Have you ever noticed that we spend much of our life asleep? Despite all our productivity, life goals and ambition almost a quarter to a third of our life we spend flat on our back effectively doing nothing. Perfectly idle in a subconscious state. As babies we enter the world sleeping at routine intervals and then in our latter years our days dwindle buffeted by afternoon naps.
I was at a 7am prayer meeting a few weeks ago and I found God wouldn’t let me pray. I was a little annoyed because it was cold, early and I was ready to pray but felt constrained. Most people might think I was wasting my time or going a little loopy, but I knew God was up to something. Fortunately I was the only one who attended the meeting so I didn’t have to explain myself or feel guilty. No one else had bothered to wake up so I felt I was one up on them. So I thought.
Sitting on the cold concrete stairs locked outside of the building a thought of rest crossed my mind. Unbeknownst to me it became a rather gripping idea which seems to unravel on a daily basis.
I pulled out my phone and started reading the book of Hebrews. Maybe it was because of my desire for slumber but the thought of rest started to lead me down a trail of ideas. Straight after the writer of Hebrews talks about leaving the desert to head into the promised land he emphasises the day of rest, or the Sabbath. I saw that God might not desire for us to go back and forth between the desert and the promised land.
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. 2And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.”
God worked six days and then rested. He never went back to work. It was finished. If we are to follow his lead we must realise the day of rest is “Today”. The sabbath is “Today”. Today is the day of Salvation. I discovered that we don’t need to only rest in peace when we die. We enter his rest when we receive him. Rest is salvation. Surprisingly the scripture warns us several times to be careful NOT to rest. Most people it seems warn of not working. I’ve never once in my life been reprimanded for resting too little?
I began to see that the sabbath is intended to remember God, but when Jesus showed up we can’t forget him because he is with us everyday.
The Jewish tradition of the Sabbath or Shabbat starts on a friday night with wine, dinner with the family and the married enjoying marital relations finishing at saturday lunch. These aren’t things that we should only do once a week. God wants us to experience this everyday with him at the centre.
In Jewish law the severest punishment is for those who don’t observe the Shabbat. I wondered why the same punishment for murder,rape and adultery is the same for mowing the lawn on a sunday. It is because rest and salvation are the one and the same. In no uncertain terms God commands us to rest. Our bias as is to appear busy. Busyness it seems is something to be proud of, something of a badge. We even lie to appear important. How was you day? “Busy”. Not many people would gladly admit to watching youtube videos for four hours.
We even label a whole industry “Busyness” or the “Business Sector”. Unfortunately busyness does not equate with productivity. I felt I was being made aware of a new type of business practice.
Running a small business I found to take a holiday was one of my most pressing challenge. I was afraid that when I came back, my business would irrevocably suffer. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a chance to rest, I just didn’t allow myself to rest because I needed to stay on high alert for the sake of the business and sense of duty. After several years of very few restful breaks, I started to wonder if God wanted me to live like this. To me, it was incredibly difficult to book in a holiday, not knowing how busy I would be, or what my financial situation would look like. Once I acted in faith, I discovered my perspective shift on the nature of God changed my life dramatically. I realised he wanted me to enjoy my life, and not just endure. I’m not perfect at it but more and more over the last few years I now cherish these holiday times and don’t allow future concerns from stealing my present sense of rest.
After starting to gain an understanding of rest I needed to go to the toilet. Feeling a little despondent and like I was wasting time at the prayer meeting, God asked me what room I was in. I realised I was in the “Rest Room”.
At risk of sounding vulgar, I felt I needed to get rid of religious “waste”. My religious activity was ironically separating me from him from the start, putting him at arms length and making me climb back into him via prayer. Prayer was not a way to get to him. He was already with me. He was seeking me.
I felt he wanted me to understand I needed new regular revelation and needed to let go of the past otherwise it would make me bloated and poison my system.
I realised how all my christian activities were centred around getting to God. In essence they became the very thing that stopped me from seeing God because they perpetuated the lie that I wasn’t already with him
The time children grow the fastest is when they are asleep. On average a babies birth weight is doubled by 4-6 months and tripled by 12 months. Exponential growth occurs. For this growth to occur a baby needs to be at rest with his little heart and body optimised, building new cells. When we fill our lives with activities our thinking does not have required energy to be directed into thoughts of growth. We are too busy in survival mode to focus our attention onto new thoughts. Too busy playing catch up.
For some the thought of rest is actually stressful, the thought of new ideas overwhelming. Who will do the work if I don’t? I would argue if you don’t have time to rest you are doing something God is not asking you to do. Rest is a state of faith. It shows that we completely trust and completely feel safe in Gods in plans.
This is what the Lord says Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?
Could you build me such a resting place?
Rest is receiving Gods nature. Heaven is his throne. The earth is his footstool. A throne is comfortable, a footstool makes him a little more comfortable. When we rest we are giving God his rightful place.
Rest is total authority. His feet on the footstool shows total dominance. We don’t’ need to be fight or flight mode because perfect love casts out fear.
Rest kills a religious spirit because religion makes you feel you can do it. We sometimes put ourselves in the place of Jesus. The messianic complex starts with thinking “If I’m not here, this ship will sink.” Its a burden we are never supposed to carry. If we are doing Gods will and what he requires the rest Gods responsibility.
Rest is visionary because it values relationship over the long term rather the production in the short term.
Rest gives God a voice to speak to us and for us. Many times simply stopping and listening has saved countless hours of wasted time, money and effort.
Rest is a statement that God is with us. When we don’t rest we are inadvertently saying, God is no longer in charge.
Rest reveals lies. It is the true understanding that it is finished. Jesus already died on the cross. It is not a something to be proud of when you put yourself back on it.
Later in Hebrews 4:3 it says
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.”
The includes all works including the work of the cross.
That book belongs to the lamb who was slaughtered before the creation of the world.
We can rest because God is not surprised by anything. God didn’t bat an eyelid even at Adam and Eve’s seemingly cataclysmic mistake. He already moped up the mess “The lamb who was slaughtered before the creation of the world.” At the right time he decided to reveal it to us.
1 Peter 1:19
but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. (NIV)
Its interesting that alot of the time we can only rest when feel like everything has been done. Many feel like there is always something to be done and actually struggle to stop. They think its a waste of time to stop and smell the roses. When we see that “It is finished”. The work of salvation is final we can cease striving. God never asks us to strive. He asks us to be led. To only do what the father does. The cross broke the curse of “toiling”. It now asks us to tend the resurrection life offered.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Many people don’t want to rest because of fear. They want to please others. They hide behind works and serving others because if they stop they don’t feel loveable. Rest confronts the issue of value. It asks the questions “Am I just as important when I am not doing anything?”. “Am I worth spending time with when I’m not a practical help?”. Few find it enjoyable to confront these sensitive issues and prefer to scoot along the surface. Past rejection or hurt may be the reason we avoid rest. Sometimes we’d rather not actually deepen the relationship for fear of loosing what we have. Unfortunately being loved for what we do rather then who we are is a self defeating type of love, if we can call it love at all. It is a return to the curse of toiling and separation from God’s love.
Rest is unselfish because it puts value on other peoples actions and thoughts, and allows them in. We stop what we want to do and put importance on what others want. Rest allows space for interaction and removes the busy clutter that blocks relationships.
Rest improves relationships. It is no surprise we even use the term “Sleeping together’. When we are at rest, we are vulnerable. We are not in a self protective state. It facilitates deeper fully present, authentic connection. It creates an atmosphere for intimacy.
Rest is immensely productive. Fruitfulness comes from intimacy. There are so many things out of our control. Weather patterns, stockmarket, our health, the actions of others. Rest puts these concerns back on the shoulders of the one who is in charge and leaves the rest to God.
Discussing this with a friend Tom Biasetto he shared that elite athletes i.e. when Tiger Woods have a crucial putt to make or when Ronaldo was to make a spot kick, in those high pressure situations what separated them from lesser competitors was that their heart rate would drop to that of just above sleeping. They could master primitive fear states of flight or fight. Lesser sports stars in similar situations found their heart rate spike with a corresponding drop in performance.
Its funny the effect senior players have when they step onto a field. Experienced players change the atmosphere of the team. They are not panicking. They have composure and an air of confidence that instills strength into the entire team and even the supporters. They may not be at the top of their game physically but they are completely relaxed which facilitates the team rising to its potential.
Rest is not laziness. It is operating in the spirit. It is higher efficiency, clearer thinking, it is enjoyable, attractive, and a reveals who we truly are. We can relax in the individual identity of how God made us. We don’t have to work to put up a facade. We are accepted. More then accepted we are sought after. Our messy humanity completely connected with divine nature.
Adam received his wife while he was asleep. The disciples rested in the upper room for 40 days eating drinking at the feast of Pentecost until the Holy Spirit descended.
Stopping helps us face the larger questions in life that we subconsciously carry. When we start feeling the weight of what is on our heart many times it makes us tired and sleepy. It is because we begin to feel the burdens we are carrying. We are not supposed to be carrying these burdens. Many times the best thing to do is sleep. We are supposed to give them over to God to carry. To lighten our load. This dream state is a place where God can fill us with vision and ideas. When we wake we can trust that God has things under control. It is interesting how often I go to be feeling overwhelmed and by the morning the problems of the night before have seemed to dissipate.
When we rest we move out of our head and into our heart. Our heart moves slower then our head. To live from a place of the heart we must slow down. Then when we act we will live from our heart. Our words will come from the heart and be loaded. Have you ever found it difficult to be heard in a board meeting? Many times the one who is at rest is listened to the most. The person in panic mode is ignored. Even listening to them unsettles the team. The people at rest are usually the leaders. They have processed the issues and are resolved. When you are at rest, people stop and listen. They sense you have the ability. It calms their personal doubts and the voices of inadequacy that they may carry.
So how do we enter this magical rest you may ask? I noticed a cousin of our family Chas Gullo entered a building during a wedding once. To me it seemed the atmosphere of the room changed as he walked in. I felt a sense of peace. I asked him if he knew what I was talking about and I found his answer very enlightening. He told me that he walks as if he carries a dove is on his shoulder. He walks slowly and moves softely so he can be in-tune with what the Holy Spirit is doing.
Even just going to bed early is a way to enter this rest. I remember as a teenager I would wake feeling taller. While I was asleep my body entered a growth spurt. Although I am aware of God all day long, these days I also experience Gods presence the most when I am in bed, before I wake and as I sleep. I see it as a type of meditation on Gods goodness and feel like I am growing closer to him like never before.
I’m not saying sleep all day and don’t do any work. I am saying carry God with us as we work. This rest isn’t something I can conjure up. It is something we have to perpetually receive. It is is something we carry. It is an act of mercy and grace.
Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish, by following an example of disobedience.
I challenge you to today to listen do what he asks, rest and leave the rest up to God. It may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do. People around you may miss out on eternal life because you are so concerned about the tasks you need to accomplish. Don’t be disobedient. Make the changes you must to allow rest into your life. It is one of the most fruitful modes of living.