Learning how to enjoy a real rest

Discussions about taking a real, meaningful rest with God

BY LEON JOHNSTON

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn how to live freely and lightly.”

(Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

My wife and I recently took a spiritual retreat. And the retreat leaders opened with these words from Matthew 11. Jesus spoke these words long ago, but I felt like he spoke them to me personally as I began my spiritual retreat. And as I took his words seriously, I experienced a real rest.

When is the last time you took a real rest?

I’m not talking about vacations here. Yes, you can rest on a vacation, but I’m talking about a real rest with God.

Every Sunday when I mount the pulpit to preach God’s Word, I look out over the people to try and get a sense how they’re doing.

Are some members experiencing joy? Others sadness? What are their particular concerns today? And what will their faces reveal?

Obviously, I can’t read people’s minds, but faces do tell a story. And the expression I often see as I look out over my people is that of fatigue. Many of them are tired.

We live in a fast-paced culture. We fill our days full of activities.

I wonder why we do that? Why do we allow our schedules to become so full? Often our days are filled with many good activities, like volunteering in the church, school or community. Sometimes they’re filled with other activities that are perhaps not so fruitful, like watching hours of television. But regardless of how we spend our time, I think there’s a general feeling that are lives are busy, and we are tired.

There are certain seasons of life that are naturally full. I like to call these ‘harvest times.’

It could be a literal harvest for farmers or gardeners, or just a full season of work or family life. But sometimes we let the harvest go on all year. But harvest is only supposed to last for a season.

Jesus led a full life on earth.

He worked very hard as recorded in the New Testament gospels. He went around from town to town preaching that the Kingdom of God had come near. He reached out to many people, even healing some. But as I read the gospels, I never see Jesus rushing around. He was never in a hurry.

In fact, he often took time to be alone with God the Father. He often took time for prayer and meditation.

And with these words from Matthew 11, he invites us to take a real rest too. To stop our work from time to time and just be with him. So, how do you do that?

How can you take a real rest with Jesus? Let me make two suggestions. First, consider attending a worship service at a local church. For many people, the hour or two spent in a sanctuary of a local church may be the only real rest they have in the week. This is a practical way to rest with God. The other suggestion I have is to take time to rest with people. And one practical way to do this is to have a block party in your neighbourhood. We just had our fifth annual block party on our avenue. And as we ate, talked and played, we were able to have a real rest.

Jesus invites you to take a real rest with him. Will you accept his gracious invitation?

Leon Johnston is the pastor of Wolf Creek Community Church.