Finding Rest in our Restlessness

“Four Ways of Finding Rest”
Matthew 11

Today we are living in a busy and distracted world.

  • First, there is a growing demand for sleep, travel and tourism. People want to get away to get a pause from the daily hustles of the busy life. Beautiful places are on the demand. There has been a growing yearning for beaches, mountains and travel experiences; and promises for businesses such as AirBnB, Cebu Pacific, Blogs etc.
  • Second, because of the entrance of digital technology. Before, work was done by paper and in offices, now, the office can be carried anywhere with you through smartphones. Along with the hyper communication, is also the possibility of stress. There’s a growing cry for “sleep apps”, “travel goals”, “bucket list” and apps that do travel agency for you done by “vacation specialists.”

What’s good with our time today is that what it is that you need to find rest, you can book it in an instant. You can go to another environment or book a plane. You can buy products that can help you sleep well.

But there is lacking with the kind of rest that our world is presenting now.

1. Misconception #1: Rest is Recreation.

If rest is only getting away into a beach, or a resort, or getting a good amount of sleep, or getting a massage, there are problems with it. What if the moment you arrived at your vacation, you are with a bad person? What if vacation turns into a night mare? What if the place is not that good as you expect? Or what if you arrive at a resort and you are in the same place with your mortal enemy? Or what if along the way, you had a bad argument with your travel companion? Or you are a stranger to an outing?

2. Misconception #2: Rest is Retirement.

This is a good thing that Financial Literacy is being taught now. I am a financial advisor and I advise people to save, insure and invest. I speak at schools, organisations about the importance of preparing for retirement. It’s being introduced in schools, in families, in the internet, in conferences. Financial gurus say, “Work hard today and build a money machine so you can retire at 50 and enjoy for the rest of your life.” But this concept, too, is deficient. What if you won’t reach 50? 60? What if you get sick or diagnosed with a dreaded disease? What if your plans fail? Career? Although I sell insurance, there is still a gap to this definition of “rest.” What if to achieve that kind of “dream retirement”, you get to work 25 hours a day, burn out and get stressed. In Chinese, the say, the word for “busy” is “mang” which is a combination of two words: “heart” and “killing.” In such irony, what if in chasing after “rest”, you become “restless”.

It’s good that at some point, the world has grasped a definition of rest- but it’s merely physical and financial rest. It lacks to address the most important of our lives – which is our soul, the eternal one, the inner one. And most of all- the rest that the world markets is a short kind. How long does a rest from vacation last? 3 days? Long weekend? One month? How long does retirement last? I remember this as a question in my questionnaire: “How long will you live after retirement? Or your life expectancy? The answer is we don’t know. Or yet, if we survive, maybe 20 years? 30?

But what is true rest? Where can we find it? How does Jesus defines rest?

He says in Matthew 11:28, “Come unto Me, and I will give your rest.” True rest is only found in Jesus.

How does Jesus give the true rest?

1. Rest is Repentance: “Woe to you!”

Woe means sorrow, grief. It’s a form of curse. Jesus cast a spell on those cities because of their unrepentance.

Can we rest if we are guilty? God’s Word says, “don’t let the sun go down on your anger” and “there is no peace to the wicked.”

  • Cause of Restlessness: Unforgiven Sin

The problem with our culture today is the absence of the teaching on repentance. As a result, we raise a generation that has not experienced the joy of being forgiven. An unrepentant heart is a restless heart.

Before Jesus said these words on rest, he talked about the unrepentant cities. After Jesus instructed his disciples, he sent them to cities but some did not repent and he denounced them (Matthew 11). In particular, these cities are Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (v.21-23) which are known as the evangelical cities. God performed great miracles in front of them but still it made no difference in their lives. (Verse 4 and 5) The blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

  • Instead here are things they did:
  • They mocked the prophets – calling John “demon!” And Jesus “glutton!” (v.18)
  • Archaeological excavations in Chorazin reveal synagogues mixed with statues of Medusa. There were Zodiac signs on the floor, symbol of Helios the sun god- Paganism. There has always been a struggle against paganism when we pledge allegiance to the true God. The hearts of the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum may have been in bondage with the pagan gods that the deeds of Jesus yielded no effect to their lives. Their clinging to their idols was so hard that if those miracles were done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented. We also need to check our hearts what “strange idols” are we putting into the temple of our hearts that we are trying to mix with the Christ whom we worship.
  • The worst thing that will happen to us is when God gives up on us (Romans 1) because we remain blind to his goodness and remain clingy to our idols. Our eyes should be opened to the goodness of God to our lives which should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

2. Rest is Revelation:

To see God’s revelation leads to rest. “Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (v.25). What are these “things” that Jesus was referring to? Repentance.

Cause of Restlessness: Lack of God’s Word

Not all who see God’s miracles repent and believe. Blessed are those who have eyes that see, and have ears that hear. Only by God’s power alone we can come to him. We are dead and blind, and only by His power alone we can live and see.

“Little children” explains that the reason why you repent is because you are his child from the very beginning. Remember, unless we are born again we cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless we become a child, reborn by the power of God, we cannot have repentance. Repentance is a gift of God, it is his grace, his gracious will to his children- who despite of our sins, have been granted graciously by the Lord with the way for us to belong to His family.

3. Rest is Reception:

“Have been handed over to me by my Father”
If you grow up trying to “win” the acceptance of others, you will eventually grow tired. That’s maybe a motivation for some people to win their parents, their family, their peer pressure, their crush, their former colleagues, their society. But the problem with pleasing people could be, as what the famous line from the Crazy Rich Asians movie, “you will never be enough.” Or, they may “accept you” “flatter you” or talk well you in front of others, but when you turn your back, they back bite you. Or you may do a lot of good things to them, but when you commit one wrong thing, they will forget all your good deeds and highlight that wrong doing which you have done.

Cause of Restlessness: Lack of Belongingness

4. Rest is Relationship: “Come to me”

Remember we talked about going to a vacation but still at war with your companion or loved one? We may go anywhere, but God is still there. Unless we remain at peace with God, true rest will not come because rest is not just being in a nice place, but being in a relationship. Rest is only as good as the people you are with.

Same with heaven. Heaven is not a place of rest without God. Many people long for heaven but without desiring God, there will never be true rest. Imagine a husband going to a honeymoon in a beautiful island, and because of his excitement, he left his bride at home and went to the island by himself. If the husband truly loves his wife, the island won’t be beautiful without his beloved. Same way with God, heaven will not be heaven if escaping hell is our primary goal and God is only secondary or tertiary.

Cause of Stress: Not Having Good Relationships

The problem with the world’s rest is the expectation you cannot meet. “You will never be enough.”

In Christ, you no longer need to perform to be accepted. You don’t need to meet God’s expectations because Christ has already met those for you. In Christ, you are loved as a family without condition because salvation is not because of the works which you have done but according to his favour to us through Christ.

In Christ, it is not a performance- that when you are no longer qualified, you are disqualified. It’s being in a family. When you are born to a family, there’s nothing you can do to “unborn” yourself. A family is where you could make mistakes without the fear of rejection. A family is where there is an atmosphere of grace: “for such was your gracious will” (v.26).

What kind of rest does Jesus gives? It is eternal rest. It’s true rest because it’s something that happens to the inner man, within our hearts and ultimately towards those outside us. It’s a rest that cannot be thwarted by our external circumstances.

It’s a rest that we can be sure of now and while we are alive. Not during retirement. It’s also a rest we can enjoy even beyond our deaths- as we face him, we are sure that he will say, “come enter into the joy of my rest.”

Reference: http://www.wordofgodtoday.com/cursed-city-chorazin/
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+11&version=ESV

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