Those in Illinois (and other places) were greeted this week with extensions of the “stay at home” order. For us, that meant an additional month of staying at home. Strange as this may sound, even in this time of fallowness, of not going to work, of staying home, not going to gatherings – we need to rest. See, I told you it would sound strange, but hang with me for a bit.
Built into faith in Christ is the concept of rest and sabbath-rest. The Law of Moses saw rest as a cessation of labor. No work permitted according to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” This concept goes all the way back to creation when God rested on the seventh day. But there are more facets of rest than simple inactivity.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, NLT) This rest is not ceasing from physical activity. Quite the opposite since to be yoked as a pair of oxen meant doing work. But this rest Jesus offers is from all that works up our mind and emotions and spirit. Worry, anxiety, stress, unknowns, failures, striving, but never achieving, makes us weary. They sap our energy. But Jesus invites us to lay down those yokes and become yoked to Him to find rest.
The writer of Hebrews said, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9–11, NASB95) Interpreting this passage is a bit tricky. There are flavors of looking forward to that final rest when we truly do lay done all our labor. But there is also a now. Resting from our works and worries so that we may enter into Sabbath-rest.
Sabbath-rest is more than just ceasing activity, it may actually be a busy time. The point is that we cease our labor and enter into God’s labor. We rest in what God is doing – often without knowing the final outcome. We can rest knowing that God is in control and knowing that He loves us. We can rest our thoughts and the need to figure it all out. Rest our emotions, stress, and worry because they really won’t add an inch to our life.
Perhaps we need to de-couple physical activity and the kind of rest Jesus had in mind. Lack of physical activity doesn’t mean we’re resting in Christ. And doing things doesn’t mean a lack of Sabbath-rest. If lack of physical activity led to holiness, we’d all be recognized saints by now, but we’re not.
Now is an excellent time to find true rest in Christ. To enter into that Sabbath-rest. Laying down everything we’re trying so hard to carry and yoke ourselves instead to Christ. I don’t need to worry about it. Whether physically still or being busy, we are all invited to rest in Christ.
End-Note: Many get all hung up on the Sabbath day. Which day should Christians worship? What is allowed on that day? Followers of Christ have varied views on that. The purpose of this encouragement is to lay down those divisions (along with everything else) and enter Christ’s rest, be it Saturday, Sunday, or whenever. Our faith doesn’t rest on a day but on Jesus.