Make Your Rest Count!

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Various Scriptures

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Lord, Make My Life Count.” We are looking at a series of topics that represent huge blocks of our lives. You are only given one life to live, and you want to make sure that you make your life count. Last week we looked at “Make Your Work Count!” This week we are looking at Make Your Rest Count. (Read Genesis 2:1-3 and pray.)

When was the last time you felt completely rested? Someone asked me earlier this week how I was doing and I told them, “I am working hard on a sermon on rest.” Now that might sound like a contradiction at first, but in reality it is not. Work and rest – the two go together. They go together in the Bible, one following the other in Genesis chapters one and two. And they go together in life. You need a strong work ethic before you can develop a strong rest ethic.

We hear a lot about work these days, but not as much about rest. It’s been said that: “We have become a generation of people who worship our work, who work at our play, and who play at our worship.” Chuck Swindoll (Strengthening Your Grip quoting Gordon Dahl) These are each vital parts of our lives, and it is essential that we get them right.

There are many of us who work hard but have never really learned how to rest. So today I want us to look at what the Bible says about leisure and rest. God does not call you to work yourself to the point of exhaustion. Rather he calls you to live a life of balance. My prayer is that as we look at these scriptures today, God will give you a greater understanding of the balance between work and rest in life, and you will find the freedom to find rest, true rest, in the midst of your regular routines. So let’s see what God’s Word has to say about making your rest count.

I. We rest because God designed us to rest

First of all, we rest because God designed us to rest.

   A. God rested after creation (Genesis 2:2-3; Isaiah 40:28)

We read in Genesis 2 that God rested after creation: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3)

Now God did not need to stop working. It’s not like he had run out of ideas. God is infinitely creative. And he was certainly not tired. Isaiah 40 says: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isaiah 40:28) So why did God rest?

   B. God gave us the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:27)

God rested because he was setting a pattern for you and me. God rested after creation, and then God gave us the Sabbath. We read in Exodus 20:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

This is the fourth commandment in the Ten Commandments. We don’t have time this morning to explore all the particulars of this commandment, how it applied to Israel in the Old Testament and how it applies to us today. This morning I just want you to see that God bases our rest on his rest. God didn’t need to rest, but we do. We are not meant to keep going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We rest because God designed us to rest.

The Sabbath is God’s gift to us. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) God gives us one day a week when we cease from work in order to rest and to worship Him. But the idea of Sabbath included much more than just the daily rest once a week. There were also special Sabbath days and even Sabbath years when the land was left unplowed and unused. (Exodus 23:10-11)

Sabbath simply means to cease from work. God draws a boundary line between work and rest. At creation when God drew boundary lines between night and day, earth and sky, land and water, he also drew this boundary between work and rest.

   C. Jesus needed rest (Mark 4:38; John 4:6)

When we turn to the New Testament, we find that Jesus needed rest. Jesus did not work full-steam all the time, but he took time to rest. We read in Mark 4 about Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat. (Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38) And in John 4 we read when Jesus was traveling through Samaria how he grew tired from his journey and sat down by the well. (“Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” John 4:6) Jesus often got away from the crowds and spent time by himself and with his heavenly Father. If Jesus needed rest, how much more do we!

   D. Jesus’ disciples needed rest (Mark 6:30-31)

Not only Jesus needed rest; Jesus’ disciples needed rest, too. We read in Mark 6: The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 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.” (Mark 6:30-31)

There is a time for work and a time for play. God rested after creation, and then God gave us the Sabbath because we need to rest. We need a good night’s sleep each day, we need one day of rest each week, we need mini-breaks during the day, and we need occasional longer breaks to refuel and recharge. Do you want to make your rest count? Then work hard when you work, and rest well when you rest. Don’t worship your work, or work at your play. We rest first of all because God designed us to rest.

II. We rest to enjoy God’s good gifts (1 Timothy 4:4-5, 6:17)

Secondly, we rest to enjoy God’s good gifts. The Bible tells us that everything God created is good. We read in 1 Timothy 4: “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5) God created a rich world for us with many good things to enjoy. Too often we think of our rest time simply in terms of entertainment, but we find many forms of leisure and rest in the Bible. We find sleeping, eating and drinking, family, mealtimes, feasts and hospitality. We find cultural pursuits such as music, arts, writing and dance. We find physical recreation, gardening, enjoyment of nature, education, literature, and even children’s games and play.

We don’t have time to go through this whole list this morning, so let me highlight just a few of the things from this list.

   A. Enjoy food, family and friends (Eccl. 3:13, 9:7-9; Nehemiah 8:10)

First of all, enjoy food, family and friends. We read in Ecclesiastes 3: “That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13) Food and drink are good gifts that God wants you to enjoy.

We read in Ecclesiastes 9: “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9)

Now don’t get distracted too much by the “meaningless life” part of that verse! Ecclesiastes is a book that teaches us the ultimate meaninglessness of life apart from God. But even within that very depressing context, it still teaches us that God’s gifts can be enjoyed. How much more may we enjoy God’s gifts when we worship him, when we do all things to his glory, when we acknowledge the Giver and thank him for his good gifts.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Food, family and friends are some of God’s greatest gifts to us. So take the time to enjoy them. When you eat, slow down and enjoy. Use all your senses. Use your eyes and appreciate the colors. Use your nose and enjoy the amazing smells that God has built in to your food. Use your taste buds, and take the time to really savor the taste of your food and not just gulp it all down. And when you are with family or friends, be fully engaged. Disconnect from work and social media and the internet. Turn off the smart phones, and be present with each other. Make your rest count. Enjoy food, family and friends.

   B. Enjoy the blessing of play (Zechariah 8:5)

Next, enjoy the blessing of play. Did you know the Bible talks about children’s games? When Zechariah describes God’s blessing on the land, he declares that: “The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” (Zechariah 8:5) Children spend more time playing than working, and adults spend more time working than playing. But that doesn’t mean play is not important. It’s good to kick back and play a game of cards or Scrabble or just play with the kids or grandkids. These are good gifts that God wants you to enjoy.

   C. Value physical recreation (1 Timothy 4:8)

Enjoy food, family and friends. Enjoy the blessing of play. And thirdly, value physical recreation. Paul writes to Timothy: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8) I like this verse because it keeps physical recreation and fitness in perspective. Yes, we should be good stewards of our bodies, which means keeping a balance of work, rest, nutrition, exercise and play. Physical training has value. But we should not let physical fitness crowd out other important areas of our life. We live in a day and age where some people almost worship physical fitness. It seems we are all on this quest for the perfect body, but the Bible says that is not where our priorities should lie. If you are spending more time on your physical fitness than your spiritual fitness, then something is wrong. Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things. So value physical recreation, but keep it in perspective.

   D. Take time to laugh (Proverbs 17:22)

And then finally, take time to laugh. The book of Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) Take time to laugh with your family and friends. Enjoy a good comedy at the movies or on TV. We should feel free to laugh in church and in small groups.

1 Timothy 6 says that “God … richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17) God created this world for us to enjoy! So that’s a second reason why we rest. We rest to enjoy God’s good gifts.

III. We rest because we trust God

We rest because God designed us to rest. We rest to enjoy God’s good gifts. And thirdly, we rest because we trust God.

   A. We trust God’s provision (Psalm 23:1-3, 127:2; Matt. 6:25)

There are three areas in particular where we rest because we trust God. First of all, we rest because we trust God’s provision. Psalm 23 says: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3) The Lord is your Shepherd. He will take care of all your needs. When you trust Jesus as your shepherd, he leads you beside the quiet waters. He restores your soul, and he gives you rest.

Some of us don’t get enough rest because we don’t trust God’s provision. We start early and we work late because we don’t believe that God will take care of us. Psalm 127 says, “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm 127:2) Yes, we are to work hard to provide for our families. There are times when we need to work very hard, sometimes holding down more than one job. And yet, at some point we need to stop and ask, “God, is this really what you want me to do, or do I need to slow down and trust?”

Jesus says to you, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)

God doesn’t want you working 24/7, and you don’t need to work 24/7. Work hard, but take time for rest. We rest because we trust God’s provision.

   B. We trust God’s protection (Psalm 4:8; Proverbs 3:24)

We rest also because we trust God’s protection. David says in Psalm 4: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Some of us don’t sleep well at night because we are worried and distracted about so many things. Once again, we need to learn to trust God. Sleep is a reminder that you can’t do it all, that the world will go on just fine without you for the next eight hours, and that God is the one who is ultimately in charge. When you trust God, you will sleep sp much better. Proverbs 3 says, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24)

   C. We trust God’s salvation (Matt. 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:9-10)

We rest because we trust God’s provision. We rest because we trust God’s protection. And finally, we rest because we trust God’s salvation. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

We will talk more about this next week when we talk about making your faith count. But for now just realize that you cannot work for your salvation. When Jesus spoke these words in Matthew, he was speaking to people who were burdened by the many demands of the law, and he offered them grace and rest instead.

Hebrews 4 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10) And so God applies the Sabbath principle not only to the physical work we do in the world, but also to the spiritual works that so many of us depend on for our salvation.

There are no works you can do for your salvation. Jesus already did all the work at the cross. And then he rested. When you enter God’s rest through faith in Christ, you rest from your work, just as God did from his.

CONCLUSION: So make your work count. But also make your rest count. Jesus is the perfect example here. He worked, and he rested, and he still accomplished everything the Father sent him to do.

Your work is important, but be careful you don’t try to find your identity in your work. Find your identity in the Lord. Proverbs 19 says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” (Proverbs 19:23)

The prophet Jeremiah writes: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

God’s word shows us the good way that we may walk in it. The Bible gives us the direction we need to balance work with rest. We rest because God designed us to rest. We rest to enjoy God’s good gifts. We rest because we trust God.

© Ray Fowler

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