God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

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The short, full days. The rush, the deadlines, the targets, the drain. The demanding customers who have only now woken up to all the orders they need to place before year’s end.

It’s the end-of-year fatigue. Can you feel it? Very few of us are immune. There is something about December time which makes even the toughest among us feel a little stretched and thin. Perhaps it’s the Christmas music and the decorations? Maybe it’s eleven months of hard work catching up on you, or perchance it’s the knowledge that you’re so close to the finish line and yet so far.

Whatever it is, for many of us, December represents something of a mirage—an island of rest in a sea of work. Over the next few days, many people will be heading away from Johannesburg for some down-time at the seaside, while others will simply be enjoying the comfort of their own homes without the crushing pressure of labour. Scholars and students are all guaranteed a break—one of the few where there is no possibility of holiday projects!

Rest is a wonderful thing! It is a God-given gift, in fact. In Old Testament Israel, God prescribed a number of Sabbath rests over and above the weekly, one-in-seven cycle.  Later in the New Testament we see Jesus taking rest in the stern of the boat while the great storm arose. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” He did this because “many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

In the above passage, the disciples were working hard and were then afforded a much-needed break—even a break away from their normal place of work. As Christians, we are to be living all of life for God’s glory. That means that even our leisure time can be enjoyed to the glory of God.

So, how do we rest to the glory of God?

First, we work hard when it is time to work. “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in the summer is a wise son; he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame” (Proverbs 10:4–5).

We cannot expect God to be glorified in our resting on the seventh day if we are not working hard the other six. We cannot expect to honour God in our holiday if we have not worked hard the rest of the year.

By giving Adam an example in himself, of working for six days, and then commanding him to keep the Garden and subdue it prior to the Fall, God was teaching Adam that work was not only a good thing but God-thing. Part of the way we express God’s image is by working.

Second, we rest to the glory of God realising that our earthly rest is temporary. This is related to the first point, because this allows us to live for something beyond rest. We aren’t simply limping through each week to get to the weekend. We realise that just as God gave six days for working and only one for resting, so the majority of our lives are to be about work and productivity, with rest being necessary, but occasional, not normative. Also, and more importantly, we realise that in Christ we look forward to an eternal rest, and so we aren’t desperate to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of this life, knowing that this life is primarily a life of labour, and our proper, satisfying rest will come in the life hereafter.

Third, we rest to the glory of God as we redeem our downtime. “Look carefully then how you walk not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).

Holidays present unusual opportunities for fellowship, discipleship, parenting, and service. Consider having people over to your home, meeting for coffee or a picnic, or just hanging out with others, whether they be believers or unbelievers.

Parents have a unique amount of time with their children. Include your kids in your daily activities. Much of discipleship happens through modelling the Christian life, which you now have more opportunity to do. Consider doing a special holiday time of devotion, reflecting on the past year together, and planning for the coming year.

Husbands, you need a rest after a long year of work, but have you considered the fact that your wife never really gets a holiday from the housework? Make sure that in your spare time you are not just being selfish, but looking for opportunities to serve her by giving her a break. You are the ox and you can carry a little more load. Don’t make her do it.

Children, likewise, look for opportunities to lighten your parents’ load by cleaning your room, helping with dishes, or hanging out the washing. If Jesus could wash the disciples’ feet, you can help your parents.

Fourth, we can rest to the glory of God as we continue to serve him. For the Christian, worship and obedience is never work. Christ has done all our work for us. Now all that remains is for us to rest in his finished work. Thus we need no rest from serving the Lord. It is our joy and privilege.

More than that, we need it. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

We need to gather with the saints weekly. Don’t be tempted to skip church just because you are out of town. Go experience another corner of God’s vineyard and add your voices to those saints there as they praise God, even if it is different to what you are used to at home.

Wake up early and spend time in Scripture and prayer. “But I am an evening person.” “But  I need to catch up on sleep.” So the objections come. Trust me, if you don’t get up and do it before the day starts when you have no routine, you won’t do it at all. Catch up on sleep by going to bed early instead.

Spend time doing family devotions—perhaps making use of the advent readings Quin supplied us with. You needn’t make it a long affair. In this sort of thing, a little will go a long way!

Finally, we can glorify God in our rest by being careful of what we entertain ourselves with. “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). Browsing YouTube or Netflix, or channel-hopping aimlessly is dangerous. Even more so, just surfing the web or window shopping.

Be mindful of the movies you watch and the books you read, realising that not everything that you consume will tend to the health of your soul. This need not only be negative—“avoid this, and don’t do that”—but positively you can use the time to fill your mind with good books, podcasts, and yes, even movies!

There is so much more that could be said on the topic of glorifying God in your rest. Perhaps you can think of other ways during the extra time you have. Let’s finish the year strong, and rest well, to the glory of God.