The Importance of Rest
Written by Samuel Bernard
For more information about this author, please see the bottom of this post.
We have the tendency to run after a paycheque and often forget to take a rest. One thing is certain is that life is more than a paycheque. So, today we are going to talk about the sabbath/rest.
I remember my time in college. I tried to have all my assignments done early enough that I could have another student proofread them for me. I was always on the go, no time for rest. One of my friends who worked at the college often wanted to hang out during the weekend. But I did not have time for that, even on the weekend. I told him, man! I don’t even have time to rest. I believed I had a good reason why I didn’t have time to hang out. Then, he told me “Sammy you will always have time.” What I did not know was everything in life has a rhythm. Our bodies have a rhythm. Our heart has a rhythm. Music has a rhythm. God has a rhythm.
In Genesis 2:1-3 we see the rhythm God used to create the world. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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.”
God says, follow my example, “Remember my rhythm.” Work six days, and on that seventh day, rest. Beat the drum hard for six beats then rest. On the 7th day God rested from all his work. Not because he was tired, he simply rested because the work was complete. God purposely gave you a rhythm to follow. Right there in Genesis 2, the concept of Sabbath began, so too the rhythm of life began. God knows you cannot function without rest. When the nation of Israel was in Egypt, in slavery, they worked 24/7 with no time to rest. But after God delivered them, they were under new leadership, a new master. A master that would remind them again of the rhythm of life.
In Exodus 20 God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The first 4 commandments were about a vertical relationship. A relationship between God and people. The other 6 commandments were a horizontal relationship between people. They are rules that show his people how they should treat their neighbors. The 4th commandment, which is part of the vertical relationship, God said this:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 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, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
To remember the Sabbath is not to have a lazy day one day a week; rather it is to focus on doing specific things that will draw us closer to God —to rest, worship, learn, study, care, and strengthen our spirit.
In Exodus 20 God requires his people to remember the sabbath. Remembrance isn’t passive. Biblical remembrance requires action. In Exodus chapter 2:24 and 6:5 God remembers Israel in their slavery in Egypt. There, too, remembering means more than just recalling that the Israelites are slaves. It means delivering them from Egypt. So Biblical remembrance requires action. Likewise, by remembering the Sabbath, the Israelites are supposed to act in a certain way. They are supposed to keep the Sabbath day and make it holy. To keep it holy means to consecrate it, or to set it apart as holy. So, it may be expressed as “dedicated to God” or “belonging to God.” So our Sabbath should look different than the other 6 days of the week.
- Sabbath is meant for our good.
In the Jewish faith keeping the Sabbath was a big deal. Jewish scholars debated about this for years. They were more concerned about how it looked that they obeyed the law. Then Jesus came to earth, and he launched his public ministry on the Sabbath. Not only did his entrance into the world not meet the expectations of some of the Jewish religious leaders, but he completely disrupted their Sabbath rules. Because the reason God gave us the sabbath, is for our own benefit, it is a gift from God for us to participate in. God gave us an entire day to rest and enjoy the world that He created. Jesus says in Mark 2:27 “Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
By now you might wonder, “do I need to keep the sabbath? Isn’t it an Old Testament thing?” Listen…its absolutely necessary! You are busier than ever and you spend more time navigating your hectic schedules. So, rest is essential for you to live healthy, strong lives. Whether you believe you should observe the sabbath or not, God created the Sabbath for you, and there is purpose in it.
Rest looks different for everybody. My wife reminds me mostly every evening “Sammy it’s time to take a break.” Maybe you are like me, you find it hard to sit and do nothing. Even if you think you don’t need as much physical rest and you strongly dislike being inactive. But mentally and emotionally you need a break. Choose a day to stop doing the things that occupy your workdays and participate in activities that nurture peace, worship, relationships, celebration and thankfulness. Take a day to unplug yourself from listening or watching the news, or social media. Be intentional, make the choice to unplug from anything that causes you to stay connected to what has drained you for 6 days.
- Sabbath is a form of worship and of trust
The purpose of Sabbath is to steer clear of the distractions in your life, so you can rest in God and experience God’s grace in a new way. When you choose to take a day off to refuel and to focus on God, you are declaring that God is your provider, He will take care of your business; therefore, you can rest. The concept of keeping the sabbath really comes down to a trust issue. We either trust ourselves to handle our lives, or we trust God. If we choose to trust ourselves, chances are good that we’ll end up working ourselves to sheer exhaustion. But if we choose to trust God, the One who goes before us, comforts us, and strengthens us, we ‘ll see more progress in a healthy 6 days of work than a depleted 7-day work week. When we practice sabbath rest, we acknowledge that our life is not defined only by work or productivity. We acknowledge that God is on the throne, that this world is his world, that our time is his gift to us. It is big picture time. And the big picture is not me, my family, my country, or my world. The big picture is God.
Part of making Sabbath a regular part of your work life is to acknowledge that God is at the center of life. To observe it, you must dare to trust God to provide for all your needs, rather than working all-out to provide for yourselves. Listen…this can be very difficult—both for those who struggle with the prospect of not having enough and for those who struggle with the peril of not recognizing what is enough. Learning to trust God for your provision is an ongoing challenge, particularly if you are prone to compulsive work habits. Gordon MacDonald a pastor and a writer, observes this of his culture:
“The more we want, the more revenue we must produce to get it. The more revenue we must produce, the longer and harder we have to work. So, we build larger homes, buy more cars, take on added financial burdens and then find ourselves having to work harder to pay for it all. More work, less rest.”
The rhythm of sabbath keeping will protect you from burning out. Often great ideas that can rejuvenate your life, your business, come from a day of rest. You rest not because you are lazy, but because you are a hard worker. We set aside one day for the rest that only comes when you cease working, and allow God to refuel you and give you a deep rest in your bodies, minds and souls.
Maybe you are thinking “Sammy, I cannot take a day off from work, I cannot put my cellphone down for a minute. Because that means losing clients and losing money.” Accept it or not, if you don’t choose to take a break your body will take a break for you.
My wife is a stay-at-home mom. Her weeks are super busy, taking care of the kids during the day and pursuing her passion of painting during the evening. But In my house every Sunday we have some rules: no laundry, no dishes, and after lunch we nap from 1-3pm. That is our rhythm for our sabbath. What’s your rhythm going to look like?
I challenge you to take a day to unplug from all the activities that drained you throughout the week. Sabbath is not staying home and doing nothing, but rather choosing to do something different. For instance, go for a long walk, read the book you always wanted to read. Or close your eyes and meditate on the goodness of God in your life.
How will you celebrate the Sabbath this week?
Samuel is originally from Haiti and is currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is a husband to his beautiful wife Leah, and father to two very precious and creative daughters. He is using the gifts and calling the Lord has given him as a motivational speaker with Leadership Motivation, as well as serving as the Life Groups pastor at Oasis Church. To follow him and learn more about his ministries, please click on the links below.
Life Groups Pastor