Mark 6:30–32 (ESV) — 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.
After the disciples return from the first mission, they can’t wait to tell Jesus. We learn from these verses two equally important things—first, the importance of prayer. We often unhelpfully make a distinction between sacred and secular callings. When we read this, we think it has nothing to say to me because I’m not an apostle, and I did not just spend a season in evangelism, touring the countryside two-by-two to spread the gospel. But all lawful vocations, are pleasing to God and should be done as unto the Lord. Further, we may come to the Lord and tell him all that we have done–he cares.
“Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”Westminster Shorter Catechism, #98
We come laying before the Lord all our work, asking him for wisdom, guidance, and the ability to do work that glorifies him.
But secondly, we learn that we are finite creatures, that means there are limits to what we can and can’t do–and the Lord knows this. Because he made us, he knows our frame. And so, he gives his people rest. Sometimes this is seasons of rest, but ultimately it is the sabbath rest that God has given built into our weeks. We as Americans fall into two errors when it comes to rest. Either our rest is our highest ideal, we long for the existence that does not involve any work. We work jobs, but we are living for the weekend. Leisure and rest dominate our attitude and seep into all areas of our lives as we become more and more undisciplined. As we learn to cut corners in work to get the job done faster, with less effort, we do the same things in our private lives. Giving way to pornography instead of cultivating a strong relationship with our spouse. Letting the TV raise our children because its hard work to teach and instruct them in the way they should go. Failing to care for our bodies through exercise and healthy eating, because its easier to grab that prepackaged goodie, veg out on the couch.
But on the other hand, we can be so diligent at work, and even very disciplined in other areas of our lives, but refuse to surrender one day a week of rest to the Lord. In that way, we make an idol of our “productivity,” and subtly, our identity becomes wrapped up in our performance. But God gives us the work-rest cycle, six days of labor, and the seventh is a day of rest. Jesus says to you, “come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” Rest then takes intentionality because the world around is always pressuring you to conform to its way of being in this world.
Father, too often we fall off on either side of the ditch, making rest our god, or making work our god. But you are our God, and so teach us to give you the best of our work, and to set aside a day for rest. Thank you for the gift of rest, a foretaste of that great rest, which is to come. When we will enter into the glory of you, Father, and share in the perfect blessedness of enjoying you forever. Strengthen our hands for today’s work, for we offer it up to you. Through Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.