Rest vs. resistance
The opposite of rest is not anxiety. It’s not fear, stress, or worry. What contends with the rest of God is much deeper than emotions or how we feel. The opposite of rest is resistance.
We’ll dive deeper into this concept throughout the book, but for starters, the Oxford Dictionary defines resistance as “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument; the inability to be changed by something.”
Resistance is active and intentional, but so is rest. The same energy it takes to refuse to accept something in resistance can be redirected to submit and comply in rest. The problem is, we’re so used to being in a constant state of resistance, it’s become second nature.
If you’re a regular at the gym, then you’re probably familiar with strength training. This type of exercise forces your muscles to contract against external resistance, i.e. dumbbells, barbells, or your own body weight. When you’re strength training, your muscles are working to overcome that resistance, getting stronger in the process. Through consistency, your muscles gradually adapt and you’ll get to a point where you have to increase the weight of the external resistance, also known as progressive overload.
Our spirits work similarly. The more we resist God and His leading, the stronger our flesh and carnal desires become. Eventually, we get comfortable being at a certain level of resistance (or lukewarm). Unless a larger external load is placed on us — a loss of a loved one, a divorce, etc. — we might not feel the need to get out of that state of resistance, in either direction. However, when we choose rest through submission (which we’ll talk about shortly), our flesh loses strength. Our spirits are one with God (1 Cor 6:17) and as we edify our spirits, we remove the layers that prevent us from submitting to Him in oneness.
Our spirit and flesh have an inverse relationship; feed one, starve the other. Strengthen one, weaken the other. Resist one, rest in the other. Paul sums it up perfectly in Galatians;
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” — Galatians 5:16-18
For believers, our walk boils down to two scenarios, we either respond from a place of rest or resistance.
So what exactly are we resisting that prevents us from entering into His Rest? Remember the definition of resistance was refusing to accept something or preventing something from happening through arguments or actions. This is an oversimplification, but at the root of it, we’re resisting wholehearted submission. We’re refusing to accept the Spirit’s leading, arguing against His convictions unto righteousness. In doing so, we lean into our own understanding and perspectives, instead of yielding to Him.
I want to make a disclaimer before I continue. I’m not suggesting that we haven’t been equipped to make powerful decisions on our own. The Scriptures tell us that we’ve been given all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I believe that as we mature and grow in wisdom, the Father trusts us to make decisions that reflect His nature. Ultimately, entering into His Rest allows us to live our lives in constant union with His Heart for us and His people. Resistance, on the other hand, leaves us in a state of self-preservation, where our decisions and actions are more about survival than surrender. With this in mind, the Rest of God, from a practical sense, has less to do with how we “feel” and everything to do with our perspective, responses, and judgment.
The invitation & righteous judgment
Ever notice that He didn’t just invite us to rest, He specifically invited us into His Rest?
“for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” — Hebrews 4:10
We can’t enter into His Rest unless we submit our entire lives to His perspective. I can’t go to your house unless I have your address. I can’t call you if I don’t have your number. I can’t enter into the Rest of God unless I have His perspective. Now the question is, how do we do this and what does it even look like? Simply put (but not easy by any means), it’s through righteous judgment.
When we judge things according to our perspective, we’re eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden because of this (Genesis 2:23-24). They didn’t just disobey God. When they ate of the tree, they stepped outside of His “judgment” and into their own. They stepped outside the Rest of God and into resistance.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word judge as “forming an opinion through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises.” When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they formed their own opinion based on lies the serpent told them, instead of what God had already spoken. They resisted God by judging according to the flesh. They took matters into their own hands and turned to their own perspective. This is pride. And pride is the currency for resistance because we’re depending on ourselves, i.e. our own judgment. It’s exalting what we believe and see above what God has spoken or revealed through His Word.
That’s why the ground that the Rest of God is cultivated in is righteous judgment. Think about it, if we didn’t judge situations solely on what we see in the physical realm, how much less anxiety would we experience? If we constantly pursued God’s perspective concerning our family, our job, and our relationships, how much more at peace would we be?