Entering God’s Rest

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    It is remarkable to me how many people I know are tired and stressed out on any given day. But then, I guess it shouldn’t be remarkable, given how tired and stressed out I am on any given day. When I get like that—which is all too often—little tasks seem imposing and all I really want to do is go somewhere and sleep for a long time.

    Sleep. Rest. It seems that both of those concepts evade us on a regular basis in our society where everything is increasingly output-related and the first question we ask people is what they “do” for a living. It seems that we as a society are overly impressed with our own capabilities to accomplish. Look at all that we have done! And the pressure to produce even more, even faster, is a major source of stress in our lives.

    Yet the example set for us by God is one of rhythm and of rest. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work (Gen 2:2). God said that the Promised Land was to be a place of rest for the Israelites (see Hebrews 4), and yet a whole generation of them didn’t get to enter it because they refused to trust God to do the work of giving the land to them.

    See, when the Israelites got to the Promised Land, they scouted it out and discovered that there were giants in the land and well-fortified cities. Ten of the twelve spies were convinced that there was no way they could take the land (see Numbers 13 and 14). And these ten convinced the people that it was impossible, even though God had said that he would give them this land. But they refused to believe. So God swore in his wrath that they would never enter his rest (Heb 4:3).

    God’s rest was available to them, and it is still available to us (Heb 4:9-11); it is a place that God has prepared for us. But let me suggest that we might be mistaken at the image of “place of rest” that pops into our heads. Yes, rest does involve a complete ceasing of all labor, and we should make sure that we have a day of rest, whenever and however that works in our work schedule. But there’s more to it than that.

    See, if the Sabbath day, a day for resting and ceasing work, is supposed to remind us that it’s not our labor but God’s that accomplishes the goal, then we should take that concept into our work as well. What a difference it would make in our work week to know that we are participating with God and it’s his effort—not ours—that’s really getting everything done.

    I’m not advocating laziness, for we have a part to play. Rather, I’m suggesting that we look at what we do all the time as God’s work, and as such, that he is the one who is ultimately responsible for accomplishing it. If we do that, then we can start each day asking how we can best participate in what he is doing, and suddenly, the pressure on us is gone.

    Yes, we’ll still be working at the same job we’ve been working at, but it won’t merely be a job, a means to get money, to pay bills, to climb the ladder to make more money. Instead, we’ll see that we’re participating in what God is doing in the world, and we can spend our entire week, not just our day of rest, in the middle of his rest because we’ve given all our efforts over to him.

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