Yesterday I posted a blog entry that argued from Hebrews 4 that the true enemy of rest is not busyness; it’s unbelief. That like the Israelites of old, the reason we do not enter the promised rest of God is not because of an overcrowded schedule but because of our failure to believe in the God that has finished His work. Today I’d like to follow up that post with some implications that flow from that basic premise. Specifically, if it is true that the enemy of rest is unbelief, then…
1. Rest is about more than sleep.
In Hebrews 4, we don’t see rest being equated with taking a nap. Rather, it is a state of being; a consistent attribute of our lives. It is possible for us to get a night of sleep and not wake up rested. That’s because even though our eyes might close, our soul does not. We can still be in a state of unrest even though we have exhausted ourselves physically. To truly rest, then, we must rest in mind, body, and heart. The only way we do this is by knowing and reminding ourselves over and over again of the news of the gospel. This, and this alone, is where true striving ceases.
2. You can be physically exhausted and still rest.
If it’s true that rest is not so much a specific period of time but a state in which we live, it is possible and even likely that most of the time that we rest we will be physically exhausted at the same time. Again, to see this, you have to look deeper and realize why we constantly in a state of unrest. Though some of it might be to simple scheduling mistakes, the bulk of those mistakes come from a refusal to live in light of the work of God through Jesus. When we live in light of the gospel, you might say that even our hardest of work comes out of the deepest of rest. We work no longer to justify ourselves or prove ourselves worthy to some standard, but we work fueled by the acceptance we have in Christ and through Christ alone.
3. Rest is an opportunity for celebration.
In Hebrews 4: 3-4, there is a reference to the rest of God on the seventh day of creation. We should ask ourselves here why exactly God – the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Source of all there is, rested. Was He worn out? Did He need a break? I don’t think so. God rested because God was finished. Everything was done exactly as it should have been done. The rest of God, then, is a celebration of completion; it is born not out of necessity but out of satisfaction. For us, it means that we can live in a constant state of the celebration of the finished work of Jesus. Whether we are sleeping or waking, we are always celebrating that it truly was finished with Jesus. In fact, our work in our jobs, as parents, in the community, or even in the yard on Saturday is not contrary to the true rest that comes from Jesus; it is fueled by the rest that comes from Jesus.
4. Rest must be intentionally pursued.
This is the exhortation in Hebrews 4:11: “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest…” No one is going to unintentionally slip into a state of rest. We do so by intentionally believing the gospel. When we do, that belief influences every area of our lives. We rest in our parenting knowing that God holds the future of our children. We rest in our work knowing that God will provide for our needs. We rest in our marriages because we are open and authentic with each other as we model the gospel. But we rest in all these things only when we make every effort to do so. This is where resting as a state of being becomes a discipline. In other words, and ironically I might add, we must work hard at resting. We must work to make sure that in whatever we do, we are doing it not to replace or further what God has already done, but because of it.
So today, friends, I’m resting. But that doesn’t mean I’m not at work. It doesn’t mean I’m not physically tired. It doesn’t mean I’m going to have a day of leisure. It means instead that I am going to speak to my soul and say the same words that Jesus offered time and time again: “Peace to you.” He offered that greeting then and now for the same reason – that He is risen. And because He has risen, it is finished.