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Why Won’t We Rest?

Happy Thanksgiving, Church Family!

In 1994, sixth months into our first year of marriage, Jenine and I decided to drive home (from Charlotte, NC to Northwest IN) to join the rest of our family for Thanksgiving. Because most of the world’s population was apparently hitting the road on the evening before Thanksgiving, Jenine and I determined to travel on the actual holiday. I don’t remember much about that eleven-hour trek, but I do recall one detail: virtually every store and gas station along the way was closed. We drove hundreds of miles without seeing an illuminated sign. The only place we found to eat dinner was a chain restaurant called Roy Rogers. While the service was kind and accommodating, the food was less than satisfying. The poor turkey that we were served surrendered his life only to be overcooked, under-seasoned, and scorched by a heat lamp. What a waste!

Nevertheless, we had at least one place to eat. Today—twenty-years later—finding a place to eat or shop poses no such difficulty. It seems that just about everything is open on Thanksgiving. Most of the major retailers—Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Vons—will have registers ringing and many popular restaurants—Applebee’s, Denny’s, Marie Callender’s—will be cooking up their normal fare.

All this increased activity prompted me to ponder: why can’t we stand to rest? (I ask the question somewhat hypocritically, I suppose, as I sit writing, checking email, and sending ministry texts on Thanksgiving morning.)  Why is it so hard to take one day and shut everything down?

After all, God did.

After creating the world and everything in it, God rested. Not because He was tired.  Not because He was emotionally spent, or because He needed a break. Even as God rested He was not inactive. He was still upholding the universe with His power. He was still providentially working to bring good to His creation. But He rested from His previous activity as a demonstration that His creating work was complete, and as an example for us to follow.

There was something else, though, going on by God’s rest. He was pointing to that ultimate and endless rest that all believers enjoy by faith because of the work of Christ. Unlike the first six days of creation, which were bracketed off in the text of Genesis by the phrase, “it was evening and it was morning,” there’s no limitation to the seventh day, as if to point to the infinite rest that those who are in Christ will enter into, a rest that begins at conversion. In other words, a rest that commences in this life. Old Testament scholar, Derek Kidner, says, “God’s rest was pregnant with more than the gift of the Sabbath: it is still big with promise for the believer who is summoned to share it.”

Remember what Jesus said: “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” What Jesus says, in essence, is, “I know how hard this life is. And I know that you have this inner longing to be right with God, a longing you try to satisfy by doing more, staying busy, earning approval, trying to make a name for yourself, and finding satisfaction in other things. But you can relax. It is finished. I’ve done it all … so you don’t have to.  Your worth, value, and significance are tied to my accomplishment, not yours.”

Of course, as we talked about on Sunday, rest doesn’t mean inactivity. Those who are in Christ are still called to do good works. But for a different reason: because God loves them not in order to secure His love. So it’s ok for us to take a break from the normal routine. Not every moment has to be filled with accomplishment in order for us to be worth something, or of value.

So on this Thanksgiving: take a break. Eat a turkey leg. Fall asleep on the couch. You don’t have to find a great deal, make something happen, or accomplish anything. God loves you. His approval of you is tied to Jesus’ performance and not your own. Jesus lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave so that you could have everything you need in Him. By faith alone. That’s news that makes for a thankful Thanksgiving, and the reason I’m getting ready to shut down my computer and enjoy some delicious home-cooked food, the kind you’ll likely never find at a Roy Rogers restaurant!

Pastor John