19th August 2020
When my boys were younger they would ask their dad before each birthday, Father’s Day and Christmas what he would like for a present. His reply was always the same and became a family joke,
“A little bit of peace and quiet.”
Do you find yourself longing for that too? It may be that you also have children, who have now been off school for many months. It may be you have a pressured career, are spending long desperate hours on job searches or simply have friends who know they can always rely on you for help, at any time of the day or night.
Our 21st Century western culture does not offer a lot of peace and quiet. Many seek it through their summer holiday – time away to relax and switch off. This year many of us will not be travelling as anticipated, but even if we do get away, peace and quiet can seem somewhat elusive and the pressures of life are still there when we return.
The writer to the Hebrews compares the rest that the Israelites were promised as they were led out of Egypt with the rest that is ours though Jesus. We are promised in Heb4v3,
“Now we who have believed enter that rest…”
But are also told in v11,
“Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest…”
A striking paradox – rest is ours through faith, but we have to actively enter in to it. Putting it simply, the gift needs receiving.
So what is this rest that we are given? Is it basically a little bit of peace and quiet?
We first read about rest at the start of Genesis 2. God finished his creation work and on the 7th day he rested. Not because he was tired. Not because he was burnt out and stressed. God was showing us that we should not and cannot work without a rest. We are made in his image, therefore the need to rest, to stop, to pause long enough to take pleasure in our world around us, and enjoy one another is how we have been designed. This became known as the Sabbath rest - taking one day off a week, to worship, to focus on God to rest from our labours.
Fast forward to around 1500BC. Moses was leading the people to the Promised Land and was reminding them that they had not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance God was giving them. Yet the promise that one day they would enter the Promised Land was still before them. One day they would receive their inheritance and one day,
“…He will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.”
Rest from all their enemies. That was quite a promise. Rest from the slave masters of Egypt. Rest from the horsemen and chariots that pursued them through the Red Sea. Rest from all the tribes who would attack them as they travelled towards the Promised Land.
The good news is that through the cross we have also been given rest from our enemies. Satan’s power was utterly destroyed and our sin was been dealt with. Death was defeated once and for all.
Yet we each continue to live in a broken world and are assaulted daily by our enemies. We struggle with insecurities, we battle with fear, with depression, with what others think…if they think about us at all. We worry about our health, our bank balance, our children, our parents, our past, our future, our weight, our appearance, our likes and retweets and our employment…or lack of it.
As Corrie Ten Boom said,
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of it’s sorrow. It empties today of it’s strength.”
Or as Jesus put it,
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6v34
We can know rest from our enemies. Today. Right now. Through faith. And this rest isn’t just ours one day a week, on a Sabbath, but we are invited to experience it every day.
Psalm 46 starts off declaring that God is our refuge and strength. Yes! We agree with that. We can rest knowing that to be true. Yet the writer continues to list catastrophic natural disasters, widespread warfare and global desolation. And yet after all of this he writes,
“He says, “Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
That is true rest. No matter what is going on globally, nationally, in our family or in our own finite life nothing can change the fact that God is God. He is in control.
So we can be still, physically. Simply stop, pause, breathe and remember each second of your life is a gift from God. Rest.
We can be still, emotionally. Hand all that fretting and worry over to God. Stop trying to be god and control the world (or at least your tiny part of it) and enjoy the freedom trusting him brings. Rest.
We can be still spiritually. As we shift our focus from our own problems to the Almighty God, who is ruling and reigning we may overflow with praise or respond in silent awe but we remember our security on this earth and into eternity is in Him. Rest.
So wherever you are this summer time, whether busy at with your family, pressured at work, away on holiday or just having another day at home, let us make every effort to enter the rest that God offers us. And if that rest includes having peace and quiet then make sure you enjoy it!