Augustine lived over 1,600 years ago and was one of the most important voices in the history of the church. He was a deep thinker, a prolific writer, and a passionate preacher. One of his most enduring lines gets at the heart of the human condition:
You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
I think Augustine would see all of our busyness as further indication of our restless hearts and our deep desire to rest in God.
The Hebrew writer certainly understands the importance of this kind of rest.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.Hebrews 4:9-11
There is an “already and not yet” element to the way the Hebrew writer talks about rest. Surely part of this rest is future-oriented, the ultimate rest that will be ours in eternity. It seems clear that the Hebrew writer is pointing us to never lose sight of that eternal rest that is promised to us through faith. But I think he’s also saying that this eternal rest can be experienced right now, in the present moment, because the model of this heavenly rest is the very earthly experience of Sabbath rest.
The first time the word “Sabbath” occurs in the Bible is after the children of Israel had been set free from the yoke of slavery in Egypt. While they were slaves, Pharaoh conscripted the Israelites to hard labor seven days a week. But God comes along and says, “No, you weren’t made for this. You are to set aside a day for rest and worship and reflection. This is good.” And the Hebrew writer sees in this a promise of an eternal rest.
And this is the point: the rest promised to us in eternity actually helps us find a bit of rest in the present. Since I know God has an eternal rest in store for His people, I don’t have to live so frantically in the present as if everything was dependent upon me. The promise of rest SOMEDAY actually helps me rest TODAY. The Hebrew writer even acknowledges that the believer enters into God’s rest right now.
For we who have believed enter that rest…Hebrews 4:3
There is a rest the believer experiences in the present. And this is where God wants to meet us today — in the rest that comes through trusting in His promises.
A few years ago, a mentor of mine said, “I don’t think you leave very much margin for God.” He said, “You’re always really busy, running here and there doing this and that. But I never hear you talk about leaving time in your day to be with God.” And he was right. At that time in my life, I wore my busyness like a badge of honor. Being busy made me feel important. But I was so busy — often times doing things for God — that I left almost no time in my schedule to simply be with God. I was focused on a lot of other responsibilities — important things, mind you — but I was neglecting what was supposed to be most important.
Since that time, I’ve become a big believer in what my mentor refers to as “margin” — leaving space for God, as crazy as that sounds. Somedays, I have to build in 30 minutes in my schedule to simply read my Bible because I’m not disciplined enough to do this any other way. And I’m not talking about reading for sermon or class prep, but simply because I need to hear from the Lord. Other days, it’s something as simple as setting a timer on my phone and giving God sixty seconds of silent prayer right in the middle of my hectic day. Intentionally slowing down has been a life-giving practice for me over the last few years. From time to time, I still feel the temptation to default back into that busy, frenetic pace and the feeling of self-importance it produces. But that seems to happen less and less these days because my time with God has come to mean so much to me.
What if your spiritual health was directly correlated to the amount of time you devoted to it? We know this holds true for our physical health. If you’re going to be physically healthy, you’re going to have to devote some time to it. You’re going to have to build in extra time in your day to prepare healthy foods rather than grabbing something quick and easy and processed. You’re going to have to make time to take a walk or go to the gym or do some push-ups. There is a correlation between your physical health and the amount of time you devote to it.
My question for you is this: what if the same thing holds true for our spiritual lives?