So we learned last time that God’s rest is sometimes called a Sabbath rest. Just as God rested after six days of creation (a rest that provided a basis for observing the Sabbath), so we, upon entering God’s rest of walking in the Spirit by faith, are also to rest from our work. “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb 4:9-10).
What does this “rested from our works” look like for you and me? Are we just sitting on a cloud reading a magazine? Or is there work for us to do even as we enter God’s rest?
The short answer is, “Yes, there is much work to do.” The deeper answer is, “We are in fact resting even as we work because we are not doing the work in our own power.” Let’s see how the New Testament connects work and rest.
First, we were created for good works. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). Even though these good works were created specifically for us to walk in them, we are not the one who is doing them. What do I mean, “not the one doing them?”
Think for a minute about the yoke of Jesus that we were introduced to in our last post. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
“My yoke is easy and My load is light” has tripped up many a believer who have yet to experience that Jesus’ load is light. After all, the Christian life can look like a burden; an overwhelming job to keep up with the rules, to keep up with the expectation of always doing the right thing. It appears to be anything but “easy and light”.
The key to understanding Jesus’ promise of rest in these verses is the yoke. Yes, bound in the yoke, we are working. Yes, the load we are pulling behind the yoke is a wagon of good works. But look who is in the yoke with us; Jesus! Jesus is doing the heavy lifting. Jesus is bearing all the weight of us working, of us living a righteous life, on His shoulders.
How do we know this? Because the promise throughout the New Testament is that Jesus and His Spirit will live their righteous life through you if we embrace their presence. The rest promised and the yoke shared in Matthew chapter 11 is a beautiful visual image of the promise that Jesus Christ is here to live His resurrection life through you.
When we are resting in Christ, He is doing the work through us. Our good cheer and diligence at doing good works comes from Him, not our own will-power or self-discipline or genius. And the absolute beauty of this is we do not have to figure out and over-analyze “Is that Christ or me doing the work?”
Because our separation from the Father ended at our conversion, we can forge ahead doing the things God has asked us to do. And we can trust that it is Christ Himself doing the work through us. We are now one with Christ, one with the Spirit, and one with the Father. And they are living and working in you! And our beautiful Christian life becomes an ongoing dialogue of dependence on Him.