Rest! Stop Toiling

Joel Gerdis General

There is amazing power in rest. The rest I am talking about is resting in God. It looks like physical rest too, but it isn’t just about letting your body recharge from work. There is a rest God desires for us that waits on Him and displays our trust in Him.

I remember a season in my life where I was consistently working sixty plus hours a week. Our family was struggling to get by financially. If I reflect even now for a moment on that time of my life I can probably recall the emotions, anxiety and weight I was carrying. It felt like I was digging a hole on the beach with a spoon. No matter how hard I tried to get ahead nothing changed. That type of work is called toil. It is part of the curse when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden.

I eventually asked myself, “Is God real? Do I believe God has a pattern and purpose that really works? Is He who He says He is? Are His promises valid now, for me, or just in the time the Bible was written?” Now, there are times in your life you have to buckle down and get some work done that might be well beyond your average workload, however, if you have been consistently pushing yourself to do more than God is asking you to do every week, or a big chunk of your year, you might be walking in disobedience.

We’re all probably familiar with the creation account in Genesis where God creates for six days and He rests on the seventh. God then gives Moses and the Israelites the ten commandments which include an entire law about rest. The Sabbath was a day of rest from all work. Over the centuries the jewish leaders turned the Sabbath into something more than God intended. We know this because Jesus clarifies God’s original intent for the Sabbath in Mark 2:27 where Jesus says, “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” So we are not to make the Sabbath something we serve. The Sabbath serves us. It is good for us. It is us taking a posture and mindset that, “God can do more with my six days of work, than I can with seven days of work.”

I love the passage in Exodus 16 where God is giving the instructions to Moses for the people in the wilderness. God is providing food for them everyday. He intentionally provides twice as much food for them on the day before Sabbath so they do not have to work to collect the food on the Sabbath. Exodus 16:21-22 says, “Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.”

God wants to demonstrate to us His provision for us through the Sabbath. This was a contract God established not only with the jewish people, but all of His children. Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The promises and regulations of the law and the old covenant still have implications today, and so do the promises of the new covenant. In the new covenant we see Jesus offering us real rest for our souls. His burden is light. What we lost in the garden because of sin was access and direct contact with God. Now that Jesus restored us to relationship with the Father there are some great and awesome promises we can anchor ourselves to. It seems counterintuitive that we could work less and somehow come out better. There are times God wants us to take Him at His word when it comes to the promise of Sabbath. We are invited into His rest. Part of the curse was that man would work by the sweat of his brow and the land would produce thorns and thistles. In Deuteronomy 21:23 it says, “…the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God.” But Jesus absorbed the full penalty of the curse. Paul writes in Galatians 3:13, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

What does this mean? Adam was cursed and had to work the ground by the sweat of his brow and it would produce thorns and thistles, but then we see Jesus hung on a tree, crucified, and had a crown of thorns and thistles pressed into the sweat of His brow. It is all pointing back to what we lost in the garden and what Jesus desires to restore in our lives. In the garden we managed creation and God provided everything, but the fall had us toil to provide and produce through a resistant creation. Imagine this new mindset that God is renewing all things. It is one where God invites you to manage creation and serve where He leads you (possibly in the job you are in right now). But instead of it being toil it becomes mission and management of what He has given you. You get to experience the favor of God to give you influence to make every place you go more like His kingdom. This new mindset may not happen overnight, but it is the reality of what Jesus restored to us by defeating death and absorbing the penalty of the curse.

If you are overworked, and maybe you are struggling to get ahead, and you are desperate for God to intervene, ask Him to help you learn how to rest in Him. Ask Him to provide. Ask Him to help you believe the truth of who He is as your Father and who you are as His child.

We were never intended to be Provider. We are called to work diligently (not toil), and to cast the lazy person out according to scripture, but we are not called to be Provider. God alone is Provider, Jehovah Jireh. When we learn to truly relinquish this title and let God be God, we can begin to walk into this inheritance of sonship. We no longer need to toil. God invites us to rest.

Other scriptures about the Sabbath:
Genesis 2:1-2
Exodus 20:8
Matthew 12:1-13
Mark 2:23-27
Matthew 11:29-30