Learning to Rest


If you are anything like me, the sound of that word almost rings with guilt. How can I rest when there are quite literally a million things to do?

School, college, work, family, God, church, friends, fitness, planning, texting, driving…the “to do” list goes on and on. Not to mention the Bible reading plan you still want to begin, the instrument you have to learn, and this year’s recommended reading list that you haven’t started yet.

Work Will Never Be Enough

Workaholism is something real and our culture pushes for it. Many of us subtly get swept along in the flow of it and very rarely look up even to notice. We find ourselves in this state where we are exhausted, but push ourselves to work even harder, so that just maybe we will receive the significance we so desperately crave. The top grades, the achievements we earn, and the amount of ticks on our weekly “to do” lists become the validation of our worth.

This mindset can even seep into our relationship with our Lord Jesus. We think that His love toward us is determined by our performance. So, we either give up before we even start, knowing that we don’t have the self-discipline to pray enough, read the Bible enough, evangelize to our friends, and be a “good Christian”. Or we strive to be involved in every church activity and ministry, even at the expense of other responsibilities in our lives. We pray and read our Bibles endlessly, but it feels dry and empty, and never feels like enough.

The truth is it will never be enough.

Unless we learn to rest in Christ, the cycle of overworking, burning out, and feeling like a failure will never stop. Christ Himself is our rest. He alone is our rest.

The Bible Speaks About Rest

God Himself rested. I think sometimes we forget that. Genesis 2:2-3 says,

“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”(NIV).

In this passage, God’s rest, or the Sabbath, is pre-sin, pre-law, and so therefore we can’t brush it off as being irrelevant to our lives as Christians living under the New Covenant today. Hebrews 4:9-10 speaks on this idea of rest for the Christian saying,

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His” (NIV).

Under the law of Moses, keeping the Sabbath was taken so seriously that any work done on this day resulted in death (Exodus 31:14)! That sounds terribly drastic, but at the heart of it is God guarding His people from self-reliance. This showed Israel that the penalty of breaking covenant and rejecting God and His grace always results in death.

Now, when Jesus died on the cross he shouted out “tetelestai” – it is finished! (John 19:30). He voluntarily gave up His life for mankind, so that mankind can truly find rest, for true rest is found through peace with God by faith in Jesus.

Must We Keep the Sabbath?

Jesus is caught by the “religious” Pharisees one Sabbath when He is walking through the ripe grain fields with His disciples and they start to pluck the heads of grain to eat them. They quickly pointed out that this was unlawful.

“He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions”” (Mark 2:24-26 NIV).

Jesus responds, not in guilt, but with authority. He reminds the Pharisees that even their King David ate food that was set apart unto God, because he needed it.

Jesus says that in the same way,

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV).

The Sabbath is not a day of religion, but a time of physical and spiritual reflection and refreshment.

Practically Finding a Balance

The motivation we have in regards to work and rest makes all the difference. When we work, we work unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23), and when we rest, we rest unto the Lord. The key is being intentional in our attitude whatever we are doing, so that whatever we are doing is done in worship to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 10:31 sums it up well saying, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (NIV).

This means that whether we are sitting in a church service, or cleaning the swimming pool, or taking a nap, all can be done in worship because our heart is right before God. In the passage in Mark above (chapter 7), Jesus shows mercy to those who are in need, and He knows how our bodies need rest. When we understand that everything we do, we do for God’s glory – this knowledge prevents us from wasting time and being lazy. Rather we should responsibly make time to rest, so that we can enjoy the goodness, the grace, and the gifts that God has given us.

Learning to Rest in Christ

For the recovering workaholic: Resting is not laziness. Resting is a state of the body and soul when we recognize the Lordship of Jesus and live in the abundant grace He pours out upon His children. When we recognize that we don’t make the world run, we don’t have to prove our worth, or subscribe to the world’s standards of perfection. In fact, we can’t even take a breath without Christ’s enabling. All we need to do is rest in the Vine.

~Guest Author Micaela Boy~


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