Tag Archives: rest

The Rest of the Story

Violently persecuted in his home land, he joined a group who fled by boat, hoping for safety on some different shore.  But, what they found was terror – from pirates, from storms at sea and even from one another.  In desperation, he jumped overboard.  Soon, he was exhausted from his futile attempts to swim, surrounded by sharks and coughing up sea water with every breath.  A ship drew near and a life ring was thrown.  Should he take it?  Nothing to lose, he thought, and grabbed it.  The next thing he was aware of was waking up in a comfortable bed, washed, rested and fed.  He made his way up on deck, found a place to hide and watched intently for any kind of danger.  When the men working on deck noticed him, he raced away to the rail, preparing himself to fight or jump.

That is when he heard the voice of the captain, saying, “You are safe here and we will not hurt you.  You do not need to hide, or dash back and forth, watching and worrying about who is coming.  If you trust me, you can rest from all that.  Of course, if you are too frightened to trust me, too used to scheming and fighting to protect yourself, you can keep doing so.  I cannot force you to rest, but rather, I invite you to do so.  How about it?  Don’t you want to leave all this stress behind and rest?”

Could this be real?  Could it be true?  He had to decide: either listen to his old fears, try to protect himself and jump overboard or trust the captain and rest.

Hebrews 4, an extended warning about failing to trust God and missing out, also contains these lines about His promise of rest for those who trust:

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”   (Hebrews 4:1)

“Now we who have believed enter that rest, …”  (Hebrews 4:3a)

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  (Hebrews 4:7b)

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest,…”  (Hebrews 4:9-11a)


Our hearts and tears go out for our sisters and brothers of Paris.  We are shocked, dismayed by the wanton brutality.  We pray for them, asking that they might find real peace in their hearts, healing from the terror, comfort in sorrow.  And safety.  I pray that many will hear and respond to these words of Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  –  (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV84)

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   –  (Jn 14:23b ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –  (John 14:27  NIV84)


Rest Assured

The most intimate conversations with my wife tend to happen when we are out for a walk – away from the phone, the TV, the dishes, etc.  Something about the pace of walking together draws us closer.  Taking the time for that, periodically, breaks the gradual crescendo of stress and distraction of daily life and helps us re-connect.  God knew that principle and blessed us by commanding us to periodically observe a Sabbath rest.  Think of the Sabbath as God saying, “Hey, let’s go for a walk together…”

But then the religious authorities (an oxymoron?) layered the Sabbath with so many do’s and don’ts that their rules actually separated people from the heart of God.  The Sabbath became a burden instead of a rest and time of re-connection.  Naturally, Jesus’ approach to the Sabbath caused conflict, especially among those who tried to use religion as a way to control others.  Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  That, in a nutshell, is the idea of the Sabbath!   But an invitation like that was a threat to the makers and enforcers of strict religious rules.

 “Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” (Matthew 12:9-14)

I wonder if they called their meeting on the Sabbath?   No doubt.  Do you need rest? Do you wish you could be close to God?  Stay away from people like that.  Go to Jesus.  Find your Sabbath rest in Him.   He said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6b)

Just Come

He was in the classic, dropped-a-contact-lens posture, kneeling with his hands on the ground but his face pressed into the dirt.  His lips moved as he chanted what I suppose was a prayer.  When he stood up, he took one or two steps and knelt back down to do it again.  Over and over.  We observed this man on the side of a road in India.  I was told he was making his way for many miles to the steps of a temple.  It was an act of penance and devotion.  This is a very common concept in religion – doing something to work your way to being good enough.  Jumping through the right hoops so God will accept you.  Some penitents go on pilgrimages.  Some make extravagant sacrifices.  Some repeat ritual prayers.  Some do painful things to their bodies.  The goal is always the same: doing enough to be accepted.  Measuring up.

Here’s what you have to do to be accepted by Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)


You Choose: Rules or Rest?

Religion may make you feel good, but it doesn’t work.  Religions tell you what you have to do  to be okay with God.  Religions give you the rules to follow so you can make the connection with God happen.  But God says He makes the connection, that He will live in our hearts to bring us to life (Isaiah 57:15 – See “In a Nutshell”).  But He doesn’t do that for the religious; He does it for the “lowly and contrite.”  Religion gives you a score and tells you how well you are doing.  Lowliness puts you in touch with the reality that you can never measure up to God’s standard of righteousness – not even close.  Lowly people hunger for righteousness; religious people tend to think, “I’m not perfect, but I’m doing better than those other guys.”  Jesus comforted and loved the lowly.  He had fits with the religious.

This is not a new problem.  700 years before Jesus, God criticized the religious people because they were making up rules for people to follow to get to God.  He said,

“For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.”  Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.  So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there— so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. Isaiah 28:10-13

God intended for our relationship with Him to be characterized by rest, not rules.  Coming to  God was intended to be coming to the resting place, the place of repose.  But humans wanted rules, so we could be in control and so we could keep score.  So God said, “Very well then, have it your way.”  And God’s Word for the religious became distorted into “do and do, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.”

But for the lowly, for those who know they can’t measure up by following the rules, God comes and lives with them, reviving their hearts.  Jesus says, “Let Me be in charge; you come find rest in Me.”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28

You can have it your way.  Which way do you choose: rules or rest?