Rest glorifies God because it reveals our dependence upon him. When we go throughout our week hurrying from one place to another, we are quick to forget the God who sustains us. Consider the familiar words of Psalm 23:
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1-3)
Everything in this verse points towards a Good Shepherd who brings clarity, guidance, rest, and rejuvenation. The Psalmist, David, says that in the Lord, he lacks nothing. So often, my impulse is to achieve for God. I relentlessly and tirelessly work for the kingdom without realizing that when I stop to rest in the presence of God, I am bringing glory to him.
The penitential words of David in Psalm 51 provide some additional insight as he declares,
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it, you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
God desires a repentant heart more than sacrificial action. That’s the underlying biblical truth here—God’s desire for our hearts. He doesn’t simply want the actions of our hands and feet, but the trust and affection of our hearts. When we stop and intentionally set aside time to rest in him, we are showing that our ultimate hope belongs not to our accomplishments, but to Christ’s accomplishment on the cross.
Viewing Rest as a Spiritual Discipline
Once you recognize that rest is important, you must decide how it will be implemented into your life. The best way to do this is to view rest as a spiritual discipline. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as “practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Based on this definition, rest is absolutely a spiritual discipline. Rest promotes spiritual growth because it leads us to rely on Christ. Therefore, we must commit to resting on a regular basis.
Four Ways to Rest
To commit to rest without defining the specific practices by which we rest is of limited value. While there are many ways to practice rest, such as spending time outdoors or reading classic fiction novels, there are four spiritual disciplines that have helped me greatly in terms of resting in God.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2)
While the practices of memorizing and studying Scripture provide great value to the believer, they require a great amount of mental energy. Both of these practices are important and should not be neglected, but I have found that Scripture meditation is a great way to spend my weekends.
There is a fundamental difference between Christian and New Age meditation, and it is key to remember that. Rather than emptying our minds, Christian meditation is about filling our minds. When I meditate on Scripture, I typically read a verse, then pray through it, and continue throughout a chapter.
Silence and Solitude
“Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” (Matthew 14:13)
Christ-centered community and deep relationships are an essential part of a healthy spiritual life, but so is the practice of silence and solitude. I love the way that Donald Whitney puts it when he writes, “Without silence and solitude, we can be active, but shallow. Without fellowship, we can be deep, but stagnant. Christlikeness requires both sides of the equation.”
When I practice silence and solitude, I often set aside three blocks of time throughout my day to go on a walk or a drive. During this time, I skip out on the latest podcast and my favorite music and instead focus my attention on the goodness of God.
“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:3)
The third way I rest is by taking a regular sabbath. Regardless of whether you think the sabbath commandment still pertains to Christians today, setting aside a day of rest is a wise practice that helps us to slow down and pattern our life after God.
Personally, I use the word sabbath loosely and view it as a day of rest. I typically practice this on Saturday and spend the day away from work. The purpose of this is to give me a day to recharge and refocus my eyes on Jesus. I often sleep in on Saturday and spend extended time in the Word before spending time reading with a few close friends in the outdoors. Whether it happens on a Saturday or a Wednesday, setting aside a day of rest will set a weekly reminder that we can’t operate sufficiently on our own.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:16)
Lastly, I fast regularly. While some would argue that fasting is defined as forgoing food for a spiritual purpose, I choose to fast from both food and my phone. I found that when I fasted from food, I spent way too much time distracting myself on social media rather than focusing on my desire for the Lord. Personally, I choose to fast on my “sabbath day,” which allows for a day of complete reset before the next week. Fasting helps me to depend on God physically and spiritually.