Learning to Rest

Like many virtues in life, the most valuable and beneficial things come at a cost. We mess up, make mistakes and through the school of hard knocks we finally learn the lessons we wished we had learned years earlier.

One such lesson in the Christian life is the lesson of learning to rest.  God intends that the first step of every new believer is to learn to rest.  I know, that is opposite of what most of us experienced.  Most of us jumped in with both feet, with eyes wide open attempting to “do all we can do for God”.  It didn’t take long for us to experience burnout.  When we couple a little weariness with church problems we come to the point where we say, “There has got to be more to the Christian life?”  At this point, the result is sometimes church burnout.

Why does this burnout stage occur? Some would say that we took on too much too quickly.  Others would say there were spiritual maturity issues; we needed to grow more before we attempted to do church work.  Those may have been contributing factors, but I think the main problem is we neglected the resting stage.

It is instinctive to human nature to begin the process of “doing” as soon as we have a meaningful spiritual experience such as salvation.  We have heard the good news of the gospel, it has impacted our life, now we must get busy and tell someone else.  We are correct that we should tell others, that is a mandate for all committed followers of Christ. However, the first step in the Christian walk is not doing but rather learning to rest.

The principles of Scripture teach that our degree of success in ministry is directly connected to how much we learn to rest. The Apostle Paul so eloquently portrays that truth in Ephesians:

“…He(God) raised Him(Jesus) from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in heavenly places far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion…(1:17-21)

“And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus… (2:6-9)

Notice that God first made Jesus to sit, then his made us to sit with Him. As Watchmen Nee writes in his book Sit, Walk and Stand, “Christianity does not begin with walking but with sitting.”
Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father because his work was finished. He paid the debt for our sin once and for all.  No more sacrifices, no more burnt incenses, no more entering in the Holy of Holies once a year to apply the blood to atone for sin.  Man’s futile attempt to keep the law was now fulfilled in Jesus.

We first see the principle of resting in creation.  God made everything in six days. At the end of the sixth day He made man.  On the seventh day God rested. That means that man’s first full day on earth was a day of rest.

Why is our first duty as a believer to learn to rest? Why is resting so important to God? Listed below are five key reasons that resting is important to every committed follower of Jesus.

  1. Resting is an indication that we understand that our salvation is a work of God’s grace and not our self-effort. Our good deeds, learning the catechism or being baptized will not get us to heaven. Salvation is only received as a free gift, we can’t earn it. It is only through accepting by faith Jesus’ finished work on the cross, in our behalf, can we receive this free gift of salvation.
  2. Resting is the acknowledgment of our absolute dependence upon Him.  Apart from the living Christ within us, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) Our ability and power to be fruitful is directly related to being connected to the true vine, which is Christ.
  3. In resting we realize that our power to bear spiritual fruit comes from a higher source. Our talent and ability is practically useless unless it has been empowered by the Holy Spirit. The scripture teaches us that we are to be filled with the Spirit of God for effective and fruitful ministry. (Ephesians 5:18)
  4. Resting is a time to realize that the same Holy Spirit that drew us to Christ has formed a union with us. He is our companion 24/7. He leads and guides us toward truth, He goes before us and prepares our daily path, and He opens the hearts and minds of those we come in contact with. He prepares their heart for what He will lead us to say to them.
  5. Resting prepares our heart to have fellowship with the God of the universe. It is in those quiet moments of resting that we hear His tender voice and we receive those gems of wisdom and sense His overwhelming love.

As you can see, resting is an important step in preparing us for effective ministry. If we “hit the ground running” we can get so busy doing good that we may miss God. Make no mistake about it, the Lord wants us to be proactive in the kingdom, but not before we learn to rest. You can be more productive in five minutes with the power of God on your life, because you have spent time resting, than you can in five years of working in your own strength.

“Let us therefore be diligent to enter into that rest…”(Hebrews 4)

For more on this subject of resting, I suggest you purchase a copy of the little booklet by Watchman Nee entitled, “Sit, Walk and Stand.” You can find copy at most Christian bookstores or you can order from Amazon. It is available in Kindle format.

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