Moses told the people of God that the Lord had rest for them in the Promised Land but that they had to fight their enemies before they could enjoy the rest He promised them. Similarly, we have spiritual enemies that we need to fight against before we can truly experience the rest God has for us.
These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. Deuteronomy 12:1-4
“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety…Deuteronomy 12:8-10
The Israelites had been through a long journey in the wilderness due to unbelief and disobedience. God had brought them out of Egypt to bring them into the rest He had for them in the Promised Land. However, they had work to do before they could enjoy this rest. They had to fight their enemies and dispose of false gods that their enemies worshipped.
Many of us come to salvation but still carry old mindsets, bad habits, and false identities that we need to deal with. Those old mindsets don’t automatically go away after salvation, but they require our effort to dispossess them and break down the strongholds that we have erected.
For example, some have learned to protect themselves by holding on to grudges and not allowing people to get close to them. As a believer, if we carry bitterness and forgiveness in our lives, we cannot experience the rest of God. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that we are expected to forgive others regularly if we want the mercies and the forgiveness of God in our lives. The rest of God cannot enter a heart that does not let go of bitterness and unforgiveness.
Some of us have a tendency to get negative when things that don’t go our way. The truth is before complaining starts, we must have entertained negative thoughts and emotions. If we desire to experience the rest of God, we need to learn to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and dispossess negativity and complaining that is part of the old nature. Instead, we are called to give thanks to the Lord. We fight negativity in our lives and learn to be content, which allows us to remain in the rest of God.
Furthermore, the above passage shows us that the rest of God and His inheritance are intertwined. If we truly want to experience all that God has promised us in His word, it will begin with entering His rest. For example, the fruit of the spirit is every believer’s inheritance, but it requires our cooperation with God, and it also needs His rest in our lives. Just as in nature, it takes time and patience to see good and tasty fruit developed, we cannot develop the fruit of the spirit by striving. We partner with the Lord in our growth, but, at the same time, we rest in God and are being patient with the process of growth.
Sometimes we look for Promised Land as if a particular location, job, relationship, or church can change everything for us. While in some cases that may be true, in many cases, it is more about the internal work we need to do to be at rest in God while at the same time fighting the spiritual enemies that want to steal our peace and identity amid the Promised Land that God has given us.
Do you have a healthy balance where you can rest in the Lord and at the same time are intentional in fighting your spiritual enemies and allowing God to grow you and use you?