Come to me, all who labor 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” (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV).
God never tires. He needs neither sleep nor repose. Nothing He does takes anything from Him or diminishes his power in any way. Nothing.
We, on the other hand, even burn calories in our sleep. Everything we do causes us to tire, especially work. Be it physical, mental or emotional, work puts a drain on our batteries.
It’s understandable then, that one might question why God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2). What was His game plan? I can assure you that God rested for our benefit. I remember the frustration I felt as a child when I was—most unfairly!—made to go to bed. I wasn’t even tired! Ever! Since then I have married and had children. It turns out that kids really do need their sleep!
Given the trauma we suffered by being forced to sleep, it’s little wonder why we have stubbornly gotten less and less sleep as the years have passed. All the while God’s example was ignored.
God rested so that we would understand the importance of rest.
The root word translated rested in Genesis 2:2, “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (ESV), is shabbat, from which we get the word sabbath. It literally means “to cease.”
We Christians get all worked up about Sabbath. “That’s a part of the Law; we’re not under the law!” But God laid the foundation for a Sabbath rest thousands of years before the Law!
What does it mean to cease? For the Israelites, once the law came, it meant that no work was to be done. Period. In Leviticus 15:32-36 a man was caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath, and the judgment of the Lord was swift. The man was put to death.
We who live under grace have a difficult time with God’s actions there. But God is holy, and His law was to be obeyed.
That passage serves as a powerful reminder that God placed a tremendous emphasis on rest.
The societies in which most of us live have placed a great deal of importance on production. It comes wrapped in unreasonable deadlines. We work and work because so much is expected of us. We fear for our jobs, and so we spend more and more time pushing the boundaries of what our bodies are capable of sustaining.
God expects us to work. There’s no question about that. He made it clear to Adam when he was forced from the garden that he was to work, and that work would be difficult. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, “…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (ESV). Yet God never rescinded the call to rest.
Just as I was indignant that I was not tired, we see God’s “rule” of rest as oppressive. We have things to do. God set the example for Adam and Eve, and down through the years it was ignored. So God made it a rule—for our own good!—but we ignored Him still.
It is like we are participants in a Demolition Derby. You know, the event where several drivers maneuver their cars around an open field running into one another until only one remains mobile. In our harried existence we rush about seeking after some prize—position, possessions, popularity—none of which are bad per se, but all of which can be distractions when we are trying to love and serve God. It’s not until we find ourselves immobilized that we realize how broken our relationship with God really is.
God has always known that we need rest. He has always promoted rest. He knew that we would often be driven about by the winds of ambition only to run aground on the reefs of exhaustion. So He offered us rest.
So What Is Rest?!?
As I see it, it’s all about trust. For the Israelites, their distrust, discontent and dissatisfaction turned a two-week victory walk into 40 years resisting God’s good plan for their lives. For me it has most often been a concern that their wouldn’t be enough money to pay the bills. We fail to recognize that God has offered us rest and peace for so long. When we put our trust in Him, He will always take care of us!
We probably all know the scripture by heart, “Come to me, all who labor 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” (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV). Jesus reiterates what the Father has been saying all along: “I want to give you rest.”
In Vincent’s Word Studies, comments on Matthew 11:28, he points out that Christ’s call was to those who labor (an active role) and those who are heavy laden (a passive role). We labor because things must get done, and labor is good. But when we lose our perspective, or rather fail to trust God with our cares and concerns, we become “heavy laden.” We become overburdened. We buckle under weights we were never expected to carry.
What can we do about it?
The title of this post hinted that there is something we can do to find rest in our lives. I wouldn’t want to mislead you. We most certainly can enter into God’s rest, but it involves one of the hardest things any human has to do. It is called surrender.
Since the Fall, all of humanity has set itself against God. We have done so by putting ourselves first. Adam and Eve failed to comprehend that they were already made in the image of God; they thought that eating the fruit would make them like God. It was all about them.
Even now we run around like chickens with their heads cut off, striving to establish a peace of our own, but our labors are in vain.
“…There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:9, ESV).
Pastor and teacher John Piper has said, “The inner essence of worship is experiencing Christ as more satisfying than everything you lose in death and everything you have in life.”
At first glance this quote doesn’t appear to fit the subject of rest. Taken at face value it is about worship. But I contend that it has everything to do with rest!
When the “rubber meets the road,” our contentment in and with Christ is the most significant factor in our peace and rest.
Paul put it thusly, “…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, ESV). If we count the worries and cares, poverty and riches, troubles and triumphs, all as “rubbish,” then nothing that this world can hurl at us can take from us our rest.
Finding our rest in Christ, by valuing Him above all else, and trusting Him above all else, may not be an easy path to true inner peace, but it is the only certain way. As disciples we must daily set our face, first and foremost, to please Him.
How do we find rest? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV). When we humble ourselves before God and surrender He opens up to us a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Blessings on your weekend! If you’ve gotten anything from this post, please like and share.