Too often Christians are terrific at leisure but lousy at resting. Why? One reason may be because Western culture places a high premium on the relentless pursuit of higher and higher levels of success and prosperity. Even our leisure is full of “pursuits” and a desire to improve and achieve. And underneath this lies the affliction of every culture: our alienation from the God who created us and made us both to work and to rest.
When sin entered the world, rest eluded mankind. Whatever else you might say about humanity, it is undeniable that we are not marked by tranquility or restfulness. Leisure is not rest if you have worked so hard to achieve only a few moments of peace or if you fill your leisure time with things to do. Surely there is something more God desires.
God offers a rest that soothes our souls. Soul-rest flows from a life surrendered to Him in faith. When the dust of death, which came from sin, settled upon humanity, we could no longer enjoy the deeper rest God intended. We need a new creation—and this is exactly what God has provided! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In creation God established the principle of physical rest, and in redemption He established the possibility of perfect spiritual rest. Yet even so, people of all walks of life—even some professing Christians—insist on living their lives with a disregard for God. They spurn His invitation to rest their souls, remaining only hearers of the word but not doers (James 1:22), and then they hope to enter into their rest when they die. The Bible holds out no hope for such an approach to life. Just as the Israelites in the wilderness found God’s promises of no benefit because they failed to believe them, we similarly can’t expect to know God’s gift of soul-rest, in this life or in the one to come, if we continue in our own faithless striving.
Thankfully, everything resolves in Jesus. He cuts through the facade of empty religious pretense and desperate worldly striving and offers us a gracious invitation: “Come to me, all 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” (Matthew 11:28-29). This is a rest that we enjoy even as we work, a rest that enables us truly to rest from our work, and a rest that we will one day enjoy fully, finally, and eternally in His presence.
Is your soul at rest today? Or are you anxious about what tomorrow may bring or exhausted by what you feel you must achieve today? The work that satisfies your greatest desire and solves your greatest need—the work of salvation—was finished by Jesus on your behalf at Calvary. He invites you to come to Him: to know that He has taken care of your eternal future and that the tasks that He purposes for you today will all be done—no more and no less. So believe Him, and let your soul truly rest.
1Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.1 3For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8For if Joshua had given them rest, God2 would not have spoken of another day later on. 9So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
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