It’s no secret that we live in a culture which places a tremendous value on labor and productivity. Our lives are set up to where we are constantly working towards the next big thing, be it high school working towards college, college working towards a career, or a career working towards retirement. As kids, we saw summer as our getaway from the daily grind of school, yet for most people, summers stop representing that eventually. While in college, summers are probably all about the internship that you’re working or class you’re taking, and if you’re out of college, then summers can be just the same old, same old.
By nature, there is nothing wrong with working. In fact, when God first created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were working in the garden before sin ever entered the picture. Work, we can see, was a part of God’s design for humanity, not a result of The Fall. Additionally, the Bible gives a lot of clear instructions on how followers of Christ are to work so that our work will glorify God (Colossians 3:23, for example).
Yet, the Bible has just as many instructions on how followers of Jesus should rest as well. Even Jesus felt this need while performing his ministry on earth, and he gave us a perfect model of how to recharge our batteries at times when life feels overwhelming. If one observes the life of Jesus, then it becomes clear how seriously he took the discipline of resting and spending time in private communion with the Father.
We can see this in Mark 1:35,
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
this in Luke 5:15-16,
“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
and this in Luke 6:12,
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him [...]”
We can see from these examples and from countless others how Jesus, whom we are commanded to imitate, frequently spent time in solitude and private communion with God. People today lament that they would spend more time resting with God if only they were less busy, yet Jesus, who was consumed by the most important work in human history, made no such excuses. Even on the night before his crucifixion, sweat drops of blood running from his body, Jesus found no better use of his time than to spend it with the Creator.
Beginning with the example of God resting in Genesis 2:2, resting from works has been an instrumental practice of the people of God, and in the Old Covenant, Jews strictly observed a Saturday sabbath. Now while we are not held to a strict law regarding the sabbath like the Jews were in the Old Testament (Romans 14:5), I do affirm that the practice of habitual rest is essential for the Christian life. Even so, since the beginning of the Christian tradition in the New Testament, observing Sunday as the Lord’s day has been commonplace (Revelation 1:10, Acts 20:7) for followers of Christ.
If, as followers of Jesus, we claim that it is important for us to live like Jesus, then it is therefore essential for us to spend time resting from our works.
As 1 John 2:6 states,
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
Not only will our quality of life improve through habitual rest from work, but it will give us the chance to experience the firstfruits of the eternal rest that we have in Christ (Hebrews 4).
So while you’re busy doing what you’ve got to do this summer, don’t forget to set aside time for God as well. In this way, followers of Jesus are able to give a portion of our time back to the God who has graciously given us all of it, and we will be made more like Jesus because of it.