It Takes More Faith to Rest Than to Work


The principle of rest comes from God and His Word—and God's Word is always superior to our word and our own doings.

From August 1 to September 5, I was away from day-to-day ministry at Cross Church. During that time, I participated in a few conference calls and one speaking engagement in Nashville, and the rest of the time segment was given to a few weeks of sabbatical.

After serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention for two years while serving as Senior Pastor of Cross Church, I needed a few weeks to rest. I am thankful the leadership of our church wanted me to be away for rest and refreshment.

A Story for the Right Time

Dave Butts, Chairman of the National Prayer Committee, called me on August 1. I told him I was beginning a sabbatical, but was really struggling due to the pace I had been accustomed to for at least two years.

Dave told me that one year earlier he was in the same place. He began his weeks away in Israel. He walked into a church for their worship service and their pastor was just returning from a sabbatical. His first words to the congregation were: It takes more faith to rest than to work.

Dave told me the Holy Spirit immediately confirmed in his heart that those words were for him. God used those words again in my life on August 1 as he had used them in Dave’s. During my time away, I prayed daily, “Lord, it takes more faith to rest than to work. I trust you.” Through the Word of God and diligence in prayer, the Lord rested my soul while I was away. I give God praise.

At The Right Time, God Always Has a Word

Even though for the past 32 years I have faithfully taken each Friday to spend with my family and my wife, I see my vocation not as a job, but a calling. I am consumed with the calling God has upon my life and upon the church of Jesus Christ.

Fulfilling this calling 24/7 is a joy, never a dread for me. While this may be commendable, there have also been times when I have struggled to push pause for a period of time. Therefore, at the right time, God always has a word.

It takes more faith to rest than to work is a timely word. The reason is because it is built upon the dynamic Word of God, which is always superior to any of our own words.

The Principle of Rest Comes from God and His Word

In Exodus 23:10-12, we learn that the word for “rest” means to “discontinue, cease, or to take away.” Whether the land is resting in the seventh year or we rest on the seventh day, we are to discontinue or cease our work. Even God rested on the seventh day when He created everything.

When we do this, we become refreshed. When we are refreshed, we are “taking a breath” from life itself and also being “breathed upon” by God simultaneously.

The Sabbath day, according to Exodus 20:8-11, draws attention like no other day of the week, as it is to be a day for resting, withdrawing, and reflecting. In Acts 3:19, we learn that “seasons of refreshing” indicates that this is an opportune time, the right time, when we recover our breath and when the Holy Spirit breathes upon us.

According to Revelation 1:10, we believe Sunday is the Lord’s Day, the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, this is our day that is set aside for worship according to Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.

We understand that the Lord’s Day is a day of worship and rest, a day for each of us to take a breath in life, and to have the Holy Spirit breathe upon us through worship with God’s people in our local church.

3 Ways to Live Out the Principle of Rest

1. Increase the value of rest from work and busyness.

This is God’s way, found in God’s Word.

Caution: Busyness in your life is your greatest distraction to resting physically and worshipping the Lord consistently.

Busyness does not indicate spirituality, but in reality, distracts you from being all God wants you to be.

2. Prioritize Sundays for rest and worship.

Sunday is the day we take time to breathe personally and to be breathed upon by the Holy Spirit through worship with God’s people, the Church. Sunday is not just about you taking a breath, but also about God breathing upon you.

Sunday is to be a day of reflection and anticipation. It is a turning point in your life weekly. This is why Sunday is to be a day of refreshment.

3. Strategize time away annually.

This is what we call a vacation or staycation. Generally, the American worker gets two weeks of vacation annually. Strategize this time to be a time of rest, but also a time to let the Holy Spirit breathe upon you.

A Final Word for You 

On August 1, I prayed, “Oh Lord, settle my spirit. Help me to ‘be’ more than ‘do.’ Speak to me in this season of my life personally and about our church. Give me the faith to rest and not to work. I trust You.”

Whether you pray this for your day of rest weekly or for your vacation, let me testify, God answered my prayer.

He will also answer your prayer.

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