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Are You a Restful Soul? How to Enter God’s Rest

Are You a Restful Soul How to Enter God’s Rest

Let’s free associate: what goes through your mind when you think about rest? What does rest mean to you, and how do you obtain it? Perhaps it would be good to ask yourself if you are a restful soul. Knowing how to rest and being at rest are essentials in our fearful and frenetic world. Though Christians should be the most restful of all humanity, it’s not a given, which is why practically thinking about rest is worth our time.

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Restlessness Illustrated

Here are a few illustrations of individuals who are not restful. Perhaps you can find yourself in one of these scenarios. If not, consider a few of the factors that infringe upon your mind and calendar that keep you from the prize of being at rest, even in the storms of life.

  • A husband comes home from a long day at work and crashes in front of the television.
  • A wife hustles from the car line at the school where she just dropped off her kids to rendezvous with a friend at Starbucks.
  • A friend is struggling through life. She finds rest through medication. The disappointments are steady.
  • A teen spends a couple of hours surfing the net—a routine that helps him escape his world’s madness.
  • A family leaves for their planned vacation. A week later, they collectively crave another week to recover.

Cultural, Not Biblical

These attempts to find rest have in common how the different strategies are cultural, not biblical. The average worker lives for the weekend, as though the primary purpose of the weekend is a time of rest. Most people perceive rest as a behavioral escape from life rather than a permanent condition of the soul.

Wrong thinking about rest is what makes it so elusive. If we don’t know what it is, we will not find it. Rest is not the primary purpose of weekends. Our culture concocted weekends to get away from work, not as a cure for our real rest problem. When the Bible talks about rest, it never speaks about weekends, vacations, evenings out, catching a movie, or any other commonly perceived idea that is supposed to refresh us.

Seeking escapes from stress is different from entering into rest. Let me press the point further. Weekend retreats, Bible conferences, or youth camps do not give us the Bible’s version of rest. Biblical rest is not a punctiliar action in the timeline of life, but a gift the Lord gives to you regardless of relationship or context.

Resting in Storms

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).

There were several men on a boat in a storm. One of them was sleeping. The rest of them were frantic, fearful, and faithless. One of them knew the secret to rest. The rest of them anticipated a time of rest after they escaped the storm. Are any of us like the disciples? Our storm is possibly a job, marriage, family, church life, peer pressure, economic struggle, persecution of various kinds, as well as other disappointing events and troubling people in our lives.

We’re not in boats, but we are in storms, and sleeping in storms as Jesus did is as foreign to some people as Jesus dying on a cross to save us. Is your typical, native thought—like the disciples—to escape your troubles? The temptation to believe rest will come after the storm passes is normal, but soul noise and recovery from it do not happen that way.

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Searching for Rest

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8).

Searching for rest by changing venues or circumstances is like chasing a mirage in a desert. What we think we see will not satisfy, and what we hope to hear will not fulfill. It will leave us weary. This kind of perspective, pursuit, and practice is carnal and insatiable. We must learn that the quest for the culture’s version of rest will not bring pleasure. Listen to Solomon.

But it gets worse. As our bodies continue to waste away (2 Corinthians 4:16), we’ll become increasingly hardened, cynical, frustrated, and hopeless—if we do not know and practice the Lord’s version of rest. For those troubled souls, God quickly becomes a faint byline that leaves them giving up and despairing.

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

God’s Rest is Different

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

Rest is a provision from the Lord, not something found in the world. God is the author and dispenser of rest, and, thankfully, He planned for His children to enter into His rest. His priority for our rest is a serious matter that requires our utmost attention because the devil broke the shalom our souls crave, which is why there are temptations to find peace through man-centered methods (Genesis 3:7; Philippians 4:7).

To rest is to be God-like. The Lord’s rest in Genesis was not from exhaustion when He rested on the seventh day from His creative acts. The Lord is omnipotent. He was not tired. God took a “rest of satisfaction” rather than a break because He felt physically whooped. Work and rest are not at odds with each other; He had rest while He worked. The Lord was not taking a break or looking toward the weekend.

The Lord never stops working, and He is always at rest. Creator God found rest (satisfaction) from forming the world. The rest He took after He had created the world was a rest of satisfaction, a rest of contentment, and a rest of pleasure as He reflected upon His acts. Satisfaction, contentment, and pleasure are a few of the elements of God’s rest.

God’s Rest is Communal

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Read Hebrews 4:1-11.)

When the world thinks about rest, their thoughts almost always go toward self-centered, individualized, relaxation, the pursuit of personal enjoyment. This kind of rest has a “separation from community” component. Though there can be some benefit to taking breaks from people, this is not the kind of rest the Lord wants for us. We should be at rest while with and without others.

But the rest the writer speaks of in Hebrews 4:1-11 has community language: us, them, and they. The writer is not talking to a person but a body of individuals. He is appealing to “us” to rest. It’s not a call for an individual to chill out for a while on an island but to collectively enjoy rest as a right and privilege for the whole body of Christ. The kind of rest God is calling us to is a communal rest (Hebrews 13:3). The Lord wants all of His children to enjoy His rest. We are the body of Christ, and we all should be working hard to find this rest.

Though we will benefit from the fullness of this rest in heaven, we can enter into it today. God’s forever future and perfect rest-filled world has come back into our present-day through the person and work of Jesus. Though it is not entirely here, it is indeed here. We can enjoy the eternal reality of rest right now. The community of God can partake in His eternal unshakeable rest while we wait for the total enjoyment of it in the future.

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God’s Rest is Serious

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:40-41).

What if the Son of God did not have rest in the storm but was just as frantic and fearful as His friends were on the boat that night? If that were the case, their reaction to Him would have been different. The gospel is a counterintuitive way of living (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The rest God gives us is radically different from what the world expects and seeks.

There is a reason for this: the Lord is glorified as His calming and sustaining power works through us (2 Corinthians 4:7). If Jesus acted like them, He would not be worth following. Who wants to follow someone who can have their shalom so easily discombobulated? We do not need the rest the world offers; we need the rest that God provides.

To not have it or not to enter into it is to make a joke out of the work of Christ. Think about all the work the Lord went through to give the children of Israel rest. To not enter God’s rest is like trampling the blood of Jesus under your feet. To stand on the wilderness side of the Jordan River—refusing to obey the Lord by not entering into His rest—is high treason.

Two Keys to Rest

Finding and enjoying the Lord’s rest is a matter of faith and obedience. The Hebrew writer called it disobedience: “Let us, therefore, strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). When the winds and storms come into our lives, and we are resting in those challenges, God is exalted, we are satisfied (rest), and the world is amazed.

  • God is glorified: We are not diminishing His work in us but drawing attention to the greatness of our God.
  • We are satisfied: We are making a bold statement about our satisfaction in Him and how it overpowers our situational difficulties.
  • The world is amazed: Our confidence in God is other-worldly shalom that surpasses human comprehension (Philippians 4:7).

Just as the disciples asked, “Who then is this,” our spheres of influence will be just as perplexed and curious about what’s up with us (Mark 4:41).

  • Don’t you want to give your friends a taste of something different from waiting for a dissatisfying weekend?
  • How are you striving for God’s rest in a world where there is no rest?

Explaining the Keys

  1. Faith: “And they said to Joshua, ‘Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
  2. Obedience: Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over” (Joshua 2:24-3:1).

Did you see what Joshua and his friends did to enter into God’s rest? They believed (faith), and they obeyed. That’s it. Unbelief and disobedience mean the Lord has not given “all the land into your hand,” and that you are not going rise “early in the morning and set out” for God’s rest. You enter into rest by faith and obedience, which is about radical-believing dependence, which is what it takes to join the rest in the here and now.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).

  1. Faith: Do you believe you are more than a conqueror because of Him who died for you (Romans 8:37)?
  2. Obedience: Will you enter into His rest as an act of obedience as you base your faith in the gospel?

Rest is not about laziness but working because God’s provision through the gospel highly motivates us to obey. We anchor biblical rest in the character and work of God. Real rest in God should excite some activity (obedience) in us to strive for a more incredible experience of God.

Call to Action

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8).

Jesus found refuge (rest) while in the storm. He tasted and saw how the Lord was good. He was a blessed man. The most rest-filled people are those who are relentlessly pursuing God while finding their rest in Him. This requirement brings us to the gospel. Either it is real, or it is not. Either it can do for us what the Bible says it can do, or it cannot. God calls us to engage the gospel by practicalizing it into our lives. As you think about your pursuit of rest, will you work through these questions with a friend?

  1. Have you tasted it and found the Lord to be good? What does this question mean? Will you have a conversation about it with someone who has the competence to engage you?
  2. Are you affected by the person and work of Christ to where your faith and obedience are animated and evident to all? Perhaps asking a friend to speak with you about what they see in your life will help you answer this question.
  3. If you have not tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord and are not practically affected by Him through your obedience, may I recommend two things?
  4. Stop the futile search for finding rest in the world. Weekends, materialism, relationships, status, jobs, or other means to escape from trouble and disappointment will not deliver rest.
  5. Strive to taste the true and living God. Find rest in the depths of God. Be warned: you will have to fight, strive, and work to engage, enter, and enjoy God’s rest.

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