We have a fast-paced, achievement-oriented world. In this world we are tempted to have a distorted practice of rest: we either never rest, we rest too much, or we consider rest time as “off-duty” time. To have a healthy pattern of rest we must understand what true rest is.
The Old Testament has two symbols for rest: the Sabbath as a day off from work and the Promised Land as a place for God to dwell among His people. Both of these necessitate faith – trusting God’s provision enough to stop working and responding to His glory by worshipping Him. In the New Testament these two ideas are fulfilled in Jesus. He dwells among us, revealing God’s glory, and He is God’s provision for our greatest need – reconciliation to God. Jesus completes His gospel work and rests (Heb 10:2) and in doing so He becomes our needed rest.
The New Testament’s idea of rest isn’t a rest from work or responsibility but a spiritual rest – peace (reconciliation) with God. Jesus became that rest for us by completing His gospel work and those who believe on Him enter into His perfection peace. No wonder Jesus is called our great mediator.
Now, by faith, we are commanded to participate in Christ’s rest. This means rest is as much a relationship quality as it is a Christian duty. So, just like everything else in the Christian life, our faithfulness to Christ shows up in our faith-driven obedience to rest. Rest is an act of faith. Faithful resting is any activity that increases our worship of God and prepares us to obey Him. Hebrews 3 and 4 say those who fall short (unbelief) are prohibited from Christ’s rest, but those who participate in Christ enter into His rest – peace with God. And we see faithful rest in three ways – we rest, we don’t idolize it, and we rest responsibly.
- We rest. We exercise faith in God’s provision and take time off of our regular duties to re-create (recreation) ourselves in God. The relational end of peace with God through Christ works out in our habit of resting with God. There is always another task, always another dollar, always another achievement, but in God’s economy the pursuit of Him is prized, building our relationship with Him. God provides good things and activities for us to rest in (Eccl 5:18-19). How can you use rest time to prepare yourself for faithfulness?
- We don’t idolize rest. Our world is so high-paced we are often convinced we deserve more rest time than needed. We prioritize our relationship with God, family, church, work, and then ourselves. When we inverse this list it is evidence of our attempt to self-satisfy. We seek to find our satisfaction in time off. We build our schedules and households around our leisure time. This is idolatry – we are prioritizing recreation too highly while attempting to manufacture our own peace. In what ways is your rest habits evidence of idolatry?
- We rest responsibly. Self-satisfaction in rest is often found in both time allotted to rest (point #2) and what activities are done for rest. A temptation is to consider our time off as off-duty time. Christians who rest do not take a break from loving God and loving others. In fact rest is the responsibility of getting ready for the next moment of loving God and others. Our true and better rest isn’t found apart from following God’s commands but in following them in the good gifts he provides. What are somethings that you must have to feel rested? What can those things tell you about fidelity to Christ?