Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” There are not only reminders, but also plenty of commandments to take rest from work. There are studies that show that the most productive countries in the world are countries where vacation days are mandated.
In the beginning of creation God rested: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 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 2:1-3).
Coming up in August we will talk a lot more about the importance of rest. God in the workplace also means we find God in rest. And we rest in God. God created rest and God Himself rested. It’s vital to take time each day to rest and be renewed. Life can be difficult and unnerving. We are better people when we rest. We are less irritable, less stressed, more productive, and much better connected to God.
Everyone who has ever read the Bible at all is familiar with the creation narrative. On day seven God rested from His work and called the day holy: “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” (Genesis 2:3 ESV). Hebrews echoes the holiness of resting with God: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9, 10).
Jesus, of course, invites people to enter into his protective rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). There is ample evidence that rest is not only beneficial for our walk with God, but it is actually commanded.
God designed us to rest from our work. When we do, there is a clear link to peace. Over and over again the scriptures tell us that we will find peace when we rest. Psalm 23 is a very clear example of this. A huge part of working on our relationship with God entails resting both with and in him.
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.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash