BLOG · Matthew · Jun 25, 2024

It’s no secret many people feel overworked. You may be one of them. With employees averaging 45 hours per week in their jobs, Malaysia is home to some of the most overworked people in Asia. Kuala Lumpur was recently ranked as the third most overworked city in the world.


Overwork doesn’t only result in more stress and less time with family. It is actually killing us. One study estimated that 750,000 people worldwide are dying from heart disease and stroke each year due to working long hours.

Why Are We So Overworked?

Some people point to the existence of work as the problem. They see it as God’s punishment to humanity for sin. However, this idea is not seen in Scripture. God Himself worked. His labour was the creation of heaven and earth. God also gave Adam a job to do in the garden (Gen. 2:15). Adam and Eve were entrusted with tasks even before they sinned.

The existence of work is not the issue. The problem is the absence of true, deep rest for our souls. Overwork is often a symptom of a deeper issue: we seek our self-worth in work. This leads us into a never-ending cycle to prove ourselves – to ourselves, families, colleagues, and church.

When we’ve finished that project, it’s not enough. After being promoted, we want a higher position in the company. There’s always more money to make. We believe the lie our society tells us: that we can rest when we’ve achieved the next goal in life.

The truth is, it’ll never be enough. Our problem is finding our core identity in our career and accomplishment.

What Is the Solution?
True rest can only be found in Jesus Christ. We must stop looking to occupation as our main source of identity and fulfillment. Our true identity is a beloved child of God. Salvation is not based on our achievement, but on Jesus’ finished work on the cross. As Pastor Tim Keller writes, “the ultimate source of the tranquility we seek is Jesus Christ, who—because he has toiled for us on the cross—can offer us the true rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).”

When we turn away from idolising our career and look to Jesus, we regain a proper perspective on vocation and rest. Similar to work, rest was part of God’s original design for creation. God took a break (Gen 2:2-3). Likewise, God commanded His people to observe the Sabbath, a day when no one was to labour (Exodus 20:8-11).

Some people apply this passage by taking a day off each week. However, practising Sabbath is much more than a vacation. In reality, we cannot experience a Sabbath day if we do not have a Sabbath heart. In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan writes: “A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea. You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.”

Practising Sabbath begins with preaching the gospel to our restless hearts. How can we have a Sabbath heart? In an insightful sermon, Pastor Tim Keller recommends us to speak these truths to ourselves regularly:

  • True Sabbath is found in Jesus. To be a Christian is to say “I rest not on my works, but His. I rest on His finished work.” Everything necessary that we have to do is finished.
  • Sabbath is a celebration of God’s design. Taking time off is actually a way to enjoy the goodness of God’s creation. Disrupting the rhythm of labour and leisure leads to disorder in our lives and those around us.
  • Sabbath is a declaration of our freedom. Through honouring the Sabbath, God wanted His people to remember they had been freed from slavery (Deut. 5:15). If we don’t rest, we’re slaves to the expectations of ourselves and others. We have to tell ourselves: “My career does not define me, Christ defines me.”
  • Sabbath is an act of trust. We can remind ourselves: “I’m not the one who keeps the world running. God is.” To rest is to trust God is sovereign over the entire universe.

As we preach gospel truths to our hearts, we must also practise gospel rest and Sabbath by reorienting our busy lives. Some practical ideas are:

  • Schedule Sabbath: Living in a society that normalises overwork means you’ll probably need more time to slow down than you currently have. How will you practise Sabbath in your daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly routines? How about for your family?
  • Plan your Sabbath time: Sabbath looks different for each individual and family. Healthy Sabbath routines can include time for enjoying God’s creation, contemplation, and physical rest. It will likely mean disconnecting from social media. What activities help you experience refreshment and renewal?
  • Learn to say “No”. If you’re already overloaded, you can say “no” more often. This may mean cutting down on the number and type of commitments. This requires us to prayerfully and graciously decline or defer even good opportunities.
  • Seek community support: We may think no one understands the pressures we face. God’s design is for us, His church, to bear each others’ burdens. If you’re feeling exhausted, have you shared your concerns and asked for help from others?

How we work and rest is a witness to the world. The way we live demonstrates to others who is most important in our lives – is it ourselves or Jesus? In a culture of busyness, our family, friends, and colleagues are all trying to find rest. How can we share with them about the true rest we have found in Jesus?

Learn more about balancing work and rest at the GCN Conference 2024 – Work Matters: Living Out the Gospel at Work on September 13-14.


Matthew became a follower of Jesus when he was young and is rediscovering the beauty of the gospel each day. He is married to Jessica and works as a medical lecturer. He enjoys helping others live out the gospel in their career and work.

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