By Pastor Jesse Andrus
It’s taken me a while to learn to rest in the Lord, but I think I’m there. Don’t get me wrong. I work hard. In fact, I work ten hours a day filling vending machines. Plus I have a window-washing business. But the congregation I pastor, the Christian Praise Church in southeast Washington, D.C., is the work that allows me to rest on a bed of spiritual faith. The Holy Ghost allows me to rest. Faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ allows me to rest.
I first got an inkling of this when I was working as a custodian in a maximum-security correction facility. My job was to clean up the mess hall. I was wiping windowsills when I came across a little card that quoted Matthew 11:28 saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
That was the drawing verse, the verse that made me stop and rethink my life. It was the verse that got me thinking a different way. I always thought I needed to exert myself beyond myself to achieve. I had to strive harder, work longer hours, and get better results than anyone else. Funny, but even after that verse led me deeper into the Word, even after I answered God’s call to magnify His name, I still hadn’t absorbed the lesson. In the beginning, I preached with a heavy hand. I was adamant. I was unyielding.
Because I’m animated by nature, I banged home my points through insistence rather than understanding. As the pressures of pasturing got to me, I focused on force rather than compassion. My yoke wasn’t easy and my burden wasn’t light. Well, when the membership started dwindling and few elders voiced concern, I had to look at myself. Was I condemning rather than loving? Was I coming on too strong? Was I expressing the Word of God through the Holy Spirit or my own ego?
We love to worship Jesus because Jesus is about change. He changes us. I prayed for that change, and glory to God that change came about. The change came out of the Lord’s divinity and my humanity. I had to admit I was messing up. I had to be honest about my life. I had to expose my frailty. It was either that or become defensive and even more arrogant. But building myself up would mean tearing God down. I needed to do the opposite: I needed to build up God. I needed to get up and let Him work on me. I needed to change.
In part, change came by enrolling in a beautiful study at Grace Ministries in Manassas, VA. This formal course in grace gave me the insight to see that the contrast is between force and yielding. Force is law. Force is effort. Force is striving. But grace is yielding. Grace is allowing. Grace is embracing the gift of a love that comes free with faith. We don’t earn it. We don’t achieve it. We simply and gratefully receive it. And once we receive it, love is in action.
The activation of love is linked to resting in the Lord. He’s already done it. We just have to live it. The more we depend on Him, the less we worry about the world. The world will do whatever it does. I can’t change the world. I can’t even change anyone’s heart. Only God can. I see stress as something we impose upon ourselves; stress is when we let the world get to us. But if we let Him, if we trust Him, if we believe His Word, God relieves that stress.
The change is that I no longer worry. With all my responsibilities as a family man, a church man, and a working man, I’ve learned to stay out of the results because the results belong to God. I don’t get anxiety attacks. I don’t wake up in a panic. I sleep like a baby. I rest knowing that I’m a vessel for His use. My hands are His hands. My eyes are His eyes. He is in me. His work is my work. And His yoke is easy, His burden is light.
Grace Ministries Manassas VA