Have you ever seen a kid that is fighting sleep so hard that it is funny? My wife might say that she has seen me do that. A typical weeknight for us consists of her studying her medical schoolbooks while I watch YouTube videos on the couch. Almost nightly she wakes me up on the couch to tell me to go to bed, and almost nightly I reply, “I wasn’t asleep.”
Rest is necessary and important physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We know that’s true. We know we need rest… but like that kid we often fight it.
Why do we resist rest?
When athletes are training for competition, one of the most important aspects of training that must be remembered is this; rest is what actually builds muscle and improves our performance. The training breaks them down and leaves them weak. That is why the rest is so important. While this is true in the realm of athletics, it seems that it is also true in God’s eyes.
The fourth commandment given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai reads as follows in Exodus 20:8,
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
The Lord continues saying in verses 9-11,
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
The Lord rested… so why do we resist rest. There are a couple of things that happen when we rest. Let’s think together.
- When we Rest, We Trust
The fourth commandment directs us to observe the Sabbath, to rest one day a week. The nation of Israel regularly got themselves into trouble because they refused to honor the Sabbath. It was an issue for them the same as it most likely is for many of us!
The first use of the term Sabbath in the Old Testament is in Exodus when God was instructing the Israelites about rules for gathering manna. Six days they were to collect manna, but the day before Sabbath they were told to gather twice as much. When they took in too much manna on other days it rotted, but the day before Sabbath it remained perfectly edible.
But… did they follow God’s clear instructions? Exodus 16:27-30 says,
On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Some of the people didn’t believe God. They didn’t believe he had given them Sabbath, that he would provide for them, or that he would allow them to truly rest.
I wonder if that’s our biggest problem with rest… we simply don’t believe God.
Rest is an opportunity for us as believers to exercise our trust in God for our daily lives and needs as it was for the Israelites in the desert. The Israelites risked being hungry for a day if God didn’t come through on His word, but they put themselves in a situation in which they would see God’s faithfulness, provision, and the truth of his Word at work.
So, when we resist rest we must ask ourselves: Do I trust God to meet my needs, or do I feel like I had better work a little more to make sure my needs are met? To be honest, sometimes I claim the former but live the latter.
By resting we trust God to provide for our material and physical needs like the Israelites did in the wilderness, but while writing this I am reminded that my most desperate need is for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, and no matter how frantically I work, I will never achieve that by my own effort. Work alone cannot earn grace! But thankfully, I don’t have to, work for those things. Jesus took care of them for me through his death and resurrection. In faith, I can rest in the truth that I am forgiven and reconciled. If Jesus Christ willingly died for me, why would he not also meet my daily needs?
God does not say, “Wait until all your enemies have been destroyed, until every problem in your life has been resolved, then you can rest.” Instead He says in Psalm 110:1-2,
Rest first until I make all your enemies your footstool.
Joseph Prince wrote,
What do you see when it comes to healing for a condition in your sick body or breakthroughs for your financial challenges? Do you see lack and say, “Let me get out of this situation first. Let me hear the doctors’ reports say that everything is clear, and then I can rest”?
We find it hard to rest because our human nature is inclined toward worry and restlessness. The devil loves to see human nature reign in the church and to have you believe that you can only rest when things go well or when you see your breakthroughs. Stop saying, “When my child finishes primary school, I will stop worrying and rest.” You know what? After primary school, there is secondary school. Then, after your child completes secondary school, you will say, “I think when my child finishes university, then I will rest.” And you will never rest!
God wants us to find rest in the midst of the storm. And when you rest in Him, things will go well. This doesn’t mean that there is no storm… but, it does mean that He will see us through the storm (Psalm 46).
- When we Rest, He Works
What happens when we become make a concentrated effort to rest? Let’s look at this secret hidden in the story of how Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from an infirmity for 38 years.
John 5:8–9 says,
Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.
Why did Jesus ask the man to take up his bed? Why not just ask him to stand up and walk? I think the question Jesus asks paints a picture of what Christ is saying to each of us. That command Jesus gave to take up the bed paints a picture for us of a command to rest in Him and to allow Him to do the work. For this man the work Jesus accomplished was a work of healing. What work are you needing Jesus to accomplish? So, in this story what Jesus was actually saying to the man was, “Rise, take up your rest and walk!”
Notice that the day this story occurs day was the Sabbath, the day of rest. Therefore, what God is saying is that when you rest, He works! Isn’t this amazing?
On the day that man rests, God is able to work!
Matthew 11:28 says,
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
We’re not used to handing control over to anyone else. We want to do it our way, on our timing. We don’t trust other people to do things exactly the way we want them, and we have a hard time trusting God too.
But can you think of anyone more competent than God? Can’t the all-powerful being who created the universe and who keeps it running take care of your problems?
When you rest in God, you don’t tell him what to do or how to do it. You take a break from your troubles and allow Him to work!
Remember that your time of rest is also a time to remember and to thank God for all that He has done for you. It’s not simply a time to stop doing all things… it is a time to stop your busywork and to focus on Christ.
I encourage each of you, and myself, to try and slow down and take the time to rest. We are all so rushed and so busy. God commands us to rest because He loves us and He knows what’s best for us! What might happen if we put a little trust in Him? Let’s be encouraged to show a little faith and find out.
May God give us the strength to rest!