Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Break

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  Genesis 2:2-3
Spring Break
It’s that time again...classes are let out and families look to see if dad and mom can get some vacation time so the family can take a break from the normal activities and get away for some fun.  Spring Break is highly anticipated by students and teachers and even some parents.  Let’s back off for a while and give ourselves a rest!
God is very interested in the topic of rest.  To Him, rest is not just wasted time.  No. Rest, properly understood, has value, worth and purpose.  In fact, it’s essential to our physical and spiritual well-being.  As we examine the balance of work and rest in our lives we will see that we were designed for rest to be a regular part of our lives. 
God himself rests.  Anything that God does is by definition a good thing.  No one would accuse God of being lazy or unproductive.  Yet the Bible tells us clearly that both God the Father and God the Son took time for rest.  (See the passage above.)
Why does the Bible tell us this?  Because the balance of work and rest that we see in God’s creative activity is intended to be a model for us.  Whether or not you believe that we should literally set aside the seventh day of every week as a formal day of rest, it certainly shows that we should follow a regular pattern of ceasing from our labors.  It tells us that a lifestyle of uninterrupted labor, day after day, is not good for us, nor pleasing to the Lord.  If God chose to rest, then we should as well.  We should follow His example.
In the same way, we see that Jesus also rested. He often withdrew from people in order to spend time alone with God. As Luke tells us,  "...[T]he news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." – Luke 5:15-16
Similarly, Mark writes that: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ’Everyone is looking for you!’" – Mark 1:35-36
One of the striking things about these passages is the fact that Jesus withdrew from the crowds just when he was most in demand.  There were thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people waiting for Jesus to heal them, to teach them, to bless them.  They were primed.  They were ready. The opportunity was great.  The need was great.  And yet, Jesus was nowhere to be found.
Wasn’t that irresponsible, to take a day off when there were so many people needing his help? Wasn’t that a bit self-indulgent? No. Not in the least.  You see, Jesus understood that the need was endless.  But in order to accomplish the purpose for which God had sent Him, he had to remain physically and spiritually strong.  And that required regular times of prayer and meditation, regular times of rest and recuperation.
As servants of Christ we need to understand that He knows we need to take a break at times as well.  He called His disciples to rest and replenish after a taxing day of ministry. "The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ’Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." – Mark 6:30-32
So don’t feel so guilty when it is time for you to stop and refresh yourself with rest.
Scripture to Claim:
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Hebrews 4:9-10

Finding Rest

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Second, rest is important to remind us of who we are, to reaffirm our humanity as men and women made in the image of God.  We are not merely the sum of what we accomplish.  We are not merely a means of production, cogs in a machine.  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 for us.
A workaholic is someone who is addicted to work, not because he enjoys it, but because it’s the only thing that gives him any sense of worth.  But that’s a pathology, a sickness. It’s not true.  We have great worth, regardless of how much or how little we accomplish.  We have value because God is our Father, and because in Christ we are his children.
I seldom quote poetry in my sermons, but I have to make an exception in this case, because it is so appropriate. The 17th century author John Milton, who wrote Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, became blind at the age of 44.  Milton’s "rest," caused by his blindness, was not of his own choosing. But as he correctly understood, his blindness did not reduce his value to God one iota.  Did it diminish his ability to serve God as a writer and a poet? Probably.  But it didn’t matter.  God doesn’t need our work.  He doesn’t need our gifts; in fact, all that we can offer to him is what we have already received from him in the first place.
Not only do we have worth when we are working; but we have equal worth when we are simply enjoying God’s good gifts – reading the Scriptures, listening to music, fishing, walking in the woods, playing with our children, having coffee with our spouse, admiring a painting, or eating a hot croissant with jam and butter.  And we need regular times of rest to help us remember that.  It is the one who can look inward and feel of value who is of value to others.  Jesus did not make a difference and therefore He was somebody; He was somebody, therefore He made a difference.
In our codependent living we are seeking to define our value by what we do for others and how much they need us.  Such an external value system requires constant validation from others for us to feel any sense of worth.  There is no room for rest in such a system for we must keep performing or lose our sense of being.  The end of is weariness...agonizing weariness.
Jesus calls us to a rest for our internal rest that ceases searching for meaning and identity by our own feeble efforts.  As we come into Him we find a peace in our hearts and a rest for our souls.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Scripture to Claim:
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. – Psalm 62:1-2 

Devotional Archive