Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Strive for Rest

God gave us sleep and rest.  In a world that is filled with frenetic movement our lives grow numb and our senses dulled so that we need sleep and rest.  Secular studies are showing that sleep is one of the most productive times in our life.  World is beginning to understand what the bible teaches, sleep and rest are a gift.  God gave us rest so that we could restore our faith by trusting in him.  The ultimate promise of restoration with God is the hope of entering into his rest.

We live in a society that despises rest.  Sometimes it is innocent, other times it is blatant unbelief.  God created us to be, and calls us to be, people who rest.  The way we rest, from the constant grind of life, is a direct reflection of our faith and trust in God.   

Many studies are demonstrating that the human body absolutely needs sleep and rest.  According to some when we sleep our mind is doing essential work that cannot be done while awake.  During your sleep your brain is categorizing and organizing all of the things you learned and did for the day.  Did you ever notice that if you are struggling to find the answer to a problem the answer to that problem often comes not when you are thinking about it not but when you take a nap?

What does the bible say about rest?  Rest is the central theme of Hebrews 4:1-11.  The writer of the book of Hebrews contrasts those who did not rest because they did not believe in God, with those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and will find rest.  

This passage connects our belief in God and our desire to seek his rest.  Rest is essential for us not just because it is good for our health, but because it is commanded to us by God, out of his own actions and character.  A person of faith is marked by the way he or she strives to enter the rest of God.  Whereas, the person who does not believe, does not enter into God’s rest.  This seems to be both by decree of God, and their own hatred of God’s will. 

In this passage there are two groups of people.  The first group enters, by faith, into God’s rest. The second group fails to enter his rest. This passage says they were not allowed to enter God’s rest because they were not united in faith (v. 2).  Here is what happened, instead of trusting in God and in his provision, with a flourish of activity they tried to be their own saviors.  Time and again they sought other means of salvation, apart from God, and they did not rest.   They could not rest, they thought, because if they did, the world around them would destroy them.  Failing to rest they failed to trust in God for safety and provision.

In verses 6-7 we see those who had the good news of God’s grace and love.  Those who were supposed to be God’s light to the world did not enter into His rest because they were disobedient.  They should have had the greatest reward instead they did not believe God was someone worth trusting and they turned their hearts in disobedience and disbelief. 

We have the good news today.  We can know our savior intimately through the Holy Spirit.  Will we trust in God by resting in him and his promises?  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46 is a picture of all kinds of war, disaster, and chaos.  And yet God in his power and sovereignty tells his people to, “be still.”  “Cease your striving” is another way to translate the passage.  Stop fighting and rest in the power of God!   Those who are disobedient do not find rest.  They are seeking rest in the wrong places.  They can only find rest in God’s presence. 

This passage is a call to the believer to strive for rest.  Rest is something that doesn’t just happen.  The irony is that you have to fight for good, God honoring, rest.  When we don’t fight to have rest it doesn’t happen. How we practice rest demonstrates how we trust God to bring us into his rest.  When we rest we are practicing and living out that eternal rest.  When we are not intentional about rest we quickly fall into disobedient.  When we do not trust in God’s goodness, we do not believe he is good enough to lay down our toil rest in him. 

When we read the account of creation we see at the end of creation God does something.  He rests.  And because God rest, he declares that one day in seven is to be a day of rest.  This day becomes quite significant.  We as humans, who strive to be our own gods by continually working, we need to be told to stop.  God commanded his people to rest.

Early in the founding of Israel as a nation they were told in the 10 commandments (the first four commandments deal with our relationship toward God). He commands his people to one day a week take a Sabbath rest.  This is significant because the people of Israel at this point were an agrarian people.  To not plant harvest work for one day a week could mean that you are going to fall behind in production and become a lesser power to their neighbors.  But God commanded them to rest.  Because he knew it was good for them.  He knew that if the rested they would trust him more for their support. 

When I was in high school I worked at a restaurant called Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A was a popular restaurant.  It was the most visited restaurant in our mall’s food court, and it was not open on Sundays.  The owners of the Chick-Fil-A cooperation are Christians and they believed in one day a week being dedicated to the Lord. 

Image Source: Google Images
In the face of the food the service industry’s conventional wisdom, they closed on Sunday.  They trust God for an entire day, when they make no profit.  They continue to grow by honoring God with their rest (and making some awesome waffle cut fries (not a sponsor)). When they made that decision (I am sure) they were told it wouldn’t work in the 20th century.  But here they are growing in the 21

Now we come to this, we are commanded to rest.  As Christians the day we typically celebrate our Sabbath rest is on Sunday, the first day of the week.  The scriptures though Christ fulfilled the law with his death and resurrection we are still require us to trust in God by resting. 

We have the ability to enter into God’s eternal rest.  We practice this eternal rest by striving to rest now. How we rest now demonstrates our faith in God’s goodness to give us entrance into his eternal rest. 

We ask now the big question, “What is rest?”  How do I know when I am striving to rest? To answer this question we first have to answer the opposite question, “What is rest not?”

Rest is not escape. Too many times we do things that is an escape.  We try to run from our thoughts feelings and emotions.  We try to run from the convictions of God.  We try to run from the realities of life, so we submerge ourselves into self-exalting things. 

The easiest example of escape is drugs.  People take drugs to escape from their pain and problems.  But that is not the only escape.  We can easily escape to our workshops out back, and throw ourselves into a multitude of projects that keep us from confronting the hard things in our lives.  TV is another escape.  It deadens our thoughts while artificially stimulating us into thinking we have intimate relationships with people.  Any time we go to something to shut off our thoughts our emotions we are escaping and it is not God honoring rest

Rest is not shutting off. As a kid I remember many of my friends’ dads had a room that was their “den” (today know as a man cave).  We were never allowed into the “den,” and as soon as their dad came in, at the end of the day, he went to this “den.” There he shut everyone out.  This “den” dad shuts his family and friends (if he has any) out.  He shuts off he becomes catatonic and disappears.  This is similar to escape.  The way it is different, though, is that in escape you can do many things that appear recreational but has the purpose of running away.  This is not running away this is passively ignoring.  This is laziness.

Rest is not a place to fit more work.  This is what Israel did.  They said, “Hey we got this extra time let us fill it with more harvesting and not less.”  Rest needs to be intentionally something different from what you do in your daily rhythms.  I believe resting in God is a call to find time to do something completely different.

Rest is not an ends in itself. We don’t rest for rests sake.  Rest is not the end goal, a deeper relationship with God is.  We will fall into a trap if we think the goal is just to rest for rests sake.  We need to rest for God’s sake. 

What is rest?  Rest is intentional.  If you do not schedule it, and you do not defend your rest, the cascading list of concerns will quickly overcome any hope of taking a rest.  You must intentionally schedule rest.  It is ironically hard work. This is why I think this passage tells us to strive to enter God’s rest (verse 11).  We have to intentional practice it. 

Rest is God focused.  I once read a story of a person who loved roses.  When he was not at work he was working in his rose garden.  He could talk about every aspect of the rose.  But one day he realized that he never spent time to enjoy his roses.  When he finally learned to stop and rest, his mild enjoyment of a flower turned into a deep Christ centered worship and delight.  His joy and delight of roses then reinforced his Joy and delight of God.  What you love to do for recreation, does it help you draw nearer to God?  As you sit in the tree stand, build projects around the house, enjoy a good book, cooking a nice meal, are you looking at the beauty of creation around you and resting in a Christ filled enjoyment? 

Good rest is something different. You typically spend your whole week doing the same tasks, be it working in an office, working in a field, driving buss, working with your hands.  Rest is the period of time where you do something different.  The people of Israel where not allowed to do any work with their hands on the day of rest.  They could not pick up sticks or move stones.  This was because they were a farming culture.  They worked the ground 6 days a week and God wanted them to rest from that one day a week and do something completely different.  This is how they would trust in God more. 

Rest them should be faith increasing.  It is faith increasing because rest reminds us that everything belongs to God.  As chick-fil-a could be making bundles of money on Sunday.  They choose not to because they recognize one of the core truths of the bible: everything belongs to God.  Even the restaurant, and its profits. 

Rest is faith increasing because it will reveal idols and addictions.  When you cannot go an entire day without doing something, or you begin to panic.  When you are refuse to give an activity up, you have an idol/addiction.  There have been many times in my life where I was forced to rest from something and it revealed to me how much of an idol it actually was.  Take coffee as an example.  The last September I gave up coffee because it became a controlling behavior in my life that trumped my reliance on God.  It had become an idol. 

Rest is faith increasing because we practice the eternal promise of being in the presence of God.  When we enter into the presence of God, when he restores creation, work will no longer be a toil.  Rest will come easy, and we will enjoy a restored relationship with God.  By practicing rest today we practice the future hope of entering into the eternal and glorious rest of God.  The rest promised to all of his chosen people. 

When everything falls apart we can faithfully trust in God because we practiced rest.  We practiced letting go of our control and practiced resting in God’s control.  So when everything falls apart we know, quickly, how to fall down into the hands of God because we are a people of his rest.  

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, Sam! I read this when you first posted it, but I needed the reminder again today. Keep them coming!