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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strive to Rest by Amy Layne Litzelman

As I was thinking of things I needed to do before traveling to help my mother-in-law for a few weeks I thought about my blog. I really want to keep going with my weekly posts on rest. I also want to be realistic and not set myself up to fail. God blessed me with the idea to ask fellow authors and bloggers who have blessed me with their writing to share their thoughts on rest. The next few weeks I will be doing just that. I hope you are blessed as I was.
Today I share my blog with Amy, blessed indeed!
Strive to Rest
by Amy Layne Litzelman

“Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], that no one may fall or perish by the same kind of unbelief and disobedience [into which those in the wilderness fell].” (Hebrews 4:11, AMP)

Resting is a very interesting concept. You could probably ask a hundred people what it looks like to them and get a hundred unique answers. At different points in my life I might have pictured reading a good book while the kids were asleep, a week at the beach, or waking up refreshed. Others would say, “A day off of work,” or “The feeling after a project is finished.” All of these would fit into the definition of rest, in both the English dictionary and in the Bible.

Our human bodies need consistent blocks of time to recuperate after a day or season of activity. When Jesus walked the earth, He regularly took time away from serving the crowds and urged His disciples to do the same. This anapauō type of rest is a ceasing from labor in order to recover and regain our strength.

There is a rest, however, which far surpasses a physical recuperation. Katapausis (pronounced kä-tä'-pau-sēs) does not depend on our level of activity, remaining constant even when the body is exhausted. This rest does not hinge on governmental peace or if we live in abundance or lack. Katapausis is a resting place during the greatest storm; a peace unshakable.

I recognized glimpses of it as I read the words of Katie Davis in her book Kisses From Katie this week. In the midst of thousands of starving, hurting people in Uganda, this young lady strives to look past the vastness of the task, beyond the impossibilities that surround her, and into the truth of Who Jesus is. She walks out one day at a time, obeying His leading while trusting in and relying on His goodness, His strength, His wisdom, and power. And at the end of each day, she looks back to see all of the mighty things He has done and knows joy beyond understanding.

As the world seems to be going faster and faster and the trials and tribulations increase with each passing year, having a higher level of rest available to us is of irreplaceable value. Yet, it does not come without cost. The author of Hebrews urges us to strive diligently to enter this rest. What does that mean? How do we strive to rest?

·         First, one of our highest priorities should be to have a soft heart before God.

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as [happened] in the rebellion [of Israel]…” (Hebrews 3:7-8a)

A soft heart is an open heart. A soft heart is vulnerable and honest, allowing God to show us the truth about Himself, ourselves, and our circumstances. It is often painful, but only in this place can we avoid devastating lies and snares of our enemy and walk in the joy and freedom God desires for us.

On the other hand, if we push certain sins and issues back in the corner in an effort to not deal with them or keep them hidden, our hearts will become more and more hardened and deceived by sin. We will begin to think we know how best to live out our lives. This pride and rebellion will separate us from the One Who is our only hope of freedom.
·         Second, we must obey what the Father tells us through His Word and by His Spirit.

“So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.” (Hebrews 4:6)

Obedience is the litmus test of humility. A step of obedience reveals that our heart has not completely hardened against God and opens us up to see the loving sovereignty of our Maker. In obedience we come to understand that God knows all things and moves in perfect wisdom, power, and love.

I John 3:24 tells us that those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with Him. I love the picture the Amplified Bible paints: “They let Christ be a home to them and they are the home of Christ.” In this close communion, katapausis can be found.

·         Third, we must come to a place of absolute trust in God alone.

“For only we who believe can enter his rest…” (Hebrews 4:3a)

God does not ask us to have blind faith. He constantly shows Himself to be perfectly wise and powerful. Although the Israelites left slavery in Egypt with many great signs and wonders, they failed to enter into the rest God desired for them because they did not come to a place of trust. When difficult circumstances arose, they quickly fell back on their own understanding instead of placing their faith in the faithfulness of their Savior. They believed in their weakness more than they believed in the power and goodness of God.

We are faced with the same dilemma today. To enter into the fortress and hiding place of peace, we must choose to look beyond physical circumstances to the truth of Who God is. We must choose to rely upon His goodness, wisdom, and power when all of the facts around us yell out that failure is imminent. We must choose to put our faith in God over the cries of our emotions or weaknesses.

This choosing may start out as a gritting of the teeth and a holding on with all we have, but as our God reveals His faithfulness over and over again, we learn to lean back into Him and truly rest.

Now, before we get too overwhelmed at what we must strive to do, read further in Hebrews 4. Our Father does not leave us to work these things out on our own.

Ø  First, He gives us His Word – alive and full of power, sharper than any two-edged sword – to expose, analyze, and judge the very thoughts and purposes of our heart. We don’t have to wonder what is right or wrong. When we read the Word of God in humility and hunger, the Word itself will penetrate into our hearts and reveal within us what must remain and what must be changed.

Ø  Second, God gave us His Son, Jesus, Who has shared in all of our weaknesses and assaults to temptation, and so understands what we are walking through. Because He walked in perfect relationship with the Father and without sin, He is able to give us mercy in our failures and grace to help with every need. And, He beckons us to come fearlessly, confidently, and boldly to His throne.

“Striving to rest” seems like an oxymoron. But as we lay aside our pride and live before our God with a soft heart, as we exchange our sin and rebellion for His plans and purposes, as we believe that He loves us perfectly and can be trusted explicitly even in the things we don’t understand, we find a place of rest that no one can take away. A rest that cannot be shaken.

It was in this rest that Paul was able to write letters full of hope and thanksgiving even while sitting in prison. It was to this rest that David returned in Psalm 55:23 after wrestling with his fears. It is into this rest that our Father calls us today. Amazing. Be zealous to enter in.

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How have you experienced katapausis? What do you do to remain in His rest?

Amy Layne Litzelman 
Author, Teacher, Worship Leader 
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