Andy B opens up this week’s theme, “Down, But Not Out”, by first reminding us of the fact that everyone has had an experience of being down, but not out.
He unpacks this week’s Scripture verses, Matthew 11:28-30, by explaining what a yoke is in the context of these verses and further explaining its value, as in how oxen are trained using a yoke. In addition, he provides real-life examples of people learning vital skills using the same idea as that of a yoke.
He relates how a broken bone causes one to be down, but not out, and he emphasises that you will get up again.
And finally, he challenges us with the idea of seeking help when we struggle, reminding us that those with more experience will know more about how to handle situations such as tightening a motorbike chain or using weights at the gym.
Well, here we are, again with another GoDeeper with Andy B. And this time we're looking at Down, But Not Out. I'm pretty sure if you're able to watch this and understand what I'm saying, in any way, whatever grasp of English you are, whatever age you may be, at some point already in your life, you have found yourself down, wondering if you'll ever go up. But actually Down But Not Out. Because you've come out of that situation.
And one of the things about facing difficulties is that, as we face those problems, as we overcome those issues, there's a few things that happen. One that's really interesting is we start to learn more about what we can actually accomplish.
If you think about, particularly, Special Forces around the world, when they're going through their selection processes, whether it's the the Delta Force or the SEALS or the Special Air Service or Special Boat Service, most of the people will tell you, 'cos I've read enough books about this articles now, they didn't know they could accomplish what they accomplished. Because they're taught to recognise they can do more than they think they can accomplish, more than they think they can do. And it's understanding those limits, our, the boundaries of our own abilities, which are usually far greater than we possibly think.
Many, many, many, many years ago there was a programme, I think it was called Body Matters, on the BBC in the UK. And it was all about stuff to do with the body. And there was a thing about the brain one time, and how good is the brain, and what does it do, and how does it function, and is it really a muscle that you can work? And what I remembered was this.
They put up this ridiculously long number across the screen. And they asked the audience in the, in the TV studio, 'Can you remember as many of these as possible?'. And they showed this image for so long. And then they got rid of the image and said, right, just repeat as many of those numbers as you can. And these, these people got so far. And there was one person who just kept going. Now he was a plant by the TV, people, 'cos he actually had a much better brain for memorising things. But he had been working his brain. He had been exercising his brain. And he'd been learning how to use it.
And one of the things that really stood out for me from this show was how much of our brain, as a percentage we use, and it was really tiny. And you think about all the things we can do, and yet, were you using a tiny portion of our brain, so we can work our brain, like we work our muscles, to make them bigger and stronger.
Down But Not Out, part of it is realising that when we're down, we've been through this, therefore we can get through this next thing. And we'll get through the next thing because we start to gain confidence.
If you've ever watched someone in a gym particularly if it's something like heavy weights. As they start, it's all a bit clunky and clumsy and they're not quite sure what the position should be. And, and they're not really doing it very slowly. It's all a bit jerky. And you look at 'em 6 months, or a year later, and it's much more fluid, much more fluent. Because with practice we get better. And it's the same thing with being Down But Not Out. When we get knocked down, we can get back up again.
Matthew, chapter 11, is what we're looking at today, this evening, tonight, this morning, depending on where you're watching this. I have bookmarked this and I still can't find it. Oh, come on! Right. Matthew 11, 28 says this.
"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy. And my burden is light".
There's a couple of things in there that we need to kind of unpack a little. One of those is the idea of a yoke. Now, if you don't know what a yoke is, you're probably going to think of the yoke of an egg and it's got nothing to do with that, whatsoever. The yoke that it's talking about in scripture would have been probably carried in between two oxen, or two cows, or two animals of a similar size. Quite often the oxen, because they were big and strong. And that have a yoke that literally tied these two animals together. It was a piece of wood that went around the necks of these two animals. And they would walk together. And between them, they would pull the yoke, and the yoke would pull a plough. And the farmer then could walk behind and he would plough the field, or she would plough the field. That's what a yoke was.
It tied these two animals together in such a way that one, it would combine their strength, so they could pull more. And, two, it woudl always have an older oxen and a younger one. The older one knew its job. It's been doing it for a long time. It knows the call of it's master, the farmer, it knows what it's supposed to do. And the younger one might get a bit excited, and try and go off this way, and that, but because the older one, the more mature oxen is walking in a straight, solid line, that yoke, which is tied to the younger one kind of forces it to come in line, really. The nicer version of that was helps that one to learn and what it is supposed to do. Same thing, actually.
And that's what we're talking about today. Because it's really easy to go through life and find that we've got these burdens that are really, really heavy and, and really, really hard. And we struggle to get through these things that we're faced with.
Maybe it's COVID, and you don't know how you're going to cope if you get COVID and you lose your job. Because now we're out of all the kind of financial aid in the UK pretty much. If you're not at work, you don't get paid. So what are you going to do? Well most people without money will go back to work 'cos they can't afford not to. You're faced with a hard choice. Do I want to go to work while ill, and feed my family? Or do I want to stay at home, lose my job and potentially starve to death. When you're making those kinds of choices. People might not like your response. But what response are you gonna make if you were in that situation. It's easy with lots of money to say what you'd do. If you've not got the money it changes everything.
When we're Down But Not Out it means no matter what's going on, we've got hope. Down But Not Out means we're on the floor. We've got a grazed knee. We've broken our collar bone. But we know we're going to get up. It might take us a week, a day, a year. But we're gonna keep going.
As a family. We've been down many, many times for different reasons. One that is very much on my mind at the moment, I'm recalling the fact we had a business. And that business grew and it was really good, and we had lots of customers and went to a bigger shop, and even more customers. And we were selling online, all around the world. And we had local, kind of big posh schools, and colleges saying, could you come Andy and do some consultancy work to help us to become green. And Jo was setting up a green cleaning business. It was going really, really well.
And then the recession hit and we, we lost our business. Our growing, profitable, successful business closed because the bank's decided to get rid of our ability to bank. As they did with many small businesses. Sounds almost surreal, but it's true. And it's what happened. Many businesses like us were down, and out for the count.
And this is a boxing term. Down But Not Out means you get up again, you count so long, and if you get to the count, you're out. Down But Not Out means, well you're not out yet. There's still time.
When we had our business closed we never went into business again, although we'd love to. But we weren't out. We were down. The business was out. But as people we still carried on.
One of the things we struggle with, I think as Christians, in the modern world, is we don't understand why the Bible so often talks about as being like sheep, us needing to be like sheep.
Let me just flick to Psalm 23, which is the obvious one here. I'm gonna read this out in The Street Bible for 2 reasons. One, I think it's quite a nice, there's a nice richness to how the author wrote these lines. The second is Rob Lacey, who wrote this, Street Bible, that's now called Word On The Street. He died of cancer. But he got his book out first, he got his Bible out. Now, it's not a translation, it's a paraphrase. But some of the paraphrases are very, very good. But just remember, this is a guy who lost his life to cancer, and knew about it too. This is verse 4of Psalm 23.
"I crawl through the alley of the shadow of cancer. I know you know the answer, and the battle won't rattle me. You're around and I've found there's something about your empathy. Your sympathy, of sympathy, sorry, your symphony of sympathy, that comforts me."
This is a guy that died of cancer and yet, through his darkest valley, he knew who God was. Let me just read that out in, in the English Standard Version. Same bit, verse 4, of chapter 23 of the Psalms.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
Now, the thing about shepherds is they have a staff or a crook. They have this long stick. And they can use it to defend. They can use it for helping them to walk, and they can use it to help the sheep be guided this way and that.
The thing about sheep is they're not particularly smart animals. They make lots of mistakes. They need lots of care! They're very useful animals. They're great for meat and they're great for wool. And the shepherd would care for their flock. They do everything they could. You go into the Old Testament, and you see accounts of some of the people who have protected their flocks, quite probably sheep, some of them David, perhaps, or Benaiah, who went off and chased bears, and killed, and lions and killed them, protecting their sheep. Well, God protects us. And how does he protect it? Well, He protects us with a yoke. Just like those two oxen at the start. That yoke helps those two oxen walk in line.
God does not want us to be exhausted and tired and heavily laden. His burden is light. There is a cost to being a Christian, but God will help us to bear that cost. How do we walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Well, Matthew 11, Chapter 11, verse 28, the yoke. It's all to do with the yoke and the burden.
If we expect that young oxen to jump in front of a plough with a farmer and plough the field, it's gonna fail. It's not gonna know what it's gonna do. And it has to learn somehow and what's the best way of learning anything? Well, copying somebody else is always good.
In the UK there's a real attack on, on parenting as Home Educators. And it's really sad. The government is saying basically, we know better than parents how to parent. And, well, of course they don't. Before children go to school, how have they learned to read, to talk, to tie their shoelaces, to get dressed? Well, they've copied their parents. Parents have taught them how to do that.
Maybe that comment is a bit political, but it's very true. The government can never replace parents and parenting. God's ordained it that we can make children and raise them. And we put a yoke on the children when we help them to learn to copy and imitate us. as wiser, more mature people. That yoke they walk alongside us, they walk with us. You don't make 'em do stuff. They walk with us. Our kids have all learned to do all sorts of stuff.
My own children have learned to tie shoelaces, from an early age, because we showed them by tying our own shoelaces next to them and they copied what we did.
Want to learn to tie a tie? Copy someone. It's the easiest way.
I was teaching one my lads to tie a knot earlier. And if, if you can get two people to imitate and copy, you can tie a knot and you can cop. And, next time, he'll do himself. That's what a yoke is. It helps us to learn things. And Down But Not Out is about looking around us, and remembering, whatever we're going through somebody's been through this. And if we've been through something difficult, painful, hard, don't think that's wasted. Because you can help somebody else.
One time many years ago, I was in the gym, doing some weights with a friend. And he was doing his weights. And I was doing mine. And I just tried to do what I've been told to do. I wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing. We were just out doing some weights at the gym. And one of the guys, one of the, the trainers of the gym he came up to my friend said, "Can I just help you, you're not getting this right".
Now, if he had been a 6 stone nothing weakling, maybe my friend might have ignored him. But this guy was properly muscular. When he did weights, he used every single one on the rack. And he came, "Can I just help you with this?". He was really gentle about it, and showed my friend he was getting it not quite right,. He was getting this bit a little bit quick, and he needs to slow down and more specifically, consistent in his speed and deliberate. And it helped him with the weights.
We need people who've done it, who have done better than us. So they can train us and help us. In the modern world, too, we don't like asking for help very much. One of the things with the business that I mentioned is we were willing to say to people, 'we're really struggling financially with this, we're struggling to look after our children because we're exhausted'. And they'd take them out to McDonald's or some't just so we could have half an hour just to, kind, of get our heads together.
We need people who can come alongside us when we're struggling. And we're all gonna struggle in life. Whether it's with our exercise, and we just need somebody who's, who knows how to put a chain back on a bike, and we don't know how to do it. "Can you just show me that again?"
One time I was riding a motorbike. I got to work and my chain was a bit loose. There was another guy from the same place who was a biker. And I was trying to sort the chain out. "Have you ever done that before Andy?". I haven't got a clue what I'm doing. I just know I've got to tighten the chain. "Let me show you."
I could have made a right mess of that. He showed me in two minutes what to do. And the next day he did it again to remind me. And then he did it again the third day, because he wanted me to make sure I knew how to do that, 'cos it was really important.
When people walk alongside us, they become the yoke alongside us. That yoke helps us to get through life easier.
So are you down? Has some't knocked you out? Then if you want to be Down But Not Out, get some help. Ask for some help.
Years ago, I was struggling mentally with some childhood struggles. And my doctor picked it up. I went to see a therapist. I spent 15 months in some pretty intensive counselling. I got help. And it helped me sort out some hurt as a child. I'd been carrying that burden for 30 plus years. I got help. That person became the yoke next to me. And they helped me walk along, and process some difficult emotional stuff from my childhood.
We all need people who can walk alongside us. And every one of us has access to this, in Jesus Christ. I'll just go back to Matthew 11 as I finish here. No, that's Matthew 4. Let's try again. Matthew 11.
"Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden. I will give you rest."
That's a promise from God. He will give us rest. But when does He give us rest? Well, not just for the sake of it. It's when we come to Him. When we're labouring, and we're not doing very well, we go to God heavily laden, He will give us rest. And how does He give us rest? Well, we walk with Jesus. He walks with us more specifically. He actually walks alongside us. And in walking with Him, He helps us carry that burden, and carry that load. And that thing we're carrying is now being carried by somebody else.
Let me finish with this. Years and years ago, Jo and I would go shopping. Way before kids. We'd take a shopping basket in a supermarket. We didn't need a trolley, there's only two of us. And we'd take a basket. But, sometimes, that basket would get a little bit too heavy. So, then, the other person would pick up the other side of the basket. And, all of a sudden, two people are carrying this heavy load. And it was really easy and it was quite good fun. We got lots of people smiling at us, the young married couple, buying their shopping.
We all need people who can help us in different ways. Whether it's carrying half a shopping basket for us, helping us move house, making sure that we're actually exercising correctly on our cycling or our weight training. We need those people to help us. And when they do we take the yoke with them, they take the yoke up with us and we can carry that load together.
Let's pray. Father God, I thank You that in this life, you don't expect us to walk alone. You don't expect us to live, and learn, all by ourselves making all sorts of mistakes. I thank you God that there are people who will walk alongside us. But, Father God, please give us thehumility to ask for help. That when we're down, we can have someone help us with that burden, so that we can be Down But Not Out. Amen!
Written by Andy B