Summary: Why we don’t rest and how we can
Last time we looked at Chapter 3 and the danger of procrastination, unbelief and hard heats, today we’re looking at rest. It is no accident that this warning precedes what we are to look at next in chapter 4. If we don’t heed the warning we shall miss out on the rest that God wants us to enjoy.
I suspect that most of us feel a need for rest, I certainly do! Our lives are hectic and demanding. Do you ever feel that the pressures of life are getting to you so that you want to stop the world? David did! “Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would I fly away, and be at rest.” Psalm 55:6
Importance of rest
We all need rest. God understands this. The Jews were told to take one day rest in seven 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work…. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Ex 20
and one year in seven - 3 ‘Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 ‘but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. … 6 ‘And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you - Leviticus 25.
Jesus knew His disciples needed rest: Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. Mk 6:31
We forget these principles at our peril with our modern flexible working hours ie long and unpredictable, being on call 24/7/366 with mobiles and laptops, etc. If you also find life is getting on top of you I hope to be of help. No, I’m not going to come round and cut your lawn, wash your car or whatever, but I hope that we can learn to be at rest inwardly - even when the world around us is chaotic!
Why we don’t rest
We have never had more free time or more aids to make our lives easier, yet you don’t need to be a great psychiatrist to see that people are stressed and anything but at rest or peace. Isaiah said that the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked” - 57:20. This is such an apt description of our modern, sophisticated society.
The world around us holds out the offer of rest. Power, riches and fame, Yoga, meditation, escaping the rat-race by living in the wilds, taking a pill all of these, we are told, will bring peace and rest. It sounds plausible, but the rest they bring is transitory or illusory - you only have to read the papers to see that. Peace that involves shutting our eyes to danger or burying our heads in the sand is not real peace, just real stupid. Peace that only lasts until problems come is not real peace either.
As Christians we have Peace with God (Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ Rom 5:1), but we are not immune from the stress and discontent that surrounds us. Why is it that often we don’t enjoy the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) Perhaps its because we don’t let the peace of God rule in our hearts - Col 3:15. Let me illustrate the point:
A poor man in Ireland was plodding home, carrying a huge bag of potatoes. A horse and wagon finally drew up alongside him and the driver invited the man to climb aboard. He sat down but continued to hold the heavy bag. When the driver suggested that the man set the bag down, he replied, “I don’t want to trouble you too much, sir. You are giving me a ride already, so I’ll just carry the potatoes.”
How foolish! Yet don’t we do the same thing? We try to carry our burdens and worries ourselves. No wonder we feel weary and even overwhelmed with anxiety and fear. David clearly felt like this in Psalm 55: 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. He was under attack 3 at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.