Rest: A Beautiful Word
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 11:28a-i (Holman) “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Near the end of our Civil War, Robert E. Lee was watching his exhausted, defeated, army retreat. The General, visibly shaken by the sight, was urged by one of his aides to rest. Lee replied, “Rest–what a beautiful word.”
The rest General Lee wanted for his physical body, and we need for ours, is an outward reminder and symbol of the spiritual rest we all want and need.
Our muscles want to rest physically. Our hearts want to rest spiritually, to be confident all is well between us and God with regard to our everlasting destiny.
We frail creatures of dust groan to have absolute assurance of full pardon forever. Our doubts about eternity cause us to be restless. The universal cry of humanity is, “I wish I could somehow know for sure all will be well when I die.”
Even skeptics have at least a fleeting fear something might be above, beyond, and after this life. When speculating on Heaven versus Hell, ignorance is not bliss, the ostrich approach does not work well. We all want to know for sure.
No burden is heavier than uncertainty about one’s everlasting destiny. Jesus relieves this weighty load by including in the gift of salvation the extra gift of rest, confidence about eternity. Pondering assurance is not fanciful musings or mental gymnastics in the theoretical. This subject is extremely relevant to everyone.
As long as a person is afraid to die, he or she usually is not ready to live. If we cannot look death in the face, or better yet, look God in the face, we will ever have a gnawing inner anxiety robbing us of courage in the heat of life’s battle. Rest readies for the world to come, and also for life here and now (Spurgeon).
The whole world craves spiritual rest, but few seem to have any inkling of an idea as to where to seek it. Find it here, in the words of our text. Jesus, who created humans, and whose blood made salvation possible, offers soul-rest to all.
No promise of Scripture is more wonderful than our text. Hear Jesus’ reassuring words, “Come to Me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Weary is countered by give. Burdened is countered by rest.
No weariness more exhausts than endlessly striving to earn salvation. Jesus counters this burden by saying He gives as a gift not only salvation, but also rest.
We do not have to merit rest. It is every believer’s birthright. “We which have believed do enter into rest” (HB 4:3). God wants His children to rest. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus” (RM 5:1).
Jesus, bearing testimony with His own lips and words, promised the unspeakably precious gift of rest, yet very few ever try to claim it. This is odd.
If I promised a thousand dollars to all who shook my hand after church, I would be here all day, and my hand would almost fall off due to exhaustion.
It is curious indeed that my piddling promise would be relentlessly pursued by all who hear it, but Jesus’ infinitely more valuable promise is usually neglected.
Life’s most important pursuit is to strive to give our undivided attention to what is most important. The spirit is more significant and of richer value than the body, because everlasting life is a much more serious issue than this earthly life.
I urge us all to focus our attention first and foremost on Jesus’ promise. At least take time to ponder it. What else is worthy to be our chief pursuit?
Money? It’s a worthwhile quest if kept within reason, if we remember 10% goes to God. Knowledge? I recommend it. Education is a wonderful thing in its proper place. A career? Hurray. Rise to the top of your profession, if Godliness is not violated.
Money, knowledge, career, all other earthly pursuits–add them all up, and multiply by 100. The total is nothing compared to the value in Jesus’ offer of rest for the rest of our life.
Nothing of Earth begins to compare to this. This is urgent. “Jesus does not play at promising; do not you play with His promises” (Spurgeon).
What stymies our enjoyment of God’s rest? Two huge concerns are often the last hurdles blocking us from this rest.
First, many deem assurance too good to be true, saying, “If I believed I was going to Heaven for sure, I would live like the devil.” Ouch! Does this reflect negatively on the doctrine or on the one talking?
Salvation is not primarily a fire insurance policy. It is the opportunity for humans to enter a personal, intimate, enjoyable one-on-one relationship with God.
Any assurance that makes a person lazy is a false assurance. Any who are confident of Heaven, yet give no evidence of the new birth, are not born again.
Listen closely. Salvation by grace, and its accompanying rest, truly is too good to be true, from a human perspective. But since Jesus said it is true, it is true.
Second, some don’t think they’re guilty enough to need to seek salvation and rest. They know they’re not perfect, but aren’t worried about ramifications from their sins.
We live in a glib culture, where God is deemed a Santa Claus, and sin is downplayed. Many underestimate the gravity of their guilt in God’s eyes.
Sinners who grasp aright the seriousness of their sins have no trouble seeing they need a Savior who saves by grace. Once we deem our sins as hideous as they are, we’ll never again try to stand before God on the basis of our own good works.
When every vestige of self-righteousness is suddenly jerked out from under us, punishment and divine justice become scary, painfully stark realities, dreadful possibilities.
A person’s salvation begins here, in what old-timers called conviction, in the painful, frightening awareness of sin, and acknowledgment of personal guilt. Conviction is the iron net of God’s grace, the thunder of His love.
People often outwardly laugh at the prospect of their own personal guilt, saying they don’t believe in it, but they do. Billy Graham astutely states, guilt is universal. Everyone falls short of a standard of conduct they claim to aspire to.
Conscience makes cowards of us all. Writing with a heavy pen, conscience records all our wrongs, and threatens, “You will see this again on Judgment Day.”
Going through this preparatory phase of salvation is painful, but not meant to be the end of the story. If we agree with God, admitting our guilt, we can proceed toward the wondrous gift of salvation by grace and its accompanying rest.
Feeling no grief at all is Satanic, leading us to perdition due to presumption. Feeling overwhelming grief is also Satanic, leading us to perdition due to despair.
Guilt induced by God leads us to Heaven because it prompts us to seek His forgiveness. Godly guilt makes us humble, not presumptive; hope, not despair.
Paul said it this way, “Godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10 Holman).
The rightful work of conviction in our conscience, when received rightfully, becomes a backdrop making God’s love and forgiveness shine more brilliantly.
In the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” Mary Magdalene is portrayed at the scourging of Jesus, wiping up His blood. Obviously, every drop of it was precious to her. As she frantically scrubs the blood-soaked pavement, Mary has a flashback. Portrayed as the woman caught in adultery, she was almost stoned by her accusers, but Jesus saved her life. As her attackers drop their stones, we witness a poignant moment. Mary, while sprawled flat on the ground, lovingly, fearfully, and gratefully reaches out to touch the foot of Jesus. As the flashback ends, Mary returns to wiping up Jesus’ blood. The audience knows it has seen why the blood of Jesus was precious to Mary. They also realize her story is the story of us all. We should have died. He died instead, and chose to forgive us of our sins, to offer us the gift of salvation and the gift of rest. Jesus’ blood was precious to Mary. Is it to us? It will be if we rightly grasp the extent of our guilt.