The word for "rest" in the Gospels means "refresh" and "renew" as well as "relax". It indicates not necessarily rest from work, but rest in work. Paul uses it for refreshment of spirit - "he oft refreshed me" (2 Tim 1.16); his spirit was refreshed, and there is a place for such a ministry today! Do we refresh the saints or grieve them in our ministry, friendship and fellowship?
Rest for the Sinner (Mt 11.28)
Bound and burdened by the guilt and power of sin, the sinner hears the sweet and tender invitation of Christ: "Come unto me...and I will give you rest". Are we enjoying rest of heart and conscience as the free gift of God in a world that knows no peace? "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength" (Is 30.15).
Sweet resting-place of every heart
That feels the plague of sin,
Yet knows the deep, mysterious joy
Of peace with God within.
Rest for the Saint (Mt 11.29)
Struggling and striving, the saint finds the pathway hard and the pressures of life stressful, but the same still voice appeals: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls". Rest is found in a life committed to Christs control, yoked with Him in partnership and discipleship. The first lesson in the school of Christ is to be "meek and lowly". This disposition was the secret of His rest in the midst of unbelief and rejection; "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Mt 11.26). "But the wicked are like the troubled sea" (Is 57.20), but "ye have not so learned Christ" (Eph 4.20). "Come" suggests the direction of the heart; "Take" the decision of the will; "Learn" the dedication of the mind. "Ask where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer 6.16). Rest is only found in the Lord (Ps 37.7).
Rest for the Servant (Mk 6.31; Rev 14.13)
Wearied and worried in service, the disciples, after the burial of John the Baptist, "gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things" (Mk 6.30). He brought them to the solitude of a desert place, which with Christ became a place that blossomed with beauty as a rose and was filled with streams of living water. What an Elim with Him! "My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places" (Is 32.18). The Lord Jesus had a sympathetic and tender concern for His disciples (and so should we) when He saw them fainting and faltering with physical exhaustion. One such occasion was in Gethsemane at a time when the Saviour Himself was experiencing anguish of soul which affected Him physically as "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Lk 22.44).
Yet seeing the fatigue of the disciples He says, "Sleep on now, and take your rest" (Mt 26.45). What a wonderful Lord we have! He still takes note of us in times of weakness and weariness, and bids us rest.
Furthermore, Scripture assures us that "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb 4.9). The more we serve and the longer we live the more we look forward to that eternal rest, not of inactivity, for we shall still serve, but on a higher plain, and in bodies of boundless and endless energy that never will weary or weaken. Finally, there is a voice from heaven that thrills our hearts: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord that they may rest from their labours" (Rev 14.13). Let us draw comfort and strength from these verses in these stressful days.
When all my trials and labours are oer,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.