For many years the concept of rest was so foreign to me that I couldn’t comprehend it. I didn’t know rest was a gift from God. I thought it was a sin. The invitation of Jesus to those who would follow Him is amazing – “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
For most of my life, I sincerely believed that the only time we would find 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 – “Let us be therefore 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 that I had already died with Christ and was able to cease from my own works, living instead out of His finished work.
The idea of being called by Christ to a place of rest often contradicts the default setting of contemporary Christian thought. We live in a society where people go on vacation with their cell phones, Palm Pilots and laptop computers. To rest in Christ is a concept which often requires a radical paradigm shift for many people.
To rest in Christ, trusting Him to express His life through us, sounds lazy and negligent after having lived in the wilderness of legalism for such a long time. Many mistakenly think of rest as some sort of passivity, which it is not. Resting in Christ simply means trusting Him to be our Life-Source, depending upon Him to empower our actions with His strength and direction.