The practice of rest is an elusive one in our culture. We, as a culture, have built in periods of rest like weekends, have unionized and collectively bargained our way into paid vacations and medical leave acts, and have erected monuments in the form of theme parks that pay tribute to the family vacation. Despite these things, though, most of us are overrun, overstressed, and underrested. Time is a precious commodity; one which we can’t seem to really get a handle on despite our best efforts.
You can blame it on all kinds of things:
– Blame it on technology because we can now, at any moment, be connected to work responsibilities that we previously had to leave at the office.
– Blame it on social media because it makes us seem busier than we really are because of the amount of time we spend on it.
– Blame it on societal pressure that tells us that in order to have fully developed and well-rounded children they simply must participate in any and all activities available.
There’s all that blame and more to go around, but there’s something inside me that says all of these things are symptoms of the true disease. Fortunately, though, the writer of Hebrews helps us see not only the true nature of rest, but also the true enemy of that rest:
Therefore, while the promise to enter His rest remains, let us fear that none of you should miss it.For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith(for we who have believed enter the rest), in keeping with whatHe has said:
So I swore in My anger,
they will not enter My rest.
And yet His works have been finished since the foundation of the world, for somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in this way:
And on the seventh day
God rested from all His works.
Again, in that passage He says, They will never enter My rest.Since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news did not enter because of disobedience, again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated:
Today, if you hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11).
In this passage, we see the writer identify the true enemy of rest, and it ain’t technology; it’s not overcommitment; it’s not disorganization or an inability to say no; it’s not even general busyness; it’s the thing behind all those things. The true enemy of rest is unbelief. Long ago, the Lord had a promised land for His people. It was a good land; one with the fields already planted and the houses already built. It was the land of rest, and it was there for the taking. But taken it was not because the people did not believe the promises of their God. Despite His care, despite His provision, despite His miracles and deliverance, they did not go on because they saw the giants were too big and the weapons were too strong.
They did not rest because they did not believe. Rather than resting, the wandered until an entire generation had spun their wheels into the ground and became dust. Living in a state of unrest can feel just like that it seems; you are on a constant treadmill, exhausting yourself and yet never going anywhere. But if this passage is true, then the answer to the issue of rest is not merely a calendar change or putting your phone away. Those things are important, but they don’t really go to the source of what we really need. Instead, we must realize that, like the Israelites of old, we are prevented from entering the true rest of God by unbelief. To see this with me, dig to the deeper of those symptoms that have overcrowded your life. When you do, you’ll likely find some of the same uncomfortable things I have about myself:
– I can’t put my phone away because I have an inflated sense of self-importance.
– I can’t say no to engagements and activities because I’m just insecure enough to believe they’ll never ask me again.
– I am at unrest in my relationships because I don’t believe those people will still be my friends if I don’t impress them.
Time and time again, unbelief is lurking behind our unrest. The only way, then, to move into rest in our activities, work schedules, relationships and more is to truly believe. To believe that we don’t need to justify ourselves because God has already done the justifying. To believe we don’t need to validate ourselves with activities because we are secure in the love of Christ. To believe that we don’t need to prove our value because God has shown us just how valuable we are with the death of His Son.
To time and time again return to the fact that “It is finished” so that with us, it might indeed be finished.