Rest Stop 42

"On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night" - Psalm 63:6.

The idea of a Sabbath rest was not to go to the beach or do nothing. It was to turn one's attention to God during rest time and, in turn, the thoughts of God would bring refreshment and rest. The psalmist was not waiting for a specific day to think about God; he was thinking about God during his daily rest and not just his weekly rest. The psalmist was a great leader still honored in Israel, so it is important for modern leaders to follow his example and use every moment to remember what God has done and to focus on God Himself - His attributes, His goodness and His mercies.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Rest Stop today is to consider what you think about during your rest times. Is your mind focused on work, the business of life or your relationship with the Lord? To help you focus on the Lord, consider these practices: learning meditation skills, a Bible study group that will help keep you in the Word, some cognitive learning skills that will help you control your self talk and thinking, or regular family devotions to keep your mind in the Word.

Rest Stop 41

"All their days their work is grief and pain;
even at night their minds do not rest. This
too is meaningless" - Ecclesiastes 2:3.

The wisdom writer described people who are workaholics, who cannot stop working and cannot enjoy the work being done. Even when they stop working, their minds are back on the work, which is not a pleasant experience, but one filled with grief and pain. Worry, anxiety, regret and anger can consume leaders, turning their rest time into an opportunity to run mental marathons. Leaders are especially prone to this type of experience, for the duties and responsibilities of leading people and organizations can lead to sleepless, restless nights. The writer of today's verse described this scenario as meaningless, futile and pointless.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Do you stay up nights or wake up early due to worry or anxiety about work-related issues? Do you find it difficult to leave work mentally even when you are on a long weekend or holiday? Then incorporate the following as a daily or regular ritual: Read Psalm 127:2, which states that God gives to those He loves even in their sleep. Then when you go to bed, take a day off or a vacation, say, "Lord, I put you in charge while I am gone. Watch over my work."

Rest Stop 40

"Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you" - Psalm 116:7.

The psalmist made an interesting statement in this one verse. First, he wrote that his soul needed to 'return' to its rest. That indicates that rest is the natural state for the soul. Second, the psalmist commanded his soul to rest. That means that rest is a decision, well within the capability of each person to enter and enjoy. Third, the soul is the realm of the emotions, so the rest the psalmist was referring to was not a vacation on the beach. Fourth, the psalmist reasoned with his soul, providing it with an important fact: God had been good to the psalmist. It helps to remember what God has done in the past so that any current turmoil or confusion can be put into proper perspective so that rest may be maintained.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to reflect on your state of unrest in light of today's verse. First, confess or admit if you have lost your rest. Second, reason with yourself and produce facts that enable your soul to be at rest. This will include going over all things God has done for you in the past. If He did those things for you in the past, He can do them again! Finally, don't act like you have no role to play in your rest. It is a decision no matter what you are going through.

Rest Stop 39

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty" - Psalm 91:1.

If people are in another person's shadow, it indicates that they are standing really close to that person. In today's verse, the person who dwells in God's shelter gets to enjoy the rest that comes from being close to God. How can one dwell in this house and rest in His shadow? This rest does not come from observing a day, but from practicing the disciplines God requires: prayer, Bible reading, generosity toward the poor, hospitality toward the lonely and commitment to a local fellowship of believers. No matter how powerful, busy, prosperous or famous they are, leaders are expected to do those things. When they do, they will enjoy rest because they live close to God - close enough to stand in His shadow.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to determine if you are so busy that it is costing you the time you need to spend with God. If that's the case, then you are not resting properly and it has nothing to do with how much sleep you get. There are five disciplines mentioned in bold above. Grade yourself on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) in each area. Then look and see where you are not doing what it takes to say close to God. What is that low score or scores costing you?

Rest Stop 38

"Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him" - Psalm 62:1.

This psalm of David begins with a declaration that salvation comes from the Lord. Any person who does not know or who has not experienced this salvation will be restless, for their soul will be searching for some way to earn this salvation only God can give. This represents the true spiritual nature of a sabbath rest, for it is a condition in which people cease striving to gain what they cannot earn and accept God's grace of salvation with joy and gladness. Leaders who do not know this salvation try to earn their legacy through hard work, memorials, buildings named after themselves, and nepotism—hoping that appointing their children as successors will give meaning to meaningless lives without God as their focus and source.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to ensure you have entered the true rest God had in mind for His people in Christ. Have you put your faith in Him for your salvation? Have you ceased from your efforts to gain that salvation through good deeds? Are your good deeds a result of your saving relationship with Christ or an attempt to earn the benefits only faith can bring? Are you resting in God's love and forgiveness or are you futilely working to obtain them?

Rest Stop 37

"For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land'" - 1 Kings 17:14.

This is the "punchline" of the story of the widow who was gathering sticks to make her last meal due to a severe famine. The prophet Elijah met her and told her that if she made him a meal in the midst of her need, God would provide for her and she would not lack for the duration of the famine. Of course, the woman obeyed Elijah and God was true to His promise. Most people push themselves to do work they often don't enjoy while not taking a sabbath or break. When asked why they do this, they often quote 1 Thessalonians 3:10: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Paul was referring to freeloaders who refused to work and lived off others and was not talking about every work situation, otherwise the retired and those who are physically unable to work would not be permitted to eat! The point is that the widow in today's verse found the key to her provision was not hard work but rather generosity and then restful trust in God, seeing Him as the source of all provision as you obey His leading.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to examine the story in 1 Kings 17 more closely. Are you generous with your money? When you are, you testify to your faith that God is your source and will replace and even multiply what you gave. You can then rest in that reality. Can you take a break from your work and not worry about money? That shows that you know God and not your own work as the source of your provision.

Rest Stop 36

"'You will drink from the brook, and I have
directed the ravens to supply you with food there.'
So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to
the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there.
The ravens brought him bread and meat in the
morning and bread and meat in the evening,
and he drank from the brook" - 1 Kings 17:4-6.

Many people believe they work in order to make money so they can eat, pay bills and support their families. Believers understand that they work to carry out God's will and, when they do, it is God who provides for their needs and not their company, donor base or investments. God can use but does not need any of those entitites to support His workers. In today's passage, God directed nature to provide for Elijah his prophet, and birds brought him his food and a brook provided his water. Leaders who understand ths principle can lead with courage and can rest when they must because God is their source and not how hard or long they work.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Rest Stop today is to consider the source of your provision. Is it the Lord or is the company for which you work? The answer to this question determines for whom you work. If it is the Lord, you can lead with courage, for the Lord has your back, so to speak, and can provide for you even if your enemies threaten to terminate your or your position. If it is your company, then you cannot enjoy any kind of rest, for you are driven to provide for yourself.

Rest Stop 35

"It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance" - Leviticus 16:31.

The phrase deny yourself was used by a now-famous carpenter-turned-rabbi many centuries after Moses wrote these words in Leviticus: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 16:24). This act of self-denial was not to be a ritual observed one day every week but was to be a lifestyle that distinguished Jesus' followers from everyone else on earth. Leaders are no exception to this edict, and must refuse their instinct toward self-indulgence by denying self. This denial takes the form of serving others, refusing to use power for personal gain, and refraining from revenge, gossip, and theft. 

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Rest Stop today is to meditate on your current level of self-denial in your walk with Jesus. What evidence can you provide that you are truly denying your tendencies toward selfishness and self-service? Do you refuse opportunities to talk about yourself or to draw attention to your accomplishments, and accept working with others with whom you would naturally prefer not to work? Where may you be resisting the cross Jesus is asking you to carry?

Rest Stop 34

"For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh
day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest
to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it is to be
put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your
dwellings on the Sabbath day" - Exodus 35:2-3.

If the Sabbath is to be taken literally, then no one can turn on a light in their home, drive a car, ride an elevator or cook a meal on the Sabbath, which sounds spiritual, but can simply be a carnal desire to follow some rules that make one feel spiritual. The true sense of a Sabbath is to take time to reflect on one's spiritual condition. In today's passage, the sabbath was a time to bask and live in the light that only God can provide. That light is to expose sin, give guidance, provide wisdom and give insight from God's word. Leaders must examine their business and leadership practices under and in the light of God's word and adjust anything that is contrary to or raises itself up against the knowledge or will of God.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Rest Stop today is to not light a fire today in your home. No, that doesn't mean you cannot turn on the heat or stove, but rather to spend more time than usual in God's word. Your assignment is to pick on book or epistle and read it today and every day this week. With your journal open, ask God both to evaluate your leadership performance in light of this book and to give you new insight that will make you a more effective and godly leader or follower.

Rest Stop 33

"It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you
must deny yourselves. From the evening of
the ninth day of the month until the following
evening you are to observe your sabbath" - Leviticus 23:32.

This verse describes the Day of Atonement, when Israel was to have solemn assemblies and offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins. They were forbidden to work on this day to symbolize the importance and priority of their spiritual condition over work and relationships, and go through rituals to obtain remission of sins for another year. Today there is atonement available through the sacrifice of Christ, and anyone can come at any time to obtain forgiveness and cleansing. Leaders must take time to address their spiritual condition and determine if there is sin in their lives for which they need to ask God and may need to ask others for forgiveness.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Leadership Step or Rest Stop today is to examine your heart with the Holy Spirit's help to see if there is any sin issue which you need to confront. If there is, then you need to ask God's forgiveness and repent, which simply means to change your behavior from this point forward. Then you may need to go to others whom you have offended and ask forgiveness. If you cannot go to them, then call or write, but don't put it off; take care of it now.