Productivity is one of the things our culture values above almost everything. When ‘time is money’ and ‘ the one with the most toys wins,’ sleep is so often sacrificed so we end up on top. I love the show NCIS. The main character, Gibbs, ‘practically mainlines coffee.’ But isn’t this reflective of real life? Isn’t caffeine our society’s drug of choice? And how does the pursuit of productivity at the expense of our own exhaustion affect our following Jesus?
There was about 6 months when I woke every morning on the sofa in the lounge room. Don’t worry, I hadn’t been fighting with my wife. Our 10 month old refused to sleep in her cot. Every night, I would spend several hours sleeping with her on the sofa. She tossed and turned. I woke up stiff, sore, and, well, tired. Again and again.
Sometimes exhaustion is like this – it’s out of our control. A friend of mine struggles with an autoimmune condition. It leaves her exhausted for days whenever she does too much. All you can do in these times is know God is with you and trust he is leading you through.
But more often we wear our busyness, the tiredness we feel from our work or ministry, like badge of honour. Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe the drive that compels us to keep going ignoring our need for rest is really a mark of spiritual weakness. What if rest is actually a healthy part of following Jesus?
Don’t be a Slave
As Moses reminds the people of God’s laws in Deuteronomy, he links the Sabbath with their slavery in Egypt. Their value was their productivity when they were in Egypt. As God rescues them and sets up a rest program, he effectively says ‘Your value is because you are my people, not because of how much you produce. Stop doing, and be with me.’
We aren’t in Egypt, but how often do we get enslaved to productivity? Don’t we get caught up in filling our diaries? Producing as much as possible? It seems like you’re expendable if you’re not productive. How much are value are you worth to your employers? Aren’t we constantly turning back to the slave keepers of busyness and productivity?
We are choosing slavery over freedom when we reject God’s gift of rest.
The Big Picture of Rest
Rest is one of those small words in the Bible that have a big meaning. God rested to conclude his work of creation and from there linked it with the Sabbath. But far more than being time off, when placed in the Exodus story, God set his people free so they could worship him (Ex. 3:18). So, true rest is worshipful.
Later, as the kingdom of Israel is established, rest is linked with shalom. Shalom isn’t merely the absence of fighting but has more to do with setting things right. So, rest has a restorative quality.
The writer of Hebrews says that the ‘rest’ the Old Testament searched for is only found in Jesus. In other words, the New Testament views rest in the light of salvation.
All of this is to say that rest is far greater than God’s version of a ‘nanny nap.’ Rest is God’s invitation to enter into the gospel through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension.
True rest leads us to realize God’s made us his child. It frees us to worships him from the struggle of our daily grind and empowers us to worship him in the midst of it too. And it can be a picture of how he restores the relationship with us and lead us to seek restoration in our world.
Who You Are or What You Do?
The battle that often rages inside between rest and busyness comes down to values. On one hand, if we seek to be as productive as possible and demand that in others; if we are striving to collect as many ‘toys’ along the way and comparing ourselves to others, then we are is dictated by what we do.
However, if we take our identity as followers of Jesus then surely this must dictate our actions. This means we’ll trust he’ll provide for us instead of striving after everything. We trade slavery for the freedom to worship him and bring his presence into every part of our daily life.
There may still be times of busyness with this second way. After all, Jesus was incredibly busy. However, Jesus never ceased to live out of his identity as the Son of God. In the midst of ministry, the crowds pushing in, and the looming cross Jesus intentionally took time out to be with the Father and spent celebrate with his followers.
The big question for you is what’s going to dictate your life, your identity in Jesus or the quest for productivity?
I am a pastor, blogger and speaker. I help ordinary people connect with an extraordinary God, so they can follow Jesus in their everyday life.