EAST NORTHPORT, N.Y., Sept. 4, 2015: Island Christian Church is a Long Island evangelical church with campuses in East Northport, Port Jefferson, and Holbrook. Reverend Joseph Garofalo, the pastor of outreach and discipleship, reflects on the meaning and importance of spiritual rest.
Several years ago, before I was in the ministry, I co-founded my own publishing company, primarily producing magazines for the tourism industry. As we grew, we needed to triple our space, so we took over and refurbished a warehouse.
The move had to be timed just right so we wouldn’t miss our printer deadline that Monday, so the plan was to move on Friday and Saturday and be ready to roll on Monday. Needless to say, I was stressed.
I was a brand new Christian, and that Friday morning, I even had my Bible open (I was doing a read-the-Bible through the year plan). That morning, I had such knots in my stomach, because we would stand to lose thousands of dollars if we missed our deadline and weren’t ready to open Monday.
In a way, it surprised me that I was so stressed—I thought I had it all worked out on paper. Every detail. We had a very competent staff, and everyone knew their jobs. Yet for me, something was missing. Why was I so anxious? On paper, I had it together. But what I needed wasn’t on paper. What I needed was to come to the Lord. I needed to rest in the Lord. I needed spiritual rest. So, what exactly do I mean by “spiritual rest?” Well, this is what it isn’t—spiritual rest does not mean an end to spiritual or any other kind of conflict in this life.
For Christians, spiritual rest is understanding that Christ’s death and resurrection enables believers to rest securely in the victory He has won over the enemy within (the flesh) and the enemy without (the world systems and the devil). So, even in the midst of conflict, believers can find spiritual rest. In fact, it’s a God-honoring thing to pursue a life of spiritual rest.
Jesus said, in a rebuke to Martha over Mary wanting to sit at Jesus’ feet while Martha was distracted and anxious with many things, “But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42). Jesus was saying, “Focus on the One who is the source of true peace and rest. It is where we turn our focus that matters. In fact, did you ever notice that whatever we tend to focus on gets bigger? Focus on problems and what happens? Focus on Jesus— same thing. We can all use a bigger Jesus.
Now, God will entrust us with things that cause us to seek Him more fervently than if everything is just humming along. Notice I used the word “entrusts”. This means He just doesn’t let things happen to us willy nilly, He entrusts them to us that we might seek Him. God prompts us to seek Him that He may spiritually prosper your life.
The one who seeks spiritual rest must know that God requires nothing less than complete dependance on Him. In fact, Jesus set the stage for that with the very the very first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:3).
In fact, concerning “spiritual rest,” we must consider Jesus’ invitation to us: “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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30). Jesus tells us that there is one place to experience rest— under His yoke. He was speaking to a people who were under the load of their own sin and guilt. His invitation to all is to exchange this burden for the gift of His yoke.These verses are an illustration of two oxen plowing a field. When we are yoked to Christ, He bears the load and we who are yoked to Him share in the joy and accomplishment of the labor but without the burden of the yoke. The problem is, some of us never put His yoke on. That’s our part! Christ’s offer of His yoke is a gift— as is our salvation from eternal damnation.
Though people may be saved, by not taking Christ’s gift of rest for your soul visa-vi His yoke, is equivalent to refusing to give Christ rule over their lives. Indeed, Christ died to free us from the bondage of living to please ourselves and please the world, but to experience the liberty of His loving yoke. What are the things preventing you from doing that? Is there any area of your life, any relationship or any possession of which Christ does not have complete access or control? That’s something we all need to ask ourselves.
Joe Garofalo is the pastor of outreach and discipleship for Island Christian Church, a multi-site church with campuses in East Northport, Holbrook and Port Jefferson. The community at Island Christian Church is pursuing the kind of church life set forth in Scripture. The foundations of this church are Spirit-led worship, relevant teaching, authentic relationships, unceasing prayer and compassionate provision for the needy. We hope you will join us as we strive to demonstrate a compelling faith that will touch the lives of individuals within our larger communities.
Contact Rev. Joseph Garofalo for information about Island Christian Church. Visit https://islandchristian.com/ to learn more.