Monday, August 15, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Radical Pursuit of Rest" (John Koessler)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on Feb 27th, 2016.


TITLE: The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap
AUTHOR: John Koessler
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, (176 pages).

Is the title of this book an oxymoron? How can an active pursuit in itself be restful in the first place? It's like mixing a bottle of restlessness into a bowl called rest. Which will prevail? According to the author, this book about the "radical pursuit" is not so much about activities and techniques but the meaning of rest is "radical" in itself. In other words, to the perennially busy and constantly preoccupied individual, arriving at the restful disposition is already a radical position in itself. For our day and age, it most certainly require us to be "radical" in our pursuit of rest simply because we have lost the art of rest. The author uses nine chapters to explore the range of rest and restlessness. Beginning with faith, he notices how even the Sunday church services are nowhere near the rest that worship requires. Stuck in the hamster wheel of seeking success, Christian activities are full of advice giving, non-stop working, and wearing soldiering ahead just to do religious stuff. Rest needs to be found and the path to reach that state is not through work but divine rest. The way forward is to depend on the one who knows how best to rest: God. God rests because it is the rest of completion and contentment over the day's work. Remember how God says each day is "good?" Rest is a place where God is present. Rest is dependent not on what we have or not done, but completely on what Christ had done at the cross. Probing the notion of Sundays as that supposedly "day of rest," Koessler laments at the lack of uniformity in the practice of the Lord's Day. Far too often, it has been filled with all kinds of activities. Obviously, with the lack of practicing rest on a Sunday, no wonder the rest of the week is packed with lots of restlessness.

When looking at the visible effects of restlessness, the author distinguishes between false rest and biblical rest. False rest includes attitudes like sloth which is a refusal to do the good that we ought to do. It is a failure to wait. It is the junk food of spirituality. Being lazy is not equal to true rest. Even busyness itself is a form of sloth. He contrasts rest with ambition, pointing out that rest and worldly ambition cannot live together. Along with ambition comes the temptation of greed, pride, and envy. Biblical ambition however puts our needs in its appropriate space. Healthy ambition works best in a position of humility. Another visible sign of true rest is in worship. We worship not out of obligation but out of joy, a response to the gift of faith. In fact, worship is one of the best ways to pursue rest. Koessler puts in a chapter on the digital age as well, something I appreciate. This is particularly challenging in our age of social media, emails, cell phones, and mobile gadgets. Rest in this case require intentional moments of solitude and silence. Rest also looks forward to the future. The more restful we are, the more we are less distracted by the effects of age and time. We will not fear death for our future rest is in God, not the grave. Koessler ends with a chapter on death and dying. Throughout the book, we are reminded that true rest is in Christ, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. When we find Christ, we will eventually find rest. Even better, we will realize that it was Christ who first found us.

Koessler has compared and contrasted what rest is and what it is not. In terms of work, he reminds us that while work is necessary, important, and divinely instituted for all human beings, there is a point in which work becomes idolatry. We are warned about sloth and restlessness that is disguised in non-action. Some of us have erred on the side of overwork, forgetting the significance of the sabbath. For such people, work has become a master and we the slave. The Sabbath is meant to prevent that from happening, from dominating all of our lives. According to John Koessler, Professor of Pastoral Studies at Moody Bible Institute, our pursuit of rest is a radical act in itself. Like a rocket heading into outer space, a strong propulsion is needed to pull itself away from the clutches of work and gravitational form of productivity. This book is one of the mini-rockets that could help us do just that.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of IVP Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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