Throughout the Bible, we find verses that can be broken down into two parts: your part and God’s part. Here are a few examples, all from the New King James version, with me adding in the designations “your part” and “His part.”
-Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, (your part) and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (His part)
-Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him (your part), and He shall direct your paths.” (His part)
-Matthew 6:4: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; (your part) and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (His part)
-Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, (your part) and all these things shall be added to you.” (His part)
-Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, (your part) and I will give you rest.” (His part)
-Mark 1:17: “Follow Me, (your part) and I will make you become fishers of men.” (His part)
-Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, (your part) I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (His part)
What you need to understand is that God won’t do your part and you can’t do His part. This isn’t God imposing His will on you any more than it is you imposing your will upon Him. It is a pair working in tandem.
Earlier I cited Christ’s words from Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Now let me mention what He says in the very next verse: “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” (Matthew 11:29). For years I missed the meaning of these words simply because I didn’t know what a “yoke” is.
Webster’s defines “yoke” as: “a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together.” To picture a yoke in your mind, envision a wooden board that is laid over the necks of two animals that are standing side by side. The board has a slight arc in each place where the necks rest. Underneath each side of the board hangs a u-shaped harnessing device that buckles the board under each animal’s neck.
It would be blasphemous for me to describe Jesus as an ox. It would also be blasphemous for me to place myself right alongside Him in anything. But it’s a different story when He does these things. And that is exactly what He does in this verse. He says to me, “I have taken my place here on one side of the yoke. The board rests upon my shoulders. The harness is tightened underneath my neck. I’m ready to work. Now I want you to take your place alongside me in the yoke. Let the other side of the board rest upon your shoulders and let the other harnessing device hang tight under your neck.” Get the picture?
And, in Christ’s illustration, who is the farmer who owns the yoke and is ready to work the team of animals? He is God the Father. Remember that Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me” (John 9:4). You see, Jesus wants me to work with Him to get the work of God the Father done. Since Jesus is all-powerful, He could do the work by Himself. But He desires that I work with Him.
Now think about that. For Jesus to want to work right alongside me day after day, night after night, He must enjoy my company. He must enjoy having a relationship with me and spending time with me. You see, it’s an honor for Jesus to ask a person to work beside Him! It means that He has saved a place for that person inside the yoke. There He is, shoulders stooped, with the yoke resting upon Him. He turns His head inside the harness, looks at the person, gives a little grin, and says, “Get in here, we’ve got work to do.”
You say, “But I’m not sure I like the sounds of that. I’m kind of lazy. I’m afraid that the work Jesus has in mind for me would wear me out.” Don’t worry. That’s not how it plays out. Notice that Jesus ends the verse with the words, “and you will find rest for your souls.” Then, He follows that up by saying, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I realize this doesn’t make sense. A yoke shouldn’t be easy, and the burden of being in one shouldn’t be light. Keep in mind, though, that we are talking about Jesus. He can make possible that which seems impossible. Just as He never tires of doing God the Father’s work, you won’t tire of it when you work with Him. To the contrary, you will find yourself rested.
Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be super qualified before you can get in the yoke with Jesus. I’ve heard that farmers will put an inexperienced animal in yoke with an experienced one. They do this so the experienced animal can teach the inexperienced one how to do the work. By mimicking what the experienced animal does inside the yoke, the inexperienced one learns. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” He’s saying, “You don’t know how to do God the Father’s work, but I do. All you have to do is follow my lead and do as I do. In that way you will learn.”
Tell me, how much of God the Father’s work are you getting done these days? If it isn’t much, you aren’t living the life Jesus wants you to live. Even if you are getting some of the work done, but it is tiring you out, something is wrong there too. The answer to both problems is simple: Get in yoke with Jesus. That will result in not only God the Father’s work getting done in your life, but also in you enjoying a rest for your soul. Each of these things is good. So what are you waiting for? Take your place alongside Jesus in God the Father’s yoke and get to work.