The difference between laziness and restfulness is that laziness terminates on itself. The lazy man seeks to rest as an end goal in itself. Biblical rest is not done to idolize personal relaxation, but to relax so one will be better equipped to work for God.
In the beginning of creation, work was there before the fall, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God cursed the land after Adam sinned so that his work would be difficult (Genesis 3:17-19), but work itself was never meant to be a curse.
As God redeems us through the gospel of Jesus Christ, he makes clear that we are now to work for him, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Rest is essential to be a good workman for God. Without resting in the Lord, the responsibilities of this life will crush us physically, mentally, emotionally, and every other way possible. Jesus himself rested in prayer and took time away from those he came to serve, for in his humanity he knew that to serve well one must respect God’s design for humans in that we need rest and recuperation after hard work.
But Jesus did not rest for rest’s sake; he rested so that he might connect with the Father. When Jesus went away from his disciples, his time away always included, and perhaps was completely consumed by, prayer with his Father, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV).
Resting is not the absence of responsibility, but being in the presence of the Lord. To reconnect with God, it is essential to “often” withdraw from the responsibilities we have. But to withdraw from responsibility without seeking God is not following God’s intent for “Sabbath” but to indulge in laziness. The heart behind the Sabbath command was not to just take a day off, “but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” When we rest, it should be a time dedicated “to the Lord your God” not just to time off.
Yes, hobbies or watching a movie are good to do at times, but even these should be done with the motivation of relaxing so we can better serve and work for God once we have gotten some rest. Laziness shirks responsibility with the hope of simply avoiding work. Biblical rest is done so that one might work better for God once he or she returns. We need to rest in God, but we were actually made to work for God (Ephesians 2:10).
The Great Commission by Jesus states, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus is with us, which should be a great rest to us. But he is with us so we will be able to “go,” “make,” “teaching,” “baptizing,” and “making disciples.” These are verbs denoting actions God has commanded us to do for him.
Rest is not our purpose, but a means to help us accomplish our purpose.