Theological Fitness Part Four: Active Rest

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, approximately 60% of well-meaning people who begin a workout routine give up.  And then there’s a small percentage out of the 40% left, who encounter overtraining syndrome.  Martha Pyron, Md., wrote an article about it for ACSM’s quarterly publication.  According to Martha, The normal effective cycle of training involves an increase in training, which tires the athlete, but also stimulates improvements in fitness.  The vast majority of this improvement occurs during the rest and recovery period after an intense training bout.  The rest and recovery period is therefore extremely important for the training athlete to make improvements in fitness. Interesting.  To improve our fitness level, we need to increase our training to fatigue, and then incorporate a proper rest and recovery period.  As it turns out, proper rest and recovery might not be exactly what you think.  In the fitness world, I have picked up on the benefits of active rest.  During my day off regular exercise routines, engaging in light, low stress activity can be more beneficial than say, bonding with my couch.  Slightly increasing blood flow on my rest day speeds muscle recovery by flushing out lactate and other toxins faster from my body.  For me, this is the joy and reward of fitness.  I train hard (well, only for an hour) six days a week so that I can enjoy regular life with ease.  Things like taking a walk in the neighborhood, playing with the kids, or digging out my garden may raise my heart rate a little, but they are light exercise.  For me, the goal of training and conditioning is active rest. So what’s the theological connection?  Sunday and eternity.  At the beginning of the week, Christians are given a day for rest and worship as a covenant community.  Also known as Resurrection Day, Sunday is given to us as a foretaste of our future eschatological hope.  It is modeled after creation.  The original day of rest was a symbol to Adam of what he was working for, that is a place of eternal rest with the Father.  It was on Saturday, the last day of the work week.  We all know how that went.  But what the first Adam failed to accomplish for his progeny, the second Adam, Jesus Christ secured.  Now our Sabbath Day is in the beginning of the week.  First we rest in Christ before we are called out to labor in our secular vocations. What is this eternal rest to which we anticipate?  Is it merely inactivity?  As we learn about the Sabbath, we see that Christ is our rest.  In one sense rest is a place.  Verses like Heb. 4:1 and 8-10 use the Greek word that can be translated abode, or to colonize.  On Sunday, Christ’s covenant community meets together for worship.  Michael Horton calls it holy people and holy space.  Here we are given Christ and all His benefits.  In another use, rest is a sort of status.  Revelation 14:13 speaks of our future, eternal rest, contrasted to 14:11—the condemned’s endless, restless state.  The condemned will forever be tormented by their sin. The redeemed will be delivered from suffering.  My concordance translates the Greek rest from this passage: to repose [be exempt], remain, to refresh, take ease.  Why is this so?  Because unlike Adam, Jesus Christ won for us the new creation and all of its blessings—by His efforts—apart from our efforts.  We will be freely active to worship the Lord and serve Him, safe in His truth and goodness. Until then, we are called to suffer in this world.  We live between the already of Christ’s victory, and the not yet of its full consummation.  In this tension, the believer goes through intense training bouts as they take up their cross and follow Christ.  We may have already been qualified by the work of Christ, but we are being conditioned (a.k.a. sanctified) for holiness.  All the while, we look forward to that day of final jubilee.  We will be given our new land where we rest in the efforts of the One who has prepared it for us.  There will be jobs for us in our new home—I’m not going to be hanging out on a cloud all day with my formerly deceased pets.  But finally I will be able to serve God free from all the constraints from the curse.  Active rest is freedom in our full recovery to holiness--freedom to fulfill our purpose to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.