A Pastoral Letter on Resting in Christ
Dear saints of New City Fellowship,
All of us need to make a living. There might even be seasons in our life when working long hours is required to earn a livelihood for yourself and your family. However, our culture asserts that there are multiple reasons to be consistently and frenetically busy. Our work culture says that we will miss out on that job promotion or salary bump if we don’t work beyond our mandated hours. Our success-driven culture sells its middle-class dream through wealth accumulation. Both of these unwritten cultural manifestos increase our pressure to perform and succeed. Far from a healthy ambition that makes us more human, these mindsets make us greedily competitive and less human. One study has shown that Indians are the second most sleep-deprived people in the world. Our sleep deprivation can make us volatile and unfruitful Christians. (Think of the time you were so tired that you lashed out at someone for just talking to you.)
Against such a culture, our God says, ‘Rest.’ He finishes his week of creation by resting himself and thus creates a pattern for humanity to follow. The problem is that sin makes the pursuit of anything that contributes to our true humanity distasteful; as sinners, we don’t do the right things for God’s glory as we were created to do. Our spiritual tastebuds need to change for us to desire what God desires. In Jesus Christ, God promises to give people a new heart to desire the right things for the right purpose. He promises to help his people to enjoy work in the right way.
It is for this reason that our attitude toward rest reveals what we actually think of God. Is work a way for me to live for Christ’s glory and the good of others with all that he has given me? Or is it a way for me to achieve self-gratification through productivity, reputation and wealth? As Christians, we can often answer the second question affirmatively. Thus, as elders of a local church of Bangaloreans in a sleep-deprived city, we encourage you to rest. This is not a call to laziness but to intentional times of refreshment. There are two rhythms of rest: micro-rhythms and macro-rhythms.
Micro-rhythms of rest are the regular habits of providing physical, emotional and spiritual rest for your body and soul.
- Sleep daily: Contrary to our culture’s view, sleep is not a waste of time. It is a gift of God: ‘It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep’ (Psalm 127:2). Your sleeping habit is an act of faith.
- Quiet time: Enjoy time with the Lord meditating on God’s Word and praying to him. Often, we are busy with our vocation and callings, not because the work demands it, but because work has become an excuse to numb our anxieties. Quiet times are times alone with the Father to remind your anxious soul and restless body that your Maker and Redeemer is your provider and protector. As the hymn-writer says, ‘O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!’ Your quiet time is an act of faith. Consider following the Community Bible Reading plan, which many of us at NCF have found helpful. If you have an hour for reading, singing and prayer, read and pray back the two chapters. If you only have 20-30 minutes, read and pray back the New Testament chapter. You can do this by enjoying a walk in a park or neighbourhood.
- Rest weekly: Keep work away from your mind on the Lord’s Day. Be a part of gathered worship. Fellowship with others. Volunteer to serve the gathered body. There is indeed refreshment when we serve and fellowship with God’s people: ‘whoever refreshes others will be refreshed’ (Proverbs 11:25, NIV). Your weekly rest is an act of faith. Our weekly rest is NCF’s shared micro-rhythm of rest that we get to enjoy together.
Macro-rhythms of rest: In addition to these micro-rhythms of rest, inculcate macro-rhythms of rest. Take your vacation days allotted to you each year. Take a family vacation. Go on a hike. Be okay with risking a job promotion because you are taking a slower pace to life and enjoy your identity as a child of the Father through Jesus Christ.
Our volunteers make so many of our church functions possible within our community, specifically our fellowship and discipleship group gatherings. We will continue to have our Lord’s Day worship services, which depends on our Sunday volunteer team. Remember to thank them for their faithful service. But our rest from weekly meetings is a macro-rhythm of rest for our congregation. Every few months, we will not meet for our weekly gatherings to make time for our volunteers to enjoy their personal macro-rhythms of rest.
The goal of rest is for every child of the Father to more deeply enjoy his love for them in Christ and for that love to compel us to live, work and relate with others around us with deep satisfaction in him alone. May this be true of each of us at NCF.
With much love for you in the gospel,
Rakshith (on behalf of the session)