BY JORDAN MAYER
"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."
A few weeks ago I came down with the flu. Though the symptoms themselves were no picnic, the most debilitating part was the lack of sleep. For about a week, I struggled to get even a few hours of rest each night. Sleep began to feel elusive, and night time became a source of stress and anxiety at the thought of another sleepless night. No matter what I tried or how badly I wanted to sleep, nothing seemed to work.
Isn’t it interesting how desperately we need sleep, and how quickly our bodies break down when we don’t get any? But as much as our physical bodies need rest, it is dwarfed by our soul's need for spiritual rest.
The Bible introduces us to the idea of Sabbath rest, beginning at the beginning when God rests from His work of creation. This sweet melody of rest plays throughout Scripture and finds its crescendo in the work of Christ on the cross. Just as God’s work was complete in creation, Jesus provides a perfect and complete sacrifice, and He ushers in a lasting rest.
Contrasted with Jesus’ work on the cross is the works of our own hands. Even our best deeds are like filthy rags before a perfect and holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Try as we might, we all fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23).
But, there is hope. Hebrews reminds us that this blessed Sabbath rest still remains. God is extending an open invitation to partake of the rest that He secured on our behalf. It begins by recognizing and acknowledging that our works will never be enough. Like the frustration and anxiety of another sleepless night, our tireless works can never commend us to God. But the good news of the Gospel triumphantly declares that they don’t have to! When we accept Christ, we are able to lay our works aside to experience the peaceful rest of the Savior.
The first night I finally slept through the night, I felt immense relief and joy. In a small measure, it reminds me of what it feels like when we surrender our lives to Christ. The endless toil and the constant working to be "good enough" finally ceases. In the midst of the breaking waves and swirling winds of our restless soul, Jesus lifts up His hands and says, "Peace. Be still."
For us who know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we can rejoice in and look forward to this eternal rest. But the rest that Jesus offers is not only a future promise but a present day reality. We can experience Sabbath rest here and now.
But to experience and appropriate His rest, we are called to strive. The Christian life is one of action; faith is active, not passive. We must hold fast to the hope set before us (Hebrew 6:18) and with confidence draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). We must lay aside every weight and run the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1). So too, we must strive to enter the rest that God provides.
This striving is not a return to our own works, but rather a resting in the completed work of Christ. It is the active application of the Gospel in our lives. It comes in the daily decisions we must make to decide where we will find our rest. Sabbath is not about what we can do, but resting in what's been done.
So where are you finding rest today? Is it in Jesus, or something else?
Are you seeking your rest in career fulfillment? In the absence of family drama? Do you look for it in a pain free life, or try to find it in leisure or alone time? Is your rest found in your circumstances or is it present in spite of them?
Wherever or whatever you find yourself seeking rest in, Jesus is calling after you today. Come to the Savior, lay all else aside, and find rest for your soul.
"'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)