The Power and Need of Rest

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Rest. It’s needed. It’s very much needed. But how often do we truly rest? Honestly, not enough. To many of us in North America, to rest is to be lazy. We have the saying “Don’t just sit there, do something.” And we use it with gusto to those who are sitting and not working as we so think they should.

In so many ways we are a go-go-go society. Kids have practice for sports, music, plays, or all three. There is always something going on. And then you have church stuff too. Midweek Bible studies, youth group, service projects, church work days. And if you’re an elder or deacon or a leader in whatever capacity at church, you’re even busier than that. On top of it all, you have to make a living somehow. If you’re married and both have two jobs, you’re all over the place. If you’re a single parent, then you’re twice as busy. And if you’re a couple with only one working parent it gets rough, too. The house needs cleaning. The clothes need washing. Dinner needs to be cooked. The lawn needs to be mowed (something I keep not doing). Repairs around the house need to happen. It’s go-go-go. Phew. It makes me tired just typing about it.

But we can’t rest.

Nope.

That’d be seen as lazy.

We work. We work hard. We work hard for our families, we work hard for our church. And when we think about it, we even try to work hard for God.

Stop it.

Don’t just do something, sit there. You were made for rest. You were made to be in the presence of God Himself. In all of making creation, six days God worked to make the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and then on the seventh He rested. In the Ten Commandments, there is a commandment to rest. It’s there not to be legalistic (you know, like a not-riding-bikes-or-going-out-to-eat-or-washing-your-car-on-a-Sunday-because-that’s-just-what-we-do type of thing) but it’s there for us to do in order to rest in God and trust in Him.

Yet we don’t pick a day to rest. We don’t pick a day to just stop and not do anything. The Sabbath rest was a day set aside to focus on God, His goodness, and His provision. And we don’t even do that.

This is why I love the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Here we have the scene—Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, God in the flesh, the Messiah, in Martha’s living room. What good, self-respecting Christian wouldn’t want to make sure that everything was perfect? Martha’s all over the place trying to make sure all is perfect for Jesus’ visit. And she’s working hard for Jesus cause that’s what 'ya do. In the midst of it all, there’s Mary, sweet Mary, just sitting at Jesus’ feet listening away to him teach, not doing her job and duty as a good hostess and helping Martha. So not cool.

And then what Martha does always gets me. She becomes the ultimate control freak and tells Jesus what He should do in regards to what Mary should be doing. She is sitting on her lazy tuckus not working and being a good follower of Jesus by making sure the work’s being done. Nope. She’s just sitting there. She tells Jesus to make her sister work, to not just sit there but do something.

Yet Jesus tells Martha “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Dude. Ouch. Truth.

We don’t want to rest because we don’t want to seem lazy. We don’t want others to rest because we don’t like toeing the line and doing all the work. And so we work and don’t rest, even when trying to follow Jesus. When I teach or preach this passage, I always get the following: “Well, if we all were 'Marys' nothing would ever get done.” Nope. That’s wrong. Not getting it at all.

Rest.

I tell people to make a “To-Not to do” list. Make a list of things that really don’t have to get done. Make a list of things that get in the way of truly resting and sitting at Jesus’ feet, being in His presence and enjoying Him. Make a list of things that won’t explode if you didn’t exist for 10 minutes. And then, get this, don’t do them. Yep. Just don’t do them. Let them be. The world will still turn. Meanwhile, sit at Jesus’ feet and just be. Rest in Jesus’ presence. Take time to rest, and you’ll see a world of difference in your life.

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Community Builder

Great blog, Josh! Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and the great suggestion at the end) on this important topic.

Community Builder

Amen! Thank you for just tellin' it like it is. You'd think Christians would get this better than non-Christians because we believe in a God who created and then rested. But instead, it seems like our love for the Lord and ministry makes us work even harder!