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Striving for Sacred Rest

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Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. (Exodus 34:21 ESV)

I’ve always been pretty good at resting. I actually own a shirt that says, “Jesus took naps. Be like Jesus.” 

On several occasions over the years, I’ve felt led to speak and write about the importance of rest. The more I researched the subject, the more I realized that beyond important, rest is sacred. It’s a vital spiritual practice that fosters closer intimacy with and greater dependence upon God.

Today in our American culture, we tend to idolize work and busyness. Even people of solid and sincere faith can put too much emphasis on their own work for God’s kingdom and their own self-importance, to the point of burning themselves out. But none of that was ever God’s plan.

From the creation of the world in Genesis 2:2, God taught us about rest. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” Did the omnipotent God of the whole universe actually need rest? I’m not sure. But He clearly felt it was important to model rest to His creation.

Then we come to the Ten Commandments, where God codifies this instruction to rest into a law. We see it first in Exodus 20:8-10: 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.”

Today, many seem to think that the Sabbath has lost its importance. Or that worship on the Sabbath still matters, but that the resting part is optional. After all, Jesus even said,  “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Right?

That wasn’t because Sabbath wasn’t important, but because the religious teachers of His time had lost the true spirit of Sabbath. Jesus understood that man needed rest. He Himself often sought rest, and silence, and solitude—like with that famous nap on a boat in the middle of a storm. (Matthew 8:23-26)

However, if there was ever any doubt that God still wants his people to rest, it’s cleared up in Hebrews 4:9-11:

“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore STRIVE to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Emphasis mine) 

Did you catch that?

We are commanded to “strive” to enter into God’s Sabbath rest. That’s the ESV translation. The NIV says “make every effort.” In the NLT it’s “do our best.” And the NKJV says “be diligent.” Rest IS important, and we need to make it a priority—a part of our spiritual discipline as a Christian believer.

So my assignment for you today is super easy. Take a rest! Take some of the pressure off yourself. Put your faith and trust in God. Believe that with His help, you can accomplish more with less time working and with more time spent resting in His presence. 

Remind yourself of those famous words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 


Scripture is quoted from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.

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About The Author

Dina Sleiman

In addition to being an award-winning Christian novelist, Dina Sleiman takes great pleasure in serving the least of these through her work at Operation Blessing. This wife, mother, and grandmother loves travel, nature, dance, bungee fitness, and—of course—writing.

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