In those descriptions, we are tempted to compare Jack and Bob by their activities. But that is the wrong comparison to make. Jack and Bob, though both earnest Christians, have radically different views about God’s sovereign grace. The only way you can prioritize rest is by believing in God’s gracious and providential control over all things. If God is not in control or is not abundantly gracious or is not the One who assigns our tasks each day, then our future protection and success are completely up to us. We have to forgo rest, have to sacrifice rest to our idols of success and safety. We place ourselves in the position of securing what only God can provide and, as a result, have no place in our lives for rest. But when we start with God’s sovereign grace, we can begin from rest and move to work. Each day we begin with the evening—we are asleep and God is awake working (Ps. 121:3–4); we wake each morning to join God in His work, to set about the work He has already prepared for us (Eph. 2:10). Each week we begin with a day of celebration, a day of inactivity, a day of rest; we begin the week on the second day of the week proclaiming that our God is so strong that He doesn’t need our help to get each week started—He accomplishes it on His own.
Beginning from rest and moving to work, as we’ve seen, includes both a biblical view of the fourth commandment and of God’s sovereign grace. Practically lived out, this means that our rest takes on a different flavor, incorporating different practices, specifically physical rest, the rest of worship, and the rest that comes from celebrating in friendship.
Christians are commanded to physically rest. That is a big part of the fourth commandment, the Sabbath day, and days that begin with sleep. A big part of physical rest is getting enough sleep. As Matthew Walker says in his book Why We Sleep, “Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.” Walker discovered this in his scientific research; Christians know it as biblical truth. We must sleep. God designed our sleep in such a way that we are effectively paralyzed while we sleep. Sleep is God’s way of ensuring that we will deal with time, rest, and our own mortality. One of the most powerful things you can physically do to demonstrate your trust in God’s sovereign and gracious rule is to get a good night’s sleep (Ps. 127:2). The other aspects of physical rest tend to fall into place around this one central practice.
Christians are also commanded to enjoy the rest of worship. In the end, God is our rest (Ps. 4:8), He is our eternal Sabbath (Heb. 4:11). It is in this way that worship is restful to our souls. We receive spiritual refreshment when we spend private time in prayer and Bible reading. We receive a unique rest when we worship with our brothers and sisters each Sunday. Christianity far excels banks for number of holidays. Our God has commanded a weekly holiday—a day to rejoice and rest in Him.
Third, Christians are commanded to experience the rest of celebration with friends and family. The Lord’s Supper on Sunday is a pattern of the feasting we should enjoy throughout the week—gathered with friends and family to thank God for His provision, to sing, and to laugh. When secular social scientists speak about the importance of family dinners together, they are only echoing biblical anthropology. We were designed to receive rest and refreshment as we celebrate and feast with friends and family.
So, practically speaking, the best thing you can do enjoy your personal time is first to jettison unbiblical views of work, rest, and God’s gracious character. Then focus on glorifying God by physically resting—a few hours each day and a day each week. This physical rest will especially be seen in your commitment to getting enough sleep. Also focus on your spiritual rest, the renewal that comes from the public and private worship of God. Last, focus on the rest that comes from relationships—celebrations, activities, and feasts with family and friends, rejoicing with gratitude in the God of your salvation.
In the end, what we find these practices and the fourth commandment drawing for us is a picture of the life of our Lord, Jesus the Christ. He obeyed all God’s laws, including the fourth commandment, for us and for our salvation. He came to do the will of His Father, and He trusted the sovereign rule of His Father, even to and through His cross. Jesus rested and slept, sometimes sleeping so soundly that a stormy squall couldn’t wake Him (Luke 8:22–25). Jesus frequently ate, celebrated, and feasted with His friends and family (Luke 7:34), as He, too, in His humanity, benefited from the refreshment of friendship (John 15:15). It is Jesus who invites us to follow Him into the biblical use of our personal time for rest and refreshment in the service to Him and others. It is ultimately in Jesus that we find our rest (Matt. 11:28).