Counterfeit Rest

Ryan Romeo
Series: The Other Hours

Counterfeit Rest
Ryan Romeo
May 19, 2019
Series: The Other Hours

Rest. Real rest. The unforced rhythms of grace. That’s the thing that Jesus is offering us. That is the rest that Jesus is offering us. We made this video for our Dwell Conference, the worship conference we did last year. We knew people are going to be coming in in this sort of frantic pace of life, the first half of the video was just every stressful sound and word the we could think of, all crammed into one place, building with pressure, building with all the noice and cacophony of life. And then (sigh) rest. Slow down. And Jesus offers us the unforced rhythms of grace.

I don’t care if you’ve been following Jesus for fifty years or if you don’t know anything about following Jesus, we are looking for that unforced rhythm of grace in our life. Like we were just displaying with Jay and sabbatical, David is a leader that really, really cares about rest. He cares about real rest. Jesus promises real rest. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.


My name is Ryan Romeo. I’m one of the pastors here. I don’t normally stand here. So, if you’re new and you don’t like what I have to say, good news: next week David’s going to be here and he’s going to most likely do a much better job than I’m going to do. But I”m going to do my best to talk ab out rest. This is week three of talking about rest.

If you haven’t noticed, in the middle of the Other Hours, we’re talking about the 167 other hours in life that you’re not in church that God wants to make you good at — rest is one of those things. It’s vital. It’s important. God wants to give us real rest. 

The original title of the message that I was going to give today was Rest in the Digital Age. Which is what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about rest in the digital age, but as I was poring over it, as I was praying, as I was studying, what I realized is that I want to talk about real rest. And the world is giving us counterfeit rest. The world is giving us things that say “This is really restful,” but it’s not restful at all. 

We go on vacation believing this is the thing that’s going to give us rest. And when we get back, what do we say? “I need a vacation from my vacation.” We get days off. We get two or three days off and somehow we still don’t feel rested. And sometimes, we feel like we need to just stop moving or we think we need more days off, more vacation time, and God’s saying, “No, you’re pouring into the wrong rest. I want to give you real rest.” 

Rest does not just come with time off. Rest comes with real purposefulness and a real slowing down to get away with Jesus to rest. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

Before we start, I want to do something that might make you guys uncomfortable. I want you to pull out your smart phone if you have one. If you have a flip phone, don’t worry about it. I don’t care about the flip phone. I just want you to pull out the smart phone. If you have a phone that dings at you and it’s got a screen you can touch, I want you to pull it out. I want you to do something — everybody — I’m watching you guys—I see everyone here. I want you to do something that maybe you haven’t even done since you bought the thing. I want you to click and hold the side button for me until this little thing comes up. If you have an Android, I can’t help you. I’m sorry. I live in Apple world. So you slide that thing off. I’m showing you. I’m shutting my phone off. 

Now, this might make you uncomfortable. I want you to put your phone back in your pocket or your purse until the end of the serve ice. Now, I know you’re expecting a very important call, but I just need you to put it away. I’m hearing some good noises like phones getting shut off. Awesome. 

There are four kinds of people in this room. Number one there’s flip phone guy like I just talked about. You’ve got the flip  phone and it’s not that big of a deal for you.

Person number two is a little more like David Stockton. Your screen is cracked and you don’t care and you turned it off and you’re like, “Who cares? I do that every night.” No big deal to you.

Person number three, it hurt a little bit. You were like, “Oh, I don’t know. What if someone tries to call me? What if someone tries to DM me on Instagram? What if I want to Instagram message someone?” Shutting it off is hard. Maybe even now you’re feeling like, “I don’t know if I can really wait until the end of the service, Ryan. I’ll wait until Ryan gets off stage and then turn it back on.”That’s a lot of us in this room. A lot of us are in that place where it’s really hard to disconnect.”

The fourth person in this room, it was so hard for you, you pretended to turn it off and you just put it on silent. And that’s okay. I get it. It’s really hard. We are living in a world of constant connectivity. We’re living in a world that is really hard to get away from all of the people and all the noise, but it’s really, really important. If we can’t quiet down our minds, we’re going to hear voices that are louder than the Holy Spirit in our life and that it is not good. That does not lead to good rest. 

This morning I am not saying that this is evil, either. Let me just start off there. This is not evil. This is a bit of technology. And this is actually the greatest bit of technology that we’ve seen in a very long time. This represents the greatest communication shift in 500 years. Not since the printing press have we had such ubiquitous access to information. You want to know what that song is playing on the radio? Bam. You hold up your phone. Now you know. You want to know what this word means in Hebrew?  Bam. Pull out your phone. You know. You want to know who won the game? You’ve go information at your fingertips like never before. And this beautiful. It really is a beautiful tool for us to use in our lives. It really does change things.

We believe in this. This is not something that we at this church say. “Oh, we don’t use technology.” I hate when people say, “This is not the real world.”  No. Social media is a real thing. It really does matter. It makes people rich. It could cause pressure in your life to make you suicidal. It’s a very real thing. As a church, we believe in it, we engage in it, and we use it as a tool for the glory of God. 

We’re starting a digital campus here at Living Streams. We’ve never done that before. But we know that it’s very, very important. We’re starting livingstreams.online. It’s going to be a place where we can connect with people.There are people watching us on live stream right now. You’re probably watching on a phone, which I’m glad you didn’t turn off your phone in the beginning. But we believe that technology really is a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

Yesterday, my daughter was home. She wasn’t feeling good. And she was laying on the couch, watching Netflix. And I told her, “Sweetie, I didn’t have access tot hat when I was a kid. That would be unbelievable to me.” I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and people who grew up in that era know that when you were sick at home you didn’t turn on any show you want whenever you want. You had to get up and change the station. 

When I was a kid and I was sick, at about 10:30 in the morning, there were like four options to watch. You had The Price is Right, obviously. You had Days of Our Lives. (My mom would be embarrassed to say she was into that.) The Andy Griffith Show, of course. And I don’t know. Telemundo or something. You had no options. 

For me this would have been science fiction. If you brought this to me and said, “Ryan give me your Game Boy and I’ll give you this,” I would have been blown away. You can watch anything you want whenever you want. That’s amazing.

When I was eighteen, I decided I wanted to become a missionary. I graduated high school in two thousand. So, when I went to the training school in Maui, I remember I only had access to a pay phone. Because in two thousand we had cell phones, but we paid by the minute, and when you were going across states like that, it was very expensive. So it wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t have a computer. So I would go two doors down to this bar and I would call my parents while I watched parents drinking beer at nine third in the morning. And it was just life for me. Every week I’d go down and call my parents.

And we had these missionaries that came and visited our school. Their whole drive, their entire mission was to bring physical bibles into closed countries. So this couple learned from drug dealers, basically, how to take apart cars and, instead of putting bricks of cocaine in the cars, they would put physical bibles in Chinese or Arabic, and they would drive it across the border into China or Saudi Arabia or whatever, and they would give it to pastors and distribute it from there. Which was amazing and unbelievable. But then a few short years later, we realized that if you just used your phone and you put the Bible on it, you could get it into closed countries. You just need hackers. 

What an amazing bit of technology this is. It is not inconsequential. It is very consequential and it has the power to do amazing things for the kingdom of God and it’s already impacting people. I have the Bible app on here. I can pull it up in any language. I can show up in any country that I want and I will have the Bible in their language. That’s an unbelievable tool that we’ve never, ever had before. 

But —this is a technology that bites back and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. The average person opens their phone 110 times a day. Bing. Open it up. Bing. Open it up. 

Research is telling us today that, when you get a message, a text message, email, whatever, it gives you a little bit of dopamine every time you get that message. If you’re walking down the street or you’re in the mall, and somebody calls your name, you get a little shot of dopamine, because it means that another human being is trying to talk to you. And if you’re introverted like me, you also start to sweat a little. But it’s a good thing. Your body’s saying this is a good thing.

Bing. Your phone tells you someone’s trying to talk to you.  Bing. Someone’s trying to talk to you.  Bing. Someone’s trying to talk to you. You get an email. You get a text message. Somebody likes your post on Instagram. Those things are addictive. They are literally addictive to us. 

The average person spends about 4 hours on their cell phone,. And a lot of research is telling us that, if you’re college age, you spend more time on your phone than you do sleeping. We are spending a lot of time on our phones and it’s very, very addictive. And in this digital age, it is really hard to disconnect.

The CEO of Netflix said his number one competitor, in his mind, is sleep. Because Netflix is so used to people binge watching so long, that the only thing they are spending more time doing is sleeping. And some of you know, Netflix robs your sleep very easily. They know what they’re doing. Next episode. Next episode. 

And I’m not saying any of this is bad. What I’m saying is that this is a distraction. It’s not real rest.

Last year I realized I had a problem when it came to this. My wife is on the leadership team for Veronica for The Well, a women’s event on Wednesday nights. She went there. My kids went to 3-5 Hang. And it was just May (my youngest) and me. And she’s in Kindergarten so she needed to go to bed early. So I read to her and laid her down and then I sat back I was like, “Man. I’ve got like an hour and a half to just rest. I need to rest. I feel tired.” 

I lay down on the couch, turned on Netflix. Some funny, mindless show playing in the background and “bing” I got a text message from someone. I pull out my phone, check the text message, and I thought, “Well, while I’ve got my phone open I’m going to jump to Instagram.” Jumped to Instagram. There’s this guy talking about this other guy on Twitter who’s got a very interesting thing. I swipe over to Twitter and start checking this guy out. I liked some of his tweets. Then I see he’s got a link to this article. I click on the link to the article and then I go to Facebook. I’m on Facebook reading this article, and I think, “This is very, very interesting.” And as I’m scrolling down, there’s another link to his work on Pinterest. Bam. I click that. I can’t not click it. I’m scrolling through Pinterest and then, pretty soon, I come across an article that says How to Build a Survival Bunker in Your Backyard.  And if you know me, I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic preparation. So I was going, “I have to click on this.” Clicked on it. Started sizing up my backyard as I’m reading through it. And I’m lost. I’m lost in digital world. 

And I blink and—Bam. Blake comes home. And she said, “Hey, did you have some time to get some rest?”

And I was like, “Eh… kind of. I mean, I laid down.” But my brain was going and going and I realized, “I don’t feel rested or recharged at all. That was not restful.”

I read a study recently and it was pretty scary, actually. The University of Sussex did a study on multi-tasking. There are a lot of people, probably a lot in this room, who think they are great multi-taskers. I hate to break it to you, you are not a great multi-tasker. Your brain is actually not wired—male or female or anything like that—it doesn’t matter about your Enneagram number—your brain is actually not wired to multi-task. 

What you’re doing is you are hitting tasks very quickly. And you’re dong them very surface-y. You’re not getting deep into a task. You’re just going task-task-task-task. And you’re going, “I’m multi-tasking.” But you’re really taking things in succession. You’re never really allowing your brain deep thought. 

Those of you who are good at multi-tasking—you can probably attest to this—when you’re really multi-tasking and you’re really moving, you’re going off of more gut instinct than anything else. You’re going off of emotion more than you’re going off of deep thought about something. So you’re just tackling things, tackling things, tackling things.  

What the study showed is that the people who live in multi-task world start to actually affect their brain. Especially people who are sitting on Netflix, pulling out their phone, checking everything out. Your brain is multi-tasking. There’s this thing going on in the background that you’re kind of paying attention to, you’re looking at different articles, you’re activating your brain in a bunch of different areas. And what it does, is it actually changes the physical properties of the grey matter of your brain. It makes your brain—the words that they use—more porous. And the density of your brain goes down. 

So you wonder why, as a society, we have very little attention span. You wonder why, as a society, we have a hard time getting into conversations with each other. The other thing that it showed, which was really interesting, was that it activated the emotional side of your brain. Like I was saying, you’re operating off of gut instinct more than you’re thinking. What it did was it activated your emotions in your brain a lot more. 

So things like anxiety spiked. Things like anger spiked. And there are some people in this room who are dealing with anxiety. And I don’t mean to minimize it. I’ve dealt with anxiety. It’s a very real thing. But some of us are spending hours and hours on our phone, multi-tasking. And we’re thinking “Why do I feel so anxious all the time?”  And I’ll tell you it’s because you’re changing your brain and you’re activating that part. This thing is hurting you. 

It’s like people that go, “I’m having a hard time. I’m feeling short of breath.” Well, you should probably stop smoking. This is one of these things that, it’s like, this is hurting your brain and your ability to focus on real life around you. Like I said, this thing is not evil. It’s a great tool.  But at the end of the day, the world is offering us distraction. And Jesus is offering us rest. 

At this point, this feels like a really great Ted Talk because I’ve gone through a lot of stats and things like that. But the conviction I felt from the Lord for this week was that he was offering us real rest. And if we don’t slow down, if we don’t quiet the noise in our minds, we are going to really miss out on life that’s happening around us right now.

The last couple of weeks David’s been talking about Sabbath. Jesus displayed that for us. God displayed it for us in creation. Sabbath is key. The unforced rhythms of grace. That is what we are deep, down hungering for—that unforced rhythm of grace. Real rest. That’s what Jesus offers to us. But the world is offering distraction. And distraction is not bad, but we’ve got to know what it is. When you’re watching a basketball game, or you’re on Instagram, or whatever it is, that is a distraction. It’s only delaying your rest.

Like David said, Sabbath is for resistance. We have to resist. We have to push back. We have to really grasp what God is saying to us and not what our phones are saying to us. So there are three things in our lives that we need to press into to have real rest. What does real rest look like?

Number one: Resist distraction. For me, I am not perfect at this by any means, but I’ve started doing it in the last few months. I’ve been taking digital Sabbath. For twenty-four hours in a week, I do what we just did. I shut off my phone. And after a few hours, I don’t even miss it. I’m engaging with life a lot more. There’s a lot that happens. But you have to resist the temptation to just live in distraction world. It will only delay your rest. It’s not giving you anything. It’s not recharging you at all. It’s only delaying the real rest that God wants to give you. So you have to resist this.

Number two: Get away with God. You have to get away with God. Jesus showed us this. Jesus showed us what really getting away with God meant. For those of us in ministry, it’s hard. It feels like you’re on 24/7. It’s easy to feel like we’re the emergency room for everyone’s problems. But we are not. We are not the saviors. Jesus is the Savior. So when you look  at what Jesus displayed for us, going, “I know there are tons of ministry opportunities out there, but I’m going to shut down just for little bit and I’m going to get away from everybody, including the disciples, and I’m going to be alone.” And Jesus got frustrated. I love the verse when Jesus said, “How long do I have to be with you?” to his disciples. As a leader, if I did that to my team, “How long do I have to work with you guys?” That would be a sign of some stress, you know? But Jesus is saying, “Frustration is not sin. You can get frustrated. That’s okay. But you have to get away.”

God displayed it for us in Genesis. On the seventh day he rested. Do you think he rested because  he was winded from all the creation he was doing? He didn’t need it. God doesn’t need rest. He was displaying it for us because he’s a good leader and a good father. And he’s saying, “This is what I want for you.” That unforced rhythm of grace is found in Genesis, as well as Matthew 11. Unforced rhythms of grace.

So you have to get away with God. And that’s the problem. For me, I can get away from physical people, but the minute I bring my phone, I’m bringing everybody with me, wherever I go. You can’t get away with God when you’re constantly connected. And on that day when I’m taking digital Sabbath, it’s really hard for me, because my Bible reading plan is on my phone. You Version is actually a problem for me sometimes, because I’m doing great, reading the word, and then, bam. I get a notification. Bam. I get a text message. And I’m derailed like that. And you realize you have everybody with you on this device.  

So, for whatever it is for you to get away with God, if it’s an hour a day, awesome. Disconnect. Get away with God. If it’s twenty-four hours in a week, I would really recommend it. There’s something very detoxifying about spending one full day completely disconnected. You find in one day that you get bored—which is amazing. Boredom is awesome. I’ve not felt it in a long time.  I’ll stand in line at the store and I’m looking and everyone’s on their phone. And I’m the only weirdo standing, looking around. 

Research tells us that we get our most creative ideas when we’re bored. Sometimes boredom is a really good thing. So get away with God.

Number three: Thankfully engage with life. Life is happening in front of you. This is where this world gets real dangerous. And this is where I agree, it’s not real in the sense that it is creating a false narrative that we’re all trying to live up to. Instagram is obviously the highlight reel of everyone’s life. You’re scrolling through Instagram and you see a parent doing something with their kids and you’re like, “Oh. I should be a better mom. Why am I not doing that with my kids?” You scroll through and “They’re going to Europe on their vacation? I need to make more money or something. I can’t seem to get away with that!” You scroll through and you see a church and “They look so healthy and awesome. I should be a part of that. I wish my church was more like that.”

And that thankfully engaging with life is not engaging with the fantasy that we see online. That is not real life. You look on my Instagram account and you’re going to see all my highlight reels. And you’ll say, “Oh, awesome I’m excited about this. Love my church. Blah. Blah.” What you’re not going to see is, “Oh, I got in a fight with my wife again this week.” Or “I’m so frustrated with my kids all week.” Those are the things that you’re not going to see on Instagram. But that’s real life. That is the things that we’re going through.

And when we live in this fantasy world, comparing ourselves to other people, it’s exhausting? How can you have rest when you’re constantly comparing your life to other people’s? God is giving you your life to live right now. He’s not given anybody else on earth your life to live.

The last time I preached, that’s what I was preaching on. God has hand-wired this calling for you, this life for you, these kids for you, this job for you, the things you’re in right now. And when you’re not thankful, you’re not engaging in it, and you’re not getting any rest because you’re constantly comparing yourself to something that God is not asking you to compare yourself to. And it’s exhausting. 

Psalm 116:7. I love this. 

Return to your rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

I threw the word oh in there because I think maybe that makes it better. I don’t know. “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Thankfulness precedes rest. That’s real rest, when you’re saying “God thank you for what you’ve given me. Thank you for all that you’ve done in my life.” Thankfulness precedes real rest.

And when we’re living in this world where we wish we were living someone else’s life, we can never rest. We can never rest. 

We’re gong to take communion. Rest does not come through unthankfulness. I think right now we need to pause and say, “Okay, God, what can I be thankful for? How can I be thankful for what you’ve given me?” And this might be one moment this week, this might be your first moment this week that you’ve actually been quiet before the Lord. So take a minute. Be expectant in prayer.

Lord, we are so thankful that when we were lost and broken, you came to find us. So thankful that we are pursuing us, because you are a God that pursued us first. God, I pray that, out of the abundance of our hearts, that there would be a thankfulness in our heart and that our rest would come out of that. Our rest would come out of space with you. Our rest would come out of communing with you. 


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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV®,
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. 
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.