15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.Romans 7:15-25
Growing up I played a lot of soccer, and one of the things about soccer that I always found interesting is that the referees had the power to let the game go longer than the regulated time. Soccer matches are regulated to two 45-minute halves but depending on how many penalties or pauses happen during the game, the referees can allow the game to continue past 45 minutes. In general, the referee will let the match go a few extra minutes and then at a time when the ball is not close to either goal, blow the whistle to signal the end of the game. The extra game play makes the last few minutes of a soccer match some of the most exciting minutes and also some of the more disputed minutes of the match.
Another one of the key elements in a soccer match is the amount of running each player does. It is estimated that players in the World Cup run about seven miles per match. Even if you are not playing at the highest level of soccer, a match still requires you to be able to do a lot of running, but is all that running good for you? Whether it’s running as hard as you can during the last few minutes of soccer match or getting up early to beat the heat for a run in Texas, you may have been in a debate with someone about the risks versus rewards of running. On the one hand, running gets you out into the fresh air, releases endorphins, burns calories and gets you ready for soccer. On the other hand, running is hard on your joints unlike something like swimming, it might not target the muscle groups you want to work on, it may not burn as many calories per minute as something like circuit training and it means you have to wear running shoes instead of cowboy boots. Running or jogging is one of those topics you might be tempted to go back and forth on supporting or avoiding depending on who you listen to. There are other topics that you are tempted to back and forth on supporting or avoiding depending on which person, politician, scientist, friend or family member you talk to, and whether their arguments are based on emotions, facts, everyday situations or unique cases. All of the back and forth you battle each day wondering what to support and what to avoid is more tiring than running around for two 45-minute plus halves for up to seven miles chasing a soccer ball down one side of a field and back up the other side over and over until the referee blows the whistle.
The constant battles you face every day make you tired. As a believer in Jesus, you not only face the every day little battles like whether or not to go jogging and the big battles like which candidate to support for president, but also the battle between the desire of your sinful nature to do evil and the desire of your faith to do good. This battle weighs heavy on our hearts because it does not stop as Paul wrote in Romans 7, 21 “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” You and I are tired because we have two laws at work inside of us. We have the law of sin fighting against God’s law. The battle against sin drains your energy more than anything else in your life. Sin makes you anxious when patience is needed. Sin makes you selfish when generosity is needed. Sin makes you talk when listening is needed. Sin makes you defiant when yielding is needed. Sin is at work all the time in all you do, say and even think in your heart and mind. Sin runs you ragged and then laughs at you because it does not get tired or go away, and the battle against sin caused Paul to cry out, 24 “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Sin gives you and I no choice but to cry out in despair for rescue, for help and rest.
Many hear your cries for rescue, but only one can deliver you from the battle against sin. There are endless self-help posts, podcasts, books, speakers, methods, theories, etc. to help you with all kinds of things like time management, finances, eating healthy, getting a better night’s sleep, even jogging. These are all helpful sources for your body, but God gives rest to your soul. Paul, like you and I cried out for help in his battle against sin because he could not win, and his body would eventually be lost to death in hell. Then, as Paul spent verse after verse in Romans 7 agonizing over the battle between doing evil, while wanting to do good, he wrote, 25 “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Deliverance from your sin, rest from the battle and rescue for your soul is found only in Jesus.
Jesus called you to rest in him. When you are tired from fighting against sin these words from Jesus in Matthew 11 were written for you, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus is the rest for your weary and burdened soul. By faith, Jesus yoked or connected himself to you. When two oxen or mules are yoked together, they are strapped to one another and strapped to a load to pull together. Jesus connected you to himself so that you would benefit from all his strength, which is even greater than yoking a Clydesdale and a miniature horse together. Thus, Jesus makes your burden of sin easy and light to carry. Your battle and burden of sin is easy and light through Jesus because the load of sin is no longer on you, but on Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God and had no son but was put under God’s law and became human to save you and all people by sacrificing his perfect life on the cross. Thus, Jesus has already delivered you from the burden of your sins by dying on the cross as punishment for your sin. He has delivered you from death to life, and from a future in hell to a future in heaven.
The yoke you wear as a believer in Jesus is the battle against sin. It is a hard battle that leads you to cry out in despair, but it is short lived as heaven will give you eternal relief. Rest from your battle is also yours now through God’s Word. God’s Word gives you rest because it shows you the battle for your soul is over through Jesus. The daily battle against sin is hard, but when you lose those daily battles it does not mean you are lost. When you lose the daily battles, Jesus is still the one who tells you that you are forgiven, loved and on the winning side of life. When you are tired, the question to ask yourself is what am I really battling? If what you are tired from does not have to do with what God defines as good, avoid that battle and worrying about it. One example of this in Scripture comes from Joshua 23, when Joshua, the leader of Israel, was at the end of his life. Some of his last words were these to the leaders of Israel, 9 “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” Joshua knew the leaders of Israel would be tempted to forget God had defeated nations so that Israel could have a homeland. As Israel faced more wars to take over the rest of the territory God promised them, they would be tempted to compare the strength of their army against the strength of another nation’s army by looking at the number of swords, spears and soldiers. Joshua reminded them that the battle is not against other nations, but the battle to love the Lord your God. And so, with you, your battle as a believer is against sin, and the deliverance, victory and rest from that battle will not come from yourself. Instead, it is already yours through Jesus.
Growing up I played a lot of soccer, and one of the things about soccer that I always found interesting is that the referees had the power to let the game go longer than the regulated time. And, there were a few games growing up where I was so tired that I just wanted the match to be over. When you are tired and crying out for rest, there is rest in Jesus. Jesus controls the rules of life. He controls the time. He is both referee and player. He made sure the outcome of your life would be good by winning the victory over sin and death to give you forgiveness and life. And, some may say that it is not fair that Jesus is both referee and player, that God made the laws and when you and I break his laws, he sent his Son Jesus to play on our behalf, but those who dispute God and say that he is not fair fight a losing battle. Brothers and sisters, tired and in need of rescue, the good news of God is that real rest for your real battles is through Jesus’ deliverance. Amen.