Just Rest

He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while: For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat".
- Mark 6:31
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
- Genesis 2:1-3

It has been said: We can worry, or we can worship. Strangely enough, busy people find it a whole lot easier to worry than to worship.

Warren Wiersbe once said, “The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life. Our old nature is restless...the world around us is frantically in a hurry. But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.”

Rest. It’s a word we hear often enough, but do we really understand its importance in our lives? When I read through the Gospels I am impressed by the relaxed, calm pace Jesus kept from day to day. You never once see Jesus in a hurry. Even when one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, was on his deathbed, Jesus took His time getting to Bethany to be with Lazarus. How is it that Jesus moved through life so slowly and yet accomplished so much? Is there something we contemporary Christians have missed?

I am reminded of a story about two woodsmen. One day one woodsman challenged another to an all-day tree chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The challangee had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other man had chopped substantially more wood than he had. I don’t get it exclaimed the challenger, every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more than I did. The challenge said “Yes, but what you didn’t notice was that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.

Rest is not only vital to our spiritual lives; it is imperative if we are to be effective. Christ understood this principle and made it a point to get away both with His disciples and by Himself from time to time in order to rest and rejuvenate. It was Jesus way of “recharging” His spiritual, physical and emotional batteries. In doing so, He set an example for you and I to follow. 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.

According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.

Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.” The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” People are also like that. That’s why we all need to take time to rest. In today’s Scripture, Jesus prescribed time off for His wearied disciples after they had returned from a prolonged period of ministry. And in the Old Testament, God set a pattern for us when He “rested from all His work” (Gen. 2:3). Shouldn’t we take His example seriously? Start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. You will be at your best for the Lord if you have taken time to loosen the bow.

Interesting isn’t it? Not only did Jesus set an example of rest for us, but God the Father did as well.

So, the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. [2] On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. [3] And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3

In the Old Testament, the idea of rest was tied up in the divine concept of Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13-14 we read: "Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. [14] Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.

Observance of the Sabbath day was a top priority from God’s perspective. In fact, obedience to this commandment was so important that the death penalty was prescribed for any who disobeyed. The question is, why was the Sabbath given such significance? A careful study of this topic would take weeks, but for our purpose, the answer is, Worship takes time.

Think of how successful Satan has been in hindering the worship of Christians in 21st century America. We are workaholics, and, in addition, worn out by the time demands of our day. It is no wonder that the quality of our worship is so shoddy. We must have free time to worship, and we must plan our week so that we finish early enough to have that free time. As the song says Take Time to Be Holy.

Yet we live in a day when everything is supposed to be done quickly and efficiently. We eat fast foods, drive in the fast lane. And thus, when we come to church, we want our worship pre-digested, pre-planned, and quickly served up so we can get on to other (better?) things. God tries to save us from those time eaters which cause us to abbreviate our worship.”

Ok, so now let’s be really honest here. I want to see hands, I’m not going to call you out or embarrass you or scold you, but let’s just be honest here with our family our friends and our God. How many of you are actually sitting in your seat right now thinking about what you’re going to do after church? Or how many of you are just somewhere else this morning instead of focusing on worshipping the One Who died to save our souls? I know what it’s like to feel like that I’ve been in your place. I’ve spent countless Sunday mornings in the pew struggling to keep my mind focused on worship. The truth is, I HATE the fact that I struggled with this issue! I resent all the distractions in my life and how hard they made it for me to clear my mind and focus on Jesus Christ. This is precisely why we have to take time to be holy; and consequently, take time to worship.

In any case, we find that the concept of rest in the Old Testament tied up in the observance of the Sabbath. Sabbath rest was required by God in order for His people to constantly remember Who rescued them from Egypt and Who it was that provided for them as they wandered the deserts for forty years. In other words, the Sabbath was given in order for Israel to rest, and in that rest, worship their God and Savior.

Thousands of years pass and along comes the Age of Grace or the Church Age in which we now live. In this awesome day and age, we have the privilege of connecting with God through the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Law, Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the embodiment of the Sabbath, the fulfillment of the Sabbath because in Christ we have found our rest! I want you to listen to these three aspects of rest that we have in Christ:

First, we have Redemption rest, secured in Christ. Zephaniah. 3:17 says: “The Lord your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love”. What a wonderful promise of peace or calmness which was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ! He will rejoice, he will renew you in his love. He is saying he wants you to rest.

Second, we receive the sinner’s rest, when we receive Salvation through faith in Christ, listen to what it says in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you that are wary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. What a magnificent blessing we receive when Christ becomes our Savior! All of those heavy, discouraging burdens are lifted from our shoulder’s by Jesus when we fall at His feet and receive His love, because of that he gives us rest.

Finally, we have the saint’s rest, in communion with Christ. In Mark 6:30-31 it says: The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat”.

As we serve God, our communion with Christ provides us the necessary rest required to continue our service. Even today Jesus is saying to you and I, “Come on Pam (insert other names), get away from the demands of ministry for a while and rest.” Which brings us full circle to the main point of this morning’s message, we all need to learn to rest more efficiently.

Do you know what a Chinese Pictograph is? They are Chinese characters that are actually drawn from just looking at the world. The Chinese pictograph for ’busy’ is composed of two characters: the character for heart, and the character for killing. Think about that when we don’t rest, when we don’t take time to worship when we run around and never have a moment to take time to be holy, we are slowly killing our heart.

In his book, SABBATH: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Wayne Mueller writes: “Sabbath is more than just a day to catch up on television and errands. Rather it is time when we take our hand from the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight”. Mueller continues, “Sabbath also gives me more heart to go on. In Sabbath time we remember to celebrate what is beautiful and sacred; we light candles, sing songs, tell stories, eat and nap. We become available to the insights and blessings of deep mindfulness that arise only in stillness and time. When we act from a place of deep rest, we are more capable of cultivating right understanding, right action and right effort”.

It seems like such an obvious thing and yet we human beings constantly underestimate our need for rest. The truth is, no one is capable of experiencing the most important and necessary kind of rest there is: Soul Rest apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Oh, it’s true that we can slow down, calm down and even shut down. But, apart from the redemptive work of Christ, no one can experience Soul Rest, that rest that we receive when we are finally able to lay our very lives down along with all the stress, worry, fear, terror, misery and pain.

George MacDonald in Discovering the Character of God:

When, with all thy loved around thee,

Still, thy heart says, "I am lonely."

It is well; the truth has found thee:

Rest is with the Father only.

We need rest just as we need air, water and food to survive. The fact is, when we fail to rest fully and deeply, we not only hurt ourselves, we run the risk of hurting others. Physical rest is every bit as important as emotional and spiritual and let us not underplay this reality.

In The Twenty Four Hour Society, Martin Moore-Ede says:

“Our most notorious industrial accidents in past years are—Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, the fatal navigational error of Korean Air Lines 007—all occurred in the middle of the night. When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian A300 airbus killing all 290 people aboard, fatigue-stressed operators in the high-tech Combat Information Center on the carrier misinterpreted radar data and repeatedly told their captain the jet was descending as if to attack when in fact the airliner remained on a normal flight path. In the Challenger space shuttle disaster, key NASA officials made the ill-fated decision to go ahead with the launch after working twenty hours straight and getting only two to three hours of sleep the night before. Their error in judgment cost the lives of seven astronauts and nearly killed the U.S. space program. We ignore our need for rest and renewal at the peril of others and ourselves.

As we close this morning, I want to encourage each individual here to learn the discipline of rest. God designed us to need rest at every level of life, from physical to emotional to spiritual. We all need to seek solitude and peace on a regular basis. And may we, in our times of rest and solitude, open our hearts to the ministry of the Holy Spirit as God tills the soil of our souls in order to make us better able to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Learn to slow down. Learn to “smell the roses” as it were. Life goes by too fast and none of us knows when our life will end.

I want to tell you a story about a basset hound named Tattoo. This happened in Tacoma, Washington. Tattoo didn’t intent to go for an evening run, but his owner accidently shut the dog’s leash in the car door as he was handing the dog off and took off with Tattoo hooked to the outside of the vehicle. A motorcycle office noticed a passing vehicle with something that appeared to be dragging behind it. As he passed the vehicle, he saw the object was a basset hound on a leash. The officer said Tattoo was picking his feet up and putting them down as fast as could. The officer chased the car to a stop and Tattoo was rescued, but not before the dog reached a speed of twenty-five miles per hour and rolled over several times. The dog was fine, but I’m quite sue didn’t ask to go out for any evening walks for a while.

There are too many of us whose days are marked by "picking up our feet and putting them down as fast as we can. We must ruthlessly try to eliminate the hurry from our lives.

Poor Tattoo. I can just see those little legs going as fast as they can. Today you need to go home, have lunch, sit back in a comfortable chair or sofa and just relax. Tune out all the distractions and talk to God for a while. Just let Him know how you feel and listen for God to respond. Then spend the rest of your day loving on your kids or your spouse or give a family member a call and tell them how much they mean to you. Go outside and enjoy this beautiful weather that the Lord has sent our way.

Rest and let your soul be rejuvenated and May your spirit echo the words of King David when he declared:

“Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you”.
- Psalm 116:7


‒ Pastor Pam