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Nathan

When Pace of Life Becomes an Idol

April 27, 2014
Nathan Thompson

I hung up the phone. The slowly building frustration, anger and feelings of futility that had finally forced their way to the surface of my heart an hour before had now been reduced to the tears that ran down my cheeks. For weeks I had been overwhelmed, stressed out, and had been struggling against the feeling that I was fighting a losing battle against the ever-mounting pile of tasks that were accumulating on my desk.

My father’s voice on the other end of the phone still echoed in the chambers of my mind; “Son, you need to take a break.”

How right he was.

But why didn’t it seem that easy? Why did simply peeling away from the outstretched arms of all of my responsibility seem so irrational; so difficult? Why couldn’t I just “tough it out,” or “man up?”

God’s answer to my question was equally brief: “Because I didn’t create you that way.”

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Long before “the Curse” was ever delivered to Adam and mankind was relegated to ceaseless toil for all of his days, God, in His sovereignty, established a precedent in creation that would transcend even the language of the curse.

In Genesis chapter 1 we read that God crowned the sixth and final day of creation with the forging of mankind.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)

As the narration continues the Bible tells us what God did next – He rested.

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:2-3 NKJV)

There, woven into the fabric of creation, was the institution of a principle of rest that would be carried all throughout the pages of Scripture; a principle that I believe was stamped into the very DNA of our bodies and souls; a principle that demands us to stop and rest. As men, created in the image of a God who took the seventh day off, we have to recognize that we were created with a need to do likewise. Men need rest.

Let’s face it, resting is something our culture is horrible at. Our daily lives are far too infiltrated by margin-robbing noise for us to even contemplate rest, let alone find it.

As a pastor, I often find myself marginalizing the Sabbath by thinking of it as a time of only spiritual rest. Nothing is farther from the truth. While the Scripture does refer to the Sabbath as “holy,” and Hebrews chapter 4 provides us a beautiful text on the importance and availability of New Testament, Spirit-filled rest, the theme of physical rest is undeniable when studying the Sabbath in the entirety of the Biblical cannon.

As someone who has historically struggled to maintain a proper level of margin in my life, I remember being shocked when I realized that one of the reasons God allowed Israel to be torn from their land and led into Babylonian captivity was their failure to honor the Sabbath by working the land during the seventh year. At first this seemed harsh, but through study I came to understand that there was a far deeper meaning behind this.

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When you read Leviticus 25:1-7, you find that God commanded the Israelites to allow their fields to lie fallow every seven years. They were not to prune or reap, but whatever grew in the field of its own accord could be eaten. Leviticus 25:20-22 further reveals that God promised to bless the sixth year harvest with abundance so that no one who abided by His Sabbath principle would go hungry.

The principle behind this was trust. The purpose of the Sabbath was to set the seventh day/year apart (make it holy to the Lord) to recognize that God was the creator and owner of everything. If you believed that, then honoring the Sabbath was no problem because you trusted that the Owner of creation could handle things while you took your hands away from the plow.

When we trust that God is big enough to handle the situations in our life, taking time off becomes a lot easier. When we trust God, He comes through and the results are there.

Jeremiah chapter 17 contains a heart-wrenching conversation between God and his idolatry-ridden, wayward people, Israel. It begins with the accusation of idolatry and ends with God imploring His people to once again honor the Sabbath. What’s the correlation?

Idolaters worked right on through Sabbath days because they didn’t recognize that they belonged to a God that longed to take care of them. They worked their land during seventh years because they didn’t acknowledge God’s ownership of it.

It was painful to admit, but after hanging up the phone that morning I began to see that my pace of life had become an idol that was standing directly between God and myself. My constant striving had robbed me of spiritual and physical rest, whittled away at my trust in God and had propped me up on the pedestal of secular humanism; a place where I believed that if I didn’t handle it, it wasn’t getting done. What a lie. What a travesty.

The good news is that when I tearfully came to God that day I got a two-for-one: Forgiveness and a whole lot more rest now that I’m trusting in the Creator to handle my business on my days off.


Restfully,

Nathan




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