One of the most frequent questions I receive when I attend conferences and meet with people is, “How do you produce so much content?” My typical response is that I discipline myself to the task of content creation. While I enjoy content creation I’ve learned that I need to have a balance in my life between work, play and rest in order to write my best. Whether you’re a writer or a preacher, or you work in a skyscraper or at a construction site, we men are prone to overwork. In this article I want to consider what it means to be a man who champions the balance between work, play and rest, why rest is so crucial and then conclude the article by looking at a theology of rest.
What does it mean to be a biblical man who champions the importance of rest?
First, men need to study their tendencies. I know for example when I get tired that I need to get off the computer because my tiredness makes me more susceptible to temptation. I also know when I push myself too hard and overwork I tend to struggle with my emotions being all over the place. The Lord doesn’t give us an endless supply of energy. There are only so many hours in a day and we need time every day to rest after we work. We need to take one day a week to rest from our labors. Resting is for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Finally, the man who wishes to be known for disciplining oneself for the sake of godliness will be one who works hard, plays hard and rests. As men it’s not enough for us to work hard at our job outside the home, we need to work hard in the home. While there’s a place for you relaxing in front of TV and watching that sports game, you need to balance watching TV by spending time with your family by playing and instructing them in the Word of God. While this will look differently for every man, in my own home, my wife and I often times relax in separate rooms for an hour and then come together to spend the evening together. As we do we chat with each other about our day and minister to each other. The man who champions the balance between work, play and rest is a shepherd leader.
What is a good theology of rest?
The model of God resting on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2) established the Sabbath as a day of rest (Lev. 16:31). The Bible speaks of rest as a spiritual quality given by God to those in close harmony and fellowship with Himself. God said to Moses in Exodus 33:14, “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” In the New Testament, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Book of Hebrews develops the concept of divine rests as one of its chief motifs. In Hebrews 3:7-4:13, the author uses Psalm 95:7-11 to interpret the meaning of the Moses and Joshua stories, which had promised rest to God’s people. The preacher of Hebrews claims that this psalm reveals that the Israelites did not enter God’s rest, because they did not listen to His voice, because they were unbelieving 3:12, 1), rebellious (3:16), disobedient (4:6,11), and hard of heart (3:13, 15; 4:10). The author of Hebrews maintains that the plea to listen to God’s voice “today” (Ps. 95:7) implies that God’s rest is still available. Taking the “today” literally, he decides that the available rest can no longer be that associated with the exodus from Egypt or conquest of Canaan; rather, looking to Gen. 2:2, he determines it must be the “Sabbath rest” that is now available (Heb. 4:9). Thus, the importance of hearing God’s voice is exponentially greater than before, because doing so will bring one into the ultimate Sabbath rest of God (4:9–11).
The writer of Hebrews asserts that there is still a “rest” for those who believe in Christ. Believers have entered that rest already—that is, they have entered it in faith, through Jesus (Heb. 4:1–3). We do not have to worry about our lives because the Lord takes care of us. He will help carry our burdens and give us the strength we need to endure (Matt. 11:28–30). Believers can also hope for and anxiously await our final “rest” which will be in Heaven with Jesus our Savior (Heb. 4:8–11). We will be free from sin and will live for eternity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Why do we need to rest?
Now is the day of our labor, the day when we do work. We rest our burdens on Jesus Christ, and he sends his Holy Spirit to help us shoulder the load. But the same Savior who offers us rest is also the Lord who commands, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Our final day of rest is yet to come. It awaits us in heaven. God worked for six days and then he rested; now is the time when we work, after which we too will rest. Understand that your labor now is not in vain. Your struggle, born of faith, fueled by God’s Holy Spirit as He works in you, is not for nothing. We are storing treasure up in heaven. As the angel proclaimed to the prophet Daniel: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Now is the day of our trouble and our toil. Now is the time of tears, of wrestling with sin, of witnessing to those around us, many of whom will scorn and abuse us. But if we do it all with our eyes looking up to heaven, gazing toward our home, trusting our heavenly Father, and asking him to find pleasure in our meager works, then we can be sure that He will. And in the day of our rest, we too will find joy in them forever.
Workaholism is a real problem in our day. By balancing the time we work with play and rest we will find a biblical balance in our lives. As men, we are being made whole by the gospel. By examining how hard we are working with the time we are spending playing and resting we can find balance in our lives. Men of God let us not only proclaim the truth about working hard to the glory of God but let us by God’s grace, balance that conviction with the truth of playing hard and resting.