Rest and Worship (Part 2)

Last Monday, I posted part 1 of rest and worship. You can read it here. While this installment completes my blogposts on the subject, I hope it does not represent the last of the lessons God will teach me about rest and worship.

I must commend Adam Mabry’s book The Art of Rest to you. It is filled with insights and instruction aimed at reminding believers who God is and who they are in Christ. Rest and worship flow from a right relationship with God.

Before sharing a few practical insights about rest and worship here are several quotes from the book that I trust will encourage and challenge you:

You won’t lose anything by resting that you need to keep, and you won’t gain anything by overwork that you won’t one day lose.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 38.

In a section dealing with how the people of Israel forgot God by forgetting rest, Mabry made the following point.

If you’re concerned that by embracing regular Sabbath rest you’re in danger of coming under some harsh legalism, simply ask yourself how not observing Sabbath rest is going for you. It’s not rest that threatens to oppress you, but your refusal to.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 48.

Here’s a final, extended quote that God used to speak to me. In this chapter, Mabry emphasizes that we are no longer slaves. We are now children of God, granted the privileges of inheritance from our Father.

Slaves can’t rest. Slaves can’t take a day off to recuperate, reflect, and enjoy God. Slaves must work–either to pay off a debt, to please their master, or to simply stay alive. And most of us are slaves–because we enslave ourselves to the American Dream, the boss, our kids, or even (and worse) to earning God’s favor. We’re so often working to prove something, or to pay someone, or to get the promotion. But whoever enters God’s “rest” lays down that kind of life-proving work. We have rested from our works. Why? Because suddenly and supernaturally, we are secure. We have been saved apart from our work, regardless of the merit of our work. We have been adopted as children without regard to our achievements. Only children can rest.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 103.

One of the theological challenges I’ve wrestled with over the years is how to implement the command to keep the Sabbath. It is a command, but it is not emphasized in a legalistic fashion in the New Testament epistles. Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not in the legalistic manner of the Pharisees. Maybe the early believers and apostles did not emphasize it because early Christianity had a large slave population. Many early Christians were not masters of their daily or weekly schedule. So reiterating a command they had no control over keeping would not make sense.

Paul also makes clear in his letter to the Colossians that we are not to argue over special days and legalistic questions of the faith.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Christ has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). So in Christ, all the commands of God are accomplished. Yet God modeled the Sabbath for man, commands us to build rhythms of rest and worship in our lives, and invites us to bring our weariness to him (read part 1).

So, it is wise to build rest and worship into your weekly schedule. It is unwise if you do not. So what does this look like. Here are some things God is teaching me through Mabry’s book and in my own relationship with him.

  • Make time throughout the day to pause and rest in God. We need to remind ourselves of the gospel, of what God has accomplished for us, and who we are in Christ. Moments and minutes in between meetings, projects, and sermons are good times for me to pause, pray, and worship.
  • On the day that I worship, make time to rest. For me Sunday is a day of worship and my day of work. I love the privilege and calling to preach, but it is draining (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). As I worship with God’s people on Sundays, God is reminding me that it’s ok to take a nap and recuperate with family after worshiping with with the church.
  • On the day that I take off of work, make time to worship. While we all should build in a day off from our regular work, many of our jobs require us to be on call or require rotating schedules that make a set day off difficult. While it is certainly ideal for most of us to have a Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), some of us have to work on that day (pastors, doctors, nurses, restaurant employees, etc.). God is teaching me to spend extra time with him, just resting in him, listening to him, reading his Word, praying (not preparing for a sermon) on my day off.
  • Take a day off to unplug and disconnect. This might be the greatest lesson God reminded me of in the book. If I really want a mental and spiritual break from my stresses, then I need to unplug and disconnect from the devices and screens that drive work and drive worldly desires. Admittedly, this will be difficult. But if resting in God is as important as the Bible teaches, then learning to disconnect from worldly voices and constant connections is a must.
  • Turn annual vacations into holidays. We used to go on “holiday,” but now we call it vacations. Holiday emphasizes time set apart, with spiritual purpose: to be quiet with God, to rest, to read, recuperate, and recreate in a healthy way. Vacation emphasizes getting away from work, but getting active with something else. It’s not wrong to vacation, but the mindset of holiday keeps our time away in perspective. Holidays, vacations, or staycations (whatever term you use) should be time to disconnect, to pause, to rest, and to make time to be with God.
  • Take advantage of the quiet moments. Some days there are not many of these. But at times (in the car, after the kids are asleep, or when everyone else is busy), there are moments when the noise stops, silence happens, and God is there. God is teaching me to pause and listen to him (reading his Word) and talk to him (pray) in the quiet moments through the day.

If you have spiritual practices that help your program of rest and worship, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to share in the comment section below or on the platform on which you read the article.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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