It is amazing how the default setting in contemporary Christian culture tends to oppose the concept of rest when that is exactly what Jesus promised to give us. (See Matthew 11:28-30) Just as God called Israel to a land of rest, we are being called to that today. This concept requires a new mind set for most people today. We live in a society where people go on vacation with their cell phones and laptop computers. To rest in Christ, trusting Him to express His life through us sounds lazy and negligent after having lived in the wilderness of rigorous religion for such a long time. Many mistakenly think of rest as some sort of passivity, which it is not. Rest means to trust Jesus Christ as our Life-Source, depending upon Him to empower our actions with His strength and direction.
As a legalist, the concept of rest was so foreign to me that I couldn’t comprehend it. I didn’t know rest was a gift from my Father. I thought it was a sin. I sincerely believed that the only time we would find complete rest was when we died and went to heaven. There was a verse I used to read at funeral services to give comfort to bereaved families. I would share Hebrews 4:10 with them: “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”
When I shared this verse, I would tenderly point out that our beloved friend who had died “has now entered into God’s rest and ceased from his own labors.” I talked about how heaven is a place where there are no more struggles. It is a place where we simply rest in Christ and enjoy Him forever.
Entering into His rest and ceasing from our own works. It sounded like dying and going to heaven to me. Then one day I read the next verse in the passage — Hebrews 4:11 says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall down through following the example of disobedience.” What? Be diligent to enter that rest? Now I was in trouble. I had always taught that rest means dying. Now here I was being confronted with the verse that says to be diligent to enter that rest or else I would be disobedient to God. I knew I had better go back and reexamine that verse again and hope that my interpretation had been wrong or else I was in serious trouble! I didn’t know at the time that I had already died with Christ and was able to cease from my own works.
Life in Christ is certainly not a passive lifestyle but neither is it a lifestyle of religious hyperactivity either. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Resting in Him means that we live our lives knowing that He holds us safely in His arms and that His loving embrace carries us through every situation we face in life. Sometimes our lifestyles will involve external activity and at other times it will involve outward inactivity, but at all times we are enjoying His divine hug.
Jesus didn't just come to deliver us from sin. He also came to deliver us from the religious sweatshop that demands a never ending effort to measure up. The cross has hung a "Gone Out of Business" sign on the door or religion and has taken us all on a permanent vacation with our Triune God. So relax and enjoy your rest.