by: Joel Israel
If you know me, you know I love music, and one of my favorite artists at the moment is Ben Rector. Not only can the man put on a great concert, but he can also write simple yet meaningful songs about common life experiences. Take, for example, his song entitled “Thank God for the Summertime.” In the song’s verses, Ben uses both lyrics and mellow instrumentals to paint a picture of the ideal summer – a season of relaxation filled with backyard wiffleball tournaments, late nights, sleeping in, and sunburns. The chorus is more straightforward and is mostly dominated by the central phrase, “Thank God for the summertime.”
Before I get too far, let me just say I don’t think Ben Rector was trying to provide a biblical theology of the summer when he wrote this song, but I do think he’s absolutely right in his basic premise. Summertime is a gift from God, and we should thank Him for it. Unlike any other season of the year, summer emphasizes a very important part of humanity and the Christian life: rest. In fact, rest is so important to God that he established a special word, Sabbath, to commemorate it and weave it into our regular schedules. For students in particular, the summer marks an extended Sabbath or rest from schoolwork, extracurriculars, and similar responsibilities that fill the other nine months of the year. Since rest is incredibly important to God and the summer provides a unique opportunity to rest, how do we steward this season well, especially if we’re students with more time on our hands?
Let me provide three simple pieces of instruction that will help you better understand rest, maximize your summer, and likely lead you to – sing it with me – thank God for the summertime!
Create before You Rest
To really understand the biblical view of rest, we need to start at the beginning…literally. In the introductory chapters of Genesis, we see God at work! He’s filling the emptiness with galaxies, plants, creatures, and humans, and in celebration of this grand work of creation, God does something absolutely remarkable. He rests on the seventh day and declares it holy (Gen. 2:2-3). This connection between work and rest is further strengthened in Exodus 20. Moses calls on the people to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy because “in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11, ESV).
While the commandment is certainly important, the reason behind it is equally important because it establishes a triune relationship between work, rest, and God’s image borne by mankind. In short, both work and rest are expressions of God’s image and, therefore, demonstrate what it means to be human. To rest apart from work, and vice versa, is only a half-expression of God’s good design. So, while summer is a great opportunity for relaxation, let me encourage you to also work. Put God’s image on display by creating with your hands, your mind, and your words. Don’t shy away from work in this season all the while remembering that rest is equally important and equally biblical. So, rest, but before you do, create.
Rest with Others
Related to this idea of being God’s image bearers is also the reality that God created us for community. In fact, the initial act of creating human beings was communal. In Genesis 1:26, God declares, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” [emphasis added]. To bear God’s image is to live in community. Therefore, we should see rest as an opportunity to pursue relationships, not flee from them. Take a break from the video games and mindless scrolling through social media and reach out to those around you. Grab a coffee with friends, start a Bible study, or host a movie night. Invite others into your rest. It’s healthy, it’s human, and it’s godly.
Rest in Christ
Unlike Adam and Eve in the garden or Moses in the wilderness, believers today get the joy of resting in Christ while on earth. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But what does it mean to rest in Christ? In short, to rest in Christ means we understand he has already done the work of defeating sin on the cross, and just like God created the universe in Genesis, Jesus is now recreating us through the Holy Spirit. It means recognizing there is no work we could do to reconcile ourselves to God, but because of the cross, we can now rest eternally, knowing we’ve been rescued from sin and made children of God. So, if you want to experience true rest this summer, experience Christ. Engage with his Word and fall deeper in love with him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.