Resolving to Rest

When I was a kid, I did not understand the verses which said, “Deny yourself and do no work.” What was that all about, anyhow? Work is, well, work. It would be a pleasure not to work, not self-denial. However, as an adult, I can now fully understand what these verses mean. There are several things about work which it takes much self-denial to lay aside, including control and identity.

For many years I have striven to have one day a week where I “Sabbath” in the truest sense. I’m an extremely driven-to-produce person, so in my Sabbaths I emphasize presence over product. Therefore I read and write devotionally, not instructively. I pray more intimately and less intercessionally. But this becomes difficult in certain seasons — when there are many plates spinning, when giving up a day in the week feels like losing three days. It is at these times that it takes great self-denial to give up my desire to be in control, to be productive, to make strides forward. There was no provision in the Old Testament to forego Sabbaths during the harvest seasons — the busy times — because God wants us to acknowledge that He is still in control, even (maybe especially) then. He is the One who makes us productive, who gives us the increase, who multiplies our efforts. So we are called to deny our self-effort, and yield to His enablement. This side of the cross it is no longer a matter of “law”; it is now an act of relationship and trust.

Another area where self-denial and work come together is in the area of the identity we find in our labors, whether that is our identity as a mother or an executive, a teacher or a pastor, a role or a vocation. Sometimes we have to deny ourselves in finding our identity there, whether for a day or a season, so we can find our identity where it truly lies, in our intimate relationship with God. This will look different in each individual (certainly the parents of young children cannot take a day or season break from their responsibilities without delegating that to others), but it teaches us to submit these roles to the Lord, seeing them as proceeding from Him, being enabled by Him, and responsible to Him.

When we deny ourselves and do no work we are resolving to rest. We are making it a determined intention in our lives to submit all our productivity to Him and leave the outcome in His hands. It is a deep demonstration of trust and a true expression of worship.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries