If, like me, you’re by nature a ‘do-er’ it’s very hard to stop and just ‘be’. We’ve often heard it said that we’re human ‘beings’ not human ‘doings’, but it’s easier said than done. Since my recent heart attack several people have been concerned that I don’t try to do too much too soon. The appeal for me to rest a while is a well meant and regular refrain!
In the first few weeks it wasn’t so hard, as I had no energy, but as I recover, rest becomes more difficult. I’ve started to wonder what is meant by ‘rest’. I’m reminded of the scriptures in Mark 6 when Jesus, seeing His disciples working flat out in Kingdom activity, called them to come with Him to a quiet place, and rest awhile. However, the crowds got there first, and rest never happened as the five thousand-plus needed feeding physically as well as spiritually. Were the disciples expected to continue therefore without rest? Was Jesus just expressing an impossible principle to them? Or were they resting whilst physically active somehow?
The Greek word anapano means to stop for a while, and is the basis of the English word ‘pause’. In other words Jesus was saying ‘Take a break’. This break could have been fulfilled in the boat trip over the lake, which was a change from the pressure of the intense ministry in Galilee, and a delight for the fishermen amongst them. Jesus didn’t rebuke His disciples for not putting their feet up, or for not sleeping when they landed, but it seems He took the load off the disciples by teaching the people on the hillside, whilst they took a break from ministry until the evening.
The Old Testament concept of Sabbath implies a time to cease from exertion, and of course the Jewish Law forbade even the most menial of tasks on the Sabbath. However Jesus gave a new interpretation of Sabbath by allowing a certain amount of ‘doing’ to take place, yet upholding the principle of rest being needed when we get weary.
So what does ‘resting’ mean for us busy believers today? Should we all try to have a short sleep after lunch – a very inviting idea! – or is there something else to it? As a follower of Jesus, we are called to be ‘in Christ’, resulting in a peacefulness not affected by the outer turmoil of everyday life. Jesus tells us we will receive rest for our soul, however busy we may be. Rest may require a stopping of some activity for a period, but rest in Jesus requires the cultivation of an inner attitude of tranquility which can then affect the way we are, as everyday Christians.
Despite having been a follower of Jesus for forty five years, I know I have a long way to go to learn about resting in Him. I’m both a human being and a human doing, as God has made us all to be. However I must try to be at rest in myself by resting in Jesus, but not making it hard work as my active nature gets the better of me! How about you?
Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, that You understand the pressures of life, not least when the demands of our ministry put pressure on our physical resources. Please help us to develop that inner rest so we can deal with daily stresses with Your peacefulness and draw strength from You. Amen.
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