28 “Come to me, all 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.”
Growing up as an athlete, I was always focused on performance. My mood and feeling of self-worth was based on whether I could “perform” or “achieve” a certain level of outward success. I struggled with this mentality even into college. Even on days when I felt like a performed well, I felt a bit empty inside. At times, this carried over into my relationship with God. I became focused on “doing the right things,” yet my heart was often not in it. I could go through the motions, yet was missing whole-hearted devotion.
If we aren’t careful, we can become preoccupied with outward actions alone. As a result, our hearts grow cold. As Ryan said Sunday, we may dress the part, but miss the heart. We miss out on a life-giving, thriving relationship with Jesus. Instead, we focus on seeking praise instead of being known. We use performance to protect ourselves from pain or failure. We assume our self-worth is based on our ability to perform and produce. We may “do the right things” as we conform to a process, rather than embrace a relationship with a person.
Today, if you resonate with any of these feelings, as I do, be encouraged by Jesus’ words. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” While religion says perform and produce, Jesus says rest and abide. In Christ, we find true acceptance. We are truly known and fully loved. We can live from approval, rather than constantly seeking to live for approval. Our outward actions now overflow from our hearts. We are living in freedom, not to “appear righteous to others,” or to “win God’s affection,” but rather from a secure place of love. We are no longer duty-driven robots, but passionately loving people who know we are loved.
Over the past few years, God has really been working on my heart in this regard. I can still remember the first time I walked into South Fellowship, in August of 2015. At the end of the message, Pastor Ryan said these words, “God pursues relentlessly, loves always, and refuses to give up on you.” They have stuck with me ever since. Today, no matter where you find yourself, take some time to reflect on these words. God pursues you because you are worth pursuing. Ask God to forgive you of any sins which come to mind, to help you understand your security in Him rather than needing to constantly “perform,” and to rekindle your spiritual fire.
By Billy Berglund