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Why Aren’t My Rest Days Restful?

Have you ever begun your work on Monday and felt so worn-out that it couldn’t possibly be the beginning of the work week? Then you thought about your Saturday and Sunday and couldn’t remember what would have made you so tired this Monday morning? On the flip side, has there ever been a Monday in your life that, though you were busy all weekend, you were still able to face with energy? I know I have experienced both kinds of Mondays, and I’m sure you have too. Rest is something most people do not think they need to be taught about. Many would say, “It’s not getting into bed that I struggle with, it’s the getting out.” Although over-work is a common problem, I believe that many of our struggles with exhaustion are due to the wrong kind of rest. You can do nothing all day and still not feel rested. For this reason, I believe we as Christians need a better understanding of rest that we might live more energetically to the glory of God. My goal in writing this is to persuade you that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. In order to do this, I will look at two key biblical passages concerning rest, Deuteronomy 5:12-15 & Hebrews 4:9-13, then finish with some applications that will aid us in ending our restless rest.  

 A Theology of Rest  

In the retelling of the Ten Commandments, Moses exhorts the Israelites:  

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 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, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  

In this text, we learn three unique reasons why we are to rest (Keller). First, we take a Sabbath rest as a Celebration of our Design. We learn in the Creation account in Genesis that God worked for six days, then rested on the seventh. In the passage above we learn that we are to have a day of rest that models exactly what God did in the beginning. We are to reflect God’s image by resting every seventh day as He rested. Our rest, then, is a celebration of our likeness to God as His image bearers. We learn here that rest is not rooted in the Law but in the Creation account. Secondly, we take a Sabbath rest as a Declaration of our Freedom. The flow of the argument in verse 15 is that Israel is to remember their slavery in Egypt and the Lord’s deliverance. Then the Bible says, “Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Here we see the command to rest is to reflect God’s mighty ability to deliver His people. Because God freed Israel, they were to rest in celebration of His mighty work. The principle for us here is that God is always the Deliverer of His people and rest is a celebration of His might, not ours. Therefore, we are not to seek refuge in working for money without rest, trying to save ourselves. Rather, we rest as a declaration of our freedom from all worldly bondage. God has delivered us and we do not have to prove ourselves or think we are our ultimate provider. God freed us from this bondage which is so common to man. This leads us to the third underpinning of our rest. We rest as an Act of Trust. To rest means we are not working (an obvious deduction), and not working means no money. Tim Keller says it well, “To practice the Sabbath is a disciplined way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” Therefore, rest is yet another way God’s people show the world they trust God and revere Him.  

Now turning to the New Testament, the author of Hebrews writes:  

“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” (Hebrews 4:9-13).  

Here is the incredible teaching that for God’s people there is a greater Sabbath rest than what Moses spoke of in the Ten Commandments. This is the rest believers have in Christ. The flow of the argument reveals that there has been no lasting Sabbath rest for God’s people. Joshua did not provide it (verse 8) when they entered the promised land; therefore a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people to enter into. That rest is nothing other than Christ and His atonement for the sins of His people. The greater Sabbath rest is Christ’s righteousness that fulfilled the Law and is imputed to those who believe in Him. We strive to enter that rest which Christ provides because the word of God, (the Law), is sharp and revealing. It is so sharp that is cuts us up (because of our unrighteousness) and so revealing of our thoughts and intentions that we are naked and ashamed before the One to whom we must give account. Rest, then, is pictured as life lived in union with Christ. Resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross, rather than in our own works, is the Sabbath rest that is reserved for God’s people.  

So How Do We Rest Restfully? 

Now that we have walked through two key texts on rest, what do we do with that knowledge? First, we must meditate on the three underpinnings of the Commandment to observe the Sabbath. Do we see rest as a celebration of our design? Seeing rest as a celebration makes us delight in our Creator for making us in His image. Do we regularly take days off from our work as a declaration of our freedom from being bound to the ways of the world? Seeing rest as freedom allows us to stop feeling guilty for not working on our to-do lists, because we know we are free to serve God above all! Do we rest from work, knowing that rest may mean less money, as an act of trust in God as our Provider? Seeing rest as an act of trust is a regular reminder that we walk by faith and not by sight. These three questions are a helpful place to start when looking at why we all need to rest regularly and enjoy that rest, too.  

Secondly, we need to let the implications of the greater Sabbath rest become present in our lives. Because Christ has proven us before the Father (made us righteous), we no longer need to prove ourselves through over-work. Because we’ve been given an identity in Christ, we no longer need to make an identity for ourselves in our work. Because we’ve been given fulfillment in Christ, we no longer need to chase satisfaction in climbing the ladder in corporations. Because every selfish motive for work (self-worth, fulfillment, prominence, and glory) is revealed as void and unsatisfying, we can rest satisfied that we are complete in Christ. Rest, as we learn in Hebrews, is ultimately found in Christ. Therefore, our focus in rest is to be Christ, our Sabbath Rest. To rest without a focus on Christ and what He has done for us, is to rob ourselves of the benefits of greater (more fulfilling) rest. This is why I argue that rest is not so much the absence of activity, but the freedom from our daily duties to work and toil, that we might actively pursue that which satisfies us most in Christ. If we know that Christ is the greatest rest anyone of us can experience, then we must pursue satisfaction in Christ as we rest. We are all likely familiar with John Piper’s famous declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” What I am contending is that this principle from Piper is just as important when we are resting as it is when we are talking about the Christian life in general. So when we practice regular rest, our guiding principle needs to be, “What can I do that will make me more satisfied in Christ?” This is the key to enduring and genuine rest, that allows us to enter our work week ready and wanting to leverage every moment for the glory of God by serving people and working with excellence. And isn’t that what we want most as Christians, to leverage every moment for the glory of God? 

As a last word of advice, I encourage you to PLAN YOUR REST. If we do not actively plan things that satisfy us in Christ, we will passively waste our rest either being busy-bodies that are tired on Monday or as lazy-bodies not ready for Monday. So plan to spend time in the word of God, growing in the knowledge of your incredible Savior. Plan to spend time in prayer, growing in your zealousness to see God answer the prayers of His saint. Plan to spend some time sharing your faith with friends or a stranger, increasing in your desire to see God worshipped by all and all delighting in Him. Plan to spend time with your family, soaking up those precious moments God has given you, letting gratitude wash over you because God has given you infinitely more than you deserve. Plan to spend time in nature, marveling at God’s creation that cries out in praise and beauty to its Creator. Whatever it is that satisfies you in Christ, plan it in advance so that your to-do lists and other things do not rob you of satisfaction in Christ. May God bless you with restful rest as you seek satisfaction in your Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.  

Endnote: Concerning Deuteronomy 5:12-15, I rely heavily on Tim Keller’s treatment of it in his book, Every Good Endeavor, chapter twelve. 

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

                                                                   

Posted in: Christian Living, Uncategorized

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Quiet When the List is Unfinished

By Sarah Bush

I was not ready to write my blog this month.

The due date was before me and I had not even thought about it. There are seasons of what feels like a reality T.V. show called Overload. We have had more sickness this year than ever before, trying to plan for my husband’s open heart surgery and travel, planning our daughter’s wedding, a family reunion for my Grandmother’s 90th birthday, homeschool, doctor’s appointments, out of town company, sending out small group emails, laundry to fold, and a thousand other things that all seem to be swirling around me. All things I need to do, all things I should do, all things I can’t ignore, and all things that require effort on my part.

This isn’t unique to just me though, is it? This is most of us. Sometimes for a season. Sometimes for years.

There is stress on the job, demands on our time, service to partake in, missionaries to pray for, errands to run, health issues to attend to, church ministry to do, note cards to write, children to disciple, burdens to carry with friends, meals to cook, and on and on it goes. It doesn’t end. If we are really partaking in what God has called us to it probably won’t end until we are before the throne basking in the glory of our Lord and Savior.

When I find myself scurrying around trying to do all that life requires in my own strength and efforts, I find myself anxious, defeated, edgy, complaining, and failing in everything. Any of this sound familiar? My eyes are on what I can do, what I need to do, what I can’t do. In spiritual exhaustion , I finally collapse before the Father (about 30 minutes before I sat down to write this).

As I let go of all my efforts and lay it all down, suddenly there is quiet. Though tears silently flow from my eyes, they are not ones of defeat and weariness. They are ones of being overwhelmed in the most blessed of ways.

As I dwell on who my Father, my God, my King, my Savior is, everything else slowly starts to fall in line. My view of myself, my tasks, my efforts all take a back seat as HE takes the forefront.  As I speak His truth to myself, peace seeps into my heart, soul, and mind. My Creator made me for today (Psalm 139:13). He made me for the tasks He has laid before me (Eph 2:10). Therefore, He will equip me and strengthen me (Heb 13:21). I must keep my eyes on Him as I walk, and off of myself (Psalm 16:8). Before the foundation of the world He knew where I would be today, how I would struggle, and how I would fail. All that I am was made for this time and place (Ecc 3:1-8). For this church, for this neighborhood, for these children, for this man, for this culture, for these good works, and for these trials.

He makes no mistakes, and if I really believe in His sovereignty, then I can rest even while I work out my salvation. I can rest even though I am obedient to the good works He has prepared for me. I can rest though countless things swirl around me with uncertainty. Rest won’t be found when my tasks are done, lists marked off, and my life is all calm and in control. I can rest because it is finished. I can rest because of who He is and what He has done. I can rest because He is faithful, gracious, and merciful (Ex 34:6). I can rest because He is just, He is sovereign, and He is my righteousness (Psalm 90:2). I can rest because He is seated upon the throne as ruler over all (Rev 4:9). I can rest because this Almighty Creator and Sustainer God (Col 1:16-18) loves me with a love like no other.

May we all continue to grow in the knowledge of our amazing God through the revelation of His written word, and may this knowledge of who He is change how we see life, and how we live in it. If you find yourself struggling, weary, anxious, or defeated, I pray that you will take your eyes off yourself and all that is going on around you and lay before the throne. May you rest in who God is, what He has done, and what He is going to do.

Your Sister,

Sarah

Sarah and her husband, Kevin, have five children and serve in missions and fellowship group ministries.

Posted in: Christian Living, Women's Ministry

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