All who will, come and drink, Drink freely of the Water of Life! (Revelation 22:17)
An invitation is something that many of us regard as a thing of honor - to be invited to an event, to participate in some significant memory, is a significant point of enjoyment in our lives. We have an invitation presented to us this morning in our passage to "come". There are several things that we are invited to participate in that are presented to us in scripture. These are invitations that we could miss if we aren't paying close attention. One such invitation we are encouraged to participate in is that of rest. We are called upon to participate in a rest that is outside of our own doing - it is the rest that only God can produce deep within our spirit.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 22:17)
What does this invitation sound like to you? Normal, everyday trudging through life? If you are like the majority of us, the answer is yes. We are tired - burned out - not just on religion, but on all kinds of matters of life. We get "worn out" because we are trying to live life by our own terms - trying to "fix" everything in our own power - balancing all the balls in the air all at one time. There is nothing more fatiguing than to have the idea that we can do things all on our own - like when we think that if we want something done right we'll have to do it ourselves. Where's that been getting you? For me, it has made me arrive more than once at a point of fatigue, frustration, and even a little bit of anger on occasion.
David tells us that his soul found rest in God alone (Psalm 62:1) - no other place of rest equaling what he found when he settled into the rest only God provided. Mind, will and emotions have a tendency to be in conflict many times. The mind races ahead in unending reasoning and rationalization, working out every detail to the "nth" degree. The will struggles with each decision along the way, sometimes with great stress produced, and even anger because things are harder than we wanted them to be. The emotions consume our energy as the turmoil of keeping up with the mind's thought and the will's struggles taunts us at every turn. Sound familiar to anyone?
So, how do we "come into" rest in the way God defines rest? The answer comes in another passage written by David: "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1) I highlighted those two words so we'd understand there is an imperative here; the truth is that we WILL experience the rest we so desire based upon where it is we WILL dwell! There is a place of "dwelling" that gives us rest. To "dwell" means to remain - to continue in - the shelter of the Most High. The presence of God must be cultivated - we have to take the time to truly experience God. Rest is a result of knowing his presence is with us in all matters. Rest is a condition of mind, soul, and spirit brought on by taking time to "cease" the endless mayhem of our day and to refocus on the one who made the day in the first place.
There are things that get in the way of truly celebrating the presence of our One True God. Sometimes we just need to stand and look - there is a call to refocus. Then we are to ask where the good way is - this is taking time to seek God's plans over our own - getting direction before we take steps to be outside of his will and into areas we should not be getting into in the first place. There is also a cal to walk in God's rest or peace - this is a call to be obedient to what is revealed (submitting our will). Then...and only then, do we find rest for our souls. Rest is not as elusive as we may think - it is truly just as close as the presence of God. The invitation is given to come into rest - ceasing from our labors long enough to enjoy the presence of God - thereby experiencing a right order to our thoughts, a freedom from the struggle of our will, and the settling of our often out of control emotions. Rest is found in a person - not in any action, any location, any plan. It is in God and him alone. In the shelter of his wings, we find rest. Just restin!