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The Joy of Resting

The Joy of Resting in God
written by Kevin Ott
There are times when holidays, instead of giving us rest, make us more tired than we were before. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone who has just returned from vacation turn to me and say, “Wow, what an exhausting trip. I need a vacation from my vacation!” Thanksgiving can be like that sometimes. After all, it’s the busiest travel weekend of the year. And if we’re not traveling, we may be getting all sorts of things ready for Thanksgiving Day–from food preparation to chores around the house to yard work. Or maybe we are determined to emerge victorious from the Black Friday rugby scrum they call “shopping,” so that no good deal goes un-purchased, even if that means besieging and marauding every store front in Kern County. By the time Monday rolls around, we may be exhausted from our time off and eager to get back to work! (That’s a worst-case scenario, of course. Hopefully we all have a rejuvenating four-day weekend!) The Bible has an interesting view on rest, and the principle is tied to thanksgiving. The New Testament writers, especially in Hebrews 4, make a connection between the physical rest of the Sabbath and the spiritual rest that faith in Christ brings to our hearts. The Sabbath works as a metaphor for what Jesus does inside of us. In other words, when we put our faith in Jesus, we are entering into the most satisfying rest that exists: we’re resting from all the strife and labor of trying to justify ourselves and earn our way to God by our own works. We’re resting from the condemnation that Satan throws at us every day. We’re resting from the impossible weight of sin that burdens every heart that has not found the forgiveness of Christ. If you’re already a Christian–and especially if you’ve been a Christian a long time–it can be easy to become over-familiar with the Gospel. We hear all the phrases and catch-words so often they lose their effect. This can rob our hearts of the satisfying rest that knowing Jesus brings. How do we regain this rest? A huge part of the answer is actually quite simple: thanksgiving. By actively thanking God for every blessing He’s given, from the smallest little gift to the biggest joy we’ve known, it repositions our hearts. It softens the hard ground and helps us regain a childlike wonder of the magnitude of God’s love. As these little acts of thanksgiving build upon one another like waves adding together and multiplying exponentially, we begin to re-discover the greatest expression of God’s love of all: the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ–God made flesh, who humbled Himself to be born into a broken world, to willingly die for all of us, and then to rise again to conquer death and Hell forever for those who freely receive His gift. Thanksgiving dusts off the stale over-familiarity we have with the Gospel. We begin to remember the first time the Gospel got a hold of our hearts. We begin to re-live the wonder of it all over again. The truths in the Bible become clearer in our minds. We grow closer to Jesus as a result. The shock of the Gospel becomes real to us again–a shocking rebuke to our egos and self-righteous pride, but a shock of sudden relief and joy to our broken hearts. As a preacher I once heard put it: “The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” And that’s when the true rest comes. So as you (hopefully) get a chance to physically and mentally rest during this Thanksgiving holiday, remember to enter into the rest of the Gospel by sending little prayers of thanksgiving up to Heaven all day long while you’re enjoying food, family, football, parades, and friends. Even if you have a busy holiday weekend that leaves you physically tired, you can enjoy the most satisfying rest available in this world by remembering the gift of the Gospel and re-discovering the joy of knowing Christ.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV).

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