|This is a devotional I did this week for our church's prayer conference call. Hope you enjoy it!
As I prayed about what to share tonight, the word “REST” came to mind. As we walk through this time of being quarantined, we are in an enforced rest period. And just like kids in kindergarten, we don’t want to take a nap or rest if we HAVE to! Now that we are grown ups, the idea of taking a nap is more a reward than a punishment, but when we are forced into inactivity, we become just like those restless kindergartners pouting because someone has forced us to do something we don’t want to do.
Ps. 37:7 says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” (NKJV)
The dictionary defines rest as follows: “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength,” “allow to be inactive in order to regain strength, health, or energy,” or “an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity.”
There is a Word Wealth in my Bible about the word, “rest.” It is a different word than the word used here, but one of the main words for “rest” in our Bibles is “shabat,” which means, “To stop, to rest, to cease, to end.” Our word “Sabbath” is taken from this word. Shabbat (The Jewish Sabbath) is the day when all work ceases, and Israel rests and mediates on the glories of God’s creation (heaven and earth) just as God rested on that first Sabbath.
It is kind of hard for us to imagine today, but that is what the Sabbath was really about. It was intended to be a day of rest for everyone. Going back to creation, God created everything in six days, and on the Sabbath, He rested. Not because God was tired, but because He was establishing it as a principle for us to follow. Our bodies need rest. There needs to be a day where we stop from our labors and just rest, where we can just “BE.” On the Jewish Sabbath, people were not allowed to do anything but rest. No work. It was everyone’s day off.
Even as little as 50-60 years ago, Pentecostal people did not believe in cooking on Sunday. If you were going to have a big meal for your family on Sunday, you cooked it on Saturday. Honoring the Sabbath was ingrained in our culture. When I was a little girl, most of the stores were closed on Sunday. And those that were open had a “blue law” that you couldn’t purchase certain things like alcohol until after noon.
The Jews were the only ones whose laws were set up so that even slaves got a day of rest. According to the 10 Commandments, we are to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy (to set it apart for a holy purpose.) And that was what God intended for us to do, so we would not burn ourselves out. When we don’t take time to rest, our bodies become depleted, our emotions worn; we get crabby and irritable. We are tired, but we are too busy to rest. The Christian day of worship is on Sunday, but for those of us involved in the service, it is certainly not a day of rest! So it’s important that we find another time during the week where we can “come apart” and just “BE.” By resting our bodies and our minds, it helps us to take a deep breath and step back from the troubles of this world, which is what God intended with the Sabbath.
When John was a children’s pastor in Washington, DC, years ago, I became a K-3 teacher. And while I love working with kids, I already knew from past experience I am not called to work with toddlers. But it was a new experience, and I did the best I could, although I had almost no training in working with that age group. I really struggled the first six weeks, feeling like a complete failure as a teacher, until I found out I had six known troublemakers in my class of 18! Spanking was not an option. There was one little boy that particularly tried my patience during that time. His name was Alfred. During nap time, he would lie down on his mat and take off his shoes and socks. No matter what I did, he would not settle down and take a nap. Finally, we were called into my supervisor’s office to meet with his mom.
I will never forget that meeting with Alfred and his mom and Mrs. Snowden. As we chatted, Alfred proceeded to take off his shoes and socks, just like he did in class during nap time. Then he took his shoelaces out of his shoes. And all the while, his mom was saying, “No, Alfred.” “Don’t do that, Alfred.” “NO! I said no!” And no matter what she said, she might have well as been talking to the wall, for all the good it did to change Alfred’s behavior. He continued to find things to do to amuse himself while the adults were talking. He didn’t listen to a thing his mother said, and suddenly I felt a whole lot better about what was happening in my class. Mrs. Snowden and I exchanged glances as it became obvious to both of us that Alfred’s problems had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the fact that if he did not obey his mother, he was certainly not going to obey me! Alfred was a busy little three year old, full of energy, and he was not going to take a nap unless he wanted to or was forced to. He was transferred to another class with a more experienced teacher, who I am told did spank the children if they disobeyed. I never heard any more about Alfred.
During the quarantine, we are in an enforced period of rest, and just like little Alfred, we are none too happy about it. I may have to stay home, but I don’t have to like it. And so we shake our fists at God and complain about all that is going on.
But what is God saying to us during this time? I believe He is encouraging us to rest. Ps. 37:7 says we are to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what we can or can’t do. Let’s take this time of separation to sit in His Presence and listen. What is God saying to us? What is He leading us to do in this downtime? Maybe there is something God has put on your heart to do that you have been balking at or saying no to. Maybe God is showing you during this time that you need to move forward with that thing.
Instead of being angry and frustrated at your inactivity, use this time to get into God’s Presence and rest in Him. He has a plan for our lives, and He has a purpose for this time of rest, if we will just get still long enough to hear from Him. Listen for that Still, Small Voice, and then REST in what He is speaking to you. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret...If we will accept this rest period, I believe God has something important to say to us. We just have to get still enough to hear Him.
"More of Him...less of me."
|Hon. Dr. in Acts-celeratology
5/8/20 9:30 pm