What could be better than a nap?
You’ve been waiting for this moment since August…you walk to the front of the class and throw your final exam down in victorious defiance. You did it! You made it to the end of your semester. Now what? Well for starters you’re probably going to go home and take an epically long – bear in hibernation-type – nap (you know…the kind where you wake up mad). But then in all likelihood you’ll probably fill up your next four weeks with visiting old friends from high school, working incredible hours at Chick-Fil-A back home, going to eighteen different Christmas dinners with your parents, and trying to squeeze in a visit to see your girlfriend whose parents live three hours away and who you haven’t seen in A WHOLE EIGHT DAYS since the semester ended (how did you survive?).
Can I propose an alternative plan? One that might sound a little…ummm, radical? What if instead of filling up your “break” with more things to do you took the time to rest? I know…crazy idea. Some of you read that and thought…rest? I like the thought of sleeping like Dracula for the next three weeks. Not what I mean. And not exactly what the Bible means either. Rest is a deep spiritual reality that can be manifested in physical rest but it also goes way beyond that. Here are a few key aspects to help you better understand rest…and why not give it a shot this winter break?
1. Rest is essential.
I know what some of you are thinking. Duh, I get that. However, we are usually running at a burn-out pace for most of the semester. If we’re going to finish strong as Paul says, then we have to rest. And if we are honest with ourselves, you’ve finished the first semester and some of you are wondering how you’re going to muster the strength to go one more. If that’s the case, I’m glad you’re reading this.
In Matthew 14, right after Jesus finishes making a buffet for five-thousand out of a Lunchable he does something quite unexpected- he rests. Verse 23 says:
“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…”
Here we see something extraordinary. The Son of God, who became a man…is tired. Jesus is fatigued. We have a misconception sometimes when we think of Jesus. We think he is some mythological figure: half Thor, half Rambo who is capable of superhuman stamina. Jesus got tired. And when Jesus was tired, he went to be alone and pray to his Father. Jesus abided in his Father, and he instructed us to do the same.
2. Rest in Christ.
This is where the concept of rest far exceeds a power nap and a couple mornings sleeping until 11:00. Take for example the writer of Hebrews when he says in 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted to trust in himself for strength. When Satan tempted him in the desert with food, Jesus responded by saying:
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
When Jesus was tempted to satisfy the flesh with food, He quoted Scripture. When Jesus was tempted to rest in his own strength in Matt 14, he prayed.
Jesus showed that he was susceptible like we are to fatigue. However, where we have failed to rest in God, Jesus succeeded. Where we pridefully rest in our own strength and power, Jesus rested in his heavenly Father’s strength and power. Jesus says in John 15:5″
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
When Jesus said abide, what he meant was this: to make our home IN him. We are to rest in Christ. We are to rest in the Gospel.
Jesus says in Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus lived, died and rose in our place so that we would know this – that we would know that life is meant to be connected in every facet to him. Living in a broken world is already an impossible task. How would we ever think we could live life apart from the one who created us?
3. Here’s the rest
When we try to rest, we really don’t rest. I encourage each of you to rest over break. Put down the phone, step away from social media and rest. Rest your eyes. Rest your mind. Plant your face in the Word. Spend time with your Father. Ground your soul in the finished work of the Son. Ask the Spirit for help to abide in God’s unconditional love for you. Make your home in Him.
Use this break to tell someone of the burden lifting, yoke ending unconditional love of God in Christ Jesus. Take time to build relationships with family members, friends and relationships you missed out on in the first half of the semester. Get a good night’s sleep. Begin your day with Psalm 16:11. End your day over a cup of coffee with a friend; plan out the rest of the semester. Use this break, not as a step back but a launching pad into the rest of the year.
– Jeremy Dager (Pastor of Age-Based Ministries)