Cross Words: Grace-empowered rest

By Isaiah Pauley - Cross Words

Last week, I wrote about grace-empowered work. But we also need to understand grace-empowered rest.

Most of us realize our need for help when it comes to work. But we often assume rest comes more easily. And that’s likely true if we understand rest in the context of passages like Proverbs 24:30-34.

It reads, “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (ESV).

There’s a difference between rest and laziness. We often try to merge the two. For example, we say things like, “Today is my lazy day.” And while most of us understand what people mean by those words, it’s important for us to make a biblical distinction.

The apostle Paul warns against laziness in places like 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12. But we serve a God who rests (see Gen. 2:1-3). And we serve a God who calls us to rest (see Matt. 11:28-30).

So, there’s clearly a difference between rest and laziness. But when we try to rest apart from grace, our rest easily becomes laziness. If we’re going to rest as God desires, we must depend on His grace rather than thinking we have what it takes to rest well.

For me, binge-watching Netflix and eating a bag of potato chips isn’t restful. Neither is sleeping all day. Maybe for you it is. But we need to examine our motives. We often try to rest as if God is uninterested and disengaged. We don’t ask for His help like we do on Monday morning. Instead, we eat junk food, stay in our pajamas, and call it rest. But if we’re not careful, that rest becomes laziness.

I’m not saying pajama days are bad. Neither is eating a little junk food. But we need to understand how to rest as God desires. If we’re going to rest in a way that glorifies God, we need to rely on His grace to rest just as we rely on His grace to work.

So, let’s unpack this grace-empowered rest by pondering what Jesus has to say in Matthew 11:28-30.

He says, “‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’” (ESV).

The invitation Jesus offers is different from the one offered by this world. The world says, “Do this.” Jesus says, “It’s already done.”

Contrary to the burdensome laws of the Pharisees, Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart. He promises eternal rest to those who come. It’s the beauty of grace (see Eph. 2:8-9). The rest Jesus offers is a rest we don’t deserve. It’s a rest we can’t earn. And it lasts forever.

So, what does it look like to rest in that grace each and every day? Once we realize where genuine rest comes from, we can stop trying to find it elsewhere. Grace-empowered rest is not something this world offers. It can only be found in Christ.

If we’re going to rest as God desires, we must seek Christ in the most mundane moments of life when we mistakenly think everything is under control. If true rest comes from God, then we need to come running to Him rather than things that never satisfy.

Does that mean it’s wrong to lay down and watch TV? Of course not. But we do need to become more dependent on Christ in our moments of rest. We do need to recognize and cherish God’s grace in moments of rest like we do in moments of difficulty. And we must consider how our rest glorifies God as we recognize the central place He has in our most restful moments.

The author of Hebrews writes about this eternal rest found in Christ (see Heb. 3-4). The true Sabbath rest. And we experience this rest by grace.

This is grace-empowered rest. A rest that depends on Christ. A sure and steady rest. And one day, when Christ returns, we’ll experience this rest in full.

By Isaiah Pauley

Cross Words

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.