26 May 2018

The best sort of rest

There are times when we're dog-tired, and the thing to do is rest - to get horizontal and catch a few zeds! But that's not the best sort of rest. We find what the best sort of rest is in the Bible. It starts with God himself:

'By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.' Genesis 2:2:

This doesn't mean God took a nap. The word 'rest' here doesn't mean 'doing nothing'. It means 'he stopped doing one thing in order to do another'. In this case, God stopped the work of creation in order to enjoy what he had made.

This idea of 'rest' on the seventh day gets written into the pattern for all human life. We see it in the law that God gave to his people Israel after he had freed them from their Egyptian slave-drivers:

'Remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day it is a sabbath to the LORD your God...' Exodus 20:8

In other words, for one day a week, the best thing they could do was to stop doing the work that normally filled their days in order to spend a whole day with the LORD, enjoying Him.

To do this requires a right sense of priority. It's seeing that nothing and no-one is as important as the LORD; and that nothing is half as good as spending a day with Him. It means changing our week to fit around Him, rather than fitting Him in 'if we can' around our week. It may mean, for instance, arranging to meet our biological family on a Saturday, so we are free to meet our Christian brothers and sisters on Sunday (the day most Christians meet together).

It also requires trust. It's trusting that I don't need to work on that day for more money; and I don't need to do those jobs (DIY, laundry, gardening, shopping...) because the LORD has got my needs covered. 'Do not worry about these things...but seek first the kingdom of God, and all of these things will be given to you as well.' Matthew 6. It may mean not taking a job where I have to work on Sundays. If I have to work shifts, it may mean negotiating Sundays off, even if it means working an extra shift sometime else. It means planning not to do my homework on Sunday if I'm school-age.

All this is worship! Showing God our Father that He is more important to us, and we love Him more than anything else and anyone else. Setting aside one day a week was always God's will for us to enjoy quality time with him and his family. He hasn't changed. And because of Jesus Christ, this is no longer a law we have to keep, but it is a law that His Spirit has written in our hearts so that we want to do it. And when you get into the habit of spending a whole day devoted to Him, you find it becomes the highlight of your week (instead of an unwelcome fixture that gets in the way of your other plans). You find that it really is the best sort of rest.

"....if you call the sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day, and if you honour it by not going your own way or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD..." Isaiah 58:13.

Simon Smallwood
Pastor at St George's