According to the Department of Labor website, Labor Day is a holiday created for Americans to acknowledge the contributions workers made to the strength prosperity, and well-being of our country. It first gained governmental recognition in 1885 through municipal ordinances, which led to the state legislature taking action. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but was first pass in Oregon on February 21, 1887. That same year, four other states would follow. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.
While it is important to celebrate our successes and acknowledge our hard working colleagues and professionals, it is equally important for us to take time for rest. Since God created us, he knows more than anyone else that our bodies need adequate rest. Because Jesus, the Son of God, came to dwell amongst us in a flesh and blood body, he experienced being tired. In John 4:6, we find Jesus worn out from His journey and sat beside the well where he would encounter the Woman at the Well. Without rest, we are not fully able to accomplish the tasks he called us to do. When we become so tired that we don’t know how we can keep going, Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
The Greek word for “come” is deute and means to “come hither” or “follow.” Jesus calls us to himself and to follow His example. He calls to experience Him in an up-close-and-personal kind of way. He longs to bring us into close proximity and into an intimate fellowship with himself. He wants us to take whatever circumstance we are in and give them to Him is total surrender and dependence on Him. As we learn to trust him, we are then able to find peace and rest. In 2 Chronical 20:17, God tells his people to “position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He is with you.” Sometimes we get so caught up in hurrying from one to-do item to another that we barely have time to breathe. We end up heavy-laden with burdens and become weary. The Greek word for “weary” is kopiao and means “to labor, toil, expand great effort in hard and disagreeable work,” “to grow weary, tired; labor to the point of exhaustion.” Doesn’t this sound like us? But instead of taking time to rest, we just grab some caffeine or one of those very unhealthy energy drinks and just keep going. The result shows in both our physical health and emotional health.
“Rest” is the Greek word anapauo which means “to refresh, rest up,” or “to cease form labor.” God created our need for rest…a pause from life…for our own good. A pause to cease from the hustle and noise of life so we are able to:
- Seek His will and determine our steps
- spend time with God so we are able to listen to Him
At times, we allow ourselves to get so caught up in life and say “yes” to too many things (sometimes, even ministry areas in the church) until we become burned out. But when we take a pause and seek His will, He will give us insights and let us know His will so that we don’t overextend ourselves to the point of becoming exhausted. We can protect ourselves from being involved in too much if we take the pause to determine His will. However, even when we are following His will, we become weary and need to take a pause. It then becomes a time of re-evaluation and we need to eliminate unnecessary things from our lives so that we have the energy and time to do what He has called us to do. Sometimes, as we do the will of God, Satan fights against it and we feel as if we are rowing a boat upstream without a paddle. Taking a pause to spend time with God and pray over the task we’ve been given will send the angel armies our way. Daniel is an example of this In Daniel, chapter 9, he is praying for the Lord to hear him. Verses 20-23, Daniel pleads to God and in his weariness, Gabriel comes to him. Daniel wrote in these verses, “While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God- while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, came to me in my extreme weariness.” Then in Chapter 10, verses 12-13, Daniel receives another visit. In these verses we read, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” God had heard Daniel’s prayers and sent his messenger to Daniel, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in the way opposing the messenger. Daniel was completely unaware of the spiritual warfare his prayers were stirring up. Yet Daniel continued to pause and seek God until messenger arrived.
Another reason to pause and rest is so we are able to listen to the voice of God. 1 Kings 19:12 is the only verse in the Bible that talks about God speaking in a whisper. Because we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us, the way God speaks to us today are the soft whispers across our heart as we are reading His Word or as the Holy Spirit recalls a verse of scripture to our minds. Sometimes it comes to us as our pastor is preaching or in a conversation with a friend. These soft, quiet impressions are easy to get loss in the loud bustle of everyday life. If we want to hear the voice of God, we need to quiet ourselves and listen with expectation. He longs to speak to us. But we have to ask ourselves, do we really want to hear His answer? Too often our prayer lives become a one-sided conversation where we tell God what we want Him to do in our lives then jump up and go on about our day. There are things God would love to say to us, but we have to quit talking long enough for Him to get a word in. If you feel as if God never speaks to you, then perhaps it’s time to take a pause and rest in His presence….quietly before him and give Him a chance to speak as we sit silently and listen expectantly.
Taking a pause also gives us the change to re-charge. Just as your car runs out of gas, so do our bodies run out of energy. We reach a point where we feel that we have nothing left to give and yet people are still demanding more from us. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus found the need to have some alone time. “After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.” Did you notice what he did on the mountain, he prayed. Our help and our strength to keep keeping on comes from God. In Psalm 121:2, the psalmist wrote, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” In Psalm 28:7, he wrote, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” If you feel as if you energy tank is running on low, when was the last time you had some meaningful time along with God?
While we also need to take time to get plenty of physical rest each night, we cannot neglect the rest our souls need if we are going to be spiritually healthy. So as we take today to honor the labor of our hands, let’s also take time to rest, recharge so that our labors tomorrow hold new energy, ready to continue in the tasks that God has called us to…whether it’s a ministry related job, real estate, medical, education or any other field where work.