We exist in a culture saturated with messages compelling us make something of our lives by getting out of bed, putting on our boots, and working hard to achieve our dreams. This is not necessarily a bad message. However, what about those of us whose thoughts of productivity, success, and seized opportunity race from the time we lunge out of bed in the morning to the time we slip into an unconscious state? I must confess, I struggle to turn off thoughts of things I needed to do, should do, and hope to do at the end of the day. My wife often lovingly reprimands me at the dinner table for such activity. "Work" can take a variety of shapes and forms in today's culture. As a pastor, my work often manifests itself through texts, emails, and various means of social media.
Rest can often be classified as something "we can do when we're dead" or even an activity practiced on Sunday afternoons or at the end of the day when we take the time to watch the nightly news or veg out on Netflix. However, for those who believe in the God of the Bible, it must be must more than that.
Shortly after God created the Heavens and the Earth in the Genesis account, God rested. He instructed his people to practice Sabbath as a spiritual exercise for their own mental, physical, and emotional health. For Sabbath, Jews were instructed to rest accordingly, refraining from basic physical activities as simple as cooking. Sabbath not only reminded God's people of his sovereign provision for their lives, but it also gave men, women, boys, andgirls the opportunity to look back over and enjoy the product of their labor. Needless to say, healthy rhythms of rest seem to be nearly nonexistent in America.
Any weightlifter understands the benefits of rest. If he or she works out a certain muscle, say a bicep, 24 hours of proper healing must occur in order to gain the desired muscle growth. Without allowing the muscle to rebuild, we continue to tear at the very fiber we are seeking to grow, without ever giving it the opportunity to mend. Endurance athletes often "taper" their training in the last two weeks leading up to an event so that their bodies can recover and allow them to compete at optimum performance. When bodily injury occurs, doctors and physical therapists begin the process of healing with rest.
We are inundated with information on a daily basis and rarely unplug. Even as I type from my seat in the coffee shop, every person within eye shot is interacting with others through screens of various sizes on multiple... (Sorry, I had to stop typing to Cash app a friend who texted me) levels. A drop down menu from the top of my iPad screen just updated me on my upcoming fantasy football league while a request from a friend looking for a new roommate popped up through GroupMe. It never seems to end, does it??
It is no wonder that my Twitter feed is lined with quotes from dead scholars reflecting the ancient practices of rest, solitude, and the grace of God. They sat. They reflected. They listened to the crickets and watched the sunrise. Yet we increasingly rely on uppers and downers, anxiety medication, and the like to simply make it through the day.
How then do we fight the tide of a culture that promises fulfillment through activity?
Under the old covenant, the people of God were given a generous amount of instruction regarding temple worship and the sacrificial system. Fortunately, Jesus not only fulfilled the law, paved the way for you and I to be reconciled to God through his sacrificial death, subsequent burial, and victorious resurrection. Hebrews 10:11 tells the reader that Jesus sat at the right hand of a God after this grand rescue mission was completed. In Hebrews 4:9-11, the author instructs the reader that Jesus is the ultimate rest. We can Sabbath in him.
We are convinced that resting in Christ brings about soulful healing and heart recovery. We believe that Jesus can provide the rest that we are so desperately longing for. May we all grow in our discovery of him and the rest that he brings to the weary soul. And, in the process, my hope for you is that you might stop and smell the roses. May an attempt to listen to the crickets at night, get up early and take in a sunrise. Sit on a beach and watch the tide roll in. God's handiwork is all around us. He longs to spend time with his children. In fact, it is in those moments that we may actually discover something special that has beckoned us since the beginning. A wise man once wrote, "Happiness is like a butterfly. As long as you pursue it, it will escape you. However, if you sit still long enough, you may just find that it comes to rest on you."
Blessings to you my friend as you learn to rest in the finished work of Jesus...