“…and on the seventh day God created rest” (Genesis 2:2).
Old Jewish tradition holds that God actually did create something on the seventh day, He created rest. Our idea of rest finds its Scriptural foundation in Genesis 2:2-3:
“By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from 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.”
We see here the priority God gives rest as this is the first time in the Bible God ever calls anything “holy.”
It’s amazing that even before declaring Himself holy, God declares that a day for rest is a holy thing.
Rest is a provision of God for mankind and a vital component to our ability to prosper. Without rest we not only cease to flourish, but will eventually die; emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Work is an important part of our lives, and while faith without works is dead, it is also true that works without rest is deadly- I learned this first hand growing up on a ranch. My dad knew how to work, but he didn’t know how to relax or rest. I watched him stress and toil his entire life until the day he chose to end it.
I have a memory of a conversation with my father that took place some years prior to his suicide. He told me one day as we were out tending the cattle; “I don’t have a ranch, a ranch has me.” The difficult thing about life on the ranch was that everywhere you looked you saw work that needed done. This is true in most of our lives.
The bottom line is that rest must be chosen and rest requires faith.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10-11).
The Hebrew word for “still” means to abate, to cease; literally to relax or drop the hands.
It requires faith to be still.
Can I sit at His feet and believe He will be exalted? Can I pause and acknowledge that He is with me? When I finally drop my hands I will finally experience the full grace given me by Christ’ outstretched crucified hands. The revelation that God is my fortress will come as I put down my hammer and stop building my own.
Jesus calls us to rest. In Mark 6:30-32, we find Jesus encouraging His disciples to get away and rest. Jesus’ most famous call to rest can be found in Matthew 11:28:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (The Message).
But how can we be proactive and practical in implementing rest in our lives?
The only way is we must schedule rests into our calendars before they fill up. Rest must not be an afterthought. Consider the following as you take steps to begin implementing rest:
- Daily: Prioritize time alone with God. Reduce time killers in your life (social media, TV, etc.)
- Weekly: Take at least one full day to rest, a half day if this isn’t possible. Don’t play so hard on days off that you are wiped out.
- Monthly: Take a personal retreat day to look back and look ahead. Give God the opportunity to recalibrate your internal compass and make course corrections in your life.
- Yearly: Make the most of holidays and vacations. Americans tend to drive too far and run too fast during breaks and don’t get the real downtime their bodies, minds and souls need.
Our work begins with acknowledging God’s worth and God’s work. The “Come to me” must precede the “Go ye” or else all our going and doing will bear more futility than fruit. Take Jesus up on His Matthew 11:28 challenge and soon you will truly “recover your life.”
By Todd Meek