How to Rest Well: Understanding the Sabbath

In our culture, we are encouraged to work and strive continuously, but in Jesus, we find rest for our spirits as we recognize that He is in control.

how to rest well

It’s not that I’d rather work than rest. It’s that there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish all my tasks.  Like many of you, I’m doing my best to juggle work, relationships, church, a social life, and other obligations like my blog. I want to take time to rest, but with a never-ending to do list and huge goals I want to achieve, resting feels…unproductive.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

Can you relate? I know God knew many us would be wired this way and that American society would encourage it. That’s one of the reasons He commands us to take sabbath-rest. Not only is it necessary for our physical health, it’s also crucial for our spiritual health.

So how do we rest? First it starts with understanding how God intends for us to rest.

God Rested First

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:1-3

The first sabbath is recorded in Genesis 2.  Six days God worked and made creation. At the end of the sixth day, His work was finished, so He rested on the seventh day. In the book of Deuteronomy, God commands the Israelite’s to rest just as He did. Why? To remember that it was God, not their own power or ability, that freed them from slavery.

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”  Deuteronomy 5:12-15

In their newfound freedom, God calls his people to remember that their salvation is not found in their work and striving but in God alone. Without an intentional day of resting, the people (especially future generations) would forget.

Finding Rest in Christ

The same if true for us. We find our sabbath-rest in our savior, Jesus Christ. The sabbath is no longer simply a day; it is now a Person. Jesus is the fulfillment of the sabbath. As He hung from the cross, before He breathed his last breathe, He proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30)  His saving work was completed on the sixth day of the final week of his earthly life. On the sixth day God created man, to be in relationship with Him, and on a sixth day the Son of God, who became a man, died to restore that relationship. The one who made us in His image, put on human flesh to die our deserved death so that we may not lose the life he always intended for us to have.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;  for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:9-11

So you see, our rest doesn’t come simply from abstaining from work, but also in remembering the God who sustains us. It’s less about a day of the week and more about setting aside time to honor God and remember that He alone saved you from sin and death.  No longer are we subject to Old Testament laws that require us to work in order to be righteous.

Surrender is the Answer

We are now in Christ, and He alone saves us. We rest in Him. Our work and effort don’t sustain us or give us an identity. He does. When we don’t partake in sabbath-rest, we become weary and consumed. We start to think everything relies on our own effort and ability, and if we’re not careful we’ll translate this into our faith. But when we rest, we remember that it’s God who provides for us.  He saved us, and He blesses us with jobs, promotions, our families, and businesses.

Related Post: The Command to Rest

Take intentional time out of your week to rest from all of your striving, relax, and fellowship with God. Your world won’t fall apart. God is still in control. In Jesus we have the freedom to let go and rest our souls.  We don’t have to carry the burdens of life because Jesus already did. Cast your cares unto your Savior and take on His yoke, which is easy and light, and He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Written by Tiffanie Butts

I'm an ordinary girl saved by grace, falling more in love with Jesus every day, and living to inspire others to do the same. www.tiffaniebutts.com is where I share my story - challenges, lessons, and faith journey - and encourage young men and women to walk confidently in their purpose.

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