Today, I want to take a little time to look at one of the most common phrases on tombstones, “Rest in Peace”. While it is indeed appropriate for mourning the loss of a loved one, have you ever heard that phrase and thought, “I’d like to rest in peace before I die, too”. I have. While such a rest isn’t permanent while we walk this cursed earth in fallen flesh, there is rest for the People of God. Sometimes we think that if we work extra hard in one area of life, then we can rest in others, but that rarely grants even a moment of reprieve. Instead, the rest that is available to Christians comes only by faith.
If you’ll allow me, I’d like to share a bit of myself for a moment. One of my personal areas of struggle is in procrastination. The most common reason for my procrastination isn’t laziness, but fear. Fear of not knowing how to “do it”. Fear of not being able to “do it right”. I struggle with perfectionism. This sort of procrastination is self-feeding, the longer I take to start, the less likely I’ll be able to “get it done correctly”. Once the deadline has arrived and I’ve submitted my work, there is no peace and there is no rest, just fear that I didn’t do it right. Depending on the task, there might even be some condemnation thrown in for having procrastinated and not made better use of my time. Vicious cycle.
My wife has helped me a great deal in this matter. How? She loves me. She forgives me. She extends grace to me, when I screw up the honey-do list. Whether its something she asked me to do or something I concocted in my brain to serve her, I can rest in knowing that she loves me… and even if I mess something up, and create more work for the both of us later on, she’ll forgive me and her love for me will not change. I can work diligently on a project for days on end anticipating the rest that will come once she tells me she loves me. That rest at the end of the work gives me peace in the middle of the toil. In this way, my wife has helped me better understand how we should rest in Christ and in His peace.
Rest and Peace by Faith
What I experience with my wife is temporal and the Holy Spirit uses it to point me toward the rest and peace that are available by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) | The Full Assurance of Faith
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Our American culture has traditionally been obsessed with work and how it defines the worker. Lately there has been a burgeoning sub-culture of entitlement that frankly disgusts me, but is a natural rebellion against the traditional ideology. There is no rest in work to feed your own flesh. Our flesh is insatiable. Our secular culture has rebelled against the notion of work while demanding hand-outs. Odd, really, and a worse position to take, Biblically. So let’s address the traditional mindset of the American dream of being a “self-made man”.
Mark 8:36-37 (ESV)
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?
The answer, of course, is “nothing”.
Mark 10:23-27 (ESV)
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You see, our salvation… our adoption as sons and daughters of God by the blood of Jesus Christ is not a result of any work we do. Nothing we do earns our adoption, our salvation. In the same way that nothing you did earned your physical conception/birth into this earthly realm. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works. And since our salvation wasn’t of our doing, the good works we engage in from here on out are not by our might or our strength or our skill, but by God who prepared the good works that we are to walk in. This is reflective of our holding fast to our confession of Hope, because He who has promised [God] is faithful. Rest in that, even while you are walking in the good works that God prepared for you. No, you don’t need a special revelation of what good works you need to do, we have the Law. The Law defines good works. We fall short of the Law, even as Christians, but that is why we are exhorted to hold fast to our confession of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (and why it is imperative that the Gospel continue being preached to believers). The Law isn’t what grants rest… the Gospel is.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Rather than wait until the end, set your hope daily. As you pray the Lord’s Prayer, “…give us this day our daily bread…” rest in His promise of Salvation. He is the bread of Life. Give us this day… Rest and Peace. Not the sort of rest and peace that the world would understand, for we will indeed face grievous trials in this life… but a rest in the Promise of an inheritance kept in heaven for us. As we confess our sins daily, and repent… know that He is faithful and just to forgive us by His Grace and Mercy. May we strive to enter that Rest… by faith… and when our time on earth draws to a close, may we consider the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy
2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV)
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Paul could rest in peace by faith knowing by faith that he was going home soon. The thing about rest, is that it can be stolen from you by fear, doubt, and unbelief. Do not rely on inactivity, or lavish vacations, or the praise of men for your rest, for such are fleeting and unreliable. Place your trust in God’s Word, and by faith rest in Him who Granted you eternal life.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV)
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Amen. In Christ Jesus,