THE ROAD TO RESTFULNESS

[Matthew’s Sermon On The Mount Venue Today – Overlooking the Sea of Galilee]

PROPOSAL: THE ROAD TO RESTFULNESS LIES VIA MEEKNESS

We surely all desire true restfulness in these days of great restlessness, right?? Please patiently track with me as I unpack this biblical principle and its implementation…

(1) Our first key-scripture is Mt. 5:5/NRSV, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ This forms part of Jesus’ radical ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ more particularly his ‘Beatitudes.’

Perhaps we did not realize that these words first occur in the OT and in David’s Ps. 37:11, ‘But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.’ It’s worth reading the preceding verses as they constitute a build-up to this conclusion. Someone has suggested that ‘meekness’ in this psalm may be summarized as ‘humble dependence on God the Father with nil arrogance toward our neighbour’ – I like that…

The Beatitudes capture and express the essential kingdom-life of Jesus, which we are called to ingest and digest and display on our earthly journey, by the empowering of his life within. They proceed from the fullness of the Godhead, were perfectly embodied in Jesus’ person and actions, and are are now urged upon all Jesus’s followers. In Mt. 5 Jesus’ teachings are aimed at Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, while in Lk. 6 they seem aimed at kingdom ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders,’ i.e. anyone who would follow him. On this it is interesting to read Dallas Willard’s ‘take’ on the Beatitudes, and his definition of a disciple as an ‘apprentice’ [1] – no matter how long we’ve been serving Jesus, we shall always remain apprentices/learners, even to the end! Also, bear in mind that when the Bible speaks of ‘meekness’ it does not imply ‘weakness’ (‘remember the children’s hymn, ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’??), in fact it requires the utmost strength and self-control under the mighty power of Christ, indwelling his people!

Matthew’s and Luke’s ‘meek’ is like a many-faceted diamond, waiting to be studied from different angles. It has been variously translated, often substituting ‘humble’ for ‘meek’ (e.g. the NLT). ‘Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth’ (CEB). ‘The meek and lowly are fortunate! For the the whole wide world belongs to them!’ (LB) ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that cannot be bought!’ (MSG paraphrase). It’s worthwhile pointing out that ‘blessed’ means more than ‘happy’ (makarios): in Luke 6 it can even be rendered ‘lucky’ in the sense of being fortunate. We all know that happiness can vary according to our mood and circumstances – ‘blessed’ really refers to the believer’s ultimate well-being, to that distinctive spiritual enjoyment shared only by those who share God’s life in Christ.

(2) Our second key-scripture is Mt. 11:28-30/KJV, ‘Come to Me all ye that labour 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 for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’ These words follow on Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving to the Father in Mt. 11:25ff.

Mt. 11 beautifully clarifies that it is meekness that leads to restfulness! We see these twin-graces amply manifested, throughout the NT, in the person and attitudes and actions of Jesus. Here Matthew is addressing Jesus’ disciples who were struggling with the yoke of the Pharisees’ legalistic teaching (cf. E. Peterson’s paraphrase in his ‘The Message’) or burdened under the yoke of hardships of different kinds. Matthew promises that all who come to Jesus will find in him both a personal relationship and relief from burdens that would ultimately crush them. Henceforth any follower of Jesus is not called to do and perform in order to find acceptance and rest in Christ, but fully rest in him and his unfailing companionship. What an unspeakable blessing, as many saints and hymn writers have testified over the ages!

Note also, for the apprentice of Jesus, it’s not a matter of caring about ‘greatness’ in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. Meekness means not being fooled by ourselves and not worrying about what the ‘world’ thinks/says of us – as long as the Lord himself is pleased with us. No longer do we have to defend ourselves, but rest happily in God’s defence of us (cf. Rom. 12:14-21): note, any un-forgiveness or anger or bitterness toward others stirs up restlessness rather than restfulness! Meekness means no more pretence, artificiality and hyprocisy. Every believer and every Christian leader needs to seriously grapple with these issues – authenticity (a rare gem in today’s ecclesia) will always come to our rescue and bring us peace in the midst of the battle.

(3) Finally, some personal application…

a) Meekness means becoming like trusting ‘little children.’ The spiritual and ethical standards are so high that to live them out meekly in Christ’s kingdom at present is well-nigh impossible, except by the very Christ-life within us!

b) Meekness demands ‘moment by moment’ surrender to Jesus our Saviour and Lord. You may recall Dr. Andrew Murray’s favourite convention song, ‘Moment by moment I’m kept in his love, Moment by moment I’ve life from above, Moment by moment till glory doth shine, Moment by moment, O Lord I am Thine!’

c) Meekness demands a radical faith in Christ’s gracious acceptance of our surrender. He shelters us under the wings of his love. I believe it was Wayne Jacobsen who related the story of a fireman damping down smouldering stumps after a ravaging fire. He saw a black lump before him, kicked at it with his boot, only to reveal a mother-hen burnt to death but from under her wings her little chicks appeared, safe and sound!! That’s a picture of Calvary, of Calvary atonement and love. That doesn’t imply licence on our part to live as we please, but inspires us to a life of eternal gratitude to Jesus and trust in his sovereign love!

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Cf. Dallas Willard’s classic, ‘The Divine Conspiracy.’

[2] I found Allan Halton’s blog on Mt. 11:28ff, ‘The Easy Yoke,’ insightful. Well worth a visit: he blogs under ‘The Mending Feast.’

12 thoughts on “THE ROAD TO RESTFULNESS

  1. Greetings, Erroll.

    Thanks for this, it has inspired me once again to an appreciation of the grace of meekness. It is as you said, meekness is not weakness, “in fact it requires the utmost strength and self-control under the mighty power of Christ, indwelling his people!” That perfectly describes meekness. Columbian missionary Russell Stendal says in his book The Beatitudes that the Greek word for meekness, praiis, was used of war horses that had been thoroughly trained to obey their masters. Stendal writes, “…when the horse got to the level of training where it would obey the master, the rider, no matter what was going on around it, so that it could be trusted in the heat of battle not to do something stupid or foolish; once the rider knew that he could trust the animal, and that it would obey him no matter what, he called it a meek horse…. It had tremendous power, capacity, and ability; but this horse has given up its own way, and is allowing itself to be guided and ordered by the master. That’s what praiis means; it means submission to the master.”

    So then, meekness in the “heat of battle” does not mean weakness. It means an awareness of an inner reserve of strength—the Lord Himself—but a strength that is under His hand; we don’t “take the bit in our teeth, and bolt and go our own way” (Stendal) nor handle things our own way, no, we rest in the Lord, we confidently commit our cause to Him. That is meekness. It may look like weakness to some when we’re not sticking up for ourselves, but it’s not weakness, it’s meekness—we know we have a Source of great strength who loves us, and so are content to commit it all to Him.

    As to Matthew 11:28-30, quite often we read in the news of “unrest” here or there, and there is a call for “calm,” but no enduring calm, whether in people groups or individually, can ever be found outside the yoke of Christ. I’m encouraged that you found The Easy Yoke helpful, Erroll. In turn, what you have written here has laid hold of me. And I love your “personal applications.”

    “Meekness means becoming like trusting ‘little children.’” Amen.

    “Meekness demands ‘moment by moment’ surrender to Jesus our Saviour and Lord.” Amen. You quoted Andrew Murray’s favourite hymn, which is now one of mine as well. Moment by moment… I find that daily I need to take that easy yoke upon me, and seek to abide in it moment by moment.

    “Meekness demands a radical faith in Christ’s gracious acceptance of our surrender.” This one, Erroll, took hold of me, and I pray it will continue to grip me. It’s one thing to make that surrender, the burnt offering of ourselves unto God, another to believe that our offering has been graciously accepted. Thank you for this insight.

    (By the way, the picture of the two animals yoked together is a perfect illustration of Deuteronomy 22:10.) 😉

  2. What a beautiful illustration from the missionary, Russell Stendal – being on the mission field, I’m sure he’s had ample chance to prove it at ground level!

    Honestly, I hadn’t made the Deut. 22 connection. Well done. Wink.

    Thanks Allan, iron sharpens iron. Praise God, we’re on the journey together.

    I trust your health is holding up.

  3. Thanks, Erroll, yes, I’m blessed to be journeying with you. And fellow apprenticing with you.
    As to my health, I take things a day at a time; in fact that’s all the time we ever have. And I’m well in the things that count.

  4. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into this Erroll. Love your insights re: meekness, surrender, and rest. Ps 68:6 “He leads forth prisoners with singing.” – surely we are the only prisoners delighted to surrender… when He gets us to that point. But oh, the work. I enjoy this quote from John Owens to this point: “When Christ comes with His spiritual power upon the soul to conquer it to Himself, He hath no quiet resting place. He can set foot upon no ground but what He must fight for” (Sin and Temptation). May we be found among the surrendered throng of worshippers – for whom Christ fought for.

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