At the beginning of the book of Joshua, Moses has died and Joshua has been commissioned to lead Israel into the Promise Land. This is the land that God had promised to Abraham, it is the land flowing with milk and honey, it is the land that Israel had been looking for and waiting for as they continually walked in circles through the wilderness, it is the land where they would find their REST as they would DWELL in the place that God had prepared for them. So, what was it going to take for them to occupy the Promise Land? Nothing.
If you will notice throughout Israel’s journey into the Promise Land, God states time and time again, and He does it again here in Joshua 1:2, that He is giving them the land. He is giving it to them not based upon anything that they have done, but only based upon His good pleasure. He has chosen to give the land to Israel and all that they must do is take it. In Joshua 6 when they fight the famous battle of Jericho, Israel doesn’t even fight. God fights for them and before they lift a finger, God tells them that He has already given them the land. The horn that they blew was the “horn of jubilee” or the “victory horn”, because God had already told them “I have given Jericho into your hand” before they had even approached the city. You see, the victory was already theirs. So it is with the Promise Land, it’s already theirs all they must do is dwell/rest within the land.
Translating this into our day and time, I feel that too many Christians act in a similar fashion. There are too many sermons and churches that put forth nothing but moral perfection and works based salvation that sucks the joy right out of believer’s. It would be safe to say that there are many “Christians” that seem to be the most unhappy people on the planet. But, ask them how they are on a Sunday morning and they will never think twice but to smile brightly and say “Better than I deserve.” But are they? Have we been conditioned, based upon our surroundings, to act and believe a certain way just because we think we have to? Have we been convinced than in order to be a Christian we have to be some of the most unhappy people in the world? Or maybe we think this because churches have communicated that if you are not doing this, or that, or this or that for God then you are not a good Christian. Maybe churches have communicated that if you struggle with sin, then you are not a good Christian because church people never struggle with sin. Maybe you have been convinced that you have to be angry and un-joyful because when the preacher preaches it seems that he is the most unhappy and angry person on the planet because he is always yelling and screaming at how we need to do a better job at being holy.
Regardless of where you find yourself in your spiritual journey, I feel that I have missed it for so long. I feel like I have been conditioned to believe a certain way for my entire life and now as I continue to grow I am finding a greater joy in God than I see a lot of churches attempting to reproduce. Through my sanctification and discipleship process, I have found that God’s greatest desire for His people is the same desire that He communicated to Israel, REST. God’s greatest desire for Israel was that they possess the land that He had promised them, not so they could be unhappy, not so that their joy could be sucked right out of them, but because His desire was for them to REST in Him as they DWELT in the land.
Our greatest joys in life will come through us RESTING in Christ. RESTING in the finished work of Christ and knowing that there is nothing that we can do in order to make ourselves better in His eyes. RESTING in who He is and what He has given to you through His own blood. You see, we have an eternal inheritance, a promise land, that awaits us. If we as Christians truly believe this and we know that there is nothing that we can do in order to make that disappear, then we of all people should be some of the most joyful people on the planet. If we truly believe that God has redeemed us, will never leave us nor forsake us, then we can REST in Him and live with great joy in this life.
You see, I feel that Christians have deprived themselves of some great joys because they think they have to work, work, work in order to please God. Maybe you will not say it with your mouth, but unconscionably you believe it. Why do I say that? Because I have been there and still struggle with it. I have been to the point to where if I am not doing this for God or doing that for God then I feel that I am being an ineffective Christian when the Bible time and time again tells me to REST in Christ. As I REST in Christ, I enjoy the things that He brings to me on a daily basis, I take part in the work that He has already prepared for me (Ephesians 2:10) and I do everything for His glory and His glory alone.
I think that believer’s miss out on some great experiences in this life because we have been conditioned to believe that we cannot enjoy this life here on earth. I think that Christians miss out on some of the graces that have been given to us because we think that if we do this or that God will not be pleased and the only reason we believe this is because we have been conditioned to believe this. This is especially prevalent within the Bible belt. There are many freedoms and joys that many believers miss because the “Christian” society has molded them in such a way that they think that any pleasure in this life is not encouraged by God. I think John Piper has penned the best phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” We can find satisfaction in God through a variety of ways and I do not want anyone to miss it. I want everyone to REST in God and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is where true joy comes in. Knowing that God does not need you and that He has chosen you to be a part of what He is doing, this is where joy comes in. Enjoying the good things in life as you are satisfied in God, this is where joy comes in.
Do not neglect the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” REST in Christ. Enjoy things through Christ. Live as a redeemed people.