When I was in my late twenties, some things happened that led me to start wondering about God. Although I had grown up in a Christian home, it had been years since I attended church. But I came to a point in my life where I needed something – I just didn’t know quite what it was at the time.
Rest in the words of Jesus
I remember very clearly: I was living in an apartment with my wife, and in the closet, was a little New Testament Bible. I started reading it, from the first page of Matthew. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The words of Jesus were so simple and clear; I knew I had found the truth.
He said, “Come to me … learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29. At the time, I didn’t really know it, but my soul was restless. Reading Jesus’ words brought me some of the rest I was looking for. That’s one of the effects of finding truth. I was very excited when that happened, because I knew I had found something very precious!
I wanted to please God, so I could get more and more of the rest I experienced from reading Jesus’ words. So, I prayed for power and strength to be obedient to what I read, and to continue in it. (1 Timothy 4:16) That’s so important, actually – to continue. Read Jesus’ words simply and don’t overthink things. Accept and obey them, and you will find that brings you rest!
The cause of unrest
Because living according to God’s Word actually brings rest. It’s sin that causes unrest in a person’s soul – all these things that plague everyone. Anger, offendedness, and lusts: lusts for money, lust of the eyes, lust for power – all these things people are driven by and it brings great restlessness in a person’s soul. Living according to one’s lusts is not a happy life. It’s a heavy burden, and I think most people just don’t understand that. They think they need to get more money, more power, they have to get others to see things the way they do, and they have to do things the way they want to, and so on. And it’s a constant struggle. Deep down I think people do want peace, but they just don’t understand the way to get it.
True rest: the reward of obedience
We have to believe and be obedient to Jesus’ words. For example, Jesus said that if we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive. (Matthew 6:14-15) That can be quite a struggle, and in some cases, it can even seem like an impossible requirement. You can’t do it in your own strength, you have to pray that God will give you the power to forgive whoever it might be. And when you do that with all your heart – you don’t want to be offended and hold a grudge anymore – God will meet you there and strengthen you and help you so that you are able to forgive that person, without any reservations or demands. And your reward is that you’re not a slave to that anymore! In fact, you can love the other person and be a blessing. You’re fulfilling God’s Word! There is a tremendous blessing that comes over you as well. I think one of the best ways to explain it is that you sense you are anointed with the oil of gladness. (Hebrews 1:9)
And it’s like that with all of God’s Word. If there is an area where you fall short, you can get the help that you need to overcome it, and be anointed with the oil of gladness. By God’s grace, you experience liberation from sin. This is the real rest that Jesus was talking about: rest from all the sin that plagues us!
The other thing that’s really cool about this is that we can’t brag about it, we can’t take any credit. It’s not something that you or I can do on our own. We must humble ourselves and go to God’s throne of grace to get help. And He gives it. He gives us help so, slowly but surely, we become more and more free, more and more transformed to the image of His Son. And all the honour and all the thankfulness goes to God for this, because we know that without Him we wouldn’t be in that place. So, God gets all the honour for it; that’s as it should be. And we come to true rest and peace in our souls.