Free to Rest
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14: 27)
Begin by reading John 14:16-31
Rest is not something that comes easy to me. I am slave to productivity, to-do lists, and stress. God hard-wired us humans with a deep thirst for true, Spiritual rest, but I like to ignore that need. I like to think I can get everything done by myself, tick every box off my to-do list, say yes to everyone, down another cup of coffee, rinse, repeat. When I finally run out of steam (and I always do), I tend to swap the true rest God offers us for escapism. By this I mean a lot of things, but my common culprits are scrolling through Instagram or online stores or news articles on my phone, binge- watching my latest Netflix obsession late into the night, or filling every hour of free time I have left with social activities. But rather than fill me afresh with new energy, all these things ever do is fill me with more noise. Slowly and steadily, my stress and lack of rest build into a crescendo of restlessness, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.
God offers us something different. He offers us His peace, or to be more precise, His shalom. In John chapter 14, the verses directly preceding verse 27, Jesus promises his followers the Holy Spirit: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said.” (v 26) This peace he leaves with us is, then, a gift of the Holy Spirit. That is really great news, because, just as we freely receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when we put our faith in Christ, so we also freely receive the gift of shalom. Shalom is different than our modern concept of peace. Biblical shalom is a deep, inner sense of completeness or wholeness. It is resting in your identity as a child of God, resting in God’s promises, and resting in God’s sovereignty. It is finding your completeness, your purpose, your hope in the person of Christ. Shalom is an identity we can choose to put on in the morning like we choose what shoes we’re going to wear. But it’s less like a pair of wedges or the latest basketball trending sneaker and more like a full body of armor. Shalom is the safeguard of rest. We are created to find our completeness in the Lord, and when we receive and rest in the gift of Shalom, it also functions as a defense against fear and anxiety. Just after promising the gift of peace, Jesus’ promise turns to a warning: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This gift of peace empowers us to rest and protects us from fear.
We all know the enemy is a liar, but more often than not, we fall for his deception anyways. While rest may be a free gift, one we don’t ever have to work for, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things the enemy will use to keep us from receiving it. He will try to tempt you with mindlessness, escapism, control, busyness, etc. to keep you from experiencing true Spiritual rest. So then, how do we receive this gift of rest? There are two steps: remember and hope. Look back and look forward. Verse 26 says the Spirit will “bring to your remembrance all that I have said.” So, step one is remembering God’s promises and remembering God’s faithfulness. Step two is hope.
Jesus promises His peace and warns against fear, then verses 28-31 transition to a vision of the future. Jesus foretells His death, resurrection, and ascension. So, how do we receive shalom? We rest in the in- between-ness of this world. As followers of Christ, we are a people who look back to the promises of Scripture revealed in Jesus Christ and look forward to the second coming of our Lord and eternal redemption of this world. In this way, almost anything can become a venue for Spiritual rest. It isn’t something reserved only for the Sabbath, although that is important. Rest is something we can walk in every day of the week and every minute of the day. Whether we’re curled up in bed with a warm cup of coffee or scanning emails on our smartphone as we fly to the next meeting, in both circumstances we can choose to remember God’s faithfulness and hope in the Kingdom of God.
Father, you are the Prince of Peace. Your promises are true, and you desire to lavish your children with good gifts. Holy Spirit, search our hearts and show us where the enemy has tried to prevent us from experiencing Spiritual rest. Show us what lies we have believed about rest and where we have pursued false rest. We lay those at your feet, and we claim the promise of peace in Jesus’ name. Thank you, Lord, for the finished work of the cross, that we are forgiven, redeemed, and made new. God, we rest in your faithfulness and we look with anticipation toward the time when you will return in glory. Help us find our sense of completeness and wholeness.