God’s Masterpiece: Get Some Rest! (Part III)
Good News Statement: God provides us with moments of rest
Preached: Sunday, September 17, at Dogwood Prairie and Seed Chapel UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NRSV): Hebrews 4:1-11– Today’s Scripture reading comes from the words of Paul’s epistle to the Hebrew people from Hebrews chapter four verses one thru eleven. In this epistle, Paul teaches the people about the rest that God promises to the people, and about the rest the God’s people need to promise to observe in their busy lives.
The Rest That God Promised
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For indeed the good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them because they were not united by faith with those who listened, 3 For we who have believed are entering that rest, just as God has said,
“As in my anger I swore,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”
though his works were finished since the foundation of the world. 4 For somewhere it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. 9 So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God, 10 for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their labors as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.
This is the Word of God for the People of God; And all God’s people said, “Thanks be to God.”
How does a person who has fallen asleep on a jigsaw puzzle wake up? With a puzzled look…
Why do clowns often have stiff necks? Because they sleep funny…
What do you a call a really sleepy egg? Egg-zosted…
Where do librarians like to sleep? Between the covers…
What do you call a sleeping lizard? A Dino-SNORE…
Rest: a moment during our day or week or life by which we cease to do work, avoid movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength. Rest: to be placed or supported so as to stay in a specific position. Rest: an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity. Rest: an interval of silence of specified duration. Rest: a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing, which is vital for our well-being. Rest…
Thinking about your past week, when were you able to find rest? What did that rest look like or entail? Did you find rest when you sat in a chair for five minutes, did you find rest when you scrolled through Social Media, did you find rest when you were driving from one location to another, did you find rest at the end of the day when you finally were able to lay your head down on your pillow, or did you find rest in your favorite chair? Maybe you are thinking to yourself, “I can’t remember if a found a moment to rest—a moment without work, movement, or stressful activity? If that’s you, then I encourage you—starting today—to deliberately find five minutes each day or during the week to rest. As I stated earlier, rest is essential to your well-being. Believe it or not, rest is essential for maintaining a healthy form of discipleship.
If you haven’t picked up on our theme for today, then maybe you are resting right now! Today, we look at another homemade craft: this craft is stuffed with stuffing which is encased between two pieces of fabric sewn together. We call this craft a pillow; but more importantly, we call it a reminder to take care of ourselves. From this handmade pillow, we are not only called to remember that God rested and that Jesus rested, but that to be a true disciple of Christ we must rest. If we do not rest, then we do not have the strength to keep going, we are unable to think clearly, and our mind wanders when we need it to focus; and if our mind wanders and our strength is low and we can’t think clearly or concisely, then how effective is our work for Christ and for the church?
Today, we look at Paul’s call to observe a True Sabbath—a moment when we focus on us, experience restoration, and put aside the work of the day so that we can become more like Christ tomorrow. People, you all need rest in your life! How do you find rest? Where do you find rest? What do you need to do in order to get rest? If God can find rest after creating this world and if Jesus can find rest while traveling from town to town—performing healings, casting out demons, and debating with the Pharisees—then certainly there is rest in your life to be found. What does that rest look like in your life?
Last week, I invited you to think about four specific investments, or as Jesus would call them, “treasures.” Jesus states in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” From these treasures you were challenged to really think about why you treasure what you treasure, and to ask yourself “Is what I treasure getting me closer or farther away from God?” Did you think about the treasures in your life?
I invited you, while looking at a handmade treasure chest filled with “gold pieces,” to find ways to invest more in the church—the people, the activities, the building—because the church is a treasure created by Jesus for God’s people. I invited you to find ways to invest more in your relationships—your family, friends, neighbors—because the relationships in your life were created by God and contain some sort of treasured meaning: there is a reason why God has put certain people in your life. I invited you to invest more in your relationship with God—pray, read scripture, listen to God’s calling, find ways to put God’s plan into action in your life (don’t hesitate)—because if God sees you as a treasure, the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2), then shouldn’t we find ways to treasure God more in our life. Lastly, I invited you to think about investing more in yourself—take time for yourself, pay attention to your needs, notice the person that stares back at you in the mirror—because you are someone who can make a difference in the lives of many people. Needless to say, I invite you to think about yourself again as we talk about rest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 3 adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest every day. Nearly 40% of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. Lack of rest can lead to chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, depression, and higher levels of anxiety and stress. The National Institute of Heart, Lung, and Blood notes, “Not getting enough [rest] may cause problems with learning, reacting, and focusing, making it difficult to make decisions, control your emotions, solve problems, or cope with change.” We have all been there: we have operated with minimal rest. We have pushed the limits to get something done; we stayed up all night trying to solve a problem; and some of us have even experienced lack of rest because their older brother put a ladder outside your bedroom window so that his friends could sneak into the house. In your life, you have deliberately chosen to avoid the practice of rest, knowing the repercussions. But why?
I’m here to tell you, that it is okay to rest. Why? Because rest is important to be who God needs you to be. And if you want to be like God and walk in the foot prints of Jesus, then you must find at least a few minutes to rest—to take time for ourselves. For example, God rested on the seventh day. Genesis 2:2-3 states, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” God, the busiest person, the busiest power in all creation, found time to rest. Not only did He rest from all His work, but He blessed His Sabbath Day. If God can find time to take a moment to rest, then certainly you can do the same thing. But are you?
The Bible highlights eight specific moments when we find Jesus seeking rest. First, Jesus sought rest in order to grieve. After receiving the news about the beheading of John the Baptist, Matthew 14:13 states, “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself….” Second, Jesus often sought rest in moments of prayer. Mark 1:35 asserts, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place [by himself], and there he prayed.” Third, for Jesus, resting was a way to set boundaries. After preaching to the people on the shores of Galilee, the disciples “took him with them in the boat, just as he was [tired and worn-out]” (Mark 4:36) so that he could find rest and separate himself from the everyday world. Fourth, Jesus used rest as means to set an example for his followers. Mark 6:31 teaches us, “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Fifth, Jesus often used moments of rest for opportunities to pray, to spiritually re-connect with God, “After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray” (Mark 6:46). Sixth, for Jesus, rest was something that he observed with consistency and routinely. Luke points out, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Seventh, rest allowed Jesus to consult with God and reflect on his Godly mission: “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). And lastly, rest granted Jesus the opportunity to become physically restored. John notes in the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well, “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon” (John 4:6).
From this brief list, it is evident that rest is something blessed by God and practiced routinely by Jesus. Rest allowed Jesus the separation that he needed, time to pray, moments to reflect, opportunities to regain physical strength, to set and be an example for his followers, and to establish boundaries. If rest is important enough to God and Jesus Christ to incorporate it into creation and into the act of sharing the good news, then why is it not important to us as disciples and doers of the word?
In his highly insightful work, Inside Job, Stephen W. Smith shares the importance of finding ways to rest and relax as part of a healthy, balanced life. Smith states, “I once read a book in which the author said everyone needed a private relaxation activity—something that was a “no-brainer.” For a friend of his, it was raking leaves in the driveway. For the author, it was ironing his shirts. For my friend Brian, a CEO of a gas company, it is (believe it or not) washing dishes—much to the joy of his wife Nan and their kids! Brian told me that his daughter Brie sometimes says, ‘Dad, you look stressed so I am leaving my dishes in the sink for you to wash.’ Isn’t that thoughtful?” Whether we are praying, sleeping, raking leaves, or even doing the dishes, we need to find moments of rest and possibly something that gives us that rest.
From our scripture reading, the Apostle Paul is challenging us to consider what a “True Sabbath” looks like in our lives—moment of rest. Hebrews Chapter Four offers True Sabbath rest for the people of God through faith in Christ. This rest for God’s people is what was promised throughout the entire Old Testament. True Sabbath rest does not come from adhering to the law or taking a break from work one day of the week. The believer’s rest comes to fulfillment in our lives when we allow our rest to rejuvenate our spirits, our faith, our discipleship and devotion to Christ. God’s rest is open to all, impacts a powerful warning, and can help our unbelief.
According to Hebrews 4:1, the promise of entering God’s rest still stands: “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open…” The people of Israel who initially received God’s promise were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. The Book of Hebrews states that even though they did not enter God’s rest, the promise was not revoked. It still stands; it is still open to them. This is amazing news for us today. The Greek word ‘anapausis’, translated as ‘rest’ in Hebrews 4, refers to actively calming one’s soul. It speaks of serenity, peace, and tranquility. As Ed Jarrett explains, “God’s rest is a state, or place, where God rules and manages His creation, free from the chaos and disorder brought about by sin and rebellion. All who will rest from their own work of bringing their own life under control can enter into God’s rest.”
The promise holds true for you and me. The rest of God is available to us. The rest of God is a sense of peace and order from the chaos and disorder of life. The rest of God will always stand open because God knows that we all need rest in our life: we all need a brief moment in time when life slows down and we can breathe before moving on to the next task. The rest that we seek through God is a rest that actively calms our soul and grants us serenity, peace, and tranquility. This rest is always there, but why do you choose to skip over it?
According to Hebrews 4:2-7, there’s a warning to not come short of God’s rest. Paul notes, “For indeed the good news came to us just as to them [the Israelites], but the message they heard did not benefit them because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed are entering that rest, just as God has said, ‘As in my anger I swore, They shall not enter my rest,’ though his works were finished since the foundation of the world. For somewhere it speaks about the seventh day as follows, ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.’ And again in this place it says, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’” (Hebrews 4:2-7). Paul is warning us to really pay attention to the rest that God provides us with. It’s a rest that is present today and every day.
If we don’t observe a moment of rest, a moment to actively calm our souls, a moment to breathe, and a moment for restoration and refocus, then we have not listened to the words of God. Taking time to rest is an act of faith. Taking time to rest means that you are listening to God. Taking time to rest suggests that you are obeying His command. Just like the Israelites, if we don’t allow ourselves a glimpse of rest, to enter the rest that God has given us, then we have failed to practice what God himself observes. Paul quotes Genesis 2:2-3: “God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” As Paul notes, we “shall not enter rest,” our hearts will harden, and our ability to receive the good news will fail because we have not allowed ourselves the opportunity to rest like God rests. Paul is warning us: if we don’t follow the command of God to rest, then our faith will dwindle, are ability to share the good news will fail, and our hearts will harden. We must obey God’s command to rest. You must rest in order to obey the commands of God. You must rest to faithfully be able to carry out God’s plan for you and the church on earth as it is in heaven.
According to Hebrews 4:8-11, unbelief is what keeps us from God’s rest. Paul notes in Hebrews 4:8-11, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God, for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.” Be honest with yourself, the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. It’s so true! We often don’t believe we have time to rest. We look at our schedules and notice that we didn’t schedule time to rest. We tell ourselves we are going to get up early so that we can get more down so that we can rest in the evenings, but then something comes up and it turns out our rest is postponed. Or we tell ourselves that we don’t have time to rest. If we rest then something isn’t going to get down. The moment we need rest is when we realize we don’t have time for it. But we must make an effort to rest.
When you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to rest”—you don’t believe the rest of God—that’s when you most need to take some time from your busy day and rest: that’s exactly when you need to slow down and relax. Find time, make time, reserve the time, and protect the time for resting. What does rest look like for you, though? Does rest mean getting away, literally taking a nap, sitting in a chair, separating yourself from others, spending time with others, doing something that is not part of your everyday routine, reading a book, scrolling through Social Media, watching a movie, working on a project, working in the barn, or simply just taking deep breaths in and letting them out? Life is filled with ways to rest, but we must believe in ourselves that resting is more important than pushing ourselves to the edge. We must make an effort to rest. Without rest, we are more likely to have disbelief, less confidence, decreased focus, lack of clarity, and greater uncertainty in our lives. Without rest we encounter what is called burnout.
Burnout is a means of feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. God does not want us to experience burnout. God does not want you to experience burnout. Matthew quotes Jesus, “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, 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” (Matthew 11:28-29).
God created rest so that you have an opportunity to restore, rejuvenate, and refresh your soul with new energy and new looks on life. However, you must believe that practicing rest is essential to help you become who God needs you to be. If you don’t believe in rest, then your lack of rest and renewal not only affects you, but it also affects all those around you. Believe in rest; believe in yourself that you need rest today and every day. Jesus will give you rest.
Rest has never been one of America’s greatest strengths. According to one study, only one in seven adults (14%) have set aside an entire day for the purpose of rest. For those who do set aside an entire day, can you guess how they fill their time? Mostly with work. Over 40% say they do enjoyable work, and an additional 37% say they will do non-enjoyable work, if it has to get done. Out of the 14% who set aside a day of rest, only 19% say they will not work at all on their day of rest. Today many of us have been [so] conditioned by efficiency that times [of sitting on the porch] feel unproductive, irresponsible, lazy, even selfish. We know we need rest, but we can no longer see the value of rest as an end in itself; it is only worthwhile if it helps us recharge our batteries so we can be even more efficient in the next period of productivity.
As I stated earlier, rest has been scientifically proven to be beneficial and healthy: reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, boosting one’s energy level, reducing the risk of getting sick, and increasing one’s focus and clarity. Additionally, rest has been Biblically proven to be beneficial and healthy for the soul: increasing one’s faith, being more committed to God’s commands, practicing the ways of Christ, being better equipped to share the good news, and have a more clear spiritual vision of God’s plan. If God took time to rest after doing his work, and if Jesus took time to rest while sharing the good news, then—especially if we want to follow the commands of God and walk in the footprints of Jesus—we must believe in taking time to rest.
Paul informs us that God’s rest is always standing and open to you. God’s rest is available to you 24/7, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, and 365 days. God’s rest has been bestowed upon you as a free gift, so don’t pass it up when He gives it to you. Paul also warns us that not accepting God’s gift of rest in our life is an act of disobeying God’s command. Without rest, our heart will harden, our faith will loosen, and our ability to share the good news will lack confidence and sustenance. Lastly, Paul notes that we must not have unbelief when it comes to rest. We must believe that we can experience rest without the world shutting down. It’s okay to rest.
When you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to rest”, that’s when you most need to take some time from your busy day and rest: that’s exactly when you need to slow down and relax. Find time, make time, reserve the time, and protect the time for resting. God did, so why won’t you? Jesus did, so why won’t you? The next time you see a pillow, use it as a reminder that you need to take a moment to rest. Without rest we can’t effectively do what God has called us to do.
Take time to rest this week. Deliberately set aside a few minutes to rest, to breathe, to relax, and to allow your soul to actively experience a sense of peace. How will you experience rest this week? How will you allow your moments of rest to build your faith and do what God has called you to do.
Let it be so…
Dear God, thank you for your gift of rest: for moments in our life when we can restore our faith, refresh our strength, and rejuvenate our spirit. May we believe we can rest even on our busiest of days. May we take your warning of not resting seriously. And may we obey your command to rest. In your holy name we pray, Amen.
This week, take some time to rest: doing something outside your daily routine that grounds you, restores you, and turns your unbelief into belief. Allow the knowing that God and Jesus both sought rest remind you that even those greater than you needed rest to do their best work. May you be blessed with moments of rest this week as the love and light of Christ shines down upon you. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, go out into the world knowing that you are part of God’s masterpiece. And all of God’s people said, Amen. Amen. Amen.
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