Are You a Rester?
Definition of resting: cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.
So as part of following Jesus, I am called to pay special attention to pieces of my life in certain ways, which includes amongst other things – rest. Rest is that wonderfully hard-to-identify thing that God took after creating … well … everything, & not because He needed physical rest. So one might be inclined to ask – what is resting? How does one rest? How does one rest well? And why is it important?
So resting perhaps, comes down to a question of habit. Rick Warren says, ‘Show me your habits & I’ll show you your life & it’s direction.’ Habits are powerful & contribute to who you are & what you’re up to. More importantly, habits reveal what we value. Why do I introduce the notion of habits here? Because rest IS a habit, as well as a command from God. But before anything, one must first buy into the VALUE of the habit (in this case, rest) & decide for oneself if it is worth the engagement & investment.
For those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from His.
Hebrews 4: 10 (emphasis mine)
God rested from His creating work. He was not exhausted from his laboring, God does not need to stop to regain strength, as He does not fatigue. So why did He rest? Because He had completed His work. And why do we rest? What kind of work do we rest from? What do we quit doing as people who love & serve & have faith in Christ? One possibility is the work of trying to earn our salvation. Qualifying for the kingdom. Being accepted by God. Could the answer here be ceasing our efforts & resting in His effort, not our own? Could the answer also be that by resting, we unclench our rushed, in demand, & driven minds long enough to appreciate Him & His blessings?
Let’s note also that Jesus rested – many times we see in the Scriptures that He withdrew from the action to get with His Father. And furthermore, a lot of this withdrawing seemed to happen at critical moments where people were gathered – breathless to experience His love & instruction. I pondered this many times until at last I realized there really wasn’t an optimal time for Him to withdraw. He had to excuse Himself, seek the Father & rest when He had to excuse Himself, seek the Father & rest – crowds or not. We can likewise take this notion into our own worlds – excuse ourselves, seek the Father & rest when, as is already stated, we need to excuse ourselves, seek the Father & rest. And why did Jesus rest? To connect with His Father, pour out His heart &, rest in the comfort there.
And we can then say, God’s reach & work is present in our rest times, as is certainly evident when we consider Jesus upon His retreating. Perhaps we are touched by His love & instruction even more so in those times than in our busy times. Can we then conclude, rest is important? Yes. Within it, there is indeed great treasure.
We rest because:
– rest reflects for us that we walk a precarious line of being busy doing things for Christ & forget to simply be with Christ.
– rest reminds us of who we are & Whose we are in that we are not merely the sum of what we accomplish, but have great worth, regardless of how much or how little we do.
– rest helps us maintain perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things. Taking a break helps us to put the great weight of responsibility back where it belongs – on God’s shoulders, rather than ours.
– rest reinforces for us that it is God who provides what we need & not ourselves.
The Value of Rest by Alan Perkins
Let’s look at another chunk of scripture that opens up meaning for us around rest:
Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news (gospel) proclaimed to us, just as they did (Israelites); but the message they (Israelites) heard was of no value to them (didn’t really hear it at all), because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
Hebrews 4: 1-3 (emphasis & parenthesis mine)
God’s rest in this case was Canaan – a place He had tucked in His back pocket for His chosen people. A place of good, sweet & provisional things. All that was required was that the Israelites fully trust in Him & His promises & live their lives from that place. Something entirely free, ready for the taking, offered by the Maker of the universe no less! Long story short – the Isrealites didn’t enter God’s rest, (they even grumbled about going back to the bondage from whence they came), God solemnly declared they therefore would not enter Canaan (a place of good, sweet & provisional things), they most certainly didn’t enter anywhere except into a 40 year walkathon (though God in His amazing compassion continued to provide for them), the next generation did enter & here we are talking about rest.
Thus, the ‘Therefore’ of the above passage applies to us in the here & now. The promise of provision God made then still stands now – in the person of Jesus Christ. He alone can provide rest & for our needs along the way. To grasp this offer, one must have faith, as it is through faith that we believe the promise has merit & value. Can we say then, that rest makes room for the good, sweet & provisional things? The gift God has tucked in His back pocket for each of us?
And there is a plethora of other things we rest from that are definitely worth mentioning here:
– frenzied schedules
– the whirlwinds of being connected by phone, email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
– must haves that demand long line-ups
– and the list is as varied as the socks in your drawer
Shall we explore the consequences of not resting? Well, for the Israelites, the consequences were grave & obvious. God still loved & provided for them, but the good, sweet, & provisional things of the land (God’s rest) were out of their reach, eventually being possessed way later by relatives, leaving the Israelites to tromp around the same territory seemingly without end. Imagine the sandals they must have gone through! And the directional confusion – say, haven’t we been here before?!
I think each of us could identify a list of the personal consequences that would befall us should we choose to not rest. God’s provision of rest not only covers the larger, more eternally focused reasons (Jesus, the free gift of salvation & trusting in His provision), but the smaller, more annoying, life reasons (sickness, high emotional expenditures, loss of the car keys at a really ticklish time, joylessness) as well. So by resting, are we acknowledging that everything we have – salvation, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, joy, keys – come free from God? That by actually resting we are saying ‘Amen!’ to our Provider; honoring Him, His creation & plan with our stopping?
Is there value in resting then? Loads. Is there a way to rest well? Yes. As varied as the sock drawer thing I mentioned earlier – but with the proviso that all rest be done in honor of Him Who fashioned rest – the One Who gives us this precious gift.
Michael Frost in his excellent book, ‘Seeing God In The Ordinary’, speaks of a discipline called Kavanah. This is the process of ‘slowing down’. This slowing down, can amazingly be done whilst one is active & productive, as well as when one simply stops. In other words, one can slow down while sitting in traffic, or working in the garden, or running errands, etc., as well as when one becomes still. ‘Seeing God in the ordinary is not only about how full or empty your calendar is, but about how attentive you’re prepared to be even if rushing around … The discipline of Kavanah involves the preparedness for us to see that every action can be completed with an orientation toward God … To those who embrace Kavanah, the true meaning of life is revealed in the deed. What matters is not what is being done, so much as the fact that every act is filled with sanctity – that is, with God-oriented intent … even the most profane, non-religious activity can be given a God-oriented intent.’
Psalm 23 speaks with poetic power about rest (comments mine):
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (He gives me all I need).
He makes me lie down in green pastures (He stops me & says, ‘Rest dear one.’);
He leads me beside still waters (He provides serenity & healing water to drink).
He restores my soul (He indeed, in every way, restores my soul);
I will adopt the great words of our Pastor Dan when he gently surveys the people before him and says, ‘How do I land this thing?’. Well, let me leave you with yet another question. Remember at the beginning of this article, how I mentioned habits? I am taking you back there. What is a habit you can start right now to take yourself further along this road of rest?
Just one thing for now – a small step. But a step toward rest & God.