What I’m Learning about God’s Rest

I’ve been sharing all year my journey of discovering how to honor the Sabbath and enter into God’s rest. Not that those are both the same thing, but they are related.

True rest, God’s rest, is not the absence of work. Regarding the Sabbath, Jesus told the Pharisees, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

So it’s not a legalistic thing. I used to hate talking about the Sabbath because I thought it was. I thought if I wasn’t bored all day that I wasn’t honoring the Sabbath. Not true.

God’s rest is not the absence of work. God’s rest is doing the right work, the stuff God has for you. Jesus did only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19).

And it’s not just doing the right work. You can do the right work and still choose to be stressed out over it. God’s rest is also trusting him for its success. That takes the pressure off! That doesn’t mean we do a sloppy job, we still pursue excellence and do the best we can. But we’re not stressing over the success because it doesn’t depend on us. That is so totally freeing!

There’s a huge difference between pursuing excellence and pursuing perfectionism. I know from experience there’s no rest in pursuing perfectionism. And I bet you do, too.

This is fast becoming one of my favorite verses:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

The unforced rhythms of grace. I love that!

So here’s what God’s been teaching me about entering into his rest and learning the unforced rhythms of grace in my life.

I’m keeping the Sabbath by not using it to do any recurring tasks. Like our weekly blog. Like paying bills. I can do one-off tasks, things that need doing around the house or on the website. But I’ve been intentionally avoiding recurring tasks.

And it’s been wonderful! I’ve been feeling refreshed instead of exhausted. After finishing any one-off tasks I’ve had to do Sunday, I’ve had time to do things that feed my soul. Like reading for a couple hours in the evening with Janet. We both read different things, but being together and just reading is tremendously refreshing. And I feel God smile.

This is just personally what God’s been teaching me. I’m not recommending it for anybody else. And I know I’ve more to learn.

What are you learning? What is God teaching you about entering into the unforced rhythms of grace? We’d love to hear from you, and what you’re learning will bless the rest of our community. So please leave a comment and share on social media if you think this would bless someone else.

A Sabbath Priority

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I’ve been struggling to take a Sabbath rest, and periodically I’ve been posting what I’m learning in this process. I’m not taking Sabbaths as a legalistic thing, but as something God’s put on my heart as important. (It did make the 10 Commandments, after all. It’s certainly the one I understand the least, and I don’t think I’m alone here in Western Christianity.) He wants me to unplug partly to spend extended time with him, partly for self-investment by reading the books on my reading list, and partly because I physically need the rest. Anyway, I successfully took a Sabbath rest this past Sunday! And I was successful for one reason. And only one reason. I made it a priority.

I made taking a Sabbath a priority even over this blog, our ministry, which is why this post was posted on Tuesday instead of on Monday this week. In fact, we’re moving our blog posts to Tuesdays for this reason. Allow me to pull back the curtain on our blog process in a moment of honesty.

My goal’s always been to have blog posts queued up several weeks in advance. That has worked only sporadically, for a few weeks at a time, and then I’m back to posting the week I write. The last 9 out of 15 weeks, I’ve written the post on Sunday afternoon. “Egads, it‘s Sunday afternoon! I need a post for tomorrow!” Usually I have an idea at least before then, but sometimes the Holy Spirit’s come through at the last minute. This has put a sizeable dent in my Sabbaths. Which I thought was ok. After all, this is my ministry, right?

Until this Sunday afternoon where I again was needing a post for the next day. And the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me: “No.”

Then I asked myself the question, “What would happen if I took a Sabbath anyway, and wrote the post Monday afternoon instead, posting Tuesday morning?” I felt the Holy Spirit’s pleasure with that option. It’s something I’d not considered before. So I took a Sabbath rest instead of writing my blog post, and I was so blessed. God was so close. And I was truly refreshed. What do you know, God’s way works!  🙂  I bet it would bless you, too.

What I’ve learned through this is my Sabbath rest is more important to God than my ministry. That’s a mind-blow, huh?

The truth is, I won’t take a Sabbath rest unless I make it a priority, which means guarding it against other good things by saying “no” to them, which is my action step for this week.

Action Step: I am now making my Sabbath rest a priority, and will guard it by saying “no” to other good things.

Does this resonate with you? Do you take a Sabbath rest, or some weekly time of refreshing? Can you do it without being intentional about it? How has it blessed you? Tell us your story in the comments.

A Godly, Sabbath Rest

I’m learning to take a Sabbath rest. God’s teaching me about this. I’m learning to take a regular godly rest.

Honestly, it’s not going very well. My spirit gets it. My heart leaps at the idea, but can’t articulate to my brain what it looks like. So my brain is confused. What am I gonna do, just sit and watch the grass grow all Sunday afternoon? Or crash & take a nap? Although the brief Sunday afternoon naps I occasionally take really help me physically, my brain has this nagging feeling that a Sabbath rest is something more.

I heard this teaching from Sheryl Dudek at a recent ARLN (Abortion Recovery Leaders Network). This really has brought me some Sabbath rest clarity and I pray it does the same for you if you’re as confused as I am.

We all know this verse:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Did you know, in the Greek, the two words translated “rest” in that verse are different?

The first “rest”, as in, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST, means “refreshment.” It’s not just the absence of doing anything. It’s doing something that refreshes you. What charges your battery? That’s the Sabbath rest God has hard-wired you for.

The second 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, means “recreation.” What’s fun? Some things are fun but exhausting. What’s fun for you and also energizes you, re-charging your battery?

Wow. That puts a whole, new spin on taking a Sabbath rest for me. It’s not the absence of doing anything, which for me would be incredibly boring and not restful at all, but instead it’s doing something fun that re-charges me.

For me, it’s going on a walk or a hike, especially through the woods. Or playing tennis. Or reading a book for enjoyment or enrichment rather than for information. I’m going to do one of these activities on Sunday.

What activities fall into this category for you? How do you take a Sabbath rest? Tell us in the comments. Your story is valuable to the whole community. And please share on social media if you think this would help someone else.

A Sabbath Rest without Guilt

I admit it. Every time I hear a word about taking a Sabbath rest I get guilted, because I usually catch up on household and ministry work on Sundays. And I get stressed, trying to figure out how I’m going get everything done in 6 days, when I can’t get everything done as it is in 7 days. Right, take a day off. Sure, I’ll just do that.

But God is showing me I’m thinking about it wrong. Entering God’s rest, like Hebrews 3 and 4 talk about, comes from intimacy. He’s showing me to think about it like date night.

We have a word in our culture for someone who won’t stop working to spend time with their beloved spouse – Work-a-holic. We all pity those spouses, and have no respect for the work-a-holic. I’d tell a work-a-holic something like this: Get a life, dude! Neither you nor your work are that important. You’re sacrificing what’s more important, your beloved spouse and your marriage, for what’s less important, your work. You’re sacrificing the eternal for the temporal!

But am I a spiritual work-a-holic? Am I sacrificing the eternal for the temporal? (Yes, our ministries are temporal. Our relationship with Jesus is eternal. Remember Matthew 7:22-23.) Am I sacrificing what’s important, time with my beloved Jesus, for what’s less important, my ministry?

At near total mental and physical exhaustion, God’s been forcing me to at least slow down on Sundays. I’ve taken some off completely, and am working more and more toward that. I’ve been amazed that my tasks are still there waiting for me on Monday – none of them have spontaneously self-combusted. No one’s had to call out the National Guard because my unsupervised tasks were running amok and taking over the country-side.

My wife and I make weekly date nights a priority, as well as quarterly weekend get-aways to B&Bs, because our relationship is important to us. We realize if we don’t prioritize it, we’ll lose it.

God’s showing me taking a Sabbath rest is like that. He’s showing me I get guilted and stressed over it because I’ve lost my first love. Wow. That’s a situation we who love his intimacy never want to be in, so we it hide from ourselves. I guess I’ve gotten good at that, unfortunately. But fortunately, he loves me enough to not be satisfied with left-overs. Personally, I’m looking forward to this change in my thinking and seeing where it goes.

Action Step: I’m looking forward to Sundays, and intentionally resting, doing as little household and ministry work as possible. Catch a nap in the afternoons, and do things I enjoy, like reading. I’m going to think about it like date-night with him.

I’ll post an update in a few months and let you know how it’s going. But what about you? Do you take a Sabbath rest? Or do you get guilted and stressed over it like I do? What’s your Sabbath story? Tell us in the comments, or shoot us an email. And please share on Facebook or your favorite social media channel (just click the button below) if you think this would bless others.

Entering God’s Rest

The best analogy I’ve heard about entering God’s rest is from Graham Cooke, one of my favorite teachers. This is my (admittedly poor) paraphrase of his vision/dream.

Orcs were chasing me. I ran up mountains and through forests, and was nearing total exhaustion. They would catch me soon, and my one sword would not be enough. I was running across a grassy plain, about to collapse, when I saw a tent in front of me and ran inside. It was strangely peaceful. There was a fire pit of burning coals in the center, from which I could sense the presence of the Lord. I turned to see my pursuers running full speed, close to the tent. Unable to run any further, I drew my sword.

Gently and softly from the fire behind me, I heard the Lord say, “You won’t need that.”

The orcs ran right past the tent as if they couldn’t see it. In fact, when they moved onto the space the tent occupied, they didn’t come inside but instantly appeared on the other side, as if in their dimension the tent wasn’t even there! They were shouting angrily at each other for losing their prey (me) who was there just a moment ago. In the middle of a grassy open plain, where could he have gone? And they loudly and with much cursing blamed each other.

Meanwhile, I heard the Lord, softly chuckling from the fire. He was laughing at them!

Where was I? Safe, yes, totally, but where was I? I was in the Lord’s rest.

From Graham Cooke’s vision on The Way of the Warrior Series CD series. (You can get your own copy here , and Graham’s general website is here. Very much worth a browse. BTW, these are not affiliate links. I get no commission if you click them or buy from Graham. This is an honest recommendation.)

So what exactly is God’s rest?

God’s Rest “rest,” in Hebrews 3 and 4, doesn’t mean physical rest or sleep. It’s the opposite of being anxious. It’s the opposite of being fearful.

It’s that place of quiet confidence, believing the Lord would do what he said. Believing his presence in my life is enough. A place without striving. An spiritual eye in my very real hurricane of life.

Hebrews 3:19, talking about those Moses recused from Egypt, says they were not able to enter God’s rest because of their unbelief. Earlier in chapter 3 the writer quotes Psalm 95, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,” and “So I (God) declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’ ”. Then he says in 3:19, “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”

Entering God’s rest doesn’t change the circumstances around us, but it changes the power those circumstances have over us. Our fear gives them power. When we’re not afraid of them, because we’re in God’s rest, they have no power over us. We can think clearly and act from the wisdom of the Spirit.

Today’s Action Step: When things are crazy around me, I will enter God’s rest by choosing to believe him over the fear my circumstances are trying to inspire.

I’m learning to enter his rest more and more. What are your experiences with God’s rest? How do you personally enter it? Tell us in the comments; we’re looking forward to learning from you. And please share on social media if you think this would benefit someone else.