By David Faust
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 50-70 million American adults have sleep disorders. Insufficient sleep is linked to vehicle crashes, occupational errors, and chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity. Chronic insomnia afflicts 9-12 percent of the American population. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that poor sleep habits “are one of the most common problems encountered in our society. We stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals, and work, and we overstimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as television.”
Many among us itch to spend as if happiness could be purchased at the mall. We even turn a peaceful holiday like Christmas from a rest time into a stressed time when overanxious givers buy unneeded presents for ungrateful recipients to store in overcrowded closets.
These symptoms reflect a deeper problem—we are a spiritually restless generation. Moses warned the Israelites about the consequences of turning away from God: “an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’” (Deuteronomy 28:65-67).
Choices Have Consequences
The book of Revelation portrays the chaos of a culture that has turned away from God. There is war in Heaven as God’s holy angels battle “the great dragon . . . that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). A bold, blasphemous beast is “given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them” (13:7). Another evil beast compels “all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name” (vv. 16, 17). Terrible plagues occur (chapters 15, 16) as God pours out his wrath on a stubborn world that still refuses to repent.
In the midst of all the turmoil, it’s surprising to see references to rest, but here they are: “There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name” (14:11). Then a couple of verses later John hears a voice from Heaven telling him to write, “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them’” (v. 13).
Notice the contrast: “There is no rest day or night” for the unfaithful, but the faithful “will rest from their labor.” Our choices have consequences, and Revelation paints those consequences in living color. Will we choose God or the dragon, rest or unrest, eternal peace or never- ending restlessness? Will we conform to our restless, unrepentant world or follow the one who said, “Come to me . . . and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)?
Revelation 14:12 sums it up: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”
1. What signs of restlessness do you observe in our culture? in your own life?
2. How can you find rest in the Lord?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 21, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Micah 4, 5
Micah 6, 7
Zephaniah 1, 2