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What the Bible Says About Rest

Mark, in his gospel, begins almost immediately detailing the ministry of Jesus. In the first few chapters of Mark, we read of Jesus casting out an unclean spirit; healing Peter’s mother-in-law; cleansing a leper; healing a paralytic; performing other miracles; and of course, teaching. But in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus does something that’s only recorded for us once in the scriptures — He sleeps. We must stop and appreciate this. Jesus was like us in the flesh. If even Jesus needs to stop and rest in the midst of a chaotic world, don’t you think we need rest, too?

But first, let us establish that work is good. One of the main reasons God placed Adam in the garden of Eden was to work (Gen. 2:15). Our primary purpose in life is not to eat, drink, and be merry. It is to be productive (Eph. 2:10). Work is a gift from God, and our work should glorify Him and bring us great joy. But if we’re honest, work can also be exhausting. Thankfully, God also gave us rest.

Keep in mind that rest is only rest, if it is preceded by work. We notice a pattern in scripture — work, then rest. And it begins with creation. After God “ended His work … He rested on the seventh day” (Gen. 2:2). I don’t think it was because He was tired; He wanted to set a standard for mankind to follow. In the Old Testament, God’s people were to labor for six days, then rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). Even the land needed to rest after six years of sowing, pruning, and gathering (Lev. 25:3-4). God is very serious about resting — after working. Why must we rest, though?

Rest is emotional honesty (Matt. 11:28): Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to Me happy, cheerful, and optimistic.” He says He can give us the emotional rest of safety and understanding for which we yearn. One definition of relax is to “become less rigid and tense.” We can relax our grip on our lives, careers, families, etc., and give it all to Jesus.

Rest is counter-cultural (Rom. 12:2): The world says the busier you are, the more important you are. More responsibilities equal greater value. The world is wrong. We know we can’t quit our jobs and move away from everyone, but we can plan times of rest and regeneration.

Rest isn’t failure. It’s spiritual intimacy (Matt. 6:11): God welcomes soul searching — prayer, meditation, study, connecting. God’s heart for us to rest is designed to get to His goodness daily.

Steven Matthews


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