If you are like me everything after the middle of November is a blur with all the activity of getting ready for Thanksgiving. It didn’t matter if we were having friends and family over or if we were going to visit, it was still busy. Then there was all the activity of December. Projects for those less fortunate, shopping for gifts, all the Christmas parties, the church activities, the shopping for Christmas dinner, cooking dinner, going out for dinner, WHEW! Then comes New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with all the football games, the cooking, the New Year’s Eve services, the “Watch Night” Services, WHEW again!!.
On January 2nd we needed to take a breath. Those of us who are retired or able to take off some time from work did just that. We were able to take some time to relax and breathe.
As we start a new year we set our New Year’s resolutions and think about our goals, hopes, and wishes for the year ahead. The hectic pace of the last two months caused me to take a hard look at the toll the breakneck pace affects the intimacy of our relationship with God. I know that I’m not alone when I say that when we are constantly on the move we don’t take stop and spend time with God so that we can experience the beauty of His love.
In a book study of Overwhelmed: Winning The War Against Worry, that I led a couple of years ago, the author, Perry Noble, said that he heard someone say once “If I were the devil, I would invent a device you could hold in your hands that would ensure you’d always have your schedule in front of you and give people access to you anytime they wanted”. “The devil doesn’t want to make you bad; he wants to make you busy. Because if he can make you busy, then eventually he can make you bad.”
It doesn’t matter if all those things that you are doing non-stop is ministry, and you are “Working for the Lord”. It’s amazing how many God loving pastors, preachers, apostles, evangelists, and teachers, who have lost their families because they thought they were doing “the Lord’s work”. Here’s the typical excuse; “The devil never takes a day off so I can’t”. Well, I don’t think that the devil should be your example.
When we are always running from one appointment to the next, one project to the next, one deadline after another, never taking the time to stop, rest and reflect we are heading for a crash.
God doesn’t want you to crash so He commands us to rest. Yes that’s right, He commanded us to rest.
Of the Ten Commandments the one that God spent the most time explaining was the one to rest.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV)8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Shabbat is the original Hebrew word for our English word sabbath and means “to cease, to end, to rest.”
The Bible calls those who will not work lazy,
Proverbs 6:6-11 (NKJV)6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler,8 Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest.9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?10 A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep--
11 So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, And your need like an armed man.
And that those who don’t work shouldn’t eat,
2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NKJV)10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
But the Bible says that those who will not rest are disobedient .
Exodus 31:14 (NKJV) You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
Deuteronomy 5:12 (NKJV)12 'Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.
Here’s something that I read a couple of years ago in a blog post by guy named Steve Graves about the balance between work and rest. It’s an excerpt from Work Hard Rest Hard.
I believe we are all designed to have a balanced rhythm of work and rest. Here are ten insights that have helped me recapture and maintain that sense of balance in my life’s journey. They’re not rocket science, but I’ve found their simplicity and clarity helpful:
- Although the particulars of our jobs may vary, balance in work and rest is universally crucial to a life of flourishing.
- Rest requires that we stop working for some length of time.
- To stop working means I need to pull over, shut down, and turn things off. There is an explicit action to stopping.
- A hobby is an important structure to help with the balance of work and rest.
- My job cannot be my hobby.
- Work can become an addiction. And we usually need help beating addictions.
- The concept of Sabbath and the Year of Jubilee are biblical examples of weekly and seasonal resting. These must be scheduled into our system if they are ever going to happen.
- If my work is not filtered correctly on the front side, it will never be manageable on the backside.
- Hard work helps me rest. Good rest helps me work hard.
- What the fool does in the end, the wise man does in the beginning. Build rest into the rhythm of your life, before you get to a place in your life and work where you HAVE to take a rest.
Create A God-Space And Recharge
I led another study based on the book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey. In that study I learned of how to create a God-space. A God-space is a place where you shut out all the noise, and it’s just you and God. It’s a space filled with God’s presence and nothing else. Your God-space can be anywhere and at anytime. It can be your bedroom, your bathroom, or your prayer closet. It can even be when you are walking down the street or surrounded by a group of people. You can shut them all out and still be aware of everything that’s going on around you. It takes practice to learn to create your personal God-space but when there it’s just you and God. I’m not talking about some New Age or Eastern religious mystic thing. I’m talking about being filled by the Holy Spirit. He does the recharging.
Ephesians 5:18-20 (NLT)18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In your God-space you can even “stop time”. I don’t mean that time actually stops. Here’s something else I learned in that study. The author Philip Yancey has a chapter section “Stopping Time”. In it Philip talks about a surgeon, Anthony Bloom, who after his conversion to Christianity, and many years as a surgeon, became a priest. He describes in his book “Beginning to Pray” , about a technique that he used for creating his God-space. He calls “stopping time”. The practice of stopping time gradually transformed Bloom’s life with God. He concentrated on living in the present, recognizing that the past is irremediably gone and the future is irrelevant, because who knows whether it will happen or not.
He started by just stopping everything that he was doing for short periods of time during the day. One minute, two minutes, five minutes, ten minutes. He just shut out everything. Just a short time of quietness. It could be in prayer or just being quiet. The first thing that he noticed, and we should take note of this ourselves, the world didn’t stop. His medical practice didn’t fall apart. For us whatever it is that is waiting to be done will wait. After these quiet times he was more efficient when he went back to the tasks at hand.
Anthony Bloom’s example is a good one but the best is the example of Jesus who often removed Himself from the hustle and bustle of ministry and took time to recharge.
Matthew 14:21-23 (NLT)21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home.23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.
Luke 5:15-16 (NLT)15 But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases.16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Luke 6:12 (NLT)12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
Last year I wrote “Take Time To Recharge”. In it there is a section “Finding Solitude” which is an excerpt from Pressing Pause a book by Ruth Schwenk. Ruth says even Jesus, God in the flesh, needed solitude, and that he knew and practiced discipline of solitude, a time to recharge.
Catch Your Breath
by Max Lucado, excerpted from Less Fret, More Faith
Rest is not lazy
Time for rest must be taken daily and weekly. God told Moses,
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. — Exodus 23:12 NIV
This was not a suggestion, recommendation, or piece of practical advice. This was a command. Rest! Once a week let the system reboot. Once a week let the entire household slow down. The Israelite who violated this law paid for the sin with his or her life. Today the death penalty is still in effect, but the death is a gradual one that comes from overwork, stress, and anxiety.
The Bible does not see rest as a sign of weakness or laziness but as a mark of reverence.
To observe a Sabbath day of rest is to announce, “God knows what I need more than I do. If He says to rest, I will rest.” And, as we do, our bodies and minds will be refreshed.
Never has rest been more important. We move at too fast a pace! Our adrenaline spigot is seldom shut off. As we race for late-night flights and add early-morning meetings, we are stretched beyond our limits. High adrenaline output depletes the brain’s natural tranquilizers and sets the stage for high anxiety. Many of us have been trained to associate relaxation with irresponsibility, so some rewiring is needed.
Don’t overdo it. Understand your limits. If you think you have no limits, then you have more than most people.
Once you have reached your limits, stop. Don’t work until you drop. Find a pace of life that works for you, and stick to it.
Maintain regular breaks during the day. Naps are biblical.
Give your mind a rest from technology. Turn off, unplug, detach from social media, news, and all the tech toys that deplete energy.
Learn to relax. To relax is to disengage and let go. An hour or daylong Sabbath is not the time to catch up with your work. It is a time to entrust your work to God. After all, He worked for six days and then rested. The world didn’t fall apart. It won’t for you either.
Verse for Reflection
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30
Pray It Through
Lord, Break me of the need to be busy pursuing a sense of self-worth. Make me secure in who you are and who you have made me to be, and as a result, teach me what it means to truly rest. In your holy name, amen.
Excerpted with permission from Less Fret, More Faith by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado