Labor Day is a great time of year; a reminder that summer is nearing an end. It is one last holiday before the change of the season. Hopefully the summer has afforded you and your family some time away. That’s necessary. Labor Day means a time to rest from your labors. Labor Day weekend reminds us that work is a necessary element of our lives, balanced with rest and worship, part of the necessary balance that makes us productive.
What is rest? Definition of the verb is “to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” There are two types of rest.
It is interesting that rest is a divine idea. God advocates personal refreshment and gave us the Sabbath for that purpose. In God’s moral law, what we know as the “Ten Commandments,” He instructed the Israelites after they left Egypt: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. …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.”
Christians see their Sabbath as Sunday, because Jesus arose from the dead on that day and it is most appropriate to worship Him then.
We must recover the rhythm between work and rest. The point is to not get overextended in one or the other, as you live your life for Christ. Some of us do not see work as a privilege. Others see it as a necessity, but dread it, especially if you’re unhappy at your job.
Your mind and ability are gifts. It is God’s will that you use them to provide a means of income to care for yourself and others. But your purpose is not confined to your work or else we might be tempted to feel that upon retirement we’ve lost our purpose. No, your purpose in life is not confined to your work. Your purpose in life is to glorify God. If you happen to be retired, you now have the opportunity to love, support, mentor and pray for others. You have plenty of time and opportunity to glorify God and invest in the lives of others.
But today, I’d like to focus on the idea of rest. Jesus spoke of rest, but of a different type than is commonly assumed.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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 shall find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
There is physical rest that comes from getting sleep; doing little, taking care of your body.
There is mental rest that comes from stepping away from a project to recharge. I took a study course after a poor semester in college. Professor Claude C. Olney’s “Where There’s a Will, There’s an A,” taught me that every hour it is good to step away for five to ten minutes to stretch, get a drink, etc.
But then there is spiritual rest. Jesus called it “rest for your soul.” The Greek means “relief, ceasing, or stopping.” Jesus was talking to those who felt the burden of religious legalism being imposed on them by the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46). He was also speaking to those who were living under the oppression of Roman rule. He may have also been speaking to those living under circumstances that were beyond their control.
Jesus offers rest from all of these; a different type of rest than commonly assumed. The rest that Jesus spoke of comes from knowing God and walking with Him; having the joy of your sins forgiven. Having peace that “surpasses all understanding” as Paul wrote about from a Roman jail cell in Philippians 4:7.
How does one get that rest? Some go through life avoiding the spiritual rest that is Christ invites us to. Today, let’s look at some obstacles to such rest.
One obstacle to spiritual rest is unconfessed sin. Sin has a burdening effect upon the spirit. David, when he did not confess his sin to the Lord, he was burdened. He said in Psalm 32: 3: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The Lord wants us to walk in the freedom that only He can give.
Maybe you are one that doesn’t think about your sins too much. Maybe you should. Then there are those of you who beat yourself up. Or you think you can fix it by doing better next time. But confession is agreeing with the Holy Spirit. 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” He alone can cleanse you from the guilt and power of sin.
Another obstacle to spiritual rest is when we set our minds and hearts on those things that are not of God; This is when we chase after things, people or identifies that God would not have for you can weary you. Numbers 15:39: “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.” Sometimes our goals are wrong; we want things that are not good for us. The Bible calls this idolatry; anything that we place before God. Spiritual rest is only achieved by being content with who God is and what He has given you.
The opposite of idolatry is trusting in God. Isaiah 40:31: “…those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”
Prayer is trust in action. Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Other times we forfeit peace and rest because we fail to trust God. As the old hymn goes: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
A third obstacle to spiritual rest is disobedience; living your way instead of God’s way. It is interesting that when Jesus spoke of “finding rest for your souls,” He could have been referencing Jeremiah 6:16: “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.'” But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ When we spurn God’s way, we invite destruction in our lives.
If we really love God, then we will follow Him and consider it a joy. 1 John 5:3: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Following the Lord and obeying Him can afford us the peace that often evades us.
But the biggest reason there is no spiritual rest in your life could be that you do not know Christ. You’ve never made that decision; taken that step to place your trust in Him; to repent of your sin and follow Him. There is a rest that only God can give. It starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ. There are really two ways to live. Matthias Media has published a simple explanation of the gospel called “Two Ways to Live.” It says:
“The message at the heart of Christianity is really quite simple- simple enough to be outlined in a few pages. It is a message from the Bible about God and His Son, Jesus. It is about life and death, and the choice that we all face. And it all starts with a loving creator God.
God is the loving ruler of the world. God made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. But is that the way it is now?
No, we all reject the ruler- God- by trying to run life our own way without Him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. The Scripture says: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) What will God do about this rebellion?
God won’t let us rebel forever. God’s punishment for rebellion is death and judgment. God’s justice sounds hard. But because of His love, God sent His Son into the world: the man Jesus Christ. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. Yet by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness. 1 Peter 3:18 says: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” But that’s not all…
God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world. Jesus has conquered death, now gives new life, and will return to judge.
So that leaves us with two ways to live. There is our way, to reject the ruler- God and to try to run life our own way. The result of which means being condemned by God and will eventually face death and judgment.
Or God’s new way, which means to submit to Jesus as our ruler; to rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The result is being forgiven by God and given eternal life.”
You must ask Christ to come into your life to rule, remake and reform you. It can never be assumed. Faith is you reaching out for God and accepting Jesus’ invitation to soul rest.
Only Jesus offers spiritual rest; rest for your soul. But it means coming to Him and asking Him for it; while submitting your life to Him. And if you have that peace, you can carry it with you in any circumstance and face any challenge.
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley was burned at the stake because of his witness for Christ. On the night before Ridley’s execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need. So can we!
So, we must decide to approach life God’s way. If you’ve never known that peace, I invite you to pray in your heart with me.
“Lord Jesus, I need you. I know that I have made sinful choices and gone against your will. I also know that your death on the cross paid for my sin debt in full. Please forgive me. Please come into my life and change me. Reign upon the throne of my heart. I go from my way of living to your way of living. Make me into the person that you want me to be. In Jesus name, Amen.