Sleep-deprivation can be deadly. A shuttle explosion, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl – which some say was the worst in history – were all tragic accidents triggered by one alarming factor: The workers had been severely tired.
Rest: It seems so simple, yet is often underestimated. Caught up in the rat race of life, we are enshrouded in a sea of constant meetings, projects, appointments and never-ending deadlines. We often work long and hard, in order to meet the big demands expected of us.
Research shows that we lack rest, we are missing out. Ever have one or two of those irritable days? According to a new study, lacking sleep can affect your ability to keep your emotions in check. Not only that, but losing out on your beauty sleep can affect your social skills and even lead to health problems and cognitive impairment in the future.
Sleep loss on the road can be dangerous too. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. Slowed reaction time caused by drowsiness is comparable to drunk driving.
Yet, good quality sleep is hard to get. I mean, who can blame us? There are so many things vying for our attention. Even as we lie in bed, our minds can either become heavy with burdensome thoughts – work, school, bills, the kids… oh and more bills – or consumed with the social media worlds that we immerse ourselves in, through our technological devices.
Ever wonder why we do these things? Here’s a thought: Maybe we are restless.
Jesus knew how important rest was for us as humans. When He saw how exhausted His disciples would get after a long day, He counseled them: “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile…” (Mark 6:31) Another time as He stood in front of a raging storm, He said: “Peace be still.” (Mark 4:39) Maybe in speaking these words He sought not just to calm the storm, but His disciples.
These words ring true for us living in a hyperactive world today. Jesus’ model was not to support our workaholic habits, but for us to understand the definition of rest. The One who created us recognized the deep connection that rest has to our optimal performance. Furthermore, Jesus unearths the issues that are at the root of our work-driven mindsets: Anxiety, worry, loneliness, pain…
When Jesus spoke of rest, not only did He address the problem but He also provided the cure-all solution. This solution gives us the physical, emotional and spiritual rest that our hearts hunger for. All of this can be ours, on one condition. Part of this solution involves surrender, as in giving over all the burdens we carry to Him. (Matthew 11:28)
However, Jesus is not implying that we shirk our responsibilities. His request for us to be at rest is not a basis for us to feed into laziness. Jesus is merely asking that we learn how to set our priorities straight. And here’s a hint: He goes at the top of any list. When we make Him first, all else falls into place. Now as we go about our daily routines, we can look less like chickens running around with their heads cut off.
Resting in Jesus gives us peace.
Aside from daily rest, the concept of weekly rest is just as important. It is first introduced to us in the book of Genesis. As our Creator worked to bring this world into existence, He set aside one day to rest. The Bible says: “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” (verses 2-3).
More than twice, this passage repeats the fact that He rested, for emphasis’ sake. But God did not decide to rest because He was tired. Here, He sought to institute the true model of rest that He wanted us to abide by. This is also where the seventh day is clearly identified as the Sabbath. It is the one commandment out of the ten that begins with the words: “Remember” (Exodus 20:8). Yet, it is the one day that we seem to so easily forget.
The word Sabbath was derived from the Hebrew shabbat, meaning to “stop”, “to cease” or “to keep”. God tells us to work six days out of the week, but the seventh day was to be different from the rest. This day was “sanctified” as in “set apart”. In verses 10 and 11, we are told that “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work…For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea…wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Bless: Bestow divine favour; make holy or glorify. Hallow: To make holy; sanctify; consecrate; consider sacred.
Maya Angelou is quoted as saying in Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now: “Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
One of the most beautiful things about the Sabbath is in fact simply just anticipating it. After a long, hard week has knocked me out and left me black and blue, I can distinctly hear the Saviour’s call to welcome in the Sabbath: “Come, rest awhile…”
I find it truly a blessing to take time at the end of the week to spend quality time with our Creator. The Sabbath brings things to a whole new level. It’s His voice you hear whispering so sweetly in your ears, not shouting above the noise. There are no distractions. It’s just you and the Father.
Another blessed feature of the Sabbath day is how it compels us to remember God as our Creator. When we take part in the festivities of the day, we remember and are humbled to know that the Lord created…this world…us… The Sabbath calls us to rest from our works and meditate on God’s work of creation and redemption. Furthermore, the beauty of the biblical Sabbath reminds us of the grace of Christ who finished His work of salvation on the cross and rested in the tomb on the seventh day.
And no, the Sabbath is not an exclusive gift for a select group of people. The Lord ordained this day 2,000 years before there was even one Jew in sight. It was a day meant for all of mankind. In Mark 2:27, the word man in this text is the Greek word anthropos, which is a generic term meaning “all mankind, irrespective of nationality or sex”. Guess what that means? Everyone –including you – is invited to celebrate this day.
In verse 28, Jesus goes on to personally identify Himself as the “Lord of the Sabbath”. So when we keep the Sabbath, we experience the privilege of discovering what it truly means to bond with Him in this respect.
As well, not only by keeping the Sabbath day holy do we show that we seek to honour and obey God, but we also receive the benefits that come with true rest: Healthier bodies, reduced stress, deeper relationships, increased productivity, and an overall greater sense of well-being. Our bodily rhythms (circa-septan) are actually wired to run seven days in length and benefit from weekly rest!
In Hebrews 4:9, we read: “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his…” So once again there is the need of ceasing from our “own works” – the activities of the work week – and making a deliberate choice to find true rest and ultimately peace.
Evangelical pastor, Charles R. Swindoll says: “God never asked us to meet life’s pressures and demands on our own terms or by relying upon our own strength. Nor did He demand that we win His favor by assembling an impressive portfolio of good deeds. Instead, He invites us to enter His rest.”
On This Day
When we do things on God’s terms we will start to reap the benefits. But we have to choose to observe the Sabbath on the day He ordained, and not according to our own timetable. The Bible Sabbath is actually the seventh day (Saturday) of the week — and not the first (Sunday), as many believe.
In Luke 23:54-56, this is spelled out for us. This passage proves that the Bible Sabbath is the day that comes between Friday (the sixth day of the week), and Sunday (first day of the day). (Mark 15:42, John 19:31) Today, many gladly celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on the Easter Sunday. So based on this, we can safely conclude that the seventh day is the Sabbath.
We cannot simply select another day, nor should we should be coerced into this no matter how good the intent. In a radio address to the Vatican in August, Pope Francis pushed the “importance of Sunday rest” and spoke against being a “slave to work. “ He said: “A day of rest and prayer each week are sacred. Moments of rest, especially on Sunday, are sacred because in them we find God.”
Yet, while the principles of rest are beneficial, the promotion of Sunday sacredness is contrary to Biblical teaching. Christ has ordained that we keep the blessed Sabbath on the seventh day. There is nothing in scripture to support a change that indicates the Sabbath to be on any other day. William Owen Carver said in The Lord’s Day in Our Day that “there was never any formal or authoritative change from the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath to the Christian first-day observance.” – (pg. 49). Harold Lindsell, editor of Christianity Today, echoes this sentiment: “There is nothing in Scripture that requires us to keep Sunday rather than Saturday as a holy day.” (Christianity Today, Nov. 5, 1976) No human leader or church institution has the right or authority to change God’s sacred law.
Let me ask you a question: Can you change the day that you were born and celebrate as your birthday every year? Or can you change the date that your parents were married? Can you change the US Independence Day? No, you cannot. The dates are set in stone. Likewise, we cannot change the day that the Lord ordained for us to observe the Sabbath. It’s a biblical commandment that has been neglected for so long, but now may be the time to finally accept and live out this most beautiful truth in our lives.
Are you tired of being tired? When we seek to obey God in all matters of life, He will show us many beautiful things. (John 13:17, Isaiah 1:19, Romans 6:16). The Sabbath can be a great time to spend with family and loved ones, fellowship with like-minded believers, experience the beauty of nature, and most importantly, to spend time with your Creator… Away from all of the hustle and bustle of life. It doesn’t get any better than that.
So why not give it a try? Test Him on this. Let God reveal to you how beautiful Sabbath rest can truly be.
“The gift of the Sabbath must be treasured. Blessed are you who honour this day.” – Lailah Gifty Akita
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