God’s Rest is Available to You Today
A few years ago, I was holding on to unforgiveness over someone I did not believe deserved to be forgiven. Not a day passed that I would not rehash the offences this person had committed against me, all while planning ways to avenge myself.
I did not trust God’s Word to forgive—forgiveness didn’t feel right, as I was afraid to let this person off the hook so easily. This decision to disobey cost me sleep, relationships, and lots of wasted energy. It would be an understatement to say that I was tired. I was desperate for rest.
When we think of rest, we don’t usually connect it with obedience, but the Bible teaches us how they are linked. In the Old Testament, we learn that rest for the Israelites meant the Promised Land (Joshua 1:13). When God positioned them to take possession of the land, they refused to enter it out of fear. They mistrusted God and rebelled against Him, and so forfeited their opportunity to enter into His rest (Numbers 14).
Now many years later, we, too, are on a similar journey. Hebrews 4:1-13 tells us that we have an opportunity to enter God’s rest, but there is also a chance that we can fail to experience it out of disobedience.
God’s rest, through Christ Jesus, is both in the here and now, but also yet to be revealed. We eagerly await the day when we see its fullness—when we dwell with God in the new creation, ruling in rest and peace as He has always intended it to be. When we allow this vision to define our way of life today, then we can begin to enter His rest. This means immersing ourselves in Jesus’s teachings and re-training our minds and hearts to practice the way He lived.
And so we can access His rest even now. This present, accessible rest is an invitation to actively trust that what God has done for our salvation is enough; we need not sweat for it any longer. We now have the freedom to delight in His good world as His people. But how exactly do we do that?
Rest in silence and solitude
Today, we have devices that keep us connected 24/7. We hear its unceasing, excessive amount of talk, lobbying for us to do more, pursue more, secure ourselves more.
In the Gospels, we read of Jesus withdrawing from the crowd, even when there was “more” that could’ve been done. He regularly took time to be alone with the Father. He was never “on” at all times.
In Hebrews 4:9-10, God is inviting us to do the same. In Hebrew, ‘shabath’ means to cease from, to stop. We need to learn to stop.
I know being silent and alone is not easy. Many of us thrive in the company of others. We love to talk. We hide in the noise. We fear silence because our thoughts become excruciatingly loud. We fear facing our deepest struggles and pains.
But it is where Jesus wants us to be, so He may meet us in our deepest longings and hurt, and heal us. We cannot heal and rest in God if we do not permit ourselves to be still before Our Father and Creator.
Practising silence and solitude brought me healing and taught me to be open to Jesus with my struggles. It gave Jesus the opportunity to free me from the unforgiveness I was holding onto. It is also training my heart to let go of my perceived control over my life and the ministry.
I started this practice modestly. First, I look for a space where I can be silent and alone for at least 15 minutes, without interruptions. I sit and breathe gently, then I utter a simple prayer of release to God. I place my palms down on my thighs and say, “Father, palms down.” After about 5-7 minutes of silence, I utter a simple prayer of receiving what God has in store for me. I turn my palms up and say, “Father, palms up.” After a few moments of silence, I close with a prayer of thanks.
You can start with a small practice like this, then extend it as you become more comfortable. There are many resources you can find on how to do this. It’s simply a matter of deciding to do it.
Pastor and BibleProject co-founder Dr. Tim Mackie said this about the Jewish Sabbath practice: “It’s intentionally inconveniencing your life, and the structure reminds you [that] there’s something bigger going on, and I have to adjust my life to it . . . You’re recognising that in God’s time and God’s power, He will provide and work out His purposes, and I adjust my life to that storyline.”
Rest in our generous God
I grew up poor. Not having enough food to eat was the norm. Not being able to keep the lights on at home was expected. Dodging creditors was routine.
Because of this, I was stingy with my time and money. I would feel guilty when I spend time for fun and relaxation, not doing anything productive. I’d rush from lunch or coffee time with family or friends, thinking of the next task on my to-do list. It was also hard for me to part with my hard-earned money. Tithing and giving to people other than family was simply out of the question.
This mindset produced worries and deep-seated anxieties in my heart. I worked and worked without much sleep, always agonising about the future, fearful that it would look like my past. Until God showed me through a series of events in my life that this was no way to live.
There is rest that comes from not needing to hold with tight fists what we think we own, whether that be time, money, or other possessions, or even the reparations that others owe us for the wrongs they’ve committed. God has promised to take care of us. The question is, do we believe Him?
Hebrews 4:2 tells us that there are those who heard the good news, but the message they heard was of no value to them because they did not listen with faith.
We hear God’s promises and read of His generosity, and we affirm these with our words. But in reality, we live as though God cannot be trusted. We hoard, we manipulate, we keep the best for ourselves. We live with a mindset of poverty and scarcity, afraid of not having enough.
Jesus lived in generosity even to the point of death. He had all the riches in the world, yet He gave everything up. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”
Having given us the riches of the gospel, Jesus calls us to continue His story of generosity.
So take the time to be with a friend and be present. Enjoy a meal with family or friends without rushing to the next agenda. Open your home to others. Show graciousness and forgiveness, just as God has done for us.
We can trust our Creator. He gave us His Son. He will not hold out on us for anything good.
There is a paradox here: Hebrews 4:11 says that to continue to enter God’s rest requires diligence and striving lest we fall and disobey God as the Israelites did. This means we have to be intentional in entering His rest. We need to create space and rhythms in our lives to soak ourselves in His teachings and ways of being.
In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus invites us to take His yoke, to learn from His gentle and humble heart. His promise: We will find rest for our souls. When we choose to heed His teachings, and follow His way of being, rest awaits.
God is inviting you to participate in His rest. What is your response going to be?
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