Finding True Rest
Last night I had a very light sleep -- as I occasionally do. I'm rather glad, because I found myself being prompted (by the Spirit, I assume) to listen to a message by none other Elizabeth Elliot, who went home to be with the Lord one year ago after blessing so many with her essays, books, sketches of life, and cautionary tales. The house was alive with sounds -- the dogs breathing, the building creaking and moaning as the temperature dropped, the donkeys braying (why in the world would a donkey bray at 2:00 am?). Underneath it all was a sense of the Presence.
Elizabeth's sermon was called "How to Have Rest." (Go here and scroll down if you'd like to listen to it.) Her text was Jesus' promise to us to "find rest" -- an invitation qualified by three requirements on the part of the believer: Come, Bend Under My Yoke, and Learn of Me. Elizabeth was adamant that, although Jesus' offers us rest freely, we also have our part to do. The man with the withered hand had to stretch it out; Peter had to get out of the boat; the man had to wash in the Pool of Siloam; etc. I continue to pray repeatedly, extensively, and earnestly about this matter of "doing my part." I seek the rest and peace that Jesus offers me, and that means I must do my job. As to what that "job" is, God has not left us in the dark. We must come to Jesus; we must accept and bend under God's will; and we must learn that Christ is meek and lowly in heart. It is perfectly plain to anyone who wants to enjoy God's peace that they've got to do what Jesus says: " Come, Submit, and Learn."
As I was teaching the book of Philippians to my Greek class last week, we saw how Paul in Phil. 1:1-2 reverses the traditional pyramid of leaders at the top and the "saints" underneath them. He greets "all the saints" and then and only then does he address "those who oversee and serve." When we think of the Roman culture of that day -- and remember that Philippi was a Roman colony -- we see how radical a notion this is. The good citizens of a Roman colony strove mightily to attain honor and titles, to climb the ladder of society, to be at the top. But we know that this is not to be in the church. It is wrong. Leaders are not above the saints. At best, they are extensions of the church; though they are shepherds, they are also sheep, which in fact is their primary identity. Hence leaders are always glad to recede into the group and even to forsake the use of honorific titles (just as Jesus taught us to do in Matthew 23).
And so, when we think of Jesus' "rest," we begin also to think of His attributes and His actions, including submitting to the experience of utter death on a Roman cross. No legion of angels intervened here. And Paul -- the once proud and mighty Saul -- finally learned to renounce all of his "assets" in order to "know Christ" -- i.e., the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. Is this not the case with the entire message of the New Testament? Do we forget that the way up is down? Many of our wonderful leaders, for one reason or another, seem to forget this. We all need to sit down and take stock. We are indeed "lees than the least of the saints" (Eph. 3:8). We are indeed "the worst of sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). What I wish for you today, dear reader, is peace and rest. I appeal especially to my students, many of whom are or will soon become leaders in the church. Get this right, now.
How do go about this? Take a deep breath. Be honest with yourself. And then go to Jesus. Following Him will never be either easy or popular. He calls us to follow Him still, and the conditions are the same: Come, Submit, Learn.
June 26, 2016
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.