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The Gift of Relief

The birth of Jesus brought refreshing to all who are tired from the toils of life.

People are tired. It seems these days that everyone I speak with is busy. We are busy with work, busy with ministry, and busy with life. We are simply busy being busy. Even a good night’s rest doesn’t seem to eradicate our tiredness. What we need is to be refreshed.


When the Bible speaks of being refreshed, it is referring to “relief from distressful, burdensome circumstances.”[1] Refreshment is relief; and that is something we all need.


Life has always been stressful and burdensome (Job 14:1), but the pandemic became a catalyst that seemed to accelerate the toils and troubles of our existence. We were asked to do more at work as the Great Resignation took place. We witnessed the unfettered anarchy of our society as crime and violence spiked out of control. We experienced what a famine could look like in the richest country in the world as shelves lay bare in our grocery stores. And we were even forbidden from going to the house of God to worship. If these last few years have not been stressful and burdensome, then I don’t know what is.


Christmas Offers Us Hope


Yet, there remains hope for those whose faith is in the Lord Jesus. Not a blind faith that feels aimlessly in the dark for stability, but a resolve and confidence that is rooted in the identity and resurrection of the eternal Son of God, who became human. His name is Jesus, which means the Lord is our Salvation.


It is, in fact, the salvation which Christ brings that provides us relief from all of life’s burdens. He is why we celebrate Christmas. His incarnation – becoming human – is not just God’s greatest gift to mankind; it is God’s greatest offer of relief from the toil of sin and the terror of hell (Rom. 6:33).


This was Peter’s message to the crowd amazed at the marvelous gift he gave a man who was previously unable to walk. That gift was healing through the power of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. What a name! The Prophet that Moses prophesied would come was Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah the prophets foretold would deliver God’s people was Jesus of Nazareth. The name by which the man stood before them healed was Jesus of Nazareth.


But the people had a decision to make, and we find it in Acts 3:19–21:


Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.


Deciding To Do Things Differently


Like the people of Peter’s day, we are confronted with a decision concerning Jesus of Nazareth. To receive the refreshing that He offers us, we must do two things.


1. We Must Change Our Mind. The first thing they had to do was repent. To repent is to change one’s mind about who Jesus is. Jesus is more than a good teacher, good prophet, or good person; He is the Son of God, which means He is God. Every attribute the Father has, the Son has; otherwise, He could not be God.


People want relief, but they don’t want to repent. The hardest thing to get us to do is to change our minds. When we have made up our mind, it takes heaven and earth to move us from our position. This is where the grace of the God of heaven and earth shines in our hearts to see the truth about who Jesus is (2 Cor. 4:6). Thus, God gives us all the evidence we need in the Scriptures to enlighten our understanding to the revelation and reality of Jesus’s divinity (Luke 24:27).


When we look at the world today, we can’t help but recognize that we need someone who can make things right. We need someone with compassion and the capacity to heal this world from the toils and terrors of our present day. That someone is Jesus. Jesus brings us peace, joy, comfort, and rest. He supports us in our weaknesses by giving us the strength we need, because He knows what it is like to be human (Heb. 4:15).


By changing our perception of who Jesus is, we position ourselves to receive the benefits of the great Benefactor.


2. We Must Change Our Position. The second thing they had to do was be converted. Conversion is a direct consequence of repentance and happens simultaneously. When we change our minds about who Jesus is, we turn our hearts back to God. Because our heart and head are connected, as we bring our head in alignment with God’s truth, we will bring our heart in alignment with God’s will (Deut. 6:4). This means that we will love what God loves and reject what God rejects.


Our change of position is more than a reorientation toward God; it is a radical pursuit of God that seeks to please Him. It is the discarding of the old, toilsome way of living that exhausted us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically; and it is the embracing of a new way of living that rests in the finished work of Jesus at the cross on Calvary’s hill (Eph. 4:22-24). There, He paid our sin-debt to God. There, He satisfied God’s wrath against us. There He lifted the heavy burden of sin off our shoulders and broke it in two, never to be carried again.


Repentance Leads to Refreshing


As a result of changing our position, Peter says that two things will happen. First, God will change our condition: He will wipe away our sins. The horror and terror of standing before a righteous God stained by the filth and stench of sin is mortifying, but thanks be to God that we can stand before Him as righteous because of the blood of Jesus! Our faith in Jesus cleanses us from every ungodly word, thought, and deed we have ever committed. Thus, we stand before God as legally not guilty because Jesus’s blood covers our sins, making our moral and ethical standing before God righteous (Rom. 5:1).


Second, a time will come when we will be refreshed. Many scholars believe that this refers to the Millennial Kingdom of Christ, when He will reign on earth for 1,000 years, ushering in a time of peace and prosperity not experienced since the world began. And I agree. But we don’t have to wait until the Millennial Kingdom to be refreshed, because at the moment we place our faith in Jesus, He refreshes our spirit with His Spirit. This is why He invites us to come to Him to find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28-30) – not just in the future, but right now.


The rest Jesus gives us now is an unspeakable joy when we experience multiple trials, a peace that surpasses human understanding in the face of anxiety-causing situations, and a boast in His sufficient grace as we endure unrelenting infirmities (1 Pet. 1:6-9).


Rejoice for Relief


This month we will celebrate the birth of Christ. We will imitate God’s gift of love to us by giving gifts to those we love. But this Christmas, I want us to celebrate something even greater; let’s celebrate the gift of refreshing.


Whatever has you distressed and burdened, remember that Jesus came to give you relief. Relief from the power of sin in your life, relief from the burden of trying to keep the rules and regulations of the Law, and relief from the Great White Throne Judgment of God. If that isn’t relief, then I don’t know what is.


Have a Merry Christmas!


Rev. Isaac Hayes is the founder of Healing of the Soul Ministries and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] Louw and Nida, 245.

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