Work Hard to Rest

Summer is here and everyone is off and running to their favorite getaway for a ‘much-needed’ vacation.  Whether you are a stressed-out student in school or enslaved to your job or business we all need a REST!  In this hustle and bustle work-a-holic world we live in though; why do we work so hard to get a rest?

There is little doubt that a majority of Americans are the most overworked people in the industrial world.   A United Nations survey showed that Americans work more than 400 hours per year more than Germans and over 1/3 of us work over 48 hours per week.   62% of all American households have both parents working.  There are 11 million households with single parents raising children on their own.  Other than 3rd world countries and dictatorship-led countries Americans top the group that works way too hard.

Gov’t Mandated Vacation Hours     Per Country

What is crazy is the amount of earnings we spend on our vacation time, limited as both may be. I say limited because compared to other countries we are the only one that does not have employment laws with required vacation time.  This chart compares the required paid vacation time that Europeans put on the little charts we have in the bathroom about Employee rights.  You won’t see paid vacation time listed.  Thus we Americans make the most of our minuscule vacation time when it arrives – by spending a large portion of the money we worked so hard to obtain.

In an article on American spending habits it says the average American spends $1497 a month on entertainment, that’s $18,000 a year.  If you make $100k a year that is 18% of your income, actually way more as that $100k is pre-tax dollars.  Of that $18k, if you only take ONE one-week of vacation a year the average cost is between $4100-$5100 for a family of four per this article

I am a numbers fanatic.  I am only showing 4 of 30 references I read to give you data as we discuss the income and spending of the average Joe/Jo’s in the U.S.  Seeking Alpha updates the national average monthly.  For April 2023 they claim the average household income is around $81,000 per year.    Using the simple math of $100k is a good measuring stick.  If you make $100k a year and actually only work 40 hours a week, multiplying that by 50 weeks means you make $2k per week or $50 an hour.  If you are at $25 an hour you make $50k.  If just above minimum wage at $12.50 an hour you make $25k. 

A person making $50 an hour, with a family of four works 100 hours to cover the cost of a one-week vacation, or actually 135 hours since all vacation spending is from after-tax and other pre-paycheck reductions.

With that in mind obviously, the person making minimum wage splurging like a 6figure earner would spend 3/4’s of their money on entertainment based on the figures above. I know people that go into debt for every vacation they take as if it is a sacred rite and one that is worth all the work in the world to splurge on those weeks.  They say who cares if Disney charges $150 a person to enter in their amusement park (whimpering when looking at the debt bill later).   By golly, my kids are not going to leave home without having been there at least a few times in their childhood.  I have seen people who couldn’t afford to have food do just that.  I call that insanity.

The main point of this article is Americans work their tails off for 50 weeks a year typically spending 1/8th of their earnings to pay for 2-3 weeks of vacation.  Afterward, do we actually feel like we got any rest?

Don’t get me wrong, vacations and time off are extremely important.  In fact, Forbes wrote an article they titled  Why taking a vacation could save your life.‘    Of course, a business magazine would tout the importance of vacations since travel and tourism contributes $2trillion to the GDP.  They did list these important benefits of vacation time worth noting:

  • ·         Vacation time increases mindfulness

  • ·         Vacation time improves heart health

  • ·         Vacation time reduces stress

  • ·         Vacation time boosts brainpower

  • ·         Vacation time improves sleep

  • ·         Vacation time increases work productivity

The purpose of a vacation is what – to get away from work so you can rest.  Have some fun doing things that you like to do rather than what you have to do.  You leave your home (or noisy apartment) behind because you avoid that housecleaning and yard work on the to-do list.  Many tout creating memories that last forever; worth every penny right?  So don’t be like the 42% of Americans that actually leave some of their vacation time on the table and do not use it at all.  I admit I did it as I had a commission-based career;  being away cost me money.   Each year I often had a week or two of vacation time I never used.     Don’t be like me.

As I look back on years of workaholism with an ‘always work-hard and play hard’ attitude some of it was not wise.  And then when I  found myself on a life flight from a stroke and damaged heart;  I am sure I have overdone it all.     Thus I reflect on rest...   

Some Psych experts hold that workaholism is a positive attribute by emphasizing the benefits gained from heavy work investment and extra work efforts.  Most scholars highlight the negative and riskier sides of impaired health and work–life conflicts.  Personally, I think there is an irony to the fact I had a stroke on Labor Day.    No person on their deathbed ever wished they had worked more.   Even now in supposed retirement, I have replaced the work world with other tasks like volunteering (aka working for free) and writing long blogs that I have to call mini-books because of their length.  I worked really hard to reach that rest stage of life, yet still sometimes I realize I missed the lessons.  But that is changing as old revelations are screaming for new life changes.  Beyond vacation, beyond days off, beyond walks in parks, I/we need much more to really rest.  We actually have to Work Hard At Rest!  Say what, that makes no sense Joe.

If you clicked on this story you’ve stumbled on a place that makes you think, or at least get to read about someone who already thought about it for you.  I give you a choice to go further.  For some of you, this was all you needed to hear (or your ADHD can handle)  I hope you are motivated to make sure you use that vacation time.  The number$ tells you to ratchet down the spending on extravagant vacations so don’t get sucked into having to work more to pay for them.  Go have some fun and rest if you are not interested in a spiritual viewpoint.

But, if you need more on how to work hard at something more important – true REST and PEACE, then read on further.

Please don’t go away yet! Read below the red line for more. If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, every post is written in two parts. You have just read the portion challenging the mind, body, and soul.  In or on The Portico (as in Solomon’s Portico or porch), I seek to tap into your spiritual side, but only IF YOU DARE.  If you are in a mood of ‘don’t shove God down my throat’, this part is not for you, it is your out. Otherwise, Keep reading past the Red Line Below and read Part 2  for the Spiritual side of this story (For an explanation of this creative writing attempt – read the ‘Do You Dare’ Tab)      ___________________________________________________________________________________


You would think that the word rest would have a simple definition and no confusion or controversy.  Yet Noah Webster needed 765 words to define it.  If you don’t regularly look at the original Webster’s dictionary from 1828 you are missing out.   The amazing brain of Noah saw the importance of the word REST.   (did you read it? Click that line or you’ll miss key points)  He went into a great deal describing that rest is both a noun by itself and a compound noun and an action word  (verb) both transitive and intransitive.  It is funny that even the word itself is confusing, how can rest be an active word?  Read all 765 words, it is relaxing in and of itself and is almost a complete Bible teaching.  The modern Webster’s dictionary has reduced Noah’s original to about 200 words and eliminated any reference to Bible verses. No surprise.

The Bible mentions the word rest 275 times and there are 831 occurrences on the subject matter.   One occurrence that perplexed me for years relates to the topic of this article – working hard at rest. 

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest of God, to know and experience it for ourselves, so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience as those who died in the wilderness.”   Hebrews 4:11 AMP

The TPT version says – So then we must give our all and be eager to experience this faith-rest life’, NKJV says “Let us, therefore, be diligent to enter that rest‘ KJV – “Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest,”  and the NLT simply uses the children’s soccer game motivation tone  ‘So let us do our best to enter that rest.

If you examine the picture for this story you see a man straining to climb to the top of a tree where a hammock invitingly hangs.  If you are desperate for rest like he is perhaps you need an app that dings to tell you to take time to take a deep breath, stretch, and rest a little during the busy day.  Perhaps you need to schedule time away for short breaks and for longer breaks as well.  Perhaps you need to schedule power naps.  But most importantly we need to take time to find rest and peace with God Himself, where our everything comes from.

Here is a great read-along song titled There is nothing more important.  It’s a great theme to have it playing in your mind. 

Resting in God is so important that it is #4 of the ten commandments – Remember the Sabbath seventh day to keep it holy, set apart, and dedicated to God). Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath [a day of rest dedicated] to the Lord your God; on that day you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock or the temporary resident who stays within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, that is, set it apart for His purposes.”  Exodus 20:8-11

The Ten Commandments of God. Plain English.

The first 5 commandments are all about putting God first.  There is a reason for that!  Some exegesis experts are going to look at my interpretation of Hebrews 4:11  compared to the whole of Hebrews chapter 4   as being off.  It is confusing as it is not talking about taking a rest break, it is talking about entering into the same resting state or place as God.  Please read everything before writing it all off.

The result of a life of pursuing Him and His Presence brings us to an equal state of rest and peace.  That is what we desire in a relationship with God is it not?   That state though is not a permanent one because we get out of alignment in our daily life.  Do you know anyone that is/was in a constant state of peace (other than Jesus)?   Thus  4:11 (and the rest of the chapter) includes a stern warning to not make the same mistakes of disobedience that so many do.  The main example was Joshua the leader who took the complaining group of Israelites into the promised land.  They previously for forty years had missed the ‘rest’ of God due to their complaints against God Himself.

Some people look at the Bible as a book of rules.  That word disobedience makes them cringe.  But wait.  If you look at the 10 commandments those first five are about appreciation for what is our inheritance as God’s children.  It tells us that we belong to God as His children.  God wants what is best for us.  He tells us no other god will stack up to Him and He is our Father.  He gives us an earthly Father to show us just a small piece of what His love is like (sadly too many bad dads have ruined that for some). 

God is saying hey, I am dedicated to giving you a whole day where you get to enjoy what I have provided you;  rest, and relax in My peace.  Please spend it with Me every week so I can remind you of what you’ve already got and that your future is covered as well.   By stopping all we are doing and spending time with Him, we gain actual peace from knowing that He has everything in control.  And He will help us with all.  Worry-free, anxiety-free, guilt-free.

In spending that time with Him in the whole of the Bible we see for instance in Exodus 20 (my simple explanation on the Sabbath) it said to take a day to remember God because He has done everything for you personally.  Do nothing yourself all day.  Watch, see, and hear from Him that everything will be fine if you are not working with your hands to take care of your stuff.   We did nothing to get here on the earth, God brought us into it.  We did nothing to create the earth and cosmos, God did all of that.   That should be freeing in and of itself. 

Then we read the new testament.  Jesus and the Apostles explain in further ways it has all been done for us.  Thus we can sit back and rest and enjoy that special rest day.  Here are samples of restful words:

For a person to be saved and born again we do/did nothing to deserve it. God set it all up for us, so we should be forever thankful: “But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” John 6:43-44 NLT

All anyone has to do technically is believe, nothing else. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”   Ephesians 2:8 NLT 

God gives us true rest thru Jesus.  “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”   Matthew 11:28 NLT  

No work or works or religious things save a person.  None.  Zero. “And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved.” Romans 11:6

Don’t confuse any of this by thinking we sit around and do nothing.  God said to rest and remember Him one day out of 7, not 7 out of 7.  But we are to trust Him 24x7.   That faith and trust grow if we do more than our best to be with Him and get those constant reminders.

Paul said this.  Paul was a forgiven murderer.  He took what God’s love and forgiveness was about and was motivated to do everything he possibly could to let other people know about it.  All out of love, never a have to reason.  ”But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace.  1 Corinthian 15:10

God keeps on working to keep us in His fold.  So even if you have your Christian life totally together, even that was not done by you.  On the other side, we don’t sit and do nothing, we join in with Him out of that feeling of love. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Phil 1:6 NLT

It is not your work nor mine, nor any preacher, priest, or religion that saves us. It is the work and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that saves. Baptism by water and baptism by Spirit are both followed by faith. The only work we do is in true repentance, and in reality, that is a work of God, as No man is even able to repent without God drawing us to Him first.  It is why He said we need to have a Sabbath and be at rest, so we see our unworthiness, our nothingness, and that we mean zippo without Him.  God doesn’t need us, we need Him.  As soon as we get on our high horses and think we are something, then we’re in trouble.  When we get saved from sin, a part of that sin is saved from the pride of religion too.   Thus in our perfect nothingness, everything that we do is for God’s purposes and Glory.

So where does this Work Hard to Rest stuff fit in if it has all been done for us?

1st – If any of us are in a position of being near perfect, then our time with God would most likely be dealing with humility and pride.  There is always room for improvement, Paul himself said he had not attained perfection.   Thus we always have reason to make sure we go to that throne room of God.  When things are going well in the ministry world we can worship Him in the fullness of Joy and gladness. What a celebration to have every Saturday or Sunday, if in that state of oneness most of our 168 hours per week.

But, then there is the reality for the rest of us that have more work to do.

Paul had this to say in a letter to one of the best groups of people under his stewardship to the people in Philippi: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:12-13 (nasb)

While God has given those who want it a free ticket to heaven, there is another side of the world we’re living in convincing and tempting us to take a free ticket to hell instead.  Even though you may have made a commitment to Christ that spirit of doubt and lies finds ways to get us off track of what is best for our lives.   On the opposite end of this spectrum last week I wrote Part #5 about the death penalty and the horrors of human trafficking.  Don’t think I’ve gone soft, but I have in a good way I think with this balancing piece.  When we spend time with God first He wants to help us break away from the type of lifestyle that kills and destroys us and causes suffering for everyone.  Faith and belief do not exempt us from the laws of nature and society and what others breaking them bring to our life.  Read my other stuff to get that view.

So we need to plan ahead for what may come.   An old line from financial planners states that most people spend twice as much time planning out their next vacation than they do on their finances.  How often do we plan out time in advance to ensure that we get time to rest and relax?  How often do we plan out time in advance to get an extended time (if any) in God’s word or alone with God in prayer, healing, seeking answers, seeking forgiveness for mistakes, and other things on our minds? 

The Bible tells us about Jesus constantly spending time praying, being alone, and honoring his Father in heaven.    He set the example for us all as the only perfect One gathered His strength and wisdom in solitude often.  While Jesus was not under the Jewish Law He was known to go to the Temple often.  While going to church is not a law and requirement for salvation, it is helpful for us all to be around others seeking to increase their faith in God.  We all know how brutal the 6-day work weeks are and upkeep of our bodies, home, cars, and stuff.  Not to mention if you have a spouse, kids, and other people you help.

Sometimes whether we want it to happen or not the weight of the world can be on our shoulders.  I revert back to the previous verses on our nothingness.   All the world’s problems are not mine/ours to solve.  But when we feel the heaviness of all that is happening around us  REST!!!  Enter into His rest in everything, it is our most important work.  One verse tells us to ‘pray without ceasing.’ 1 Thess 5:17.

For anyone that does not know how to ‘spend time alone with God’ I have previously written two practical guides on the topics.  Both are free and filled with details and even music playlists to enhance the time.  The first is titled How to Worship at Home‘ and the second is   “Did You Hear The Meaning Of Covid 19.”    It has nothing to do with Covid but illustrates how we can actually HEAR from God.   If you seldom, if ever,  are sure you are hearing God’s voice in your life, now is the time to start.

Lastly, in the cover picture, I show a pair of sandals. 

 The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone nor every moment in church. Sometimes I undersell church attendance.   That is only because sometimes there are so many church activities and an emphasis on participation in a myriad of programs that it leads to people missing the most important time – one-on-one time resting with God alone.   I am often fed by other people including Pastors and ministry leaders.

In fact last Sunday I was dealt a perfect culminating word for this topic of rest and relying on God in a balanced fashion.   I thank Moises Zayas of Greater Life Church-Waxhaw  for talking about Joshua who is the subject matter of Hebrews 4.  Moises talked about an encounter Joshua had with an angel prior to the march around the soon-to-be-fallen walls of Jericho:

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.”   Joshua 5:13-15 NLT

 When I speak of being in the presence of God it is holy ground.  When you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about.  Joshua was about to take the people that Moses left behind for him into the promised land and they had to fight a strong Army that was protected by a mighty wall. Joshua had to be frightened and at his wits end trying to figure out how they could possibly win.   In this passage, we see Joshua was in a Holy place.  Do you think he was at rest and at peace, in this pre-moment of a war?   

God gives us peace before, during, and after everything we go thru. If we allow Him to do so.  Are we making the time to be working hard at finding HIS rest?  If so then we’ll be able to take our sandals off and relax.  

Hebrews 4 ends with a message that we too can stand on Holy ground and take our worries to God and hear His voice of comfort.  Or we can sit at His feet near the throne if we please, it is already set up and waiting for us to visit any time –   “So then since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Joshua asked what do you want me to do?  He was told – DO NOTHING!  When God either tells you or sends a message saying I’ve got this covered all you have to do is walk around a wall, it sure takes the pressure off, doesn’t it.   As we continually Work Hard at rest,  God will remind us of the simple things we know we can do to get it done.  At others, He may just tell you as He did to Joshua, I’ll knock that wall that’s blocking your way right down to the ground.   Now, take off your sandals and rest here at My feet.   Well done, you earned it, enjoy it, You Have Worked Hard to Rest.     Selah. 

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