Jesus told His followers to… Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
You ever felt burdened by the things in this world and feel Christianity is to hard and you’re ready to quit. If so, maybe you should consider Hiroo Onoda.
In 1941, Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda was sent to a small US-occupied island in the Philippines with orders to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island. He linked up with a group of soldiers already stationed there, but within a month, all but four of the men had been killed in battle. Hiroo and the others took the hills.
In 1945 they began seeing pamphlets stating the war had ended, but Onoda dismissed them as propaganda. In the following few years, the others surrendered or died one by one, but Onoda held his position, even continued his guerilla activities … until 1974.
Onoda finally met a college dropout named Suzuki backpacking in the island who explained to him the war had ended. Still, the dedicated soldier was reluctant to believe. Finally, his former commanding officer who had long since retired flew to the island and gave Onoda his orders to lay down his arms.
There are two ways you can go with this illustration…
The first is to realize that Hiroo Onoda’s story is one of honor. He was sent to do a job and he refused to leave his post until he received a specific order, even though it was 29 years before the order arrived. Jesus told his followers to… “Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:13
We would do well to stay in the battle ourselves. The battle before us is difficult and one that Ephesians 6:10-20 reminds us that we are in and even goes as far as describing our enemy and we would do well to keep fighting until we hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)
Another way to apply this story is to remember that so many of us — just like Lt. Onoda — are unnecessarily fighting a war that has long since been won. The wrong war. Our war!
This is not the battle we’ve been called to, it’s the battle we’ve been saved from. And we’re not engaged in combat because of honor, but because of pride and disbelief in our own life.
Before Jesus breathed his final breath, he cried out “It is finished” in John 19:30. Maybe some within the sound of his voice thought he was talking about his own life, or maybe they thought he was talking about the future of his following … but the truth is that he was talking about the power of sin and death.
And at that moment death was swallowed in victory; the cost of our freedom was paid in full according to 1 Corinthians 15:55-58 .
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
Like the pamphlets that arrived on that tiny Philippine island, we have heard about our liberation — but we refuse to believe it. It’s too good to be true. We stubbornly stay in our fight, losing battle after battle — the same battles he has already won.
It is finished, he said…
These are all swallowed up in the victory of the cross and his powerful resurrection. His work is finished, he has rested. And he is inviting us now to rest in him because the Father has accepted the work of the Son, and all who trust in the Son have now been reconciled to the Father through Jesus Christ.
According to Romans 5:1-11, we have now been justified by the death of Jesus Christ and it is through Him we have won the battle of eternity.
It is because Jesus Christ has won the battle we can now rest but only in Him.