One of my fondest memories of vacation is hiking in the Grand Canyon with one of my sons. I packed many water bottles in a backpack because it was a hot cloudless day and we wanted to hike all the way to the overlook of the Colorado River. At first the backpack full of water was not too heavy. As the sun rose and we walked into late morning, the backpack become heavier and heavier and heavier.
This is often the way it is with burdens in life. When we start carrying them, they don’t feel very heavy. Yet the longer we carry them, the heavier they become. Sometimes their weight becomes overwhelming. Sometimes we look back and think if we had known how heavy the burden would become, we would not have picked up the burden in the first place.
This is the way it often is with righteousness by works. At first it does not seem such a heavy burden but over time it can become unbearable.
In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He had been talking to the crowds, and he invited all those who were weary and burdened to come to him and promised them rest. The question is, rest from what? Obviously, life often has people weary and burdened, but what was causing them to be weary and burdened? In context, trying to gain God’s approval through human effort was making them feel exhausted and unfulfilled.
Historically, the Jewish people had all kinds of rules and regulations through which they sought to gain God’s approval. Coming to Jesus and receiving God’s approval by faith resulted in a huge burden being lifted off their shoulders. Hence, Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus meant they no longer had to follow rules and regulations to gain his approval. Jesus was saying that through faith in me, you now have my approval. Since it is easier to gain approval through faith than obedience, his burden is now easy and his yoke is now light.
Maybe we have carried the burden of trying to achieve righteousness in God’s eyes through our works for too long. At first, the burden may not have seemed very heavy. In fact, after carrying it for a long time, we may have even become used to it. But, carry that burden long enough and it becomes like a lead weight around our shoulders weighing down our relationship with God. That is no way to live. It is not the way that God wants us to live, or the way we want to live. So, it’s simple. Let’s not live that way.
Let’s embrace our righteousness by faith as the foundation necessary in our lives for us to experience spiritual growth. Many have stunted their own spiritual growth simply by trying to obtain their righteousness through their activities. It does not work. It will never work. Instead, let’s embrace our righteousness by faith as the first step on our journey to the spiritual growth we desire.