Sacred 4-Letter Words: REST

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 NLT)

According to God’s standard, 1/7 of our life should be spent resting.

The idea of REST is wired into all of creation. The Lord instituted the practice by resting when He finished making all that exists. I don’t think God had to take a break because He was tired. Instead, He rested in order to set an example for us to follow.

There is a natural rhythm of work and rest in everything the Lord created – tides, seasons, fruit/dormancy, night/day, breathing (inhale/exhale). While nature has little or no choice in the matter, we do. Sadly, we oftentimes resemble a two-year-old fighting a nap! And, like a toddler, when we refuse to rest it has an adverse effect on our lives and on everyone around us.

So what would happen if we decided to live by God’s command and rest?

Rest enables us to…

1) Remember

Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15 NLT)

Resting, whether on the Sabbath or some other time, reminds us of some important truths. For one, it causes us to remember the ways that God has delivered us when we could not rescue ourselves … so we can rest well, knowing that He’ll take care of.

The Israelites rested and remembered that God brought 10 plagues on Egypt, parted the Red Sea and provided manna in the wilderness (including a double portion on 6th day).

Taking a break also helps us to remember to have an eternal perspective. According to Scripture, we “all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20), but the Lord is from “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 103:17).

So why sweat the small stuff when only the things of God endure forever?

Resting makes us remember that, as Christians, “We live by faith, not by sight.” So rather than rushing around trying to do things ourselves, we are reminded to trust God.

I’m convinced the Lord can help us accomplish infinitely more in six days than we could ever do in our own strength and abilities in seven! Amen!?

Maybe it’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NLT)

In the Message translation, this verse reads: “Are you tired? Worn out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I don’t know about you, but I need to remember that kind of rest is available.

2) Reorient

Throughout His earthly life, Jesus sometimes took brief respites from the world:

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:16 NLT)

On these occasions, Christ received His marching orders from His Heavenly Father and developed a Kingdom perspective.

If it was important for Jesus to do so, how much more critical is it for you and me? I don’t think it’s coincidental or accidental the Christian Sabbath is the first day of the week – the Lord’s Day according to Revelation 1:10.

It gives us the opportunity to reorient our lives and consider what’s really important. Most of us need to take a timeout so we can hear from God, don’t we?

You and I live in a world that makes it hard to rest and consequently to hear from God. We are constantly bombarded with noise so we can’t hear His “still, small voice.” And we’re always on the go so we miss the signposts the Lord puts in our path. Besides, our environment is not all that conducive to Christian living and thinking. Have you noticed!?

If we’re going to keep things in perspective and live holy lives, we need rest. Maybe you and I need to withdraw from the pressures of our world and declare a Sabbath “time out.”

3) Refresh

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed. (Exodus 23:12 NLT)

The word, Sabbath, literally, means “pause and rest.” It comes from a Hebrew root word meaning “to catch one’s breath.” And it’s worth pointing out that refresh means “to breathe.” So resting on the Sabbath gives us time to grab a deep breath and be refreshed.

Here’s another way to think about the value of the rest the Sabbath provides:           


For hundreds, if not thousands of years, all writing was done in capital letters, with no punctuation or spacing between the words. That is true of the ancient languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

Then, somewhere around the 9th C. AD, someone got the bright idea to insert spaces and reading became much easier and more enjoyable. So the capital letter sentence just referenced becomes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” A little easier to read and comprehend, huh?

The Sabbath, which comes every seventh day, is God’s space between the      various activities of life. It’s the Lord’s way of ensuring that all of our days don’t all run together.

The Sabbath and the rest it gives protects from the effects of living 24/7 lives.

Even machinery and electronics need time to cool down and recharge. We’re no different. The body needs sleep for it to be renewed during each 24-hour period. Our whole being – body, mind, soul, spirit – needs rest every seventh day.

Rest is defined as: to cease work or movement to relax, refresh self, or recover strength.

If you need a few more re- words, try: renew, revive, restore, re-vitalize, rejuvenate, replenish, resuscitate, reclaim, regain, recoup, recapture …

While the Sabbath was created to be a day of rest, it has fallen on hard times in our modern world. Many of us can remember how different Sunday looked just a few short years ago. Growing up in Missouri, we had Blue Laws, my mom didn’t cook, my dad did no yardwork, and our family oftentimes went for a Sunday drive.

But now Sunday looks just like any other day of the week. That’s okay for the unbelieving world, but it’s not acceptable for us Christians.

Let’s not forget that God’s instruction about the Sabbath is found in the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions. I mentioned last week that the majority of Americans do not find their work      interesting or satisfying. I wonder if it could be, at least in part, because we never stop and enjoy it.

Remember that God, after His work of creation, took time to rest. He looked at what He made and said, “It is good…very good.” You and I would do well to pause each week, look back over what we’ve    accomplished (at work, at home, in church) and revel in it.

I have a tendency to start working on my next sermon on Sunday afternoons, just hours after preaching. What if instead I took a few minutes to review what it took to put it together, thank God for helping me deliver it, and imagine that someone has been impacted by it?

So, if for no other reason than supporting and encouraging your pastor, go home today, sit on the porch, walk to the bay, or take a nap. Just rest (and don’t feel guilty!)

4) Reconnect

The Sabbath and times of rest help us focus on what is truly important. As I’ve said many times, life is all about relationships – with God, with family and friends, and even with ourselves.

But the hectic pace of our world is a relationship-killer.

If you don’t believe that, just look around at what has happened to marriages and families in our nation. Why is dysfunction and divorce more prevalent today than it was a generation     ago? This isn’t Mayberry anymore because we don’t live at a Mayberry pace.

I know from personal experience that in my quest to get things done and be productive, I sometimes neglect and even hurt those closest to me. The only way to remedy the situation is to slow down and pause to reconnect.

For most Americans, Sunday is a day to “catch up” on what didn’t get done on the other six days of the week (yardwork, cleaning, repairs, shopping). What if we, as God’s people, made it a day to catch up on our relationships? It’s a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends (and even with ourselves).

While the detrimental effect of constantly being on the go is readily apparent in our relationships with friends and family, it is not as obvious, but it is just as damaging to our relationship with God.  It is so easy for the Lord to get pushed aside in our daily lives.

So, at least once a week, we need to slow down, sit down, and look up. That’s what makes resting on the Sabbath a holy undertaking. It enables us reconnect with God through worship, prayer, singing, and fellowship.

Ultimately, if we’re going to live by this sacred four-letter word, that’s where true REST is found. We can go on vacations to exotic locations, spend hours each day in transcendental meditation, or take naps morning, noon, and night and still not find real rest.

As the psalmist said along ago…

I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. (Psalm 62:1 CSB)

I invite you to make today a day of REST – right here, right now. Try this exercise: get comfortable, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and be at rest in God.

It’s not a passive experience where you empty your mind of all thought. Rather, it’s an active enterprise where you fill your mind with God’s truth.

Remember … what God has done for you … His love endures forever … quit trying so hard and start trusting more.

Reorient … listen for God’s voice and realign your life to His will and His ways.

Refresh … ask God to breathe His Spirit into you and be renewed by His power and presence.

Reconnect … imagine yourself cradled in the arms of Christ because that’s where you are.