Summary: This message was desinged to highlight the importance of rest in the life of Christ-followers. It encourages its audience to understand rest from God’s perspective.
April 7, 2002
It has been said: We can worry or we can worship. Strangely enough, busy people find it a whole lot easier to worry than to worship.
Warren Wiersbe once said, “The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life. Our old nature is restless...the world around us is frantically in a hurry. But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.”
Rest. It’s a word we hear often enough, but do we really understand it’s importance in our lives? When I read through the Gospels I am impressed by the relaxed, calm pace Jesus kept from day to day. You never once see Jesus in a hurry. Even when one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, was on his deathbed, Jesus took His time getting to Bethany to be with Lazarus. How is it that Jesus moved through life so slolwy and yet accomplished so much? Is there something we contemporary Christians have missed? I am reminded of a story…
It seems there were two woodsmen. One day one woodsman challenged another to an all-day tree chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.”” But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “that I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.”
Mark 6:31: Then Jesus said, "Let’s get away from the crowds for a while and rest." There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
Rest is not only vital to our spiritual lives, it is imperative if we are to be effective. Christ understood this principle and made it a point to get away both with His disciples and by Himself from time to time in order to rest and rejuvenate. It was Jesus way of “recharging” His spiritual, physical and emotional batteries. In doing so, He set an example for you and I to follow. We are a people too busy for our own good, too busy to stop and realize that in our frantic business we are actually accomplishing less and aging more.
According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies.” The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” People are also like that. That’s why we all need to take time to rest. In today’s Scripture, Jesus prescribed time off for His wearied disciples after they had returned from a prolonged period of ministry. And in the Old Testament, God set a pattern for us when He “rested from all His work” (Gen. 2:3). Shouldn’t we take His example seriously? Start by setting aside a special time to relax physically and renew yourself emotionally and spiritually. You will be at your best for the Lord if you have taken time to loosen the bow.
Interesting isn’t it? Not only did Jesus set an example of rest for us, but God the Father did as well.
So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed.  On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3
In the Old Testament, the idea of rest was tied up in the divine concept of Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13-14 we read: "Tell the people of Israel to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you forever. It helps you to remember that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.  Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.