January 23, 2024

Read the Rests

Lew Shelton

Undoubtedly you want to play your part, do your best, accomplish as much as possible for the Lord. To do so, there are some simple things for you to understand, some simple principles to embrace and employ. One of them is the Sabbath principle. Take it from an old guy who learned the hard way: "Read the Rests."

One of the primary principles in learning to be a musician is to understand four key elements in any piece of music. These are: key signature, time signature, notes and rests. Yes, that right: there are rests in music. This indicates a place in the score where you as a singer or player are silent. Others may well let their voice or instrument be heard, but not you. When notes appear for your section in the choir, or your instrument in the orchestra, the part needs to be heard. It is essential to the overall texture and beauty of the piece. However, if you were to ignore the rests when they appear, you may well destroy the whole thing. It becomes essential to "read the rests." This simple example leads to a much larger principle in life.

The Genesis story provides numerous keys to understand life in general: the existence of God, the initial realization of His plan, the sequential flow of the development of creation, and the sense of satisfaction the Creator expressed with each stage. It also poses some critical questions: Were the 6 days actual 24-hour periods? Where do the dinosaurs fit? And for me: Why did God need to rest? It is inconceivable to believe He was tired. That would be to deny the revelation regarding who He is given throughout the rest of scripture. But then, maybe He just wanted to rest. Now, we all know, He was really establishing a pattern for His creation to follow.

The Sabbath rest principle was God's design for His creation and His people. The seventh year was to be a Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:3-5), giving the land rest, while the people and their livestock ate the voluntary yield from the ground, the vines and trees. The seventh year was also a time to forgive debts and release Hebrew slaves (Deuteronomy 15). But the primary focus always remained on the people of God, recognizing and honoring this principle for their personal lives. The fourth commandment reads: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God," Exodus 20:8 ESV.

Now, two things come quickly to mind. First, a four-day-work-week is not God's plan. Sorry. Oh, I realize we are not necessarily talking about the same things here. You see, the Sabbath principle encompasses much more than a person's job. It includes all labor, activity and business giving the individual time to relax, reflect, enjoy good fellowship and be renewed: body, soul and mind. The second thing that comes to mind is the simple fact this commandment states nothing about worship. I contendand a few writers of biblical and church history agree-the Jews made the Sabbath the day of worship. God expected us to worship Him everyday, in everything we do. Coming together should be related to our desire to worship, fellowship, encourage and strengthen each other, and be affirmed, challenged and instructed from the Word of God. Today we typically gather on the first day of the week in remembrance and recognition of the resurrection, rather than worshiping on the Sabbath in some supposed requirement of the Law. Many churches today are holding worship services on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as multiple weekdays to accommodate busy schedules and reach more people. But "church" has nothing to do with the Sabbath principle.

With that said, our focus is not on the day of worship, however. The intent is to recognize and understand a divine principle established at the very beginning. The Hebrew word Shabbath, means "rest." The Apostle Paul encourages us to honor the principle while not becoming legalistic in the practice. (See: Romans 14:5, 6; Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16, 17.) Again, understand God's directive and its purpose. This is a principle that He set in place for His creation, for His people. It's a principle that must not be ignored.

Now, allow me to personalize this piece a bit. I have been labeled an overachiever and a workaholic. To be honest, I received those as compliments until I became aware of what was really being described. I remember saying to my father: "Sleep is a waste of time. Can you imagine how much I could get done if I didn't have to sleep?"

Immaturity and a lack of reality at best. Sadly, I was a slow learner and tried to ignore the necessity of rest. Fortunately, l inherited good genes and utilized the gym and recreation to help maintain. Well, that is, along with the mercy and grace of God and an exceptional wife, I was able stay after it. Alas, ultimately necessity became reality. I only wish I had learned that I was not helping myself, enhancing my productivity or doing anyone else a favor by ignoring God's Sabbath principle.

I remember working on my doctoral project/dissertation. I was determined to "get 'er done." At times I would be typing away long after Margaret had called it a day. The strange thing was— in the morning I might well find myself reading what I had written the night before and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It was simple: highlight and erase. I had ignored the God-given principle of the need for rest.

Why is it that we feel we must work continuously? Where did this idea originate? Oh, I realize, the feeling is not universal. Some seem to believe they don't need to work at all. Entitlement, whether fostered by parents, society or self adopted, is rather rampant in certain parts of our Western Hemisphere. You would be hard-pressed to find it evidenced in third-world countries. I think three things speak to the fallacy of a "no work" mentality.

First, work yields a sense of personal satisfaction and therefore provides personal value. You are a player, not just a spectator in life; a contributor, not just a consumer. It isn't just what we produce or provide in our labor, it is the gratification we feel in our sense of achievement, in being responsible and possibly pushing ourselves beyond perceived limits. To finish the day and be able to realize the completion of a task, a finished product, or to hold the knowledge that you finished your shift caring for every detail of your responsibilities, all lend a sense of the value, affirming that there is a reason you are here.

As a senior in high school we did some research on work life and retirement. The study had to do primarily with our grandparents' and parents' generations. It was estimated that a man only lived about 6 months— on average— after retirement. With the job no longer there, the sense of self worth was gone. Some years ago I served on staff with a man who earned his doctorate in counseling. He oft mentioned the need to find some form of labor for men who would come to him depressed, feeling poorly about their existence. Work gave them value, restored their sense of self worth. It is a personal benefit derived from labor.

Second, we gain or realize practical benefit from our labor. Wages, produce, status and appreciation from others all enhance our lives. By earning a living we are able to provide for our needs and those of our family. We are not dependent on others, but become somewhat self-dependent. Furthermore, we are able to buy things, enjoy activities, go places we simply would not experience without the benefits of our labor. Not only do we gain personal benefits from what we earn, but the feeling of producing something that is appreciated and enjoyed by others truly expands the compensation we derive from our work. Might I dare add a little addendum to this facet of the focus? Some times we work to escape. Possibly things at home are not so good. Possibly some personal issues are bearing down and work is a way to relieve the pressure as we focus our attention elsewhere. I suppose one could see this as a benefit, but it is a reality that must be recognized and addressed lest tragedy trumps any value we may have found in hiding in our work.

Third, we are obedient to God. Whether realized or not, work is not part of the curse. Adam was given the task of cultivating the garden prior to the fall. Genesis 2:15 ESV reads, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." The fourth commandment- previously referenced - tells us that we are to labor 6 days, and then take our rest. To be blessed of the Lord, we must be obedient to the Lord. Therefore work is rewarding.

But then, labor is not our focus; rest is the object of the article. However, bringing a healthy balance to any subject is profitable. And the need for that balance draws US back to the subject at hand: Rest.

At the risk of appearing academic, I offer insight from the Harvard Business Review.

There's a large body of research that suggests that regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork does not help us. For starters, it doesn't seem to result in more output. In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. While managers did penalize employees who were transparent about working less, Reid was not able to find any evidence that those employees actually accomplished less, or any sign that the overworking employees accomplished more. 1 If you played sports, you understand how important a simple "time out" can be in the overall outcome of a game. Half time can seem like a welcomed vacation. If you are into fitness, you soon learn the necessity of taking a break between sets to maximize the effectiveness of your efforts. Laborers quickly learn the value of "taking ten," rather than ignoring the weariness they feel. Possibly you have noticed in your own life the number of mistakes that seem to result when "taking a break" is considered nonessential.

With that understanding, the concept of balance screams to be recognized and implemented. It is not all work, nor is it all play. And it certainly is not all rest. But returning to my opening thought, I ask you to consider your life as a beautiful piece of music created by the Greatest of all composers. It was written for His pleasure, but also for the enjoyment of His creation. But for Him to be pleased and for the composition to be fully appreciated by "the audience," each player will have to read the notes and the rests.

One day your concert will be concluded - every piece performed. Yet, your greatest satisfaction and reward will not come from the applause, be it weak or grand. Rather, it will be that moment when the Great Conductor/Composer walks from His place center stage and with an outstretched, nail-scarred hand, grasps yours. Then with a smile on His face and a gleam in His eye, you will hear Him say, "Well played!"

https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-research-is-clear-long-hours-backfire-for-people-and-forcompanies (accessed December 12, 2023).

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