Rested and Resting in Christ
We live in the age of the energy drink. Red Bull, Monster, NOS, Rockstar and others have made huge strides in the drink industry while traditional soft drinks are on the decline. On average, 83% of U.S. adults drink at least one cup of coffee per day. The need and addiction for such energy enhancing drinks indicates that we are a people that are tired and weary. We are a people who reach for more and more caffeine to get through our days. Our lives are busy and our to-do lists constantly grow. We are a restless society. We are a restless society that has devalued rest while simultaneously exalting performance and success no matter what the cost. As disciples of Christ we, too, have fallen prey to the workaholic syndrome that is prized in America. We don’t rest well. We struggle to rest physically and spiritually with the neglect of one often affecting the other. We somehow believe that the biblical command to rest does not apply to us because our culture is “just that way”.
Recently I took my first extended amount of time to rest and recover from the first several years of church planting. The time I used to rest was invaluable. It forced me to stop and examine many components of my life. It forced me to self evaluate as it pertains to being a Christ follower, a husband, a father, and a pastor. It forced me to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and the areas that need to be improved. The time of rest was also an opportunity to spend time with my family and learn to love them better than I had previously. However, more importantly, my time of rest revealed that I don’t rest enough for different reasons, many of them sinful. It revealed that I am much like my culture always looking for something to fill my mind and my time so I do not have to contemplate the more important issues of life and eternity. It revealed that I cease to rest and often worry because my confidence and trust in the providence of God is far too weak. I had to confess that my controlling nature caused me to be restless instead of trusting in the One who is in control. My time of rest taught me to rest and the need to live a life of consistent rest and peace, which is the fruit of the Spirit. I do not believe I am alone in the need to learn restful living. Church planters, pastors, deacons, and congregations throughout our country need to learn to rest. We need to return to a habit of rest because the concept of rest is a major, not minor, theme that begins in Creation and ends at Restoration! In fact, our obedience in resting is reflective of the God whose image we were made in. Rest, therefore, is an act of worship!
To begin, we must turn our attention to Genesis 2 and the seventh day of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 states, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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. Here is a pattern for humanity that begins with God himself. God worked for six days and rested from all the work he had done. Our God of creation chose not to work on the seventh day. He had finished his work and rested. However, the rest He enjoyed was not because he was tired, “for He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). God rested on the seventh day to provide man with a cyclical model by which to abide. God calls the man to work and rest, thereby living consistent with the image in which he was created. And our Lord also knows that we need rest. Humans are not like God. Humans need rest and refreshment and rejuvenation; God does not!
So, God, knowing the need of humanity, placed the man and his wife in the garden with the provision of rest for every aspect of their lives. They experienced perpetual rest in the Lord, rest with one another as they did life together, and they had a day of rest to be still apart from work in order to more fully meditate on their God. Their lives were anything but restless. So God rested and created rest leading us to believe that rest is good, not bad. This theme of rest, however, does not stop at creation. Rest is seen throughout the entirety of the Scriptures and is a main theme as it pertains to the gospel of salvation.
The garden was a place of rest for sure, but this tranquility of the heart was short lived due the rebellion of our ancient ancestors. The sin that came through the one man, Adam disrupted this rest. In fact, the man was cast out of this restful paradise as a consequence of his rebellion. Life outside of the garden of rest was and still is a place of toil and labor and hardship. It was and is a place of restlessness. It was and is a place where physical and spiritual rest is elusive. Humanity had lost any sense of peace because of the deception of the evil one and the disobedience of Adam.
God, however, is a restorative God. In the aftermath of humanity’s sin, God rushed to the aid of the first man and woman with the promise of an offspring that would defeat the evil one and restore rest to our souls. Thus, from that point on, all of humanity has been on the search for rest for their weary souls. As you read through the O.T. there are people and events that promise rest…
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name
Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall
bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:28-29, ESV) Here we seem to see a sliver of hope that Noah will be the one who restores rest to sinners. We know, unfortunately, how that story ends. Noah is ultra obedient and righteous until God begins to recreate following the flood. Post Fall Noah is found drunk and lying naked in his tent reminiscent of a college frat party. He is not the guy to give us rest.
If you keep reading you will also read that God’s people find themselves enslaved in Egypt with no hope of a deliverer. The people cry out to God, and he raises up Moses to deliver them out of Egypt with the purpose of taking them to the Promise Land which is to be a land of rest, flowing with milk and honey. And as Moses leads the people through the wilderness they are constantly reminded time and time again of the Sabbath instituted in creation. He reminds them to work and rest, work and rest. Sabbath rest was a vital component of the Hebrew culture. So Moses, delivers the people from Egypt with the promise of a new land that promised rest as they rehearsed the work-rest cycle. Joshua, not Moses, who had sinned against God and was forbidden to enter the new land, led God’s people into this new land of promise. The only problem with this new land of promise was the people who inherited it. God’s people would prove once again to be disobedient and forfeit God’s promise of rest.
The O.T. does not produce any person or any event that will restore peace and rest. It does, however point to a Suffering Servant and King and Priest and Prophet who can grant peace and rest to the restless. His name is Jesus. He is the greater Noah and Moses, and Joshua, and David. He is the Promised Rest Giver. It is no mistake that Jesus invites all to “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) Only Jesus offers true rest for the soul. St. Augustine in his Confessions, states that “our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Only true rest can be found in our Lord Jesus now, and for all eternity.
The Sabbath in the O.T. was beneficial for all humanity and for God’s people physically and spiritually but also a reminder that true rest was still elusive and could only be found in the promised Seed of Genesis 3. The introduction of King Jesus into the world was the fulfillment of the Sabbath. He is the rest we need for our weary souls. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11, ESV)
God is our rest, and therefore, we can rest from our works based-salvation and our Messiah complex that says we must do everything for Jesus in order to make our ministries a success. You can rest and find your identity in Christ while working wholeheartedly for Jesus with the reassurance that you can rest physically and spiritually from your work. God does not need us and can plant any church and build any ministry without us. Our obedience in resting will please the Lord and refresh us in a way that allows for us to work better and shepherd well.
1. Do you constantly feel tired and burned out? Why? 2. Do you get enough sleep? If not, why not? 3. Do you overwork? If so, why? What does this say about your trust in God? What does this say about trusting in self. 4. Are you worried about what others think about your work ethic? What might this indicate? 5. Is it well with your soul? Are you delighting in God and finding joy in him? Is your soul at rest? 6. What does your lack of rest say about your understanding of the gospel? 7. If you are spiritually and/or spiritually bankrupt what needs to change? Do you have a plan? What disciplines need to be put into place? 8. Are you rehearsing the gospel to yourself daily?
Church Planting and Pastoring can be a wearisome task, but by God’s grace I am learning to rest physically, and more importantly, spiritually. I am in process of learning to abide in Christ at a deeper level. I am not there, but my prayer is that I would be more dependent on Him and less dependent upon myself.Russ Bennett is the Lead Pastor at Cornerstone Church. His desire in all things is that God be glorified through the passionate, joyful, missional living of the church. Russ is married to the beautiful Miranda Bennett and they have three children, Bailey, Cohen, and Ellie. Russ enjoys family time, reading, playing golf, and watching basically anything that involves a ball.