Sit a Spell
Tony Cooke

This message is an excerpt from our book, The Work Book: What We Do Matters to God. You can order copies of this book, as well as the video series on the same topic, from our bookstore or by calling 918-645-9120.

sit-spellYou may recognize that phrase (Sit a Spell) from the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies. You may also remember the words toward the very end of that tune:

“You’re all invited back again to this locality
To have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.
Hillbilly that is, sit a spell, take your shoes off.
Y’all come back now, y’hear?”

There is something inviting, isn’t there, about the idea of kicking your shoes off, sitting in a rocking chair, and enjoying some nice, refreshing iced tea or lemonade? Just be sure to avoid Granny’s “rheumatiz medicine.” (aka, moonshine). As I travel, especially in the southeastern part of the United States, I have noticed that rocking chairs have been placed in many airports. They’re usually full. It seems that people, especially in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life, know that they need to “sit a spell” and relax.

As much as Scripture advocates having a strong work ethic and working diligently, the Bible also stresses the need and importance of rest. During the time that Jesus trained His disciples, He made sure that they understood the importance of taking breaks and resting (Mark 6:30-32). God Himself set the pattern for us relative to rest. In Genesis 2:2–3 we read, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” I don’t believe that God rested because He was tired and worn out, but, in part, to set a necessary example for us.

While working hard and exhibiting a solid work ethic is very positive, we want to make sure that we work wisely and that we pace ourselves appropriately. Rest is part of God’s plan for our lives. We understand the need for rest when we acknowledge that we are finite and not omnipotent. Dave Williams wisely says, “Working too long without a break is a form of pride.” Gerald Brooks says, “God’s pace always leads to God’s peace.”

Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers, said much about the need for rest in a chapter titled “The Minister’s Fainting Fits.” Spurgeon faced bouts of depression throughout his ministry, and he felt that rest was a factor in overcoming and preventing such periods of despondency. He explains:

“The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. . . . Even the earth must lie fallow and have her Sabbaths, and so must we. . . .The Master knows better than to exhaust His servants and quench the light of Israel. Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. . . . A little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause. . . . Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission. . . . It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. . . . We must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.” (1)

Even if the Lord were only interested in our labor, He is wise enough to know that we do more work and better work when we’re rested and strong. But the Lord is not just interested in what we can do for Him. He offers us rest because He cares about us. Some of the old-time preachers were known to say, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” Wisdom teaches us that we don’t have to do either. The Bible reveals the many delights that God offers His people:

Rest: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7).

Refuge: “Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, NLT).

Retreat: “You’re my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me” (Psalm 119:114, MSG).

Respite: “On Mount Zion—there’s respite there! a safe and holy place!” (Obadiah 1:17, MSG).

Recovery: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (Matthew 11:28, MSG).

Reviving: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

Restoration: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).

Renewal: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; ey shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Rejuvenation: “These words hold me up in bad times; yes, your promises rejuvenate me” (Psalm 119:50, MSG).

Refreshing: “But I’m in the very presence of God—oh, how refreshing it is!” (Psalm 73:28, MSG).

Reflection: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:1). “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways” (Psalm 119:15, NLT). “I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord” (Psalm 119:55, NLT).

Relaxation: “I said to myself, ‘Relax and rest. God has showered you with blessings’” (Psalm 116:7, MSG).

Does God intend for us to work for Him? Absolutely. Does He want us to be effective and productive here on this earth? Certainly. But God also understands our limitations and needs. There is enough time for us to do what God asks of us and still take time to rest and enjoy life. While it’s good to have high aspirations, and it’s great to be diligent in achieving our goals, it’s still important to stop and smell the roses along the way. Paul told Timothy that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

The real key to working and enduring is balance—allocating our time and energy properly so that our lives reflect a healthy rhythm. Saint Augustine said it well: “No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due to his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to the neglect the contemplation of God.”

Consider these other great insights:

“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.”
– Benjamin Franklin

“The stops of a good man are ordained by the Lord as well as his steps.”
– George Mueller

“It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.”
– George Macdonald

“Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him. In Hebrew, ‘Be silent in God, and let Him mould thee.’ Keep still, and He will mould thee to the right shape.”
– Martin Luther

“Working constantly may be visible proof that deep inside we do not trust God.”
– Bill Bright

To the weary, the fatigued, the exhausted, and the burnt-out, God has rest for you. God has restoration for you. God has a refreshing for you. We will accomplish far more for God, even if we appear to work less, when we are adequately rested. Let’s come to terms with the fact that we are not omnipotent and find the pleasure of a reasonable pace.

(1) Spurgeon, Charles H. Lectures To My Students (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1954), 160–161.