In today’s culture, few people actually take a day off to rest. The ones that actually do commit to resting are seen as oddballs. Many view taking a day to rest as being a waste of time and productivity. It is seen as counter-cultural to stop for a day.
One of the commitments I have made in my life is to take a day of rest each week to re-focus myself. For me, that day is Sunday. I spend my Sunday mornings going to church and then I spend the rest of the day resting and preparing for the coming week. I made this decision a couple of years ago when I created a spiritual growth plan for myself. It has been one of the toughest, yet most rewarding decisions of my life when I am able to keep the commitment. If you have a performer type of mentality, like I do, it may be extremely tough for you to rest. Still, you need to take care of yourself. You can actually make up for the down time you take to rest by having increased production when you are not resting. So, worrying about the lost time might be a moot point.
God created everything in 6 days and on the 7th day, He rested. Do you think this was an accident? God doesn’t need rest so why in the world would He take a whole day to rest. My thoughts are that it is because He was showing us how He wants us to live our lives. God wants us to work hard for 6 days and then rest one day. On that day of rest we are to keep our physical and mental exertion to a minimum. It is a day where we should try to shut out things from the outside world that influence us throughout the week and focus our attention on God. It is a day to give Him thanks and praise for all the wonderful things He does for us in our lives. It is a day to get refocused.
Since there are seven days in a week, I thought I would give you my seven reasons why you should take time to rest in your lives.
You have permission to rest
In the Old Testament, the Bible called the day of rest and focus a Sabbath. In the Jewish nation, it was the most defining practice for that day. It is what set them apart from everyone else. The Sabbath commandment was the longest of the ten commandments. The Bible gives us permission to rest. It was one of God’s commands for us to rest. God wants us to do it and in my book, if God wants us to do it, going so far as carving it into a stone tablet, we should probably try to do it.
Jesus brought the Sabbath into focus
Jesus was hammered by the people of his day for occasionally breaking the Sabbath laws, but He told the Jews they were missing the point. He said, “I didn’t come to break the law, but to fulfill it.” So, instead of making the Sabbath day a legalistic practice (which is what it had become for many of the Jews), we are called instead to focus on the real reason for the Sabbath- to focus on God. It’s ok to do something on the Sabbath as long as by doing it, you are serving God.
The early church helped set the stage for us
For Christians, this one day of the week became Sunday during the first centuries of the church. It was a day for honoring God. Ignatius, one of the church fathers spoke of early Christians as “no longer observing Sabbath, but living in observance of the Lord’s Day.” in his letter to the Magnesians. It became a day not just for rest, but for spiritual focus.
It reminds us that we are not in charge
A day of focus on God reminds us that we are ultimately not in control, even though we often believe otherwise. When we force ourselves to be still to contemplate and honor God, we are sort of put back in our right state. A great way to do this is to attend church and focus on God with a group of believers. I know that this has worked great for me. I have found that when I do have to miss church due to life circumstances, I feel off-center the following week and not quite myself.
I do want to say that if you choose to not go to church that it does not mean that you are not a Christian or that you don’t believe in God. It is important to focus on God on this day so there are definitely other ways you can do that other than attending church. You could get somewhere quiet and pray. You could spend some time reading and reflecting on the bible. You could go on a walk alone and talk to God. You could watch a church service on TV or online. You could listen to a CD of a sermon. There are many ways you can honor God other than just going to church.
It reminds us that God is the provider
During the ancient exodus from Egypt, Jews were commanded to gather twice as much food on the day before the Sabbath, so that they could rest on the day that was set aside for Him. It instilled a huge trust in God. Today, when we stop and reflect, we are reminded that He is the ultimate provider, not us.
It reminds us that we are set aside for God, to be different
When we take a day all the way off, our minds are rested and focused again on God. Our bodies are rested and renewed. Our bodies will break down if we push them too hard and do not take the time to rest them. We are reminded that we are to be different from the rest of the world. We are reminded again to change the world.
Even creation rests
In biblical times, Israelites were commanded to let the land rest (fallow) every seven years so that the soil could be replenished. This ancient practice set the stage for much of the modern crop rotations that are still around today. We are no different from the soil when it comes to testing. Without a weekly day of rest and re-focus, we become like stressed soil: depleted of the nutrients and health that yield a productive life. If all of creation needs rest, why wouldn’t you?
So what do you do on a day of re-focus and rest? Do you have a day set aside for rest? If not, I would like to challenge you to try to set aside one. It does not have to be Sunday, but resting is very important for many reasons.