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The Weight of the World

Dr. George McCauslin was one of the greatest YMCA directors this world has ever seen. Nevertheless, some years ago, he found himself serving a YMCA in western Pennsylvania that was losing membership, that had terrible financial difficulties and staff problems. George McCauslin found himself working 85 hours per week. He was getting little sleep at night. He took little time off and when he did have time off, he was thinking about the problems of this YMCA.

McCauslin went to a therapist who told him he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He had to learn somehow to let go and let God into his problems but he did not know quite how to do that.

Therefore, one day, George McCauslin took the afternoon off. He took a pen and paper and went for a walk in the western Pennsylvania woods somewhere. As he walked through the cool forest, he could just feel his tight body and his stiff neck start to relax. He sat down under a tree and sighed. For the first time in months, he let go.

He took out his pen and paper, and decided he would release all the burdens in his life. He wrote God a letter and in that letter, he said, “Dear God, today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George.”

George McCauslin, later describing this incident said, with a twinkle in his eye, “And wonder of wonders, God accepted my resignation.”

Are you trying to bear the weight of the world on your shoulders? Maybe you need to resign as general manager of the universe. Perhaps you are bearing the weight of health problems, or marriage breakdown or family difficulties or financial failure. Maybe your problem is with the holidays. Your life is so stressful right now, but you want everything to be just right for Christmas when the relatives are coming over. Nothing seems to be coming together and, perhaps, you are depressed about it.

Whatever your problem is, you need to know that Christ came to bear the weight of your world. God did not create you to bear the weight of the world. He wants to bear that weight that you are trying, unsuccessfully, to carry all by yourself. We read in Isaiah 9:1-6, a prophecy of the Messiah . . .

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan—
The people walking in darkness    
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death    
a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation    
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you    
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice    
when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shatteredthe yoke that burdens them,    
the bar across their shoulders,    
the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle    
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,    
will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,    
to us a son is given,    
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The prophet Isaiah originally delivered these words during a time of great unrest. Naphtali, a tribe in northern Israel suffered greatly when the Assyrian King, Tiglath-Pileser III, attacked from the north in 734 and 732 BC.

Israel and Judah were divided at this time. However, this oracle anticipates the reunification of Judah and Israel under a single, ideal, Davidic ruler of the future who will protect his people from all their enemies round about.

Who was this ruler to be? Some commentators on the Hebrew Scriptures have suggested that the crown prince Hezekiah was in view and that the titles of Isaiah 9:6 are simply grandiose throne names expressing the high expectations that people like Isaiah had of Hezekiah. That may be. However, most Christian commentators down through the centuries have seen in Isaiah 9:6 a prophecy that was more completely fulfilled in Jesus, the Christ.

Therefore, let us think about Isaiah 9:6 in light of what we know about Jesus….

Isaiah 9:6 suggests that a child will be born to deliver us. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” The child that was born to Mary was born for you and me.

John Henry Jowett once wrote, “Who would have had sufficient daring of imagination to conceive that God Almighty would have appeared among men as a little child? We should have conceived something sensational, phenomenal, catastrophic, appalling! The most awful of the natural elements would have formed his retinue, and men would be chilled and frozen with fear. But, He came as a little child. The great God ‘emptied Himself’; He let in the light as our eyes were able to bear it.”

Jesus Christ was born for you and me; he was born to bear the government of the world on his shoulders. That includes the government of each of our lives and each of our problems. He wants to bear our lives and our problems on his shoulders so that the weight will not crush us.

Isaiah 9:6 mentions four names or titles given to the Messiah.

As Billy Sunday once pointed out, “There are two hundred and fifty-six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.”

Do you need wisdom? Jesus Christ is a wonderful counselor. This title that is given to the Messiah points to his role as king; he determines and carries out a program of action. As Wonderful Counselor, Christ is carrying out a royal program of bringing the world to himself. His program causes the world to marvel. If you need wisdom to deal with your problems, he is the best counselor that you can go to and he does not charge by the hour. All of his counsel is free.

Do you need someone to bear the weight of your problems? Christ is the one to do it because he is the Mighty God. This title stresses his divine power as warrior. Jesus will go to battle for you and in fact has gone to battle for you, winning the decisive victory in the war against evil through his death and resurrection. Since he has all the power and authority in the universe, why not let him have a crack at your problems?

Sometimes when I am facing difficulties I wish my Dad were around to talk to. I wonder: Do you need a father to talk to who can give you encouragement and help you solve your problems? Jesus is the one to go to because he is the Everlasting Father. He is a father who will not run out on you. He is alive forevermore and he is constantly available to you. He is an enduring, compassionate provider and protector. He is the Everlasting Father.

Do you sometimes feel like your world is coming apart? Do you have wars within and wars without? Jesus can give you peace because he is the Prince of Peace. If you let him rule your life then he will bring you wholeness and wellbeing.

Michael Card has written, “All we could ever imagine, could ever hope for, He is... He is the Prince of Peace whose first coming has already transformed society but whose second coming will forever establish justice and righteousness. All this, and infinitely more, alive in an impoverished baby in a barn. That is what Christmas means—to find in a place where you would least expect to find anything you want, everything you could ever want.”

God’s invitation to you tonight is this: allow Christ to bear the weight of your world. Make the decision tonight to roll off the weight on to his shoulders.

Our problem as human beings is that we have to decide to do that every day, because we are constantly trying to take the weight of the world back on to our own shoulders. We resign as general managers of the universe for a day, but then we enlist ourselves again the next day in those same managerial roles.

I believe there are two ways of handling problems in life when you come right down to it. One of those ways is pictured in the gigantic statue of Atlas that stands outside Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The statue shows a beautifully proportioned man, with all of his rippling muscles straining, holding the world upon his shoulders. That is one way to handle problems. You can try to carry it all on your shoulders. However, unlike Atlas, those problems will break you if you try to bear the weight yourself.

Another way to handle problems is illustrated just on the other side of Fifth Avenue in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Behind the high altar in the cathedral there stands a little statue of the boy Jesus, and with no effort, he is holding a little globe, the world in fact, in one hand.

Unto us a child is born. Unto us, a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders.

I suppose like many people, I cannot hear or read the words of Isaiah 9:6 without hearing those words set to the music of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. Do you know the story behind that amazing oratorio?

According to Christian History magazine …

By 1741 George Frideric Handel was a failure. Bankrupted, in great physical pain, and the victim of plots to sabotage his career, the once-great opera composer scheduled a “farewell” appearance in London in April. To the London elite, it looked like this “German nincompoop,” as he was once called, was through….

Deeply depressed, Handel was visited by his friend Charles Jennens. The devout Anglican had written a libretto about the life of Christ and the work of redemption, with the text completely taken from the Bible. A fussy perfectionist, Jennens had written it to challenge the deists who denied the divinity of Jesus. “Would Handel compose the music for it?” he asked. Handel answered that he would, and estimated its completion in a year.

Soon thereafter, a group of Dublin charities approached Handel to compose a work for a benefit performance. The money raised would help free men from debtor’s prison, and Handel would receive a generous commission. Now with a text and a motivation, Handel began composing Messiah on August 22, 1741. Within six days, Part One was finished. In nine more, Part Two. Six more and Part Three was done. It took him only an additional two days to finish the orchestration. Handel composed like a man obsessed. He rarely left his room and rarely touched his meals. But in 24 days he had composed 260 pages—an immense physical feat.

When he finished writing what would become known as the Hallelujah Chorus, he said, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God himself.” …

Until his death, Handel conducted 30 performances of Messiah (none at Christmastime, for Handel deemed it a Lenten piece), only one of which was in a church, Bristol Cathedral. In that audience sat John Wesley. “I doubt if that congregation was ever so serious at a sermon as they were during this performance,” he remarked.

Handel died on the day before Easter 1759, hoping to “meet his good God, his sweet Lord and Savior, on the day of his Resurrection.” A close friend remarked, “He died as he lived—a good Christian, with a true sense of his duty to God and to man, and in perfect charity with all the world.”

I think I know at least one reason why the music Handel wrote for his setting of Isaiah 9:6 is so stirring. I think it is because the government of Handel’s life was on the shoulders of the Savior.

Is the government of your life on your shoulders or Jesus’ shoulders? You have a choice. You can try to carry the weight of the world and all your problems on your shoulders, but that is a crushing weight. Why not allow Jesus Christ to carry the weight of your world? I believe that if you do, then you will experience peace, hope, joy, and love, such as you have never known before.


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