In the last article, there was discussion regarding rest from a biblically spiritual point-of-view. As Hebrews 4:9-11 reminds us, “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, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
The works to which this passage refers have to do with what we cannot possibly do for ourselves, namely, the works of saving and sanctifying that Jesus accomplished once and for all for you and me upon the cross (see Hebrews 9:11-12 and 10:11-12). Our rest, therefore, is intimately and eternally tied to our trust in Him and His life-saving and life-giving grace for us.
So what then are the “keys to rest?” What are the practical tools by which we live in the peace-granting, spirit-calming, and soul-healing grace of God that He grants to anyone who will cease their tedious and tiresome pursuit of sin and self?
There are four things that together position us in that place of rest, the oasis of life that we each crave and require. These four things, if put into place, have a deeply significant way of allowing us to experience God’s Spirit’s presence, releasing us from the wearisome toil of merely surviving.
The first is that one reprioritize his life. When Jesus reminded His hearers that the “Great Commandment” is to love God with all one’s “heart, soul and mind” (in Matthew 22:37-38), He was indicating both the unimaginable worth of God and how that our well-spring of renewal comes only from God Himself. So Jesus invites us to again and again put down the roots of our affections and desires into the soil of intimacy of our Maker.
Not only that, but as He declared in Matthew 22:39-40, loving others at least as much as we love ourselves allows us to be drawn up into experiences of purpose that are infinitely greater than how we might selfishly lavish upon ourselves resources of time, attention, and material blessings. This is not to say that we don’t perform what is often called “self-care”. Indeed, for us to run the long marathon of life in ways that bear eternal fruit, we must attend to our relationship with God first, our family second, and then our “calling as servants” of Jesus.
But to squander our life on earth in indulging lesser dreams than knowing God and making Him known, is a poor and tragic end to a life that could have, with God’s help, been lived so differently.
The second key in a person’s finding true rest is to reorganize her life. This is taking the practical steps she takes to reprioritize her life. It is the applying to the head the knowledge God has revealed to the heart. It is where we get our agenda or calendar and where we intentionally identify and plan the steps we will take to take God at His Word.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33 ESV).
In other words, put first things first! Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness means trusting Him with your tithe (even when you “can’t afford it”). It means trusting Him in relationships (not that people won’t like you or not hurt you, but believing that taking time to express love for others as Jesus did is not in vain and has worth in God’s eyes and that His approval means more to you than people’s approval). It means trusting Him with your sacrifices in temporary comfort and pleasure (even when others do not notice or thank you). It is putting the “horse” of relationship with God back before the cart of your life so that He can lead you in eternal paths that have eternal benefits.
The third key is to release one’s life to God. Release is the active pursuit of God’s will, as one relinquishes “conditions” for obedience. It is “letting go” our agenda and trusting God’s. It is the follow-through to reorganizing one’s life around the priorities of the heart of our heavenly Father.
“Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV).
The final key is for one to relax in God. That may not sound very spiritual, but it is very biblical. In Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still (relax), and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Relaxing in God’s goodness, trusting that the One Who will be exalted in the whole earth begins by being exalted in one’s own life, is the ultimate expression of trust in God. To cease striving, to surrender anxiety (as if our worrying about things can in any way actually be productive), to “snuggle up” to God, confident in His embrace of grace that you are not only forgiven and secured a future in heaven, but are also upheld by His own hand and held dear to His heart as a treasured beloved child.
Begin your day with His Word. Get to know His voice as you read His promises and let His Spirit speak to you about Who He is and what He does for those who trust Him. Begin your day with prayer and, as you speak to Him, trust that if you have repented of sin and of living your life your own way, that Jesus’ sacrifice is more than enough to cleanse you and set you on the path of knowing Him. Become a part of His church where His Word is preached and His people pray and love and serve with the joy of God’s children!
Rest in Him. Trust in His promises. Walk in obedience to His Word. Love as He has loved you. And come to know Him as you walk with Him and learn how great He truly is.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)