3 Reasons to Pursue Life-Giving Rest

How are you?

Busy!

I find myself hearing this and saying this far too often. Busy is a badge of honour in our culture and many of us wear it to display significance, importance and to appear needed. There’s nothing wrong in living a life of significance and making important contributions to society. There is no shame in working hard and we need to continue to be devoted to the work God has called us to.

In the same way, rest is good. Unfortunately rest just doesn’t get the same recognition as work even though we would all acknowledge how important it is.

So consider this a mini-series of three posts on rest. Today: 3 Reasons to Pursue Life-Giving Rest. Tomorrow: 3 Ways to Experience Life-Giving Rest. Next day: My Sabbatical Story.

Endless work is not what God has called us to. Work without rest isn’t the pattern established by God (“…so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2), it isn’t what God intended for His people (“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God.” Exodus 20:8-9), and it isn’t what we see modelled in the life of Jesus (Matthew 14:22-23, Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42).

As a worship leader (whether you’re on staff at a church or lead as volunteer), rest is important. We’ve all got two stereotypes we are working against – the first is the idea that pastors only work one day a week, the second is that pastors should be available 24/7 at the beck and call of their congregation. The people closest to you definitely recognize these two stereotypes are not a reality in your life and the majority of people in your church probably don’t have these expectations of you but those stereotypes can still come in to play when we try to figure out what our work/rest pattern should look like in our daily, weekly and yearly rhythms.

“Music is the space between the notes.” Claude Debussy

So that the music of your life can be heard more clearly, let me give you three reasons why you should pursue life-giving rest:

1. You are not God.

Hopefully this is not new information for you! He is God, you are not. This is a statement which should be reflected not only in your words and in your work but also in your resting. Have you considered this? Your resting gives an opportunity (not that He needs it) for God to continue to show that He is powerful enough, strong enough, wise enough to keep the world spinning and take care of the details.

So what does this look like in our rest?

One idea would be to read and meditate on passages of Scripture which affirm God’s power as you begin your rest. Psalm 11, 68 or 114 would be good places to start. Read the words, thank God for His strength, that you can have confidence in God even while you are not working.

A second idea is a story I heard while I was preparing my sabbatical proposal. I read of one man who considered even his sleep to be a form of rest which affirmed this reality of God’s might and control. Before he would go to sleep he would light a candle, say a prayer asking God to watch over him while he slept, and then blow out the candle as a tangible act of displaying his trust in God’s power.

2. You are human.

Whether you like it or not, you are human. God has created you for good works but He’s created you with physical limitations including the need for rest. Offering your rest as a form of worship to God is a way of expressing thanks for even the way that God has created you.

If God had intended for you to work endlessly, never taking days off, having a sense of pride in how long it’s been since you’ve taken vacation time, he would have created you as some kind of robot. But He was very intentional and purposeful in creating you as a person who needs sleep, food, rest and enjoyment.

Consider Jesus for a moment. The image of the invisible God, fully divine in every way, one with the Father. And fully human, tempted in every way just as we are, one who is able to empathize with our weaknesses.

So how do you acknowledge your humanity in your rest?

Like I mentioned before, sleep to the glory of God. You know those days when you’ve joked about going to bed at 8:00? Put it in your calendar. Seriously. Give yourself an appointment at 8:00 on your next day off to go to bed.

Other ideas?

Eat good food. Enjoy what God has provided. Don’t eat fast food or canned soup on your time off. These are days to pull out cookbooks, invite friends over with what’s needed for the recipes and cook together.

Get outside. Be amazed again at God’s creation. Whether you live in Canada, the US, Europe, Australia or any other place in this incredible world, God has given incredible displays of His divine power all around you. Get outside and be reminded.

3. You are the recipient of God’s good gifts.

At the heart of this, rest is something we should enjoy because rest is a gift of God. “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” To live a life of busy-ness, focused on our work and the priority of working harder at the expense of enjoying times of rest is denying the goodness of this gift which God has given you.

Those of you who have kids, you know that feeling on Christmas morning when our kids rip off the paper, strain to get the box open, finally get the toy out of the plastic prison and then only want to play with the box. We all laugh and think it’s cute but really we’re disappointed that they missed the point of the gift, right? God has given you this gift of rest and there is something really beautiful and honouring to Him when we are enjoying the gifts He has given.

I would hate for anyone to read this article and think that I’m calling you to ignore work or that work isn’t important. Please, artists have enough issues with people thinking we don’t work hard enough!! I believe in the value of work. I believe in working hard. I affirm what Paul says in Colossians 3: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” Hard work is another way to affirm the three points I’ve made earlier but you were not created for endless work.

So. Make rest important. Use your times of rest wisely in a way that honours and worships God.

Allow your resting to affirm that God is more powerful and mightier than you are. Allow your body to rest in a way that acknowledges your humanity and gives praise to God your Creator. Allow your rest to be an enjoyment of the good gifts God has given you.

As you rest and as you work, my prayer is that your whole life would be lived for the glory of the mighty God who created you.