God wants us to rest not only to remember Him but also because we need to rest. He knows it’s good for our bodies and minds to rest – especially after a period of hard work. God wants us to be ready for His work when the time comes, and that requires regular periods of rest from our work.
In the Image of God
After creating the universe and all that is within it, God rested from His work:
2 On the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 God blessed the seventh day, and made it holy, because he rested in it from all his work which he had created and made.
Genesis 2:2-3 (WEB)
In light of God’s actions, it makes perfect sense that our bodies and minds require rest after periods of hard work. We are created in the image of God, and we, as Christians, are called to be holy as He is holy. We are to copy what we see God doing. When we rest after working hard, we are not being lazy. We are doing what God created us to do. It is for our own good that God gave us His example of resting and even commanded us to rest.
For Our Own Good
God wants us to rest so we’ll be refreshed. But He commands us to rest for our own good. He knows that it’s easy for our work to overtake our lives to the point that we neglect Him and our families. His command to rest is an important reminder that we need to rest.
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest: in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.
Exodus 34:21 (WEB)
I live in a very agricultural area, and I’ve seen firsthand why God added the “in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest” part to His command. When it’s time to plant, farmers have all their regular work to do on top of plowing or getting the fields ready, fertilizing, and planting seeds. And when it’s time to harvest, farmers usually need to harvest the entire crop in a short period of time – again, in addition to their regular work. It’s easy to feel like you’ve got to keep working all the time during planting time and harvest time because there is so much work to do.
And farmers aren’t the only ones who have busy times like this. We all experience times in our work when there’s more work to be done than the days will allow. But God tells us that it doesn’t matter how much work we have to do, we need to take time to rest – to refresh ourselves and to remember Him. As long as we are fulfilling God’s call to work hard, rest is necessary to ensure that we stay healthy and sane, continue to do a good job, and don’t let our work overshadow God.
Working Too Hard
It’s very important for us to remember that while God wants us to work hard He also wants us to rest. We can work too hard. When we work so much that we forsake God and believe our success is completely in our hands, we are working too hard. God wants us to maintain a healthy balance between working hard and resting when needed. We sometimes think that if we just work harder we’ll find the success we seek. But God wants to bless us if we’ll just rely on Him. Part of relying on God is doing the hard work He calls us to, but the other part is taking the rest He wants us to.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil; for he gives sleep to his loved ones.
Psalm 127:2 (WEB)
When we work hard and rest as God wants us to, God promises to bless us and meet our needs. When we start to doubt God’s promises and begin to work ourselves to exhaustion in an attempt to do it all ourselves, we wear ourselves out for nothing.
During His time on Earth, Jesus gave us many examples of our need for rest. When the Twelve disciples returned after Jesus had sent them out to preach, there were so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus told them to go away and rest for a while:
31 He said to them, “You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile.” For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 They went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
Mark 6:31-32 (WEB)
The disciples had done the work that Jesus had asked of them, and now He wanted them to rest and refresh themselves. Jesus had more work for the disciples, but He needed them to rest so they could be ready for the work. In our secular work or church work, we must take time to rest. It’s clear that if Jesus told His disciples to take time to rest, He’d want us to do the same.
Jesus also took time to rest and refresh Himself. Various times during His ministry, Jesus would try to go away to a secluded place to take rest. But because the people heard of His teachings and miracles, He could not escape the crowds. Here’s just one example:
From there he arose, and went away into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. He entered into a house, and didn’t want anyone to know it, but he couldn’t escape notice.
Mark 7:24 (WEB)
There are several other examples where Jesus tried to get away from the crowds and take time to rest and pray. His example clearly demonstrates that it would be wise for us to do the same. We need to take time away from our work, no matter what it is, to rest and refresh ourselves and to spend time in prayer and reflection.
We’ve looked at how God has called us to work hard, the value of hard work, the dangers of laziness, and our need for rest. We’re going to finish up this Bible study on work by looking at God’s business values and ethics. What are the principles that should guide our work? The next five parts of this series will look at the answers to that question.