Do I Really Need To Rest? (1/29/17)

Can you say, “There are areas in my life where I feel physically, mentally and/or spiritually tired?” If you said “yes” to this question, please let me ask you one more. “What are you doing about it? Are you doing the things you need to do or making the changes you need to make so you can have some rest in your life?

We know there are things in life that we need to do. We have to work for a living. Children need to be fed, clothed and nurtured. Relationships need attention if they are to flourish. It takes time and effort to live a healthy lifestyle. But does every moment of every day have to be scheduled with some type of work?

I believe author Crystal Paine is right. She says, “As a culture, we are addicted to adrenaline. We go, go, go. We do, do, do. And it’s as if the more we have on our to do list, the more important we are.”

This idea that we need to find our value in busyness is harming us in many ways. Our health suffers because our bodies and minds aren’t operating at full strength. Husbands and wives become more distant to each other because they don’t cherish their relationships. Children struggle with their personal worth because parents are too busy to spend time with them. Our faith in Jesus weakens because we don’t spend enough time with him.

We must come to terms with the fact this way of thinking is unbiblical. Working ourselves to the point of exhaustion is sinful. God doesn’t do this and he doesn’t want us to live this way either.

Genesis 2:2 says that after God worked six days to create the universe, he rested on the seventh day. Exodus 31:15 states God’s people are to work six days and then have a day of rest. While we are no longer bound by this Old Testament law, the concept of the law does apply to us. We need to rest as well. We can only push ourselves so far or we will crash.

This happened to the prophet Elijah in the Bible. Before we get to the passage where this happened, we need to understand the events that led up to it.

In 1 Kings 18, Ahab and Jezebel are the king and queen of Israel. Just like many of those who ruled before them, they encouraged their subjects to worship Baal and Asherah. God send Elijah to confront Ahab about his wickedness and to show the people of Israel who the true God really is.

Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to a spiritual duel. They met on top of Mount Carmel where they each sacrificed a bull and put it on a pile of wood as a burnt offering. However, neither Elijah nor the other prophets lit their fires. They called upon their god to do it. Needless to say, Baal and Asherah couldn’t light their fire. God did. He rained fire down from heaven. It consumed not only the bull and the wood, it also burnt the rocks that made up the altar.

When the people say this, they fell to the ground and cried, ‘The Lord – he is God. The Lord – he is God (1 Kings 18:39). Then they helped Elijah capture the priests of Baal and Asherah. They took the priests down into the Kishon Valley and put them to death.

Now, it would appear this was a high point in Elijah’s life and he would be “walking on cloud 9.” It didn’t play out like this.

1 Kings 19:1-9 says, Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The spiritual dual Elijah had with Ahab and the prophets of the false gods took a toll on him. The fight wore him out. Elijah needed to rest.

What exactly is rest? Oxford Dictionaries defines “rest” as “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” At this moment in his life, Elijah needed two types of rest if he was going to be refreshed.

The first type of rest he needed was physical. His body didn’t have anything left. He needed to stop working and recover. There are some among us who need to do the same thing.

According to Floridahospital.com, four basic benefits of physical rest are:

  1. Improved Memory – Lack of sleep can make it difficult for you to concentrate and retain information. When you sleep, your brain goes through all the activities and impressions of the day which is important for memory formation.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight – Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same area of the brain. Sleep releases hormones that control appetite. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat.
  3. Heart Health – A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night.
  4. Reduce Stress – Sleep and stress have similar effects on your cardiovascular stress. Being well rested can reduce stress levels and improve your overall health.

For those of you who are thinking, “That sounds good but if I don’t do it, no one else will,” let me ask you two things. First of all, is it that no one else will do it or is it that no one else will do it the way you want it done? If no one else does it the way you want it done, then most likely you need to lower your standards in some areas.

When I enrolled in graduate school, I had to watch an orientation video. The professor speaking in the video made a point that I’ll never forget. He said, “We know many of you have families. You have husbands, wives and children. You have jobs and are doing ministry in your local congregations. We don’t want you to back off your responsibilities in these areas of life simply because you’re enrolled in our program. When you’re writing papers or working on other assignments, please remember this: If God wants you to have a C, don’t you settle for an A.”

Are you always trying to get A results when C results are good enough? Don’t wear yourself out trying to achieve perfection when it isn’t necessary.

The second question I want to ask you is, “Does it need to be done in the first place?” Several years ago, I had a chronic illness which lasted several months. At one point, I was so sick that I had to spend a lot of time in bed or on the couch. One afternoon I was lying on the couch thinking about all of the little things I should be doing but couldn’t. This made me really frustrated. As I thought about it, I realized something. I could lay on the couch being frustrated or lay on the couch not being frustrated. Either way, I was going to be on the couch for a while. After a few weeks, I discovered something else. The only person who was concerned the little things weren’t getting done was me. No one else really cared.

Are you too concerned about the little things at home, at work and at church? Do your children really need to be involved in so many extra-curricular activities? Do you really need to be so busy? Are some of the things your killing yourself to do as important as you think they are?

I understand that you workaholics are cringing right now. You’re so used to being busy that you have trouble functioning if you aren’t working. Your personal worth is so tied to what you do that you might not know who you are apart from work. This brings us to another question.

You know what you do for Christ. You teach, preach, lead in some areas, follow in other areas, organize here and help there with a lot of ministries.

But… do you know who you are in Christ? If suddenly all of the work you do in the church and community was stripped away, who would you be? If you could no longer play an instrument, sing, teach, be on a ministry team, plan meals, wash dishes, make cookies, operate the sound system, count the offering, light the candles or order supplies, would there be anything left of your relationship with Jesus?

Would there be regular times of prayer, worship, Bible study, getting together with other Christians and just spending time in the presence of God? Without these spiritual practices in our lives, we can’t receive the second type of rest that Elijah needed then and we need today. This is spiritual rest.

As Elijah rested his body, he allowed God to meet his needs and give him encouragement. If the work you do for Jesus is suddenly taken away and you find there is nothing else left, then Jesus can’t meet your needs and encourage you. The good news is that he wants to.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This passage uses the example of two oxen being yoked together. Typically, an older, stronger ox is yoked with a younger, weaker ox.  This allows the strong one can help as well as teach the weaker ox. Jesus says he will help us and teach us if we will yoke ourselves to him. When we do this, he will give us spiritual rest.

What are the benefits of resting in Jesus? It means we cease from worrying about the struggles of life and live in the grace and salvation he gives us. Resting in Jesus gives us the same benefit that Elijah received when he rested in God. It refreshes and strengthens us so we can finish the work God has for us to do.

I am requesting that we take February as month of rest at Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren. We are a very busy congregation. This is good. However, our identity can’t be in go, go, go, do, do, do. It has to be in Jesus Christ. Please take some time and rest your bodies and your spirits. Get meaningful sleep at night. Do something fun and relaxing. Work on a hobby. Take a nap. Spend time with your family. And, most of all, yoke yourself with Jesus and spend time with him. As we rest physically and spiritually, we’ll find the emotional tiredness will lessen as well.

So, how do we do this? We simply arrange our schedules so we have time to do it. Take time and breathe.

The areas in your life where you’re tired won’t get any better if you don’t take responsibility and make the necessary changes.

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