For many people around the world, the idea of true rest is laughable. With work, school, homework, church and more filling our plates, how can we make time to rest according to Scripture? The good news is, we don’t have to abide by the severe rules of rest in the Old Testament. We can incorporate biblical rest into our work and school lives.
Contrary to what many believe, true rest is one of the most important things we can do throughout our day. It brings us closer to God, reminds us who he is and replenishes our strength so we can attack the rest of the day with the enthusiasm that only the Lord can provide.
How should we rest? The answer lies not only in God’s teachings about the Sabbath, but also in the kind of rest that God wants his people to enjoy.
In This Article:
Rest Is an Act of Worship
In the New Testament, Jesus came and dropped a bomb on the Sabbath. Before Jesus, the Jews thought that the Sabbath was just about offering sacrifices to the Lord and not working. Some of them were so serious about it that they forbade anyone from doing work of any kind, including harvesting food (Matthew 12:1-8) and helping others (Matthew 12:9-14).
Jesus changed this. The Sabbath was no longer just about offering sacrifices or not working — it was about furthering God’s kingdom. Observing the Sabbath became an act of worship in more ways than one.
God does not expect us to rest on the Sabbath alone. He expects us to rest in many ways every day, so we can worship him and acknowledge that as humans, rest is necessary to show God’s love at work, at school and at home.
How Can We Rest According to the Bible?
“Then Jesus 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. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” – Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
The Bible offers a variety of ways for us to rest. In doing so, we can spend time with God and grow stronger in our faith, while also improving our mental health and reducing stress.
Reading the Bible
“For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” – Hebrews 4:12 NLT
The Bible is one of the greatest forms of rest there is. When we read the Bible, we read God’s direct words to humanity. Whether it is from the exact Bible verse or story we need in a specific moment or a lesson we never knew we needed, God can reach us and provide us with rest through the Bible. When we are stressed or tired from the day’s activities, we can relax with God’s book to humanity with the trust that he’ll provide exactly what we need from it at the exact moment we need it.
Prayer is powerful, just like the Bible, and available even when we do not have the time to read. At any moment, we can bow our heads and pray quickly to the Lord, and he will answer. As Psalm 65:5 (NLT) says: “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.”
Not everyone prays to rest, but according to the Bible, it is an excellent way to rest. Prayer not only gives us a direct link to God, but it also answers the questions of our minds and hearts and reassures us that God hears us and cares about us. Through prayer, we can change difficult situations or grow more aligned with God’s will. When we are stressed or overwhelmed, we can take a minute to pray and listen to God’s response. What he says will bring comfort to the overwhelmed and remove the load from the shoulders of the stressed.
Sleep can be glorifying to God. The life of a busy adult can be full of late nights and early mornings, where sleep is only a memory. Sleep, however, is God’s way of replenishing our strength and allowing us to spend restful time with him.
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah felt overwhelmed by the knowledge that Jezebel planned to have him killed. Overcome with fear, Elijah fled into the wilderness and prayed that God would kill him for giving up. When he did this, God did not reprimand him for being afraid or for skipping out on work. He instead sent an angel to provide food and water and ordered Elijah to sleep.
We can see parallels of this in our lives. Like Elijah, we have a job that may seem overwhelming at times. When this happens, God does not order us to return to work. He orders us to rest and recover our strength. When we do this, we are worshipping God through obedience to his will.
In our everyday lives, we can rest in God by obeying his will in our lives. As 1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT) says, “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.’”
We may think that we are pleasing God through keeping our lives busy and working often, but God cares much more about the state of our hearts than he does the state of our bank accounts or schedules. If the work we do is in obedience to his will, then God is pleased with our work. But if we are going off on our own and not trusting in God or listening to the things he says to us, then we struggle endlessly with stress and anxiety and become overwhelmed by our schedules.
God cares about what we put in our bodies. If we are eating nothing but junk food and washing it down with sugary or unhealthy drinks, then we will struggle with low energy and will not have the strength to do God’s work in our lives. Daniel learned this through obeying the Lord’s will for what he ate. Daniel 1:15-16 says, “At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.”
When Daniel and the other men entered King Nebuchadnezzar’s court, the king offered them expensive food and wine from his kitchens. Daniel did not want to eat this expensive food, as it was unhealthy and would have defiled him. So, with his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Daniel asked to be tested with only vegetables and water. After ten days of testing, he and his three friends appeared healthier than the men who ate the king’s food, and God blessed them with exceptional understanding and wisdom.
Clearly, what we eat is extremely important to the Lord. To rest in the Lord with our diets, we should eat regularly and eat healthfully. This means limiting fast food and breaking out the veggies we have locked in the back of our pantries. This means swapping unhealthy drinks for water, lightly sugared tea and similar drinks. This means consuming alcoholic drinks in moderation and obeying the Lord with the food we eat with friends. Over time, we will start to notice the difference in our energy levels and confidence. We will become more physically fit and happier with ourselves. Then, we can focus our rest to other things, such as obeying the Lord, reading the Bible and praying.
Want to learn more about the Lord and experience his rest inside and outside the classroom? GCU’s spiritual life can help you with that, with weekly Bible studies, chapels and communities dedicated to spreading God’s love and seeking rest in him. Fill out the form on this page to learn more.
Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Office of Spiritual Life on April 19, 2023
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.