January 9, 1996
My husband and I begin this year with a rest. For us, it is not only a new year, but a new beginning. Just over a year ago, my parents moved in with us; just three weeks ago, they moved into a residence for seniors.
All four made the transition with mixed emotions. My parents were excited yet apprehensive about another change in their lives. Would this new home be a place of rest, peace and security for them? Would they make new friends? Would their old friends visit them? Would their health continue to be stable? We hoped so.
Bob and I have a different adjustment. We are long-term tired. Although mom and dad are easy to get along with, being care-givers is time and energy consuming. A long rest is important right now. Not only do our bodies need it, so do our emotions and our souls. God did not intend that we stay on the fast track indefinitely. Rest is part of His plan for us.
God’s plan for rest considers high stress situations. When a wicked queen named Jezebel threatened the prophet Elijah, he ran several miles then fell under a tree utterly discouraged. He cried out to God but God did not respond with lofty revelations. Instead, He made sure Elijah was fed and had some sleep. After rest, God encouraged his spiritual life.
God’s plan also places work before rest. The Genesis account of creation says God worked for six days then rested on the seventh. He proclaimed this a special day for the people of Israel. They also worked six days and rested on the seventh.
The pattern changed slightly in the New Testament. The Scripture writers said the Sabbath days were a “type” or a shadow of a greater rest to come. After Jesus was crucified for our sins and rose again, people could enter His rest. Then they would “cease from their own work just as God did from His” and enjoy life in His kingdom.
This was a rest (and a kingdom) for both now and in the future. Anyone who labors to please God and then discovers “salvation is not by works of righteousness we do” but by “grace through faith” also discovers an inner rest in their soul. They no longer feel the stress of pointless behavior. In the future, they will also enter an eternal rest where they will enjoy God forever.
It seems New Testament Christians no longer held the seventh day as their day of worship. This external “shadow” Sabbath was swallowed up by its internal fulfillment. Because of their deeper, inner rest, believers began to celebrate the victory of Christ over the grave on the first day of the week, Sunday.
This placement in the week has a practical side. Many of us realize that our work and all that we do is blessed whenever we pray before we begin doing it. We realize that our week is blessed also — whenever we begin it with praise and worship. Starting with God brings renewed focus and commitment. We take time to ask for wisdom and grace for each coming situation.
Our hope is to begin the year with rest and worship. We want to praise God for His goodness in 1995 and renew our focus for the year ahead. We want to recommit our future to Him, asking for grace and wisdom in the multiplied choices that lie before us.
Whether others can take a vacation or not, we hope those who know and love God will start their year with Him. Resolutions are okay but depend too much on our own strengths. A commitment to follow and obey the Lord brings the added benefit of much higher resources!