The Chinese saint and scholar Watchman Nee’s exposition on the epistle of Ephesians uses 3 key passages to cull out a simple outline of the book - SIT, WALK, STAND (2:4-7, 4:1 and 6:11-13). His thesis is that, without knowing how to be seated in Christ, you can neither walk worthy of Him nor take a stand against the forces of darkness and evil.
His study throws up a real and key factor lacking in our Christian faith today – the concept of rest.
The English dictionary defines rest as “Cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength; allow to be inactive in order to regain strength or health.’ Strong’s Concordance defines rest as shabbath (שָׁבַת) which means to cease, to celebrate, to repose, to desist (from exertion), leave, put away etc. The word shabbath or Sabbath appears 71 times in the Old Testament and is a sacred observance connected to a day and a year.
Shabbath, or rest is, therefore, more of a time to sit back to contemplate and meditate, pause to think and thank for the past, rest and regain perspective of the present, assess and take stock to align priorities needed for the future. Rest is thus, neither a simple sitting idle nor catching up on different activities you couldn’t otherwise do.
Rest is Rejoicing
Rest is pulling back from a hectic schedule to take time to enjoy the calm at the end of a work well done and recharging your batteries for the next task just ahead of you. Gen 2:1-3 God rested on the seventh after He had finished creating everything. With great contentment at His handiwork and in the glory of that deep satisfaction, He blessed and hallowed the seventh day, bestowing it special favor to make it holy and sacred. It is the day He delighted in all that He had accomplished and chose to make it a mandate for His people.
God made rest an ordinance and a command as direct provision against work as well as an antidote and blessing that would offset the poison of sin and the curse it incurred. God valued and honored the Shabbath by making it part of the Ten Commandments, part of the feasts ordained for Israel (Lev 23) and set apart the Sabbatical year as well as the Jubilee year to proclaim rest and restoration!
Rest is Reasonable
Rest is included in the creative and salvific work of both man and woman. God made Adam on the penultimate day of creation so that man’s first day of existence was the day of rest. Again, when He made Eve, He caused Adam to be in deep sleep or rest before fashioning her out of his rib. So, in effect, while God rested after doing, man rested before doing!
The curse, placed on human beings as a result of sin, mandated man and woman to hard labor - he in the process of providing for his family and she in the process of birthing and raising that family. God, in His mercy, mandated rest also for them, making it a core principle to be followed and giving them a promise of a future true rest (Heb 4:9-11).
The same motif is displayed in salvation, with our Lord Jesus Christ dying just before the Sabbath and rising from the dead on the third day, creating a new Sabbath for the new creation in Him. Christ in effect completed His work of salvation and is sitting in rest on the right hand of His Father, for His enemies to be made His footstool (Heb 1:13). The church then designated the first day of the week as time together as the Body of Christ in a place/area/locality.
Rest is therefore ingrained in the DNA of human beings and is part of their future hope and reward!
Rest is Restorative
Rest and sleep are synonymous and denote a cessation of activity as well as a time of replenishing that happens daily in all of creation.
God made rest an integral part of all creation by ordaining night and day and the cycle of seasons. Mankind and some plants and animals are diurnal, while others are nocturnal, and this regulates their work and rest patterns to enable peaceful cohabitation (Ps 104). During winter the ground rests, birds migrate and some animals hibernate and thus, rest is part and parcel of nature itself.
Sleep is rest followed by an awakening that is a forerunner of resurrection and the circle of sleep and consciousness is a daily representative of the true rest and resurrection that awaits us in His presence in eternity. The dawning of each day brings a freshness that is invigorating since the old and the past is dead and gone, swept aside and away in the dark quietness of rest.
The book of Lamentations declares that His compassions never fail and His mercies are new every morning. God seems to wield a brush to scrub away the old, creating not only a new sky and a new earth every morning, but also a new hope and new life, daily!
Rest is Relative
Rest is greatly different from and vastly contrary to passivity and resignation, almost its antithesis, since passivity is defined as an unconscious emotional element that limits the flow of creativity or hinders our self-expression Passivity is lethargy that produces slow paralysis and causes one to be dead weight on others. Passivity has laziness that waits to be acted upon as its base and is one of the prime triggers for demonic oppression and possession. Passivity gives rise to apathy, inertia and an attitude of laissez-faire because rot, slow decay and deadness are present in its root.
Resignation is born of a fatalistic outlook that says whatever will be will be. In contrast, rest produces an awakening and a renewing that causes heightened sensitivity and alertness to everything around as well as a new outlook.
Prayer and meditation of God’s word is crucial to true stillness and rest, for a glimpse of His greatness and the smallness of our problems is enough to restore. Prayer and contemplation result in quietness of heart and mind, a realignment of priorities and problems due to an encounter with God’s power and majesty as well His judgment and mercy. Real time prayer and reflection of the Scripture would surely lead to real rejuvenation of vitality in faith, hope and love!
When the leaders of the church in Antioch waited upon the Lord in prayer (Acts 13), a new vision and a new outreach was launched into Asia Minor. A new phase was set in motion by the Holy Spirit in the history of the church and the progress of the gospel.
Rest is Reset
Rest is pressing the pause button to give time to assess the work just done or accomplished or finished, before moving on. It is time spent in reevaluating goals, realigning focus, rejecting the irrelevant, restoring equanimity and refreshing priorities as well as plans. It is taking the space to review our victories and our failures, before deciding on the next course of action or spell of life.
A few years ago, amidst a hectic active lifestyle of being engaged in fruitful lifework and an exhilarating daily reaching for God’s will in it, came the clear command – step back, cease from activity and rest. Moving from active visibility to quiet obscurity, I really came to see how fast life is today. I realized I had become dry and my bottle totally empty. As I created, I began the soothing streams of His anointing begin to heal, help and humble my soul into a deeper sense of God, His Word and His Spirit.
As rest began restoring and restructuring my inner being, I realized rest needs to be constant and permeating the inner being.
Rest is slowly becoming a habit and a habitus rather than a pit stop or bump in the road of life!!
Sabina Tagore Immanuel is a writer, counselor, life coach, and the author of Teach Us to Pray.