We recently worked through an important spiritual principle at our church that is vital to the thoroughly victorious experience to which Jesus calls us. It is the principle of rest that Jesus refers to in Matthew chapter 11.
“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. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).
He invites, no, He implores us to rest. And the rest He calls us to is a life of trust in His promises of presence, protection, and provision. These promises are the mechanisms for sustaining us and keeping us in an attitude of peace and joy that He created us to experience.
Once when I started to explain this to a group of people, I was approached afterward and told that “rest” is all well and good, but “you don’t rest from God’s work!” My response to that is that we must rest most of all in God’s work! Rest, as God intends it, is not a lack of activity or movement. On the contrary, it is an active abiding in Him and His Word, the Bible. It is a pursuit of more of Him in our lives which He generously grants to those who seek him. It is the cultivation of active trust in Him that the Bible calls “faith” which is essential to rest. Essentially, one does not have faith without rest in Him, and one does not truly rest without faith in Him. Rest, therefore, translates as faith.
Now faith, as God intends it, is first of all relevant. By that I mean that our faith is not somehow detached from the practical affairs of life. Obviously, this has bearing on morality (what is right and wrong in every day decision-making), but also upon those things related to the needs and cares that we carry from the moment we get up in the morning to when we close our eyes at night. If we cannot trust God with everyday needs, how can we trust Him with our eternal destiny? Happy, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 6:33, we can trust Him. We are consequently invited to seek Him first and His righteousness so that we do not forgo the blessings of His faithful provision and protection that He has promised us.
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16-17 ESV).
Faith is also engaging. In other words, it grabs hold of us and draws us on to seek out God and His will for our lives, teaching us look to His leading for direction and our sense of purpose. While our Heavenly Father knows and cares about the details of your life, He is not side-tracked by such things. Rather, He is always drawing us to the big picture of His kingdom work in us and through us. He is at work even now in your life confronting those things that hinder your surrender to Him and your availability to His life changing promises. He changes us as we encounter Him in His Word, working in us so that we can experience more of Him.
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV).
Think of it! God wants you to have the very best He can give you of Himself and works to that end in your life! It is not enough for you to only sip at His love for you; He wants you to thirst for Him so that you will come and drink deeply from the wellsprings of Who He is and what He is about in your life. Not only that, it is not enough for you alone to taste His glory, but through you to draw others to the banquet table of His great grace and power as even you are drawn yourself.
Faith is therefore also satisfying. It calls us to step out of the smallness of mediocrity for which we tend to settle. Nor does it permit us to accept merely the best the world has to offer. It orients us to Him and nothing less than that because nothing less can fill the unquenchable need of our hearts except He Himself. Ironically, just as faith turns out to bring satisfaction our lives, it also brings satisfaction to God Himself.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV). While we cannot hope to earn His favor by doing favors for Him, nor can we through works impress Him to the end of our being accepted by Him. We instead trust Him and then live accordingly. The resulting works are the fruit of our faith.
Finally, faith is true. It requires us to break free of presumption and causes us to admit that we don’t know everything. Faith leads us to truth, the reality in which we live whether or not we know or accept it. It leads us to discover God as He truly is, ourselves as we truly are, and life as it truly flows.
My hope is that in the next article, I may share some specific keys to access more fully the “rest” of God by faith in Him. His rest, the healing, calming, and fulfilling life He intends for you and for me, is ours through Jesus and what He has done for those who forsake sin and trust in His cleansing and transforming promises.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)