Friends who went camping described their enjoyable get-away. When I asked if they slept in a tent or trailer, they told me that they used hammocks. They tied the fabric between trees, suspended above the ground—a comfortable way to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

What a picture of rest. We need times of rest for our bodies, but we also long for a rest for our souls. Like the Galatian Christians, many of us have “begun in the Spirit” (have been saved by grace), but are trying to be “made perfect by the flesh” (Gal. 3:1-3). The result is that we serve God with self-effort and end up exhausted.

Martha lapsed into this common syndrome, however well-intentioned. You recall that Jesus and His disciples were staying with His friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus:

“Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:40-42).

Of course, some time for preparing food was needed (this was before the advertised “under 30 minutes” pizza delivery). Yet, even when duty calls, grace can provide an inner rest. This perspective requires personal, focused time with the Lord like Mary appreciated. We can rely on His strength to serve with a heart of joy, since we are already accepted by God through grace (Rom. 5:1,2).

We are to rest in Christ for Christian living as well as for salvation. Notice the parallel described in Colossians 2:6: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive Christ as Lord? —by grace, through faith. And how do we walk in Him (live the Christian life)? Yes, by grace, through faith.

But what does it mean to trust in Christ for soul rest? An illustration comes from the experience of a missionary in Africa, who encountered great difficulty in trying to translate the Gospel of John into the local dialect:

“He faced the problem of finding a word for ‘believe.’ He continued to do his best, but always had to leave a blank space when he came to that particular word. Then one day a runner came panting into the camp, having traveled a great distance with a very important message. After blurting out his story, he fell completely exhausted into a nearby hammock. He muttered a brief phrase that seemed to express both his great weariness and his contentment at finding a delightful place of relaxation. The missionary, never having heard these words before, asked a bystander what the runner had said. ‘Oh, he is saying, “I’m at the end of myself, therefore I am resting all my weight here!”‘ The missionary exclaimed, ‘Praise God! That is the very expression I need for the word believe!’ And so he was able to complete his translation.” [1]

Even so, we are invited to rest all our weight on Christ as our source of living (Gal. 2:20).

Are we trusting Christ this way? F.B. Meyer identified three conditions for entering “soul rest.”

First, you must take Christ’s yoke.

First century rabbis referred to their teaching as a “yoke” that their disciples needed to put on. What was Christ’s yoke? He declared ‘I delight to do your will, O God” (Heb. 10:7; John 8:29).

Meyer noted that God’s yoke comes to us by His Spirit, by His Word, and by circumstances:

“And I think it is in circumstances that we are most tested. It is just there that we have to meet God, and just as in some electric light the two points have come very close together before the light shines between them, so the point of your will and the point of God’s will have to touch, and the light of acquiescence and peace flashes out.” [2]

Secondly, fully trust God with the issues of life.

The lack of faith in Christ’s sufficiency keeps many of us from fully entering into “soul rest.” Hebrews chapter 4 uses the example Israel’s initial failure to enter Canaan as a type of the disciple who has not come to full dependence upon God for “rest.” “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest …” (Heb. 4:9-11). Although the context serves as a warning for mere professing Christians to ensure that they are true believers, it also points to the principle of resting in the Lord to experience a “milk and honey” quality of life. This is God’s intention for us. Christ declared, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Meyer describes how whole-hearted trust in God displaces worry:

“Do you know what it is when you are worried to kneel down and say to God: ‘Father, take this.’ and by one definite act to hand over the worry to God and leave it there?” He then gave this analogy: “Like my dog at home: he used to worry me very much to be fed at dinner, but he never got any food that way. But lately he has adopted something which always conquers me: he sits under the table, and puts one paw on my knee. He never barks, never leaps around, never worries me; I cannot resist the appeal. Although my wife says I must never do it, I keep putting little morsels under the table. Soul, do you know what I am talking about? This is the way to live—with your hand on God’s knee. Say, ‘My God, I am not going to worry; I am not going to fret; but there is my hand, and I wait until the time comes…” [3]

Thirdly, reckon on God’s faithfulness.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). And the Thessalonians were admonished to trust God for the process of growth in holiness, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23,24). Likewise, Jeremiah found consolation in God’s character; “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lam. 3:22-24).

The discovery of soul rest is illustrated by the testimony of Jack Taylor who came to the end of his strength after striving to be the “successful” pastor of a large church. He came to appropriate the truth of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). The Holy Spirit then illumined him to appreciate the quality of rest that Jesus promised His weary disciples. Taylor confessed,

“It took me more than twenty years to see the ‘twofoldedness’ of the beautiful passage in Matthew 11:28-30. ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ There is immediate rest [for salvation] to that one who responds to the Savior’s invitation. What a sweet rest it is! … That is the rest of forgiveness … But there is more. ‘Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls‘ (Matt. 11:29). The old time preachers were accustomed to speaking of soul rest. The world is tired and seeking rest today. The rest of forgiveness and the rest of the soul are different qualities. The one depends on coming to Jesus … the other depends on taking the yoke of Jesus … The yoke is a symbol of submission. Some who know Jesus as Savior are not living lives of submission to Him and thus do not have soul rest … Submission is the secret to learning and rest.” [4]

As he yielded to God’s will and fully depended on Christ as his life, Taylor found refreshing rest for his soul that, in turn, has become an inspiration to many.

Fellow believer, are you weary from trying to fulfill all the “do’s” that are piling higher and higher? Then learn to focus on the “one thing needful”—to find soul rest. Full surrender and total confidence in Christ allow that rest to support you. As Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). You are invited to climb into the “hammock” of God’s sustaining grace and find rest for your soul.

[1] “Our Daily Bread” April 8, 2000

[2] F. B. Meyer, The Christ-Life for the Self-Life, p. 122.

[3.] Ibid., p. 125.

[4.] Jack Taylor, The Key to Triumphant Living, p. 68, 69.

Original article is here:

Posted with permission.

Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Please credit the author and Scripture quotations (unless indicated otherwise) are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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