The beginning of a school year is anything but restful. We are all scurrying around to get to class on time, make lunches, developing lesson plans, and preparing for meetings. How do we find rest when we are exhausted? How is it that some people find contentment in the chaos? How is it that one person with terminal cancer can be at peace, while a famous millionaire in the prime of her life and career be so miserable to take her own life?
We see “rest” in different places in the Bible. We first see “rest” in the Creation account. God created all things out of nothing, but out of his love. Using words he speaks things into existence. He says it and it is so. Then he rests from his labors. But, God doesn’t get tired, his rest isn’t about fatigue, but rather enjoyment. He stops and enjoys what he has sung into existence. So, rest is about joy.
But God also tells us to set aside a day per week to rest. He calls us to a Sabbath rest. There is an aspect of this rest that is about taking a physical break. God knows we will get tired, so he periodically calls us to take a break. But there is so much more to Sabbath rest than taking a physical break.
To understand the true meaning of Sabbath rest, we need to ask, “Why is taking this break so difficult?” Because if we would only work more and work harder than we would get more of the things we want. It quickly pushes into trust and contentment issues doesn’t it? If I find my contentment in the size of my house, the car I drive, the amount of savings I have then I will trust myself to get them and work harder and harder. But, if I am trusting the Lord for my happiness, then I will work diligently when he tells me to work diligently then stop when he tells me to stop.
I don’t want us to get hung up on legalism. Don’t hear me saying that it is a sin to work on Sundays. My most frantic day is Sunday! I recognize that many of you have jobs that require you to work on Sundays. What I want you to see is that God’s ideal for rest includes a trust component. When God talks about “rest” he is talking about enjoyment. He is also talking about taking a break, but to take that break we have to be willing to trust him over ourselves.
But rest also includes a contentment and happiness component. Exodus 16:23 says that on the Sabbath they were to put down their work tools and the day was to be “to the Lord.” Their focus was to be on God. They were to devote a day to worship. Happiness is the point of this rest. God wants you to experience true rest, he wants you to experience happiness, he wants you to find contentment…so he calls us to worship him and be with him!
Biblical rest is less about muscle fatigue and more about soul fatigue. It is about ultimate things. It is talking about those things that stir our hearts. It is talking about peace and contentment and happiness. It is ultimately about worship.
Rest then can simply be defined as “closeness to Jesus.” Dwelling with Jesus is where we will find our rest. It is being in the presence of Jesus thus experiencing all this beauty and thus finding ultimate happiness and rest. It is setting our thoughts and mind upon him and finding him lovely and glorious. It is being energized by Jesus not the trinkets of this world. It is finding life in Jesus, not his worldly pleasures.
Dwelling with Jesus is where we find our ultimate rest. When we are close to God we find rest and contentment and happiness and joy. Jesus is where we find our rest.