Here’s why rest is a God-given command, not an optional extra

By: Will Maule

“Rest” is something of a taboo word in our modern culture. Work is elevated to idol status, and those who choose to take time out are often labeled “lazy” or “non-committal.” And it doesn’t stop with people who work in secular industries — many churches and pastors expect an unhealthy 24/7 work schedule from their staff members, often allowing little time for rest and spiritual refreshment. So why is it so important to break the mold on this one?

Here’s a reason: rest is demonstrated, ordained and commanded by God himself. In the beginning, God completed an infinite amount more work than you and I will be able to achieve in our brief lifespans — He created the heavens and the earth and everything within them. But, crucially, on the seventh day, He rested. The Almighty God of unending strength and power took a break, and He asks us to do the same.

“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,” reads Genesis 2:2-3

God carved out this day of rest just for us, and He expects us to use it.

If you don’t take a break, you will eventually hit a wall

We are finite human beings with limited physical capacity. No matter how indestructible we might like to think we are, we simply cannot travel through life at 100 mph without it eventually catching up with us. Health problems, relationship issues, stress-induced ailments — all these things will begin to plague us if we cannot bring ourselves to a place of regular rest.

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In a recent daily devotional, Pastor Rick Warren delivered a dramatic example of what happened when he failed to place any value on rest. Working 18-hour days in the early stages of planting his now thousands-strong megachurch, Warren found himself spiritually, physically and emotionally spent. Then, one day, the fatigue hit him like a freight train.

“On the last Sunday of the first year, I stood up to speak—and fainted. I was worn out from physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational exhaustion,” he wrote.

A lack of rest is a lack of trust

When we refuse to rest, we demonstrate an innate lack of trust in God’s provision. We make the grave and prideful mistake of believing that the world will stop turning if we are not hard at work every minute of every day and worry that God will not have our back in times of refreshment. We could not be more wrong! God not only rules and reigns over the universe, but He actually commands us to rest, to take care of our families and to ensure we are spiritually healthy in every sphere of our lives.

Matthew 6:28-30 offers wise insight into our human tendency to worry and God’s unfailing provision:

“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Far from leaving us to our own devices, God will honor our periods of rest and fill us up with His spirit, so that we might go back to our toil with energy and vigor.

So, when you are burnt out and flogging yourself to keep working, remember the truth-soaked words found in Psalm 127:2: “It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest.”

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