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Finding Rest in a Restless World

We are living in a stunningly different culture than the one Jesus walked in.

Where Jesus walked, we fly.

Where Jesus stood on mountainsides to address large crowds, needing the perfect acoustics so his voice would travel, we turn on a camera and record a podcast, or type out a message on social media that reaches larger audiences than Jesus’ biggest sermons.

Where Jesus’ disciples were limited to maybe knowing about village politics, and maybe their families’ history, a basic idea of religion passed down by religious elites like the Pharisees and the scribes, we now have a world of information at our fingertips and new information is put in front of us every second.

If you weren’t in Jerusalem on the day Jesus was crucified, it could have taken weeks to hear the news, and by then He would have already risen. If it happened today though, the whole world would have known within seconds.

We are bombarded by more information per hour, per day, and per lifetime than any other generation in history and because of that incredible flow of information, our culture is increasing become more fast-paced, every second counts.

Yes, we live in a very different world than the one Jesus walked through, but 1 Peter 1:25 says that “the Word of the Lord endures forever.” The Bible is forever relevant. It has answers for every time and every place, for every person.

So what does the eternal Word of God teach us about living in a culture that prizes productivity over stillness, when a Sabbath day of rest is one of the most elusive concepts in the Old Testament?

I mean, in the United States 70% of people report that they aren’t getting enough sleep. We’re working, and when we’re not working, we are scrolling through an ever-increasing amount of information to stay informed. It’s little wonder why more than half of American employees report symptoms of workplace burnout. And don’t get me wrong, the culture Jesus was born into had to work hard. No doubt about it. But the idea of burnout would have been foreign to them.

So then, again, what could the Bible teach us about a concept that hadn’t even been considered by the culture yet?

Well, let’s get a disclaimer out of the way first. The Bible values work. When we talk about the importance of rest, we don’t mean that it should come at the expense of doing well in our jobs, or serving in the church, or helping other people, or caring for our families. The Bible wants us to find rest, but God doesn’t want lazy Christians.

But in the development of a healthy, Scriptural work ethic, we need to be wary of the temptation to idolatrize our work, making it the focus of our identity and purpose. Both extremes, laziness and the idolatry of work, are condemned in Scripture.

So the real question is how do we find the balance between the two in a burnout culture?

We need to value rest as God does.

Why does God value rest? Because in our rest we can glorify Him. The 46th Psalm calls us to be still and know that He is God.

We really shouldn’t be surprised from burnout. When we work 24/7 at anything, never taking a moment to refresh, reflect and rest, we go against our natural design.

We are created in the image of God and from the beginning God demonstrated that rest was important to Him. Not because He needed it. An all-powerful God would never NEED rest, even after 6 full days of creating everything we know. God didn’t need that rest, but He took it and created the Sabbath for us because rest is valuable in and of itself to Him. We can glorify Him in our rest. It’s not a necessary evil. It doesn’t just prepare us to go work some more, it allows us to bring glory to our Creator all on its own.

It's in our rest that we draw near to God. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day according to Genesis 3:8 and we can do that too; we draw near to God in rest.

But follow the story on from Genesis 3 and we see the first sin, and the introduction of work in verse 17.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life. . . . By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.”

With work came not just the option of rest, but the necessity of it. Again our bodies were never designed to be working 24/7 because we are made like God. Our bodies yearn for that original, sinless state, the peace of rest and fellowship with God. And from Genesis 3, over the course of millennia, that is the promise God gave His people: He would give us rest again.

Lamech hoped God would bring this relief through his son, Noah: “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). Moses and Joshua hoped for rest in Canaan.

But even after the floodwaters receded and the walls of Jericho crumbled to the ground, mankind largely remained sinful, restless, and alienated from the God of rest. Hundreds of years later, God describes Israel as “a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Therefore I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’” (Psalm 95:10–11).

Still, through his prophets God promised hope of something better. He promised rest in Christ.

Jesus invites those who are weary, burdened, and heavy laden to savor the rest he offers (Matthew 11:28-30). Relief from the yoke of the law and from our hard labor. Rest for the soul. The restoration of God with his children.

Right now, we live in a world marred by sin, but when Christ returns, God will dwell among us, and “he will wipe away every tear, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Even in a drastically different culture, where perhaps the need for rest has only increased, the eternal Word of God still promises us it can be found. Jesus invites those who are weary, burdened, and heavy laden to savor the rest he offers.

If you feel like you’re on the brink of burnout, or maybe you’re already there, look to that Word, root yourself in it, because it promises rest and refreshment and reflection to a culture that has made that its arch-enemy.

As Hebrews 4:9-10 says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Rest is possible. Perfect, God-glorifying rest is available, even while we still work.

And it comes from Jesus.

If you are weary, burdened, or heavy laden, turn to Him and with Him you can overcome burnout.


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