I want to speak to you this evening on the subject 'Life's Load Lifted By Love', from Matthew chapter 11 and verse 28 - the words of the Lord Jesus, when He said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".
If ever there was a generation that felt life's load, it must be surely this one. Stress seems to be at epidemic proportions, and that stress is fuelled by the events that we're seeing taking place right across the globe - the latest being the bird flu, everybody seems to be in a fluster and a flutter about the bird flu. I thought everybody knew that birds flew anyway - but nevertheless, everybody seems to be intrigued by this new scare! Not so long ago it was 9/11, the twin towers coming down and the threat of world terrorism, and then that was brought nearer to our doorstep in the bombings in London in the month of July. Then the forces of nature seem to be going AWOL, the tsunami on Boxing Day of last year, this year the floods in New Orleans and in Texas, in the last week or so the earthquake in Pakistan and part of India and Indian Kashmir.
I don't know whether you have experienced this, but certainly I have heard of folk talking more and more about God, wondering why these things are taking place - whether God has anything to do with it, whether the Bible has any light to shed upon it, some have even asked whether this is the end of the world, if the apocalypse is on its way. Now I don't have any answers to those questions, but many folk are asking - perhaps you - what's next? What's going to happen next? Is the next chaotic occurrence and world event, will it affect me, will it affect my city, will it affect my home, my family? Maybe that's why bird flu does seem to create such hysteria, because this is not something that's happening in Iraq, or in Asia, or in other parts of the world, even the Third World, this is something that potentially could come and affect my life, my family.
Many personal lives, I feel, are like a microcosm of global problems and global events. Our little lives are like a mini reflection of what's going on in the world, because many people in our day and age are experiencing a private and personal chaos. It seems as if the whole building of your life is giving in and around your ears, you're in an absolute disaster. I wonder is that you this evening? You've come into our gathering, and I don't know where you've come from, or what circumstances you've left to be here tonight, God knows, and maybe God is speaking right into that situation - but you're here, and you find yourself at the end of your tether, you feel that you really can't cope any longer, because you don't know where to turn or who to turn to in order to get help. As you're sitting here, you're wearing the care-lines of life, you're displaying the wrinkles of worry. You know every day, of every week, of every year of your life, and most recently, a paralysing restlessness in your spirit.
Well, I want to tell you this evening: you are not alone! Of course, many people who find themselves in this type of predicament, it's often accentuated and made worse by the fact that they feel that they are the only ones going through such terrible and tragic circumstances. But these very words of the Lord Jesus Christ show us, as He speaks to all humanity - and we'll see how we know that this is what He is doing in this verse - He shows us that these problems of being laboured and heavy laden, experiencing the weighing down of life's load, is something that is universal. If most people were honest with themselves and with God here this evening, there have been times in your life, maybe even now, when you feel just like that: weary, heavy laden, laboured with life's load.
Maybe it's not a crisis, often it's not a crisis, rather it's the commonplace things in life that take their toll on you. There can be more strain and stress in the prolonged drudgery of Monday to Friday, nine-to-five life than in sudden calamity. You're just fed up with life! You don't know how to cope any more! Even with all the mod cons that we have today, we have more than ever, we've more money than ever, we've better living conditions than ever, working conditions are better, we've more holidays and leisure times than ever - and yet there seems to be more strain, more stress, more striving and more struggling than ever in people's lives.
A wife called the doctor one morning, and said: 'Doctor, come quick, it's my husband!'. 'What's the matter?', he calmly replied. 'Well, he got up this morning and took his vitamin pill, then he took his appetite suppressant, and his antidepressant, and his tranquilliser, and he also took anti-histamine tablets, and some valium as well, and then he lit up a cigarette, and there was a great explosion!'. Now we know that smoking kills, but the fact of the matter is: many people in our modern world don't realise that anxiety kills. Worry kills, fear kills, and it is killing many. A lot of our hospitals and psychiatric departments and wards are filled with people who have been wracked by anxiety, fear, striving with labours and burdens of the load of life - and it is killing them! Maybe you're here tonight, and life's loads are killing you?
Now, some people have a more stoical disposition, and come up to you in the midst of your loads of life and say: 'Pull yourself together, you need to catch yourself on! I don't get on like you do!'. There are some people like that, naturally, in their personality and their makeup - but you're here this evening, and you know that you just can't pull yourself together. You know your problems, painfully so, you feel so heavily life's personal load that has been dished onto your lap. Well, I want to tell you tonight - and it's a great joy to be able to bring this message to you - that in this text, Matthew 11 verse 28, there's a personal invitation to you from Jesus Christ: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.
You see, the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 12, is revealed as one who won't break a bruised reed, one who will not put more burdens on someone who is already feeling that they're drowning beneath the burdens of their present existence. He is not one who quenches a smoking flax. If you're trying to get a fire going up, He's not one to come into your life and blow it out, out of contempt. He is not a sadistic Saviour, but He is a sympathising Jesus. This personal invitation to you this evening is: if you are struggling, if you're experiencing the strains of life, if you perhaps even have been striving to be a better person - and that's a commendable thing to do - but you're always failing, and you feel a failure. Maybe you've been striving in religion, you're trying to keep some kind of dogmatic hold of some kind of faith, and you feel miserable because you just can't ever reach the mark. Maybe your problem is that you've no peace of mind, tranquillity in your heart has eluded you from your childhood because of fears, maybe even doubt about this life and eternity, maybe questions that you can't get answered. My friend, are you at this present moment sinking under the burden of guilt for things that you've done in the past? Maybe your heart is smarting because of hurts of others that have been inflicted upon you - but whatever it is, whatever your specific situation is this evening, you are under the load of life, and you feel it oh so heavily. You feel, even tonight, that you can't carry the load much longer, you can't bear much farther.
Well, I'm here to pronounce to you, from the Lord Jesus Christ to you personally: the Lord of love wants to lift you. He says: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour, with all your heavy burdens. Don't try and fix yourself up before you come to me, don't try and be in denial about your problems and your burdens, but come to me. Those burdens are not an obstacle to me, but I want you to come with all your striving, with all your struggling, with all your strain and stress that comes from your life'. This is truly the great invitation, the Christ of God is announcing to you tonight that He will embrace you - but more than that: if you come to Him, He will embrace your burdens too. The burdens that you're carrying tonight that are personal to you, or general to all humanity, I don't know what they are, but He has promised that if you come to Him, He will carry them for you.
Now, you might be sitting there saying: 'Well, that sounds too good to be true'. Maybe you're asking in your mind: 'How do you know that? How do you really know that if I come to Christ with my burden, with my problem, that He will take it?'. Do you know how I know? He said He would do it, He said He would do it! Do you doubt the words of the Lord Jesus Christ? You show me one place in this whole book where the Lord Jesus Christ lied. In fact, when it came to His trial before His death, they tried to get accusations against Him - and I'll tell you, if there had been any dirt on Him, they would have found it and flung it at Him - but they had to make up stuff about Him. Even Pilate said: 'I can find no fault in Him', and it would have been easier for him to find it and get himself out of a fix.
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life - and He said: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. Augustine, that great Christian, says: 'I have read Plato and Cicero's sayings, and they're very wise and very beautiful, but I never read in either of them, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest''. Buddha never said anything like that, neither did Mohammed, neither did Joseph Smith - you go to the founders of all the religions of all the peoples and cultures of the world, and not one of them had an invitation and a promise like this. Christ said it, and if He said it should we not believe it? Of course we should!
Not only did Christ say it, Christ shared it - shared what? Shared your burden, shared life's load for you. He came as a babe, because He existed before Bethlehem, He is the Son of God eternally, but He came as a baby, and He grew into toddlerhood, and then teenage years, and then manhood, through adolescence like you have experienced and all of us have gone through. Then He lived the life of a man among men, He was God, but He didn't live as God among men. He was God, but He wanted to come to live the life of a man. He was tested in every part as you could be, yet He is victorious. He shared in life's load, and I'll tell you: He shared in things that you will never know. You have the blessing of being in a society, but He was cast out from His own. You have the blessing, perhaps, of a family - but His family disowned Him and thought He was mad. I could go on and on more, and then He went to the cross, and He was nailed, and He bled and died - and what was He doing there? He was bearing your sin and your shame, He was being punished for it. Peter says: 'He bore in Himself on the cross, our sin in His own body'. Isaiah says: 'All we like sheep have gone astray, every one of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord laid on Christ the iniquity of us all'. He said that if you come to Him, He will give you rest, but He shared in your unrest, in your burdens, in your struggles, in your striving, and even in your sin so that you might have God's peace.
Now listen, friend this evening: Christ is not saying that you should come to religion. A lot of people misunderstand this - because we're in a church, they think, and we're sort of Christians and we're preaching from a Bible like some other churches do, and they think that we're calling you into membership, or to become a communicant, or be catechised or baptised, or become a member of our denomination because we're right and we're the only ones going to heaven - that is not what Christ was saying here. He was speaking to the Jews who were spiritually proud of themselves, and they wouldn't believe just like little children, the way Christ wanted them to do. He prayed to His Father: 'Father, I thank You that these deep spiritual truths are not revealed to the proud, but they're revealed to those who are like little babes, who will just accept it'. These Jews were like spoilt children, they didn't get a gospel and hear a gospel that suited them, so they rejected God and Christ even though they were waiting for Him. They adopted a religion that was just full of rules and regulations. For the Jew, religion was a thing of burden, so much so that Jesus said in Matthew 23 and verse 4: 'These Jewish Pharisees and Scribes bind heavy burdens, grievous to be borne upon people. They lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers'. The rules and regulations of Jewish religion, even the ones who made up the rules couldn't obey them, couldn't come up to the standard!
What chance is there of you being a religious person, my friend? The Pharisees' command was to do, that's what religion says: 'Do this, do that, do the other and you'll be saved'. That wasn't Christ's invitation, Christ's invitation was: 'Come! Come!', because salvation is not to be found in a burdensome system of doing, but in a burden-bearing Saviour who said: 'It is done! I died for sin, I bled to cover your sins and to wash them away! Why are you trying to do it yourself? I have done it!'. Yet Moslems have been fasting in the last month of Ramadan, trying to bring themselves to God. Buddhists are trying to clear their mind and their spirit of the deadening influence of themselves, and pleasure and pain. Hindus lying on beds of nails, trying to do penance for God. Roman Catholics, dear people, many of them go up mountains on their knees and in barefoot. Protestants are going to their churches, even today in our city as we speak, trying to earn their salvation, giving to the church, doing good works - why? This is what they'll tell you: 'I'm trying to get peace! I'm trying to get rest for my soul!'. What's happening to them? They're going mental - sure, it would put you mental, wouldn't it? To try and do something that you cannot do, and to try and do something that God hasn't told you to do.
Is that you, my friend tonight? You're striving, you're trying to please God, you're struggling with religion and faith, you're saying: 'I can't get it, I can't find it', or maybe you realise that Christ is the answer and your concern is, 'I'm not going to be able to keep it! What if I get saved? I'll not be able to keep going!' - and this is the cause of your unrest. My friend, listen, forget about all that rubbish and listen to Christ's voice. He says to you nothing of the sort, only: 'Come, come to me'.
Now I want you to see in the closing moments of our meeting three things about this invitation. First of all: who it is from, from whom is this invitation? 'Come unto me'. In verse 27 Jesus said of Himself, if you look at it in Matthew 11 verse 27: 'All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him'. Now that's complicated, but basically what it's saying is that Jesus was claiming to be God's Son who was with the Father before the world was. He is God, He is the door to heaven, and if you're going to get to heaven you have to go through Him. He is the one who holds the keys to death and hell, He is the only one who can get you out of the grave and get you to escape through the fire exit of hell to get into heaven. He is the Good Shepherd who saves His sheep, He is the Great Physician that heals those who are sick with sin, He is the Bread of Life to feed those who are hungry and dissatisfied with all that the world has to offer, He is the Light of the World and them that follow Him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life. He is God, who says: 'Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none other'.
Don't you be under any illusion of who He is. He says tonight: 'Come, Ho everyone who is thirsty, why are you spending your money on all these things that will not satisfy?'. Come, without money and without price, it costs you nothing because Christ has paid the price, bought by His death on the cross. Come, and just receive it by faith. Now my friend, have you done that? All your striving, all your struggling, all with the burden of the load of life, even if it is a religious load upon you, will not do - you must come to Christ and Christ alone, He is the only one who can give you rest. This is a struggle for religious people especially. Horatious Bonar is the author of the closing hymn we'll sing tonight:
'I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast''.
It used to be called 'The Voice of the Galilean'. On one occasion he was speaking to a young man about salvation, and he discovered that that young man had a difficulty that many have today: he just couldn't believe that the Lord could and the Lord would save him from his sin. He couldn't believe it! Maybe he thought it was too good to be true, or it's just too simple. Dr Bonar asked him, and I ask you this tonight: Which is of greater weight? Your sin, or the blood that Jesus shed for sinners? Which is of greater weight? The answer quite simply, joyfully: 'I'm sure it must be the blood of Jesus weighing more heavily even than my sins!'. My friend, I can't put it any simpler: the only antidote for the crimson sin of your heart that is deep-dyed is the cleansing ruby red blood of Jesus Christ. That's the only answer! You can't work it away, you can't scrub it away, you can't wash it away with water or with prayers, or with reading or studying the Scriptures. What is your burden this evening? Is it sin? Are you gripped with a habit that you cannot get free from? Is it yourself? Are you convincing yourself that you don't need this evangelical doctrine, you don't need to come to Jesus, you're good enough yourself, and you're this, that and the other church member, and God will open ajar the door of heaven for you even if He closes it in the face of many others? Is it your sorrow that is a burden for you tonight? A loved one has been taken from you, a child, perhaps, has been lost, and you can't forgive God, and you can't come to Christ because this burden feels too heavy - bring the burden with you! Bring your questions to Him!
Maybe it's a sickness, you've been diagnosed with something - bring it with you to Christ. If He doesn't heal you - which He may - He will certainly satisfy you and give you grace to get through it, and take you through death to glory with great victory. Maybe it's your situation, it's the crisis you're in presently - maybe nobody in this meeting knows about it. My friend, bring it to the Lord Jesus Christ - would you rather have Christ with you in it, and for you in it, than against you and away from you? Maybe it's a spiritual oppression or spiritual blindness, you're dabbling in some dark arts, the occult, you're reading horoscopes, going to get your palm read and all this nonsense that brings with it a spiritual bind. You know when you drive over a bridge, and sometimes there's a sign on it, a big lorry pictured and some kind of weight on it - I always worry in case I'm exceeding it myself - but nevertheless, across this invitation, across the door where Jesus stands and says 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden', is the sign 'No Load Too Heavy'.
No load too heavy! Whether it's your sin, whether it's yourself, whether it's sickness, whether it's sorrow, whether it's your situation, whether it's even a spiritual problem - He will receive you, and He will give you rest, my friend! Oh, I love Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, and he realised his sin through reading the Book, it's called. As he read the Book, he cried: 'Oh, what shall I do?' - and he had a burden on his back, and it's pictured in the illustrations of that book, you should read it. His family tried to convince him to stay in the City of Destruction, speaking of the world, but he closed his ears with his fingers and he ran away shouting: 'Life! Life! Eternal life!'. One day a man pointed him to a hill with a cross, and told him to go up that hill. He ascended the hill, and when he saw the cross and the shadow of the cross fell upon him, the account says that the burden fell from off his back, rolled down the hill, and fell into the empty tomb. This is what Bunyan says Christian said:
'Thus far did I come laden with my sin;
Nor could aught ease the grief that I was in,
Till I came hither; what a place it this!
Must here be the beginning of my bliss?
Must here the burden fall from off my back?
Must here the strings that bound it to me crack?
Blest cross! blest sepulchre! blest rather be
The Man that was there put to shame for me!'
Who gives this invitation? Christ the Son of God who bore your sin, who died for it, and who buried it, and who rose again victorious over it, and who is alive and in this place tonight and can deliver you from it. No wonder we sing:
'At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight:
And now I am happy all the day!'
Have you been to the cross? Have you met the Christ of the cross? Jesus is inviting you tonight to come. One of the early verses in the Bible in Genesis 7 is God saying to Noah: 'Come thou, and thy house, into the ark' - the flood was coming. In nearly the last book in the Bible, and the last chapter, and almost the last verse, in Revelation 22 verse 17 the Holy Spirit, the Bride, the Church say: 'Come!'. The whole of God's people are asking people to come, 'Let him that is athirst, come and drink of the water of life freely!'. That's the message of this book: we're lost and separated from God, and He invites men to come. Have you come?
That's who gives the invitation, to whom is it given? 'Ye who labour and are heavy laden' - He doesn't invite people that think themselves righteous or worthy enough, rather the description is wide: all who feel the load of life can come. Oh, in Genesis 3, after man sinned, we read that in sorrow and in the sweat of his brow would he till the ground, his whole life would be miserable. Job teaches us that man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward: 'Man that is of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble', he says in another place. The Psalmist, speaking of his sin, says: 'My iniquities are gone over my head as a heavy burden, they're too heavy for me'. Even those who are trying to obey the law of God in their own strength say it's like a yoke upon them, it's a burden that they cannot bear, it's a law of death in sin.
Oh, do you feel that tonight, my friend? Even in this chapter, John the Baptist was confused about Christ's method, He wasn't what he was expecting - but Christ invites the confused to Him. The people who He preached to and did many of His mighty miracles in their town were unreasonable and unsatisfied, and we live in an unreasonable and irrational and unsatisfied age - yet Christ invited them to come. Even the very cities that turned their back on Him, maybe you have turned your back on Christ last weekend, or at other times in your life - Christ still invites you to come, even the very children! Are you a child here tonight? No matter who you are, it's for all, all who feel themselves labouring and heavy laden under life's load can come.
What do you come to? To rest. Oh, I don't need to tell you that unrest is one of the greatest characteristics of our age. People are running around hurrying everywhere, there is vexation on their faces, there is failure all around, pressure is being put on young people at school like never before, some are even driven to take their own lives. Some people live in a constant world of disappointment staring them in the face from every side, and they're looking for rest everywhere - in drugs, and in the bottle, and in promiscuous sex. They're looking for it in fashion, in music, entertainment, in family life, in career, in materials, in education - and they can't find it, because they're looking everywhere but Christ where they can find it!
The rest that you find in Christ is a rest of conscience: those things that have troubled you and haunted you for life will be gone. It's a rest of heart: the peace of God that passes all understanding will rule your heart as well as your mind. It's a peace and rest that is based on the pardon for sin: God will take your sins away forever, as far as the East is from the West, He'll put them in the depths of the sea and no one can ever go for a swim. He'll put them behind His back so He'll never look at them! Oh, would you not love a rest like that? That's the difference between the rest that the world seems to give. H.G. Wells said: 'I cannot adjust my life to secure any fruitful peace. Here I am at 64, still seeking peace. It is a hopeless dream'. Yet Augustine could say: 'O God, Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless till they find their rest in Thee'. It is in Christ that you will find that rest, that longing, that satisfaction!
Do you have it? No, you don't have it, for you're bearing the load of life alone. Today is the 450th anniversary of the burning of Latimer and Ridley at the stake in 1555 for their faith in Jesus in the city of Oxford. On the night before Nicholas Ridley was executed, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort, and Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep quietly as ever he did in his life, because he knew the peace of God. He could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need. Do you know anything like that? A peace, a rest that transcends any of the loads of life. Maybe you're saying here: 'Oh that I could find this!'. Job, in all his problems, didn't say: 'Oh that I could find this!, he said, 'Oh that I could find Him!'.
The still small voice of the Holy Spirit has come to you tonight and said: 'Come, you have found Him, come with your burdens and life's load. If you've never been satisfied, come to Christ. If you have sins to be forgiven, come to Me. If you've grief to be removed, come with your burden. If you've wounds to be healed, come to the Great Physician. If you've a conscience to be quieted, come'. Jesus says, 'Peace I leave with you, peace I give unto you, not the peace of the world. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world'.
I can't help thinking, at this moment, of old Peter. He's in the boat, and the storms of life are raging, just like they are in your life at the present. Christ wasn't in the boat, and all of a sudden the disciples see Him like a ghost, but they didn't recognise Him. Maybe you're not recognising Christ speaking in your life. Then Peter, as usual, gets up, and he says: 'Lord, if it's you, bid me to come and I'll get out of the boat and I'll walk to you'. Jesus said to Peter, like He's saying to you tonight: 'Come', and Peter got out of the boat - God bless him for it - and he started to walk. But this is what the passage says: the winds became boisterous round about him, and he got his eyes off Jesus and fixed his eyes on the winds, and he began to sink, and he cried: 'Lord, save me!'.
Is that what you need to cry tonight? Christ has said: 'Come', and you need to say: 'Lord, save me'. Maybe you're a backslider and you have taken your eyes of Christ, maybe you're looking to boisterous winds, problems, the loads of life - you need to look to Christ again! At one of D. L. Moody's services just like this one, in a tent, in the front row there was a deacon. His daughter-in-law had a wee baby, and the little one's eyes were fixed on Moody as he spoke. He gave the invitation from this verse that we've preached from tonight: 'Come', and he repeated it again and again and again. The wee child, near the end, put his arms out to Moody, outstretched as if it was going to go to him and embrace him. Is that what you're going to do with Christ tonight? He bids you come, but you must come.
How do I come? Come saying: 'Lord, I know my sin has hurt me, I know my sin has offended You, and I know my sin will damn me. I want rid of it, I haven't the power, but I turn from it - save me, cleanse me through the blood of the cross, and make me Yours for now and for eternity'. Will you do that tonight? If you're a backslider, listen: you can concentrate on those loads in your life for as long as you like, they're not going to go away! But Christ, one day, will go away, and you'll be left with your loads, with your life, and maybe even with an eternity without Him. Oh, listen to His voice tonight: 'Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.
The Lord has spoken to you tonight, hasn't He? How could He not? For there's not one, I suspect, in this place that at some time has not been heavy laden, labouring under a burden of life, a burden of sin, a burden of sorrow, a burden of sickness - but you're labouring under it without the Saviour. He'll put His yoke on you tonight, and He'll bear the greater weight of the burden, but you must come. Look to Jesus and find in Him your Star and Sun. I trust you'll come tonight.
Father, we thank You for a Saviour who invites all men. We thank You for a Saviour who has the ability to bear burdens, and has done so in His own body on the tree. But may that burden-bearing Saviour come personally, experientially into the life of some person here tonight - whether a backslider or an unconverted one - and shoulder the burden for them. May that child, whoever they are tonight, embrace Christ as He calls them to come, and may they experience tonight the joy, the peace they sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Life's Load Lifted By Love" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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