Be still and know that I am God... - Psalm 46:10
Rest is a blessed thing. I learn this every semester in school, as do my friends as they watch me lose my mind by week 12.
But what is Rest? We often think of it as eight hours of sleep per night, or sitting on the couch after a long day. And what person doesn't like this sort of rest? We are physical beings with bodies which are fragile, breakable, "fatigueable," and which need rest. Jesus said He would give us rest, if only we would come to Him. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." But the Christian life is hard. We are called to take up our crosses and follow Christ, and often that means getting very physically tired. I am thinking of the missionaries and other ministering hands around the world, as well as our own personal lives, as we devote ourselves to know Christ more deeply every day. Every day we may not know it, but we depend solely upon God to supply our earthly, physical needs.
There is a dichotomy of needs which both define rest: the physical needs and the spiritual Need. As my professor said, some people understand their Need for a Savior who will present their case before God and justify them; while others simply want the Lord to fix their immediate, physical problems. The two thieves next to Christ on the cross exemplify this principle: the first thief sought to have the Lord get him off that cross by taunting Him, saying "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" The second rebuked the first, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. ... Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
The first thief garnered no response.
The second gained Rest, for our Lord told him, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The second had caught onto the meaning of Rest. Rest is not eight hours of sleep, for the grace of God is not so insufficient as to not sustain us to get done what we need to do. Rest is the end ultimate Problem, that of mankind's damnation for what we has done. Had the first thief been freed of the cross, had he gotten his wish and been saved from the immediate situation, he would have only postponed the inevitability of his physical death, and his eternal, spiritual death. The struggle against sin and unrighteousness and damnation would have only been prolonged for the first criminal, if he had gotten his wish.
But the second thief got that which he wanted. He wanted to end the constant struggle against God, the bitter fighting against Him which must have governed most of this thief's life for him to deserve the punishment of death on a cross. He understood God is not someone to be scoffed at, but someone to be feared, and not to be trifled with.
Our Lord is not a solution, as the first thief would like, to all our temporal problems. Those will come and go; we will struggle against them for a time and then they will leave. But the ultimate Struggle, of measuring up to the standard of God, will always exist ad never be surmounted unless we fly to Jesus, who will willingly give us the Rest we so desperately need.
Come unto Me, all ye that labour against the darkness inside your spirit and are heavy laden with sin, and I will give you Rest--that ultimate, final, eternal Rest for which we were created.
May you find this Rest.