Monday, December 31, 2018

A Season of Ceasing

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11:28 This Christmas season has been wonderful for a lot of reasons: time with family, time with Jeanie, time with the Lord. Mostly, it’s been a wonderful break. It’s been a continuation of a theme of rest- a season of ceasing for me. I am still learning so much about my struggle to pause. Most of us have a tough time slowing down. The truth is, most of us don’t like what catches up with us when we put on the brakes. Most of us aren’t too good at “forgetting what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13). And most of us do take into account wrongs suffered” (1 Cor. 13). Though suppressed, our “accounts” stay pretty full. Our antidote is to go fast, so fast that we can outrun our “stuff.” The problem is, when life slows us down, our “piles” catch up with us, but that can be a good thing. The word “sabbatical” comes from the Hebrew word “shabbat” which means “to cease.” FBC Branson is a tremendous church that, every seven years, allows it’s ordained Staff to take a month or so to “cease” and rest and refill. This fall I was granted some time to rest, which was encouraging yet challenging. I was challenged to let go and let God. I’d been anticipating the break for months. The pre-game preparation was kind of crazy. I thought the preparation was complicated and thought it might be easier to just call it off. Letting go is hard for me. I discovered again that a lot of my self-worth is tied up in what I do. God was reminding me (again) that I am His child that He loves completely, period. I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. “Work” comes after His grace. The month was without work but loaded with rest. No doubt, God sets up times of rest. Not necessary huge months off, but simple times in the morning or on a weekend. They are there for the taking, if we recognize His provision in the time. I was challenged to spend quality time with the Lord. Times of rest aren't necessarily times for us to memorize the entire New Testament or to fly to Africa for a Mission trip. Those things are great, but sometimes what we need is just to “chill.” When I’m provided with a block of time to rest, I tend to fill it up with stuff. I want to fill in the time with pseudo-work: cleaning and fixing and maintaining the house, the cars, the yard. All those things can steal me away from God time. I am so easily distracted. But true rest plus Jesus brings peace and rest and security in the Lord. A hike or a run is the most beautiful time of fellowship with God I could imagine. It allows me to prayerfully give my struggles over to Him. It allows me to examine my soul and lay my load on His shoulders. I was challenged to narrow the gap between work and rest. I’m reading an excellent book on work by Timothy Keller titled, “Every Good Endeavor.” He is making the point that our efforts as Christians should be our calling, not just work. The Greek word “voca” means “calling”. It’s where we get our word “vocation.” If we define what we do as a calling versus a job, we bring meaning to our work. Whether we work at Walmart, or a church, we do what we do to serve God. We’re all called into full time ministry, wherever the Lord calls us. Yes, we work wherever and we rest wherever, but we do it all to the glory of God. He is our purpose and He is our reason. May we all recognize our seasons of rest. When the Lord provides a holiday or a sabbatical or even a break in our work week, embrace the time and lean in to the Lord and His rest. Sure, God blesses work but God endorses rest as well. Be fully invested either way… …in a season of ceasing. By Eric Joseph Staples ©