The Gospel and Rest

It wasn’t too long ago that I found myself getting busier and busier as I began taking on more responsibilities and duties. It came to the point where I had organized my day from the moment I got up till the wee hours I laid down with “good” activities: full time school, a couple jobs, church roles, small group leading, and trying to be a good big brother/tutor on the side. My days were packed as I ran around from one commitment to the next, trying to juggle and maximize my time. I felt that I was honoring God by utilizing my entire day and week with these things that were seemingly good, Christ-honoring things. When people asked me how my day was going or would invite me to some event, I would respond, “Sorry, I don’t have time” as I listed off my to-do list for the day. And I found that I was kind of proud as I described my busy-ness! I was consumed with staying “productive” and I didn’t have time for rest! Rest was a luxury that was defined as a free Saturday afternoon once or twice a month. It took a friend lovingly calling me out on the pride of busy-ness for me to realize this issue I was struggling with: I was defining myself by what I did and accomplished! Don’t you hate it when your friends do that?

Maybe your weeks aren’t as hectic as mine were at that time, but they’re also probably not that far off. We in the 21st century are consumed with productivity and doing. We fill our Google calendars with various activities and are constantly checking our smartphones for emails, texts, and Facebook updates. Time is money and we want the best bang for our buck. Who has time for downtime? We tend to push prayer, Scripture study, and Christian fellowship out of our lives because there are just so much more seemingly important and pressing things that we need to do with our time.

Jesus was a pretty busy guy. The Gospels say that sometimes He couldn’t go somewhere because crowds would clamor to see and hear Him. Some estimates say that at the height of His ministry, Jesus had well over 10,000 people following Him. He was once so tired that He slept on a ship through a furious storm at sea, until His frightened disciples woke Him up. If anyone was busy, it was the Son of God. But even in the bustle of teaching, healing, and performing various miracles, He would find time to get away and be alone. He would pray to His Father and be strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. He would often commune with some of His close disciples. Jesus understood His need for rest!

The gospel of Jesus that is pronounced in Scripture is that He is the promised Messiah and that in His life, death, and resurrection, He has removed the guilt and wrath due for our sin. God now looks at us and sees Jesus, and we are counted righteous. As Christians, the gospel tells us that we have been freed from every bondage, including the shackles of defining ourselves by the world’s standards. The world looks at how much you’ve accomplished and achieved and then assigns your worth. But we’re not loved by God because we’ve maximized our time or done so much, but because of Jesus! We can rest in Jesus’ work! We’re free from idols of work, school, relationships and ministry to live life as we were intended to, as God’s image bearers. God thought that this idea of rest was so important that He gave His people the gift of Sabbath when He was establishing His covenant to the Israelites. Jesus tells us that that man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was created for man! (Mark 2:27) It wasn’t given as a burden to bear but for our benefit and well being, so that we would show the world the attributes of the Creator God.

Rest is not a synonym for sloth or laziness, but an opportunity to press into Christ and grow in Him. It is an opportunity to pray to the Father and be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. It is an opportunity to grow in Christian community and encourage one another. By refusing to do so, we are showing that we don’t really believe Jesus and His sufficiency. We are displaying to the world that we can do it on our own, by the strap of our boots and the sweat of our brow. But let it not be so! When life gets hectic let us not rely on our own strength, but trust in Jesus.

Jesus was daily with people who labored heavily under the burden of a foreign (Roman) rule and unfair taxes, of poverty and trying to make a living, of disease and death. To these very people he offered:

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

It wasn’t just a suggestion, it was a refreshing and gladdening invitation to people who struggled not only with sin, but with the weight and worries of life.

Are you tired? Weak? Burnt out? Busy? Stressed? Over-worked? Does your schedule rule your life? Run to Jesus Christ. Find your rest in Him.

(This post was part of a devotional put together by Sam Chacko and LOFT Church in Richardson, TX. To access previous devotionals, please go to http://www.samandannchacko.com/ )

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