Rest. God did it on the seventh day. The Sabbath was a day of rest for all the Israelites. In fact, it was mandated that nobody do any work on the sabbath. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to rest and pray. Rest is vital to be refreshed. In the US we average 6.8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is important. Rest is important. When we don’t take time to rest we burn out and our health suffers.
Philemon must have known this well because it was his love for the saints that compelled him to refresh their hearts: “I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the saints. . . For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 1:5, 7 ESV). Paul also says to Philemon: “Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ” (vs. 20).
This “refreshing” means to give rest to or to make to take rest after laboring. Apparently Philemon knew the value of his fellow saints and recognized that burned out Christians were of little use for the kingdom. As fellow Christians, our love for one another should compel us to refresh others. There are unlimited ways we can do this, but it’s vital that we all take time to rest from our labors so we can continue to the work of the church.
Jesus’ famous saying about rest is important: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon your, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV). One of the most important things about this is that Jesus’ rest is for those who labor. He is not giving people an excuse to be lazy. The Bible says plenty about people who are lazy and unwilling to work.
Rather, Jesus is providing shelter for those who labor. The word for rest means to “come up to” a moment of pause. There is a working or building up to a moment of rest. It’s not as if he is saying, “Keep loitering and I’ll let you take a siesta.” No, he is taking the yoke of labor upon his own neck so that the load is lighter. He’s not implying that the work will be removed.
Christians who labor have Christ beside them. He doesn’t want us to work ourselves to the point of exhaustion. He doesn’t want us to be useless to our families because we burned out along the way. That’s reckless labor. Nor does he want us to be lazy and fail to provide for others.
Jesus worked extremely hard serving people during his ministry. But he also rested a lot. At one point, a storm came upon the Sea of Galilee and, with waves battering the boat, the disciples had to wake a sleeping Jesus! He loved his sleep and often withdrew to be alone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with resting after a long day of work. In fact, Jesus insisted on it.
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