Jesus teachings and miraculous works. And yet they hardened their hearts toward Jesus.

Jesus points out that if the works that He did would have been done in the non-Jewish Syro-Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, if the works had been done in the historically most depraved city of Sodom, those people would have repented. The Jews had the word of God and should have been more responsive to the gospel of Jesus (see Romans 2). As a result, they were without excuse and their judgment would be worse than that of Sodom. Quite a sobering pronouncement indeed by Jesus.

“Hades” is real and those who reject Jesus and His gospel will be placed there if they do not repent and turn to Him (11:23). Because these cities had received the privilege of frequent a exposure to Jesus ministry, their rejection of the gospel and their resultant sentence to hell would be all the more intolerable for them since they will have such great remorse and regret over what might have been.

True Rest For The Restless - In Jesus

Matthew 11:25-27 – “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.26 “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.27 “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  [12]

Even in the face of rejection, our Supreme Example, offers thanks to God. That is an example we should follow (see James 1:2ff.) Jesus thanks the Father for not making His truth dependent upon human wisdom, but that He has offered it to all, including the simple, by way of revelation (11:25). The apostle Paul was inspired to write of this saying:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written: 1 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  [13]

God reveals Himself, he does not require we seek Him out in some esoteric way. One of the earliest of heresies that crept into the church was Gnosticism. Gnosticism taught that God could only be known (from the Greek term GNOSIS for “to know”) by coming to a higher knowledge, which only a select few possessed. In doing this they brought the focus upon themselves as the possessors of this knowledge of God. They became intermediaries through whom people had to go to relate to God. But this contradicts the heart of God’s gospel plan because He does not withhold Himself from the seeker, but is lovingly desiring to reveal Himself to any and all who call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10). Jesus alone is our Intermediary and Advocate (11:27). Anyone who seeks to place themselves between Jesus and the believer is delving into the worst of heresies. You’ve got to come to Jesus!

Come to Jesus for Rest

Matthew 11:28-30 - “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  [14]

The people Jesus was ministering to were weighted down with the religious rules and regulations of the religious system of the day. Jesus called all the burdened and heavy-laden to come to Him for rest (11:28). What religious works could and cannot ever do, is done in Christ. In Christ we can find true rest. Rest when we do not understand how and why God is working the way He is, (like John the Baptist). Rest from the futile and frustrating attempt to relate to God by one’s own righteous good works, (which is doomed to fail every time – Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10). 

A yoke is a harness that would go around the necks of two animals to maximize their pulling power. An older experienced animal would usually be paired with a younger inexperienced animal that would learn from the close proximity of the older animal that knew how to respond to the driver.  Jesus is therefore inviting people to become a fellow worker with Him by coming close to Him and learning from Him. This is the personal working relationship Jesus desires for us, that He invites us to partake in (11:29).

Furthermore, Jesus says, “for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” What you find when you take Jesus’ yoke is that He is not a taskmaster, but one who leads buy example. Jesus is humble, not cocky. He will show you through service, that which He wants you to do. He empowers you and helps you as He brings you along side of Him in ministry.

Finally, Jesus says, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (11:30). There is something very important for the disciple to grasp from this verse. Jesus Yoke is “easy.” The Greek word translated “easy” here is CHRESTOS (Strong’s #5543) meaning, “fit for use, able to be used” (akin to chraomai, “to use”), hence, “good, virtuous, mild, pleasant” (in contrast to what is hard, harsh, sharp, bitter).”  [15] Jesus says His burden is “light.” The term from which “light” is translated is ELAPHROS (Strong’s #1645) meaning, “light in weight, easy to bear.”[16] Therefore, this raises an important application; if Jesus yoke is easy, fit and able to be used, and His burden is light, easy to bear, then why are there so many people who seem to be burnt out and bummed out in ministry? I believe the problem is that there are many in ministry that is not the ministry of the Lord. If Jesus ahs called you to ministry, or to do anything for that matter, then if He is calling you, and He has promised to bring you along side of Him to do the job, a job in which He will shoulder the bulk of the weight and difficulty, then there should be no burnout in ministry and we should be able to enjoy ministry and whatever He calls us to.

If you are a pastor or minister and Jesus has called you to ministry, and you feel burnt out and bummed out about where you are and what you’re doing, then you need to reconsider your calling. Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), therefore, the problems that arise, are His problems, because it is His church. Don’t get burnt out; be blessed in trusting in Him. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:8-10 – “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.”  [17]

If you are seeking to be used by Jesus in any way, come along side of Him and let Him do the pulling and directing. Serve with Him; don’t try to serve for Him, or in His place. That is true for the spouse, the parent, the worker, as well as the minister.

Laboring In The Lord

Jesus calls all who “labor and are heavy laden.” The idea behind the use of the term “labor” (Strong’s #2872 - KOPIAO) is that of  “toiling,” “working hard, fatigued, becoming weary, exhaustion, strain.” When we labor in the Lord, His promise is that His laborer will not become overburdened, that He will provide strength for the work. When we think of laboring for the Lord we need to keep a few characteristics of such work in mind.

First and foremost, our labor in the Lord is a labor of love. Paul wrote of this in his letter to the Thessalonians which says:

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 – “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,”  [18]

God’s love is to be the compelling motive for any labor we endeavor to do. Paul again writes:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  [19]

Second, labor in the Lord is done in His strength. What we do will be successful in proportion to our reliance on God’s grace and strength to do it. This is shown in the following verses:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  [20]
  • Colossians 1:29 – “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”  [21]

Third, labor in the Lord is labor done with Him. What we do in the Lord is to be done with Him, meaning that we are guided and directed as well as empowered by Him in the labor. Paul wrote of this when he was inspired to say:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:9 – “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”  [22]

This is what Jesus is talking about when He calls us to take His yoke on us.

Fourth, labor in the Lord is labor God knows about and will reward. Labor done in the Lord is known by Jesus and will be rewarded in the end. We see this in the following verses:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:7-8 – “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”  [23]
  • Hebrews 6:10-12 – “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”  [24]
  • Revelation 2:2 - “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;”  [25]

Fifthly, labor in the Lord is never in vain or useless. Whatever we do in the Lord, is never useless and always of the highest value. Whether it is a kind word or small or great labor of love in the Lord, it is of great value to the Lord. God’s word tells us this as it states:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  [26]
  • Galatians 6:9-10 – “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  [27]

What an encouragement to know that God knows about our labor in Him and will reward it. What a joy it is to labor in the love of the Lord with Him, in His strength and power. Labor done with these five things in mind will be “easy” and “light” and this is what Jesus wants us to learn from Him.

Conclusion

There are those who prefer to live apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but if they would examine their lives honestly, they would see that they are restless, searching for something to fill a void in their lives. That void was put there by God and can only be filled by Jesus. To such people Jesus says, “Come to Me.”

There are others who have accepted Jesus but who are in a predicament or situation that they just cannot figure out. They don’t know what God is doing in their lives. They ask, “Lord, why am I in prison? Why aren’t you moving me along in life? Lord, what’s going on?” To such people Jesus says, “Come to Me, . . . I will give you rest.”

Disciple, if we are laboring in the harvest fields of the lost and our labor is becoming a burden that is burning us out, then we need to consider in whose strength are we laboring, God’s or our own. Jesus promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden light. We need to come to Him and learn this from Him. Disciple, you need to learn to rest in Jesus.

 

 

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[16]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.