Spiritual Discipline 101: Rest
What makes rest a spiritual discipline? Two main reasons: God commanded it and modeled it. Rest is not to be confused with self-care. There is a biblical purpose and meaning for this discipline that has much greater significance.
This month as we continue in our blog series on spiritual disciplines, I want us to view rest from two perspectives, Sabbath rest and Sacred rest. Rest is an expression of worship to God that must become as common to us as praying or reading our Bible every day. Let’s delve into these two types of rest a little more.
In the beginning of the book of Genesis, we learn how God created the heavens and the earth, man in His image on day six, and then rested on day seven (see Genesis chapter 2). This is where the idea of Sabbath rest originates. After six days of working, God designated the seventh day as a day of rest. This model He provided was not because God was tired and needed the rest Himself, but because He wanted us to understand the importance of worship, obedience, and trust.
Worship has to be so important in our lives that we give it proper priority and attention. Resting in God is an act of worship. Observing the Sabbath is also an outward expression of our obedience to God’s law. It conveys respect for His word and a willingness to observe His standard of rest. Likewise, resting as a spiritual discipline is an internal expression of trusting God. It takes trust to believe you don’t have to work in your own strength to create provision, purpose, or productivity for your own pleasure.
Sabbath rest is easier to observe than Sacred rest because it can be characterized by a lack of physical activity. However, the idea of Sacred rest goes beyond physical activity to spiritual activity. More importantly, it is not predicated upon the activity we initiate, but rather the activity God initiates to us.
Sacred rest is about being with God and receiving from God. When we are in His presence we experience His peace, love, and joy. These are spiritual benefits that can never be earned, or bought through our acts of work.
Matthew 11:28-30 is one of my favorite passages that speaks of receiving the rest of God. This is what it says in the Message translation:
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? 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. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Some translations of this passage in Matthew says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light…” The word yoke in this sense refers to balance. It’s like saying when we come to Jesus and receive His rest, He brings balance in our lives.
When we practice rest as a spiritual discipline, it allows us to live freely and lightly. It’s not that we are never challenged by life, but the regular unforced rhythms of God’s grace becomes the way of life we practice because we rest in God through our daily worship and devotion.