The Work and Delight of Rest?

Well, I started it again. I did not want to but felt forced, sure it was my choice, but the routine I was doing was not bringing the needed results. So I am back at it. I actually don’t like it all that much, I never have.  I once said I would rather have my mustache hairs pulled out one by one than do this. What is this thing I loathe, yet am doing? It is street running! Yes, it is true I do not like it very much, (I would even say hate, but my wife always says ‘hate’ is such a strong word and should not be used that often). Well, I do feel at times a great resentment when I run, but mostly the anticipation of it or just before I reach that mid-point in the run where I am heading home. And those times I almost get run over as cars are turning into parking lots and don’t see me on the sidewalk.  

Anyway, running has taught me a lot, and one of those lessons is about the work and delight of rest. Rest!? Yep, I said rest. Let me explain. As some of you know I ran the Long Beach Marathon a few years ago. It was not a great time, but I finished and rather enjoyed myself (until I hit my wall at about mile 19…that’s another story). It was in the training I learned the importance of planned rest. I trained using a method of running a few minutes and walking a few minutes. The key for me to running the 26.2 miles was these planned times of rest. It was just enough to give my body the rejuvenation to run the next few minutes. That rhythm saw me through and I still use it as I once again pound the pavement and street run.

The lesson here for life is not a new one. God made it very clear…

 Exodus 20:9-11  9Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Yes, we looked at this verse last week as we discovered the joy of work and focused mostly on verse 9, that we are to labor hard as unto the Lord. And there is joy in this laboring, and by the way, the labor of running (or really any exercise) not only works our muscles but pumps endorphins into our body that make us feel better. I know when I get back from a run and rest for a bit I feel better. The point here is that we were designed by God with this rhythm of work and rest. 

Ask any physical trainer, they will say that the real building of muscle happens during the rest. We think it’s the other way around, that if we work harder, run faster and farther we will endure. Yes, that is partly true but greater endurance comes as we work and plan in strategic times of rest. Like the regularity God gave us for life; work for 6 rest 1.

This rest part takes planning, effort, and discipline. In Exodus 16:22-30, God instructs the now free but wandering nation of Israel to plan for a Sabbath rest on the seventh day. Read the account, it took planning and discipline. As I was staring out the marathon I was running with a guy who was doing the run-walk method as well. Once our tempo matched and we got to talking I learned he had run over 20 marathons. I was amazed and quickly asked, “Ok coach how do you finish well?” He said keep with your pace and timing and DO NOT miss your rest, even if you feel like you could keep going…you may not feel the need to rest, but it will allow you to endure to the end. See, rest takes both planning and discipline. If we don’t plan to rest, our busy lives will have us move from one event to the next with no time to pause to reflect or think.

God already knows that and why He wants us to work at planning and being disciplined to rest. I know for me this is a big struggle. I like to work, it is fun to be productive, I like accomplishing things, checking off my list, and looking forward to something more to do…but I need to rest. It’s where character is built, ideas are fostered, and insights are brought to mind. Having a Sabbath is vital to the marathon of life.

This notion of a Sabbath rest brings up many questions we will focus on in the future, but for now the idea here is to invest some effort and energy (work) in planning a time to delight in our gracious God and all that He has brought us through, blessed us with, and is doing in and through our lives. I will have to admit I don’t do this with the consistency as I should…but I need to. How about you?

Why not try this week to plan and discipline yourself to take some time and rest from being productive and just do something fun; go for a walk, ride a bike, go down to the beach, sit in your back yard, visit a park, or whatever is restful and enjoyable to you.

Now many of you may already be great at this. If so, keep being consistent and go a little deeper as you take these times of rest and explore delighting in God; who He is, what He has done in you and through you. As well, enjoy the relationships God has given you, savor the great senses He has blessed you with (I like the sense of taste so much it has forced me to run off my greater calorie intake!), bask in the creative handiwork of God’s creation, and smile at how great is our God.

This work rest rhythm will make a difference as we seek to live life God’s way.

Working at Rest with you,

Mike

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