“There remains then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.” Heb. 4:9-10
Isn’t there something odd about this exhortation—make every effort to enter God’s rest? What is the nature of such rest that requires so much effort to enter? It is apparent from the strong wording of this passage that we are called to consider the concept of a Sabbath-rest as a serious goal of our spiritual direction and to cultivate a lifestyle that will allow us to remain in it.
If nothing else this exhortation is a sober word to those who would endeavor to enter into God’s rest to not underestimate the effort it will take. There are obstacles ahead. And it seems, from what is being said here, that our ‘work’ is what is most in the way of our ‘rest.’
The ‘athletes for God’—those men and women of the past centuries (and present ones) who pursued deep relationship with God with such fruit—all seemed to have a particular insight into what they called the ‘mortification of the self’. We shy away from such concepts today, assuming them to be more related to a spirit of masochism than from God. But what inspired these otherwise pretty lucid saints to such an unpopular approach?
As we pursue our rest in God we will increasingly become aware of the commotion of our inner life. These saints recognized this acutely. And, in their efforts to still their souls, undertook the task of dying to themselves in order to live more fully in God.
To rest in God simply means to love Him in the full security of faith—to love being with Him more than anywhere else. Whenever we are able to hold our souls in His presence, not allowing ourselves to be lured away by any other desire or fear of the heart, we have surely entered the Sabbath-rest that has been prescribed for the people of God. Let us hope in anticipation of the finished work of the Spirit in us that this becomes our increasing experience.
“It is necessary before all things to obtain tranquility; it is the mother of contentment. The opportunities of practicing it are daily.” -St. Frances de Sales
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christan Communities
written for November 2004
For Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your promise of rest. We long for this rest, grant us a greater longing. Grant us grace today and in the days ahead to displace useless labor and anxious ways of being with time spent in your loving and restful presence. May the knowledge of your great love and complete provision for our needs grow within us. We give you thanks, Amen.