Good Work Requires Good Rest

Welcome to the first day of Embracing God’s Rest, a 5-week study that looks at the good gift of rest given to us by our good Heavenly Father in order to refresh us to do His good work. In this study, you will hear the word sabbath quite a bit, and it will be used in two ways. In the Bible, as well as Jewish culture today, the Sabbath is practiced as a 24-hour period beginning at sunset on Friday and ending when three stars can be seen Saturday evening. In modern Christianity, the Sabbath, or day of rest, is generally practiced on Sunday. In our study, we will be referencing the Sabbath in this way, as a 24-hour period of rest, but we will also use the word sabbath to describe a general condition of rest, or ceasing from work. The Sabbath is a day as well as a posture, or state of being. I can nap on the Sabbath, and napping can be the way I choose to sabbath, or rest.  

The specific day of the week that we at UFC practice the Sabbath is immaterial. Depending on our schedules and family lives, practicing the Sabbath on a Monday might be the only day we could practice it at all! The goal is to find a time during the week, preferably a 24-hour period, that we can establish as a day of sabbath rest, set apart from the other days of the week. During this Sabbath, we can cease from our work and embrace the rest and restoration that God longs to bring us for doing His good work throughout our week.

If you registered for the study, you will find an exclusive teaching link in your email inbox today. If you didn’t register, no worries. You’ll get to enjoy every other piece of the study here at Today Brianna Hines opens the study with a blog post that you may read and/or listen to as we’ve added a special podcast feature for this study. We hope you enjoy!

By Brianna Hines

Sabbath is a pretty hot topic right now in the Christian community, and for good reason. We as a culture are burnt out. We hurry everywhere. We have a to-do list a mile long. We stay up late, wake up early, and juggle multiple jobs and side hustles in between. We also try to squeeze in that 30-minute workout — well, not me lately. We drive our kids to multiple extracurricular activities — well, not this year, but you get the point! It’s no wonder we are tired. Most people think the solution to all this exhaustion is a vacation on a sunny beach somewhere or a backpacking trip across Europe. But even if our vacation is two nights in a cheap motel at the coast, most often we come back needing a vacation from our vacation. Why is that? Why is it so hard to find rest? 

Well, to truly understand rest, biblical rest, we need to understand work. To do this we need to go all the way back to the beginning, the very beginning, to Genesis 1:1, ”In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The first verse in the Bible, the first introduction we get of God, is of Him working, and working hard. It is such a simple verse, so simple that my kids have memorized it, but can you even begin to imagine what that would have looked like? God at work to create the heavens and the earth.

God loved His work, and obviously enjoyed it. Everything He made He pronounced “good,” and when He made man, God gave Adam the pleasure of a good job also — to name God’s creatures and work and take care of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). In the world without sin, there was work, and it was good. 

Then everything changed when sin entered the picture. Instead of being satisfied with her role as co-laborer with Adam, Eve chose to create her own job description and landed both of them with a curse. Not only would childbirth be painful from then on, but so too would work. 

Work went from being the dream job of paradise to painful toil complete with thorns, thistles, and a sweaty brow (Genesis 3:17-19). Sin makes work hard and unenjoyable at times. Sin is why even the best jobs will have their hard days when we have to drag ourselves into work and daydream, longingly, of greener pastures. Work will not always be “good,” but that doesn’t seem to stop us from being consumed with it. 

God knows that we are driven to do good work. He created us to be. It doesn’t matter if the job is designing clothing for a king or sweeping floors for messy children, certain satisfaction comes from a job well done. We take certain pride in seeing the work of our hands and pronouncing it good. When I am finished with a project, be it weeding a stubborn area in the garden, mopping the kitchen floor, or organizing the closet, my favorite part of the project is when all the work is done and I get to sit back and admire how good it looks. Especially with yard work, I will savor those last 10 minutes of daylight to bask in the satisfaction of a job well done. I think that is exactly what God did after His job-well-done of creation. That was the heart of the first sabbath.

God rested from His work because He was finished with it (Genesis 2:2). He had nothing left to do but enjoy it. His rest was one of completion. He finished what He set out to do, so He rested. He ceased to do any more. 

As humans, however, we will never run out of things to do. Our work will never be finished, our tasks will never end. I may be finished with the mopping, but the laundry is hot on my heels. If we waited until we were finished with all our work to take a sabbath, we would never take one. Our rest will never fully be one of ceasing. That is why, even though He didn’t need one, the God of the universe, whose power is limitless and energy inexhaustible, modeled rest for us. He knew that we would need a rest of restoring and replenishing because we would never get to the ceasing part this side of heaven.

We can’t get around this. We can’t cheat the need for rest. At the most basic level, every human needs to sleep a few hours a day. With a new baby at home, I can get by with 5 to 6 hours of heavily interrupted sleep a night, but not gracefully. However, a few weeks ago, all those nights of sleep deprivation left me so tired that the room started spinning every time I stood up, and my vision started going in and out. I thought it was something serious, so I called my husband home from work. He promptly sent me to bed. Four solid hours of sleep later, I could function once again. My body had just been telling me, quite adamantly, that I needed rest. We can force our body to stay awake for many hours with caffeine or adrenaline, but eventually sleep claims us all. 

Ironically, as much as we need it, we try to avoid rest. It seems like a waste of time when there is so much work to be done or fun to be had. We don’t want to stop for anything. We might lose progress. So we go and go and go like the Energizer Bunny, building a mountain of stress until we break with sickness, injury, burnout, or a mental breakdown. Sometimes God uses these things to make us rest because we didn’t do it of our own accord. As the psalmist says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, and leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3, emphasis mine).That is why God had to command us to stop, for one day out of seven, so we wouldn’t run ourselves into the ground.

Resting is one of the Ten Commandments:

 Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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.

Exodus 20:8–11

God not only modeled this rest to us, even though He didn’t need it, but He blessed the Sabbath and made it a holy day. One day a week is more sacred, more blessed, more holy than the other six, and it’s the one that we don’t do any work to try to earn God’s blessing. It is the day He wants us to relax, fill up, be restored. Rest was so important to God that He made the day for it set apart by law. Can you imagine if it was illegal to go anywhere or do anything other than relax at home for a day? Well, actually, we can. The stay-at-home order was pretty similar except it was born out of panic and not out of blessing as sabbath was. 

God longs to give us rest because He created us and knows that without rest we will break down like a car without oil. God desires to fill us up with a day of rest, so the other six days of the week we can do our work with joy unto the Lord as He intended from the very beginning. I hope this study of God’s Word on Sabbath rest will be the food our souls are desperately craving in this culture of hurry, and rush and so much more.

Looking Ahead: We’ll see you back here tomorrow as we post PAUSE, the week’s Scripture passages and accompanying audio for you to study.

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