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Rest assured! It's something you learn to believe in!
"Come to Me, all you 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 NKJV
"Two artists each painted a picture to illustrate his conception of rest.The first chose for his scene a still, lone lake among the far-off mountains.The second threw on his canvas a thundering waterfall,with a fragile birch tree bending over the foam;at the fork of a branch, almost wet with the cataract's spray,a robin sat on its nest.The first was only stagnation; the second was rest.For in rest there are always two elements--tranquility and energy, silence and turbulence." --Henry Drummond
The Mysteries of Rest
Rest is the reward, the end result of faith. Those who come--weary, exhausted, burned out and with nothing more to give--receive this rest when they enter into a yoked relationship with Jesus. Just as in the miracles, Jesus healed but the person's faith made them whole; so it is with rest. Jesus gives rest to your soul, but your faith makes it happen.
When I began this page, I was absolutely overwhelmed and didn't know what to write. Rest is a common word. We all know what it means. But what did Jesus mean by that word? Surely not the same thing we think of. I struggled with thoughts that went nowhere. It was early Sunday morning, a day of rest! And I didn't need to be doing this! Frustrated, I just wanted to go back to bed and escape into sleep. Yet it wasn't sleep I needed, but a spark to ignite the passion to work fully and freely without all the struggle. There was one comfort, however; I knew from past experience this page would get written. God helps me in God's own time. And in my struggling, I learn the lessons of faith.
Dear God, I need to know the mysteries of your rest. Jesus said he gives rest to the weary; yet a sentence later he said we discover rest for our souls. He gives, but we must find it! That's so typical of Jesus' teaching. He hints at stuff, but we have to figure out for ourselves what he is saying. Jesus didn't describe rest in this passage, other than the picture of his easy yoke and light burden. We discover something, but what is it!?
When weary from much physical or mental activity, rest is to lie down, stretch out and take a nap. When burdened by guilt from things done or left undone, rest is forgiveness and the chance to make restitution. The day our two children left home together to make their own way in life, I rested my anxieties by tearfully asking their loving heavenly Father to watch over them in my place. To some, rest is freedom; to others, captivity. To some, rest is the security of being loved; to others, it means breaking out.
Jesus spoke of rest in the context of us coming to him, entering into a relationship through the yoke he has prepared for us, wherein we learn gentleness, humility plus many other things from him. He described our lives correctly-- weary with the burdens of life and needing rest for our souls.
The larger context for these words was the unbelief of many people who perceived Jesus to be nothing more than a traveling preacher with healing powers. They believed there was a God alright, one far removed from their problems. Out there, somewhere, was the God of their fathers who had not visited nor shown his face for a long, long time. The inviting words of Jesus fell on deaf ears. Doubt blinded their eyes as they resisted every desire to believe.
Battles are won or lost first in the thinking processes of the mind. Currently in my local school district, we have a high school football team that annually makes it to the state championship games. In the days just before those games, signs go up throughout our little town. They all say the same thing. Just two words--"I believe." Like freedom and victory, rest is also found in the heart and mind before it becomes reality.
The rest Jesus gives has nothing to do with idleness, tombstones or being half dead while still alive. It has everything to do with the life and vitality of God flowing through our veins. We do not drop out of life when we rest in Jesus. In fact our response may be the complete opposite. Just as in sleep the body heals and rejuvenates itself so we can rise and shine with enthusiasm and renewed energy, so it is with rest for the soul.
You may never live on the peaceful mountain lake, but if you believe in the Christ who offers you rest, you will sleep well enough in your nest by the thundering waterfall. The first is idyllic, stagnant and turned in upon itself; the second is a free-flowing adventure of faith. Our lips may tremble but we say it anyway because we want to believe: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." There is rest for our soul; we learn it from Jesus and find it by faith.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What is your favorite way to relax?
If you ever lived with someone whose energy level was too high or too low, how might that affect your feelings toward the word rest?
What are the similarities and differences between physical, mental and spiritual weariness? What percentage of the burdens you carry fall into each category? How might you have answered that question at other stages of your life?
Make a list of things Jesus might have meant when he talked about rest. Pick a favorite from the list and decide how it applies to your life.
The old King James Version used, in place of gentle, the word meek which implies freedom from pretense and pretending. How would learning meekness lead to rest?
When he healed, Jesus told certain people, "Your faith has made you well." In other words, they participated in their own healing through their faith. It is possible then, that we find rest for our souls in a similar way--through faith. What does this say about anxiety and our tendency to fret and worry? How is it possible to feel calm or confident in a turbulent situation?
Being yoked to Jesus shifts the focus from our troubles to our relationship with Jesus. The troubles are still there but our focus has shifted so they don't loom so large any more. Share one experience wherein this has been true for you.
Rest could mean relief from the turmoil of doubts, sin or guilt. Relate how you have been set free from these things. This would be a good time to share some personal testimonies about what it means to call Jesus your Savior. How does your hope of eternal life give you peace of mind today?
Does rest for your soul imply that you withdraw or enter more fully into life? True or False?--"To cease from the struggle is to rest." Explain your answer.
Describe one time when you experienced rest for your soul.