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 all his work. 3 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.”
Rest is a word we often hear, but do we really grasp its importance in our lives? We are a people too busy for our own good, too busy to stop and realize that in our frantic business we are actually accomplishing less and aging more. By and large, Americans don’t value rest and relaxation, instead we have made a virtue of unceasing labor. We constantly talk about how busy we are, as if the hectic pace of our lives is proof that we’re important and significant. We feel guilty when we’re not working, in fact we no longer ask, “how was your day?” we ask “what did you do today?” Today we have traded a connecting culture for a constant culture. The constant culture trains us to view rest as laziness yet the bible tells us that God himself rested. Rest is a good thing, and after reading Genesis 2 it’s hard to accuse God of being lazy or unproductive. This balance of work and rest that we see in God’s creative activity is intended to be a model for us. To God, rest is not just wasted time or time when we could be doing something useful and productive. No, rest properly understood, has value and worth and peaceful purpose for our lives. In fact, it’s not optional, rest is a requirement, it’s essential to our physical and spiritual well-being. I have often been amazed at the Chinese pictograph for the word busy, it is composed of two characters, the character for heart, and the character for killing, it literally means that when you are busy your heart dies. Rest seems like such an obvious thing and yet as people we seem to constantly underestimate our need for it. God designed us to need rest at every level of life, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Rest starts with stopping, God stopped working, it’s only when we stop that we can truly seek solitude and experience soul care. Why is rest so important, well we could talk about this for a long time but let me give you a few reasons I have personally learned what I call the results of rest. Rest allows us to listen to God, if you are like me you get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life that you become deaf to the still, small voice of God. We can become so busy doing things for Christ that we forget to simply be with Christ. When this happens we get tunnel vision and become so fixated on completing our list of tasks that we have no time for anything else but work. Yet somehow, the list of tasks never gets any shorter, for every one we complete two more rise up to take its place. Without rest we run on a treadmill toward a finish line that never gets any closer. When our lives lack quiet, unhurried fellowship with the Lord, our perspectives become warped and our attitudes poisoned. We start running on autopilot and instead of being guided by the Holy Spirit we are guided by hurry, we become controlled by emotion, habit and circumstance. Time away from our labors and with the Lord helps us to regain our perspective and realign our priorities. It helps us to remember what’s most important, that the things of God are eternal, while the things of this life are temporary. Rest also reminds us of who we are, rest reaffirms our humanity as men and women made in the image of God. I am not merely the sum of what I accomplish, as people we are not merely a means of production, we are not cogs in a machine. Today we have tied our worth to work, trading our value for vanity. Like a dog chained to a stake the more we try to work the more wound up we get. When we buy into the lie that work equals worth we step onto the never ending hamster wheel of self-effort. But a man is not a horse, to be valued according to how well he pulls a wagon or a plow; he is not a tool, to be valued only for the tasks he can perform. Yes, our work has value, but it’s not our work that gives us value. Our value is inherent within us; it comes from the fact that God made us and gave his Son to die for us. Your value is not dependent on your effort and rest releases us from this lie. Another great result of rest is that it keeps us humble, it helps us maintain a healthy perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things. A period of withdrawal from our usual responsibilities reminds us that we are not as indispensable as we had imagined. Charles DeGaulle once said, “the graveyards are full of indispensable men.” For many we don’t stop because we are afraid to face the painful yet powerful truth that even without me the important tasks still get done. In my absence the company will continue, somehow, the earth continues to revolve on its axis and the sun continues to rise and set. The sooner we embrace this truth the healthier we can become. When we become too grandiose in thinking of ourselves as essential, then we become either arrogant and prideful, or stressed out and depressed. Either way, we’re taking a load upon ourselves that only God is equipped to bear. Today stop and sit for a moment, start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. We need rest just as we need air, water and food, this isn’t about surviving it’s about thriving. The truth is that when we fail to rest fully and deeply, we not only hurt ourselves, we run the risk of hurting others. Yet when we stop striving and start being still we open our hearts to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It’s in these times of quiet rest that God tills the soil of our souls. Today will you resolve to rest?