Thursday, February 16, 2006

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

I'm pretty tired all the time these days (or at least that's what I tell my wife). No matter how little or much I sleep, I can't seem to find a way to really rest. Then I discovered today while reading an article by Alex Kirk at Building Church Leaders that I haven't been seeking the rest that God prescribes for us. In the article, Alex mediates on Exodus 33:12-17 and finds some key lessons for us in this passage. Here's a brief excerpt:

In this conversation, God promised Moses his presence and rest. Rest is a significant word for leaders. Most leaders I know, including myself, aren't good at resting. We haven't worked out the spiritual discipline the way Scripture invites us to. Our culture holds out all sorts of promises for rest, but it simply can't give the soul-caliber rest that God promised Moses.

A couple of years ago, I was meditating on this passage in preparation for a conference that I was going to help lead. I would be speaking on this passage and wanted to make sure my points were tight and my presentation flawless. As I thought about this promise to Moses of presence and rest, the Holy Spirit convicted me. I wrote in big letters in the margin: Where do I go for rest? My honest answer? I had been living for days off and vacations. My sin of over-scheduling, controlling, and making poor decisions with my time had led to the sin of looking for rest in all the wrong places.

The world looks for rest from weekends, holidays, media, and vacations. Moses' assumption in this passage is that God's people are to be different. Don't misunderstand me—time off, holidays and vacations are all good things. God made the Sabbath, the original weekend. In the Old and New Testament, celebrations lasted for days and weeks, and one even lasted a whole year. These rhythms of resting and celebrating were God's idea from the start. But these times are gifts, intended to point us to the giver. To join in building our golden calves out of days off, computer games, DVD players and vacations is to cast our souls in with the tide of our culture's greatest vacuum. This world has nothing for us, even as it has everything. Ultimately and always, God is our good and our rest. Leaders must learn to enter into this rest and lead others into it as well, or they will burn out and descend into anger and bitterness.

It has been said that life is a marathon, not a sprint. However, I recently heard someone challenge that maxim. Life is not a marathon; it is a series of sprints. The key to surviving a series of sprints is to know when to push yourself, and when it's time to rest. When it's time to sprint, we need to have the energy and resources to do so. When we don't need to sprint, we need to build in healthy disciplines of resting and renewing our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies. (Jack Groppel, Willow Creek Leadership Summit, 8/12/05). Where are you spending your best energies? When are you resting? In these Scriptures, Moses had just come down off of the mountain with the Ten Commandments. Commandment number four was the command to rest on the Sabbath. For the Israelite nation, a nomadic people, God built into every week one day to refuel, worship, and rest.

Sabbath rest was foolish. The Israelites were dependent on agriculture for survival. In farming communities when the conditions are right for the harvest, everything else stops. The window of opportunity is small and specific. Given this, it was madness to declare a regular weekly day of rest with no regard for the season. Sabbath rest was a reckless rest of faith. It trusted God to provide the crops in his good timing. Sabbath rest was a weekly faith-stretching exercise. It reminded them that God was the sovereign provider, and they were not. This Sabbath-rest posture of leaning into the provision of God was to carry them into the work of the other days of the week.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing.

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