Saturday, 6 August 2011

Worshipping by Resting

You can tell I’ve got a holiday round the corner, I’m blogging about rest!

Of course, as Christians we’re not called to enjoy permanent rest here on earth:
  • While we wait for Jesus to return we are called to be workers with God (1 Cor 3:9).
  • We’re called to fight like soldiers, exert ourselves like athletes and labour like farmers (2 Tim 2:3-6).
  • We’re called to walk, run and flee (1 John 1:6-7, 1 Cor 9:24-27, 1 Tim 2:22).
  • We’re called to be good stewards (Psalm 8:6-8), faithful servants (Matt 25:21) and tireless ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20).
  • We were saved to ‘do good works’ (Eph 2:10) and we are not become weary in doing them (Gal 6:9).
At creation God commissioned Adam and Eve to do a job: to be fruitful, to fill the earth with descendants, and to rule over it as his representatives (Gen 1:28).

As new creations Jesus commissioned us to do a job: to be fruitful, to fill the earth with disciples and to proclaim the coming of his rule, his kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20).

So... we are to worship and glorify God by working hard.

However... we also worship and glorify God by RESTING!

Temporary periods of rest here on earth are biblical:
  • God rested from his work of creation as an example to us (Ex 31:17).
  • The principle of a ‘Sabbath’ rest for all was included in the law (Ex 31:15).
  • Provision was made for the land to rest every 7th year (Lev 25:4-5).
However as we read on into the Bible it becomes clear that the principle of rest was given by God as a foretaste of something far better to come:  ‘rest' from the restlessness that came with separation from God  and that Jesus came to reinstate.

Significantly, in the creation account the 7th day broke the pattern used for the other 6 days. Every preceding day concludes with the words: ‘there was evening and there was morning, the X day’.

However that phrase is omitted on the 7th day.

All we read about the 7th day was that it started:

‘By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.’ (Gen 2:2-3)
Why is there no end to the 7th day?

Because it was never intended to end!

God’s ‘rest’ was meant to be the permanent experience in Eden. God’s garden was a place absent of toil and hardship and pain and stress and tension and tears. There was no restlessness in paradise.

But then sin came along and with it death and the curse and ‘toil’ (Gen3:17-19).

However in grace, God enshrined in his law a requirement that one day in 7 must be a day of rest from the toil that work had become in a fallen world. The Sabbath was to be a day to look wistfully back at the rest lost by Adam but also to look forward to the day when a second Adam would win back God’s rest for God’s people.

Enter Jesus: the Lord of Rest – the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8).

In one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible, Jesus invited his listeners:
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matt 11:28-30)
In Jesus both rest and work are redeemed!

And in our culture, which seems to be able to combine an unhealthy obsession with both work AND play, this is a much needed principle for us to reclaim as Christians.

In Christ, we are to worship and glorify God in BOTH our working and our resting.

When we work hard in our workplace, we glorify God. As Paul told the Colossians, even when we are working for secular employers, we are serving Jesus!

‘Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ (Col 3:22-24)
And likewise, as we take a break from our regular responsibilities (even what we might label our ‘spiritual’ ones) to rest, we get a tantalising foretaste of the ultimate rest Jesus won for us and that we will one day enjoy permanently and perfectly in heaven (Rev 14:13).

Ever wondered why its often so hard to go back to work after a holiday?

Because we were made for REST. 

So on that note, I’m off to do a bit of worshipping...