Happy New Year 2017! The first day of this new year is a Sabbath day. In that, I find myself marveling at God’s timing throughout the whole of 2016. Never have the sun, moon, and stars so aligned, never has the world been in such a time as this… In the midst of divine alignment, God continually speaks of His rest. Bringing in the new year on a Sunday reinforces His perpetual emphasis and invitation into rest.
As the banner over this year is rest, I thought it would be fitting to post the article Matthew and I wrote last year. I will also take this opportunity to announce that we are working on a book about rest! This writing project has been on Matthew’s heart for a long time and the season to birth it is finally here. In the meantime…enjoy our article about all that rest promises.
Matthew & Lindsay Fleming
In the sixth year of my walk with Christ, after an extended period of heavily pursuing the Lord, I stumbled into a doorway of encounter that would change the course of my life. One evening, the Creator of the universe led me into the Word and began to reveal a truth new to me. As a revelation unfolded, a process emerged that was hidden in the writings of one of His prophets from long ago. It was a process God leads His people through to enter into what He refers to as His Rest.
In this encounter, the Holy Spirit guided me to Isaiah 30. The scriptures became quickly illuminated in my vision and I saw the doorway to this new truth framed around a single verse which reads, “For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength…’” (v.15).
After meditating on this verse it became much more than a suggestion or casual invitation from the Lord. The levity of it began to sink in as the Lord emphasized that I must enter His rest at any cost. In spite of that, the conclusion of verse 15 reveals our natural human default. It says, “But you would not…” (v.15). This was me and I knew it.
Like the first generation of Israelites who were delivered out of Egypt and failed to receive their inheritance of the Promised Land, I had been unknowingly refusing God. As a Father, the Lord steadily showed me that verse 16 explained the nature of my resistance. The verse captures an exchange between God and the resistant man: “And you said, ‘No, for we will flee on horses’— Therefore you shall flee! And, ‘We will ride on swift horses’— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!” (v.16).
God faithfully warns of the impact of man’s direct refusal to return and rest. Instead of trust and obedience, we choose the strength of our own flesh. Our flesh is represented by the horses, a beast of the earth and means of escape that leaves us vulnerable to the strength and threat of the enemy.
What the Lord was impressing upon me was a grave truth that, left ignored, would keep me from His promises. As the scriptures continued to take shape in my vision, it became clear that God would make sure, despite my resistance, that I would arrive at His destination of Rest. I would come to the place of surrender described in verse 17, like the “pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill.” In fact, He was waiting for me to get there…
“Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (v.18).
The revelation became simple in this: God was waiting for me to learn to wait on Him. Yet, as God showed me what the process of entering His Rest really means, as the scriptures state and like most self-preserving people, I fled. I ran and ran and ran some more. In my mind I could obtain God’s promises through church activity, spiritual disciplines, professional success, and the like. Nevertheless, despite my efforts, God’s intention, lesson, and process prevailed. Over time my resistance cost me everything I had been working out of my own strength to save. Though I thought I was following God’s plan, I lost my job, home, and family. All but empty handed, I waved my white flag of concession before the Lord and began to authentically wait on Him.
Returning to God was the first step in the process. Upon returning, His Rest divinely followed. I learned that continually returning, in repentance, was the beginning of Rest. In ever-present sanctification the Lord addressed what I truly believed about Him and His Rest. Did I believe what Rest promised? Would Rest pay the bills? Would Rest take care of my family? Did Rest make me lazy? Experience would have to answer these questions, and it did.
As surrender to His Rest became my modus operandi, the Lord began answering my questions, restoring my life, and fulfilling His promises. The process of entering His Rest became manifest through my very life. Experiencing this process and believing the scriptures, however, resulted in a new set of questions. Was this Rest for all His children? Was Rest the only path to His promises? What does this revelation mean for the Body of Christ in these latter days?
The answers to these questions continue to unfold and will be written about for years to come. Still, because God reveals His plans for our lives and His Kingdom to the prophets, we discover His clear intentionality with the Isaiah 30 process. I now see that, as it happened for me, the Lord will make sure His Beloved will corporately enter His Rest…
“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you” (v.19).
These are corporate, heavenly promises. They are echoed in Paul’s writings as well. In Hebrews 4:9-10 Paul writes, “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.” Confidently, Paul illustrates the simple, divine nature of Rest. Man as the reflective image of God manifests Him in Rest.
Ceasing from our works positions us to receive the promises and inheritance forfeited by generations past and many presently. However, let me emphasize that entering His Rest means no less than full and ongoing death to self. It is not a matter of keeping a weekly Sabbath, adopting a daily devotional, or even tithing a full ten percent. Entering His Rest is a full yielding of body, soul, and spirit to the Holy One of Israel in each and every single moment of life.
In the most authentic sense possible, Rest depends on returning to God through death to self. In this, submission to the Kingdom laws of love and faith become the heart posture necessary to receive the fullness of God in His promises.
I have discovered that the beauty found in believing God for Rest is a promise fulfilled in and of itself. Belief is the promise of Rest for all God’s people. Yet, like the infinite nature of God’s character, belief for Rest is just the beginning. Through Rest we find ALL promises. In light of this revelation, I invite you to pursue the Rest of God, the fullness of Him that you have yet to encounter. Wherever you are with God, ask Him for belief, labor to enter His Rest, and fear that His Rest is something you never overlook…
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” Hebrews 4:1
Originally published in KCIA Newsletter 10.13.16.