Imagine a picture of resting. What would come to your mind? Perhaps a relaxing snooze in a hammock with a soft breeze wafting through the air,… or maybe sitting on a porch swing with a glass of iced tea…
Rest is an important requirement for our physical, psychological, and spiritual well being.
God designed the seventh day as an opportunity to refresh one’s stamina after six days of work (Exodus 20:8-11). Although Christians usually worship on the first day of the week–the Lord’s Day–this rest principle is still valid (Rev 1:10). The Lord Jesus confirmed this wisdom in His ministry with the twelve: “And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31).
Some counselors have found that adequate physical rest is a major factor in the counselee’s recovery process. God’s prescription for depressed Elijah was initially to just sleep and eat (“angel food cake”-1 Kings 19:4-7). Attention all workaholics–rest is not unspiritual!
We can also benefit from psychological rest. We know that taking a break off-loads stress. What would refresh you? — good music, interesting reading, delightful humor, an art exhibit, a scenic hike…
As disciples of Christ, there is an even greater need: the need to fully appreciate how God’s grace provides rest for today. Jesus promised,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30).
We begin the Christian life by resting in Christ for salvation; we experience abundant life by actively resting in Christ as our source of life.
F. B. Meyer spoke of the need for believers to rest in God, not only for salvation, but for daily living.
“I will not speak now about the rest He gives–rest from the guilt of sin, rest from its penalty, rest from conviction, rest from an accusing conscience, rest from the dread and the wrath of God. That rest He gave you, beloved, when you knelt years ago at the crossfoot, and from those parched lips the dying Christ, your Priest and Intercessor, gave rest unto your soul, and being justified by faith you had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I will not speak of this, but of something deeper, because I find that there are tens of thousands of Christians who have got the first rest, but have not got the second. They could look death in the face without wavering, but they cannot look panic, disaster, bereavement, pain or trial in the face without disquiet… ‘You shall find rest’, but you must look for it… Behind you is your faithful God and He cannot fail. If you take the yoke of Christ, if you will hand things over to Christ, and if you will count upon God at your back, [whatever happens] your heart will be at rest.
Hebrews chapter four describes this promise of rest. What does this spiritual “rest” involve? In verses 3-5 we learn that this rest is distinct from creation’s sabbath rest. Expounding on Psalm 95:7-11, the text states,
“For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: ‘So I swore in My wrath, “They shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’ [Gen 2:2]; and again in this place: ‘They shall not enter My rest.'” [Ps 95:11].
By quoting Psalms, the writer points out that God promises an additional rest.
This promised rest is also distinct from the rest the Israelites received in Canaan under the leadership of Joshua.
“Since therefore it remains that some must enter it [rest], and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, ‘Today,’ after such a long time, as it has been said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.'[Ps 95:7,8] For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.” (Heb 4:6-9).
Since the quotation from Psalms was originally given four centuries after the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, this promised “rest” must be distinct from the “rest” of settling in the promised land.
We also discover that this spiritual rest is distinct from self-effort. “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” (Heb 4:10). This is grace! When we rest in Christ through repentance and faith for salvation, we receive Him as a person. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12). How amazing that eternal life is not only inherited after death, but is the present possession of the true child of God! Jesus promised, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life “(John 6:47). Notice the verb tense–“has”– right now!
So if we have come to a place of rest for salvation, (with the promise of eternal rest in heaven–Rev 14:13), we are also called to rest in Christ as our source of daily spiritual life.
“Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art,
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy Loving heart.”
Instead of passivity, rest involves active fellowship and trust. This is the message of the paradoxical exhortation of Hebrews 4:11: “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest…” (Heb 4:11). Diligent to rest? Yes:
- diligent to set our minds on things above (Col 3:1-3),
- diligent to surrender our self-will by taking Christ’s shared yoke (Matt 11:29),
- diligent to depend fully on the sustaining life of the Vine (John 15:1-8).
Many readers are pastors and missionaries–occupations (like many others) which are prone to the condition of “burnout.” Christ says to us, “Come apart and rest a while” (or you may end up just “coming apart”!).
Do you have a burden you need to lay down? Climb into the hammock! Be diligent to rest.
 The Christ-Life for the Self-Life, pp.117,127. – Emphasis added.
 hymn’s poetry by Jean Pigott (1876)
Copyright by John Woodward, 1999. Revised 2015. Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety for non-commercial use with appropriate credit given. Biblical quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from the New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
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