Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Learning to Rest

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
[Psalm 46:10 NIV]

[I enjoy comparing different translations of the same Bible verse on intranet - it's so easy!  I use "Search the Bible" at bottom left of the page, then click "Compare Translations" below the verse - or "Passage Lookup" on] 

The phrase translated "be still" in the NIV (above) is alternately rendered:  "be at peace" [BBE], "be silent" [NLT], "be quiet" [NCV], "cease striving" [NAS], "let go" [GW], and "stop fighting" [GNT].

Many of us don't fully understand or obey God's command to "be still" until we are arrested by circumstances - perhaps during an illness or injury, the birth of a child, the loss of a job or a loved one, etc.  I think it's interesting that the word "arrest" comes from the Latin ad "to" + restare "rest"  :) defines the English word as follows: 

–verb (used with object)
1. to seize (a person) by legal authority or warrant; take into custody: The police arrested the burglar.
2. to catch and hold; attract and fix; engage: The loud noise arrested our attention.
3. to check the course of; stop; slow down: to arrest progress.

If we belong to the Lord, then perhaps we should stop resisting when we are "taken into custody" - when He attracts, fixes or engages our attention - or when He checks our course,  slows us down, and causes us to stop.  In fact, the Latin restare doesn't mean to sleep - it means to remain, fixed and stable.  God wants to establish us in His purposes;  will we slow down or stop long enough to really know Him, and let Him be exalted?

The great warrior-king David, who accomplished tremendous victories in the land of Israel, understood the importance of finding this place of rest in the Lord.  He wrote:

See, I have made my soul calm and quiet, like a child on its mother's breast; my soul is like a child on its mother's breast.
[Psalm 131:2 BBE]

In this short psalm (3 verses), David connects this quiet attitude with a lack of pride (v. 1) and finding eternal hope in God (v. 3).  Sometimes we are so busy doing things we think are "good," "of God," or "for God," that we don't realize we have lost perspective and become disconnected from His heart.  Sometimes we act like fussy, tired babies who thrash and flail, unable to find and attach to the source of nourishment and strength we really need.  A nursing mother cultivates an atmosphere of peace and quiet comfort in which to feed and nurture her child.

Heidi Baker often says that "fruitfulness flows out of intimacy."  The world tries to make us hurry and "grow up" so we can accomplish more, but the kingdom of God doesn't work like that.  Lately I've noticed that, as I slow down and simplify, taking more time with God, I actually become more focused, productive and effective in every area of my life.  Jesus taught us another antidote to worldly busy-ness: the kingdom values of humility and childlikeness.

"...I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven... whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
[Matthew 18:3-4]

Recently, as I was going through surgery and radiation treatments (see 4/12/11 posting), I experienced feeling "left out" of the busy-ness of life.  I was unable to participate in "normal" activities at the level I had before I was "arrested" by my circumstances.  At first, it was frustrating to encounter unexpected limitations on my time and energy, yet I noticed that I felt the closeness of the Lord, in quiet peace and trust.  Gradually it dawned on me that this is the attitude of rest God wants us to have every day - we can choose His pace in life.  As I returned to work (part-time, at first), I found myself much more in tune with His guidance and His grace.

It occurred to me during this season that a mother's breast is a symbol of nurturing and nourishment.  One of God's names in the Old Testament is "El Shaddai" - literally, "the one of the breast" or "the many-breasted one."  He is our Source and all we need.  An attack of breast cancer also spoke to me of an attack on my ability to nourish and nurture myself and others.  Do people really feel loved and valued when we are too busy to stop for lunch?  And how many of us experience illness as a result of not taking time to replenish ourselves and rest, both physically and spiritually?

Jesus invites us to come to Him, receive His rest, and learn how to live differently.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
[Matthew 11:28-30 NIV]

If we really want to know God and see Him exalted, we need to slow down and walk with Him.  Taking His yoke means living at His pace - I'm learning He's not frantic, and the fruitful life He has for me is not so hectic, as I learn more of Him.  His commands are not burdensome [I John 5:3].  Accomplishments of eternal value require that we rest and remain in Him.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." 
[John 15:5 NLT] 

In closing, I'd like to encourage you to watch this 10-minute video of Pastor Bill Johnson that a friend sent me a few weeks ago.  He has some wonderful things to say about "The Importance of Rest."  Enjoy!

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