Learning To Rest

Rest.  Peace.  Quiet. 

What we crave so desperately can sometimes seem so elusive.  We know our bodies need rest and need recharging, but it can be so hard to achieve at times.  Even when we know God calls us to observe regular periods of rest in our week, we can struggle to actually do it (and I’m talking beyond the 7-8 hours of sleep at night!). 

Soccer games, business lunches, PTA meetings, band concerts, not to mention normal everyday obligations like school, work, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and whatever other else comes up.  To find rest and to truly find quiet moments seems easier said than done.   

In leading up to Easter, I’m taking a couple of weeks to look at the things that distract or take away our attention especially during this time of year.  We’ve talked about finding contentment and the importance of finding our worth in Christ and nothing else.  In an effort to approach things holistically, the topic of rest must also be part of the conversation.  The truth is, many of us as Christians do not make rest a priority.  If we look at the Biblical standard, we see that’s not only unhealthy, it’s also disobedient to God. 

We can tell from the creation account, rest was God’s intent from the very beginning: 

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.  Genesis 2:2-3 

In addition, God calls man to rest and keep the Sabbath day as holy.  By making the Sabbath holy, it is a day set apart for the Lord.  Because the Lord rested on the seventh day, we are called to rest as well. 

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  Exodus 20:8-11 

So why is rest so important to God?  And what do we gain by being obedient in this matter?  It was His plan all along, knowing we are finite human beings that need rest in order to function optimally.  Rest restores us, repairs us, and refocuses us.  In addition, God’s model of creating the Earth and then resting on the seventh day must be a pattern we develop in our own lives.   

As I’ve examined the topic of rest, there are several takeaways I’ve gleaned:  

1.  Jesus is the source of our rest 

We’ve looked at what the Old Testament has to say about this matter.  But Jesus addressed our need for rest in the New Testament as well: 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 

This oft-quoted passage brings comfort to the believer who acknowledges and obeys what Jesus is calling us to.  His first words are “come to me” and the invitation could not be clearer.  We go many places to find rest for our weary souls, but it is Jesus Who ultimately gives us the rest we need.  The remainder of the passage describes what Jesus gives to us:  an easy yoke (a farming metaphor) and a burden that is light.  We are so often weighed down by heavy yokes and difficult burdens.  But Jesus is not the source of such things.  We can trade in for what He offers and we gain so much when we do.   

2.  Rest involves pulling away and unplugging 

Again looking to Jesus’ model, we see He made it a point to withdraw and be alone with the Lord: 

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  Mark 6:31 

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Luke 5:16 

We forget sometimes that although Jesus was fully divine, He was fully human as well.  Because of His humanness, He experienced everything we do including tiredness and weariness.  His practice on this Earth was to pull away at regular times.  If the Son of God needed to do this, how much more do you and I?  Rest involves pulling away from busyness and planning out margins in your life.  It also involves turning off distractions.  The TV, the phone, social media:  all of it can pull our focus off of Christ and drain us.   

3.  Rest positions us to be more fruitful in the Kingdom 

I believe one of the reasons God modeled rest was not because He needed it, but He knew we did.  He knew that in order to be at our best for the work of His Kingdom, we need to have regular “Sabbaths” in our lives.  Sunday is a typical Sabbath for most Christians.  For me, Sunday is actually a work day because I am a worship pastor and at church for a large portion of the day.  I’ve struggled with this dilemma, but I’ve come to the conclusion that another day of the week must become my Sabbath in order to keep me sharp and useful for the Lord.  How about you?  Do you take Sunday to go to church and then use the day to clear your schedule of work or labor?  I’d recommend finding that day; for most it is Sunday and it is a commandment of the Lord to keep it holy.     

I believe the reason this topic is hard is because we live in a society that says rest only puts you behind.  You must stay busy and you must constantly be working at something.  The lie we start to believe is that as Christians, we’re too busy to rest.  In effect what we’re really saying is “I’m too busy to pull away, to spend time in God’s Word, and develop my relationship with the Lord.” 

To be sure, the Enemy wants all of us to believe that lie especially during Lent and the Easter season.  But God calls us to be set apart as His chosen ones.  My encouragement for you today is to find periods of rest so you can remain focused and be fruitful; especially during this season.  Let’s stay the course together and let’s see God move in mighty ways as we surrender our lives to Him! 

God bless and as always, please feel free to contact me:  info@derekcharlesjohnson.com   

Much love!

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