How often do you really rest from your work? If you are like most, you are denying yourself a blessing as well as working against your own labors. If you are like my dog, Ruger (pictured above), then you may be resting too much!
Historically, Christians have believed in practicing a “Sabbath rest.” First seen in God Himself, who rested on the seventh day after creating the world and calling all things good.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).
Moses spoke to the people of Israel saying, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23:3).
Why Practice a Sabbath?
We rest because God rested. We also rest because God commanded us to. In the New Testament, Jesus confirms this example and command for us. More than that, he displays that he in fact is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). He speaks in authority to explain that the Sabbath is more to benefit man—compared to being a mere command to obey: “The Sabbath is in fact made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
During Jesus’ time the religious people of the day made extra-biblical laws concerning the Sabbath. It then became something it was not meant to be. It is wrong to understand that no work can be done on the Sabbath by mankind. Rather, we are given a blessing of putting aside normal work to rest, enjoy creation and find dependence in God.
Resting simply means getting away from that which we are always doing—working. But this is harder than imagined. We may stop the physical process of work but the mental or emotional process sometimes can be never ending.
After God made aspects of creation each day, He looked at and enjoyed what he had made, saying, “It is very good.” This, I believe, carried over into His rest and it is something we may find during our rest. Marveling at what God has done around us and through us while we have worked is an aspect of the Sabbath.
We also learn dependence upon God as we break from our work and rest. We understand that our bodies have limitations physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. When we rest we are declaring something about ourselves to the world. We are in need of rest and we have limitations. We are also saying that the world does not need us as much as we might think. We say that we are not that important. We are saying that we are weak.
Practical Benefits from Rest
- Dependence upon something outside of ourselves.
- Working more efficiently with better results.
First, practicing rest provides dependence upon something outside of us. Our bodies miraculously heal and grow through sleep. Can you imagine not sleeping? Most would gladly concede that sleep is a good thing. How much sleep we actually need continues to be debated. Studies show that adults function best with 7-9 hours. Taking a Sabbath rest creates a whole other realm of dependence. We rest and we stop making money. We rest and we stop having as much influence. We rest and we won’t be seen publicly as much.
When I rest adequately and consistently, I actually work better. Funny that this something I forget so easily. I think that if I take a break, everything will fall apart. My lack of rest says more about my self-understanding and self-reliance than it does about my dependence upon God and enjoyment of His ways. I heard a good quote recently that has stuck with me. I do not know who to attribute it to, but it’s worth repeating: “Work from rest, not rest from work.” We usually think of resting as just a break. But God has called us to work six days a week. While this isn’t the first point in resting, it is a benefit. We rest and as we do, our work increases in productivity.When I rest adequately and consistently, I actually work better. Click To Tweet
Solace. There is something sweet about purposeful rest. It allows us to stop and contemplate our lives in a way that is hard when we are focused on the task at hand. We all know it is good to stop and smell the roses, but we don’t believe that it is something of necessity. Our minds and souls need the space to just “be” that a Sabbath rest can provide.
We also find a final and eternal rest in the work of Jesus.
To rest in Christ, means to fully depend, enjoy, and find solace in the work of Christ on the Cross becoming sin for us and taking its punishment (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) compared to trusting in our own works to make us right with God. Hebrews speaks clearly to this truth. I leave you with this one last thought from Scripture that has helped me to rest.
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:9-16 ESV).
Some helpful writings on planning your Sabbath days.
- Writings on Silence and Solitude by CrossPoint Ministries.
- How to Avoid Burnout by Brian Howard
- What No One Ever Told You About the Work Life Balance by Michael Hyatt