An Encouragement to Rest

By Mark D. Roberts

June 29, 2015

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . . And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

Genesis 1:1Genesis 2:25

In today’s Life for Leaders edition, I continue to reflect back on things I have learned through our devotional study of Genesis 1-2.

Through my work with the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, I regularly interact with highly productive, extremely busy people. Many are marketplace leaders who oversee substantial organizations. Others are entrepreneurs who devote countless hours to their start-ups. Still others are pastors whose work never ends, or non-profit leaders who are quite literally taking on the world. I find myself at home with people like this because I also work hard, often with much joy in the adventure of leadership and productivity.

Work comes naturally to leaders. Rest? Well, that’s often a different story. Many of us work so much that we don’t get the rest we need. We sleep less than the experts tell us is necessary both for health and for wisdom. Because of the blessing/curse of technology, our work can invade our family dinners, getaway vacations, our so-called “down time” with friends, and our worship gatherings. The demands of work combined with our own inclinations encourage us to labor without stopping.

Then we read Genesis 1-2. In the first chapter, God creates all things in six days. The story continues into the first verses of the second chapter, where God “finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (2:2-3). Though the text does not instruct us to rest (this comes later in Exodus 20:8-11), the example of God is certainly striking. I find it both encouraging and challenging. If God rested for a day in the first week, shouldn’t I?

Though God’s resting in Genesis 1-2 is mentioned only in three verses, I am highlighting it here because I believe the divine example is needed today, perhaps more than ever. A recent article in the New York Times documented the fact that Americans are working now more than before (a 9% growth in work hours between 1979 and today). Excessive work contributes to unjust workplaces and impoverishes the family life of workers. It prevents us from flourishing in all dimensions of our lives. Since the De Pree Center seeks to “serve leaders so they might flourish in life and leadership,” I’m putting the spotlight on God’s example in Genesis so that you and I might take time to reflect on it. I expect we might need the encouragement that comes from God’s rest on the seventh day.


As you think about God’s resting on the seventh day, what occurs to you? What feelings to you have? What thoughts?

Are you getting the rest you need?

Are you getting the rest that is consistent with God’s design? If so, what helps you to rest? If not, why not?

How might you imitate God’s example in your own life this week?


Gracious God, thank you for resting on the seventh day. Your example teaches us, inspires us, challenges us, admonishes us. Help us, Lord, to be attentive to your Word and Spirit when it comes to the matter of rest. Help us to work through how we should rest along with our fellow disciples who can help us with discernment and accountability. May we discover the fullness of life that you intend for us, a life rich with work and rest, a life governed by the rhythm you exemplified in creation. Amen.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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