September 4, 2015

Some Thoughts for Labor Day

We all love a holiday, don’t we? An extra day off work (maybe even a paid one!). A free day with family or friends. Maybe some shish kabobs on the grill, or a nap in the afternoon. And so we welcome with glad eyes this three day weekend, and the extra day of rest that falls on Monday.

And it’s only natural. Because we were made for rest. That’s right! God made us, yes, for work – “six days you shall labor”. But God also made rest part and parcel of the human experience, too … even before the fall. Adam and Eve, even before the fall, would have put their heads down each night on some sort of Edenic pillow, closed their eyes, and rested from the day’s labors. And even in the garden, God marked one day in seven as a special day of rest, based on the fact of His own resting from the work of creation. And so I say that rest was built into God’s plan, and into man’s DNA, from the beginning. We were made for rest!

Think it out ...

First, we were made for daily rest. Every one of us, if we hope to be healthy, must get a certain amount of sleep each night. It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? The machinery at the various factories around town can run night and day, for weeks on end, without a break. But you were made to shut it all down for approximately one third of every day! Why? I think John Piper is right when he says that our need for sleep reminds us that we are not God!

But then also, we were made for sabbath rest … for a weekly break from the normal routine; a day when all the normal chores get put off until another day, and all the normal games go back into the closet, and we worship and rest and enjoy what God has given us as a gift – one day in seven for spiritual and physical refreshment and recharge.

And that sabbath rest is emblematic of our gospel rest. We rest from our labors one day in seven, not only to remember God’s rest in creation, but also so that we might have a weekly reminder that it is not in all our striving and laboring for God that we attain heaven. No, no! “In repentance and rest you will be saved” (Isaiah 30:15) – rest in the work that Christ has done on your behalf; rest in the fact that His sinless life and His substitutionary death are enough to secure us a home with God!

And speaking of our home with God, there we will enjoy our eternal rest. The weekly sabbath points to this, too. And so can a holiday like Labor Day. We long to get to this day, and this weekend … because we know that we can punch out on Friday afternoon, and just enjoy for a few days. And that longing that we feel for the sabbath, or for the weekend, or for the holidays is, at its deepest level, a reminder that we were, indeed, made for rest! God “has set eternity in [our] heart.” And one of the ways we can sense that this is true is by our longing for rest, and feasting, and joy, and fellowship. It’s true we don’t always make good or godly use of that rest. But the fact that we long for it is a signal of something profound. We were made for eternal rest!

So, yes, work hard on those “six days” that God has given for our various labors! But then, when it comes time to put your feet up, or to lay your head down, remember that the delight you feel in that respite is God’s way of wooing you to Himself – to His good pattern for your life, to His gospel, and to the unsullied shores and unhurried days of His eternal rest.

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