The Bare Soul
May 22, 2011
Rest in Peace
Proverbs 19:23 - The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
A good night's sleep seems to be a thing of the past for many Americans. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans slept on average two hours more a night 40 years ago. Dr. Jose Loredo at the University of California San Diego Sleep Medicine Center says that adults need about 8.5 hours of sleep per night. According to experts, "lack of sleep has been tied to increased heart attacks, hypertension, obesity, and decreased productivity". They further state that once folks finally do go to bed, around 20% of these don't fall asleep within the first few minutes on account of worry about finances and personal relationships. Instead of sleeping, most will resort to watching TV, which often stimulates the mind rather than allowing it to "wind down", making it more receptive to allow the body to rest. As a result, 19% of those surveyed said that "... they missed at least one family, leisure, or work event a month due to sleepiness or a sleeping problem". While lack of sleep can certainly be caused by problems such as anxiety or stress, many often dismiss a spiritual causation as possibly being the main culprit. Rather than fighting restlessness with our own feeble efforts, maybe it's time to look at the underlying reason for our lack of true rest.
Our lead verse is both a promise and an equation, of sorts, that can be leveraged in regard to the lack of rest in many of our lives. This scripture unequivocally suggests that true rest comes out of a relationship with God. First of all, it's important to understand that the premise to any true restfulness in this lifetime is to understand the fear of the Lord. I have written about the fear of the Lord in some detail in the past (see The Fear of the Lord, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). However, as a quick review, let us qualify that the fear of the Lord is simply loving God so fully and completely that we would not consider disobeying Him in any regard. That, my friends, is the perfect ideal. Unfortunately, many of us have never quite attained to this total surrender. Nonetheless, those of us who desire to walk with God as His children continue to walk toward this goal day by day, even though we might stumble on the way. So, to possess the fear of the Lord, in whatever measure respective of our walk with the Lord, is the first addend in our equation. It is the baseline in which the sum of the other parts is dependent. From it, we are told in Proverbs 19:23 that our fear or reverence of God will lead to "life". This leads us to ask "What is life?" For believers in God, it can simply be stated that life is the opposite of the affects of death and destruction. (In truth, real life only exists in Jesus Christ.) Paul tells us that though our outer man or our physical life is decaying, our inner man is being renewed daily (II Corinthians 4:16). The tragedy for those who do not know Christ is that both their outward and inward persons are held in bondage by death and its consequences. They have no inner peace that allows them any control over their mind and body. Therefore, they are plagued by unrest, resulting in anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. A New Testament example of someone who knew the fear of the Lord was the Apostle Peter. It is demonstrated in his ability to sleep between two guards in Herod's prison (Acts 12:5-6). Though he may have well-considered that his fate would be similar to the martyrdom of the Apostle James by the sword (Acts 12:1-2), Peter nonetheless had no trouble believing that his fate was in the hands of God. We are told in this account that an angel appeared with a "great light" in the cell where Peter slept. However, this wasn't enough to rouse the disciple. The heavenly messenger literally had to strike Peter on the side to wake him up (Acts 12:7). This, my friends, is an example of a man so controlled by God in his inner man that his body was at peace and at rest. Years later, the Apostle John undoubtedly understood the connection between the natural and the spiritual man when he addressed Gaius: Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers (III John 3). If a man is at peace within, he will obviously be at peace and at rest no matter the circumstances.
Unlike Peter, my incarcerations were much less noble. I remember stints in county or city jails where sleep was fleeting. The constant noises and stirrings were amplified by the concrete and heavy steel construction. The clanging of a door in a cell block two corridors away would echo throughout the entire building. A person could try to stuff toilet paper in their ears, but it would do little good. The magnification of sound was just too intense. What I would have given for a set of good earplugs to silence the din. Of course, even if I could have quieted what was going on around me, I would still have to silence the "committee" within my head. Many voices would tell me, "You've really messed up again! Look at you! In jail again! You said the last time this happened would truly be the last time!" The chatter of guilt and condemnation became almost unbearable. When periods of sleep did come, it seemed like the dreams and nightmares competed constantly with consciousness. I would lie there, half asleep and half awake, drifting in and out of a state of unsettled rest. While most will not experience loss of sleep to this extreme, the degree of restlessness can be equated to the lack of the fear of the Lord. Today, I know that I had no love or understanding of God when I foolishly got locked away. Now I know that in order to achieve any true rest in my life, that I must "lean on the Everlasting Arms". The consequences of not resting in God in His blessed fear, is to experience being touched by evil continually. That's why Solomon knew when he wrote this proverb that the fear of the Lord not only allowed us to rest peacefully, but it also afforded us unmolested sleep by the enemy.
Evil will often seek us out when we are most vulnerable. If we call ourselves Christian believers, yet walk in anxiety and fear throughout our day and not in the fear of the Lord, why should it surprise us if our sleep is also infested with the flesh and the devil? If we are not subjecting ourselves to the Lord, why wouldn't we believe we have left ourselves defenseless? The enemy of our soul desires that we have no rest, but that we would be constantly in turmoil and living in great angst whether awake or asleep. However, if we are walking in the Spirit throughout the day, it makes God-sense that we would be sleeping in the Spirit at night. After all, the Lord has promised that He would give to His beloved (that's me and you) even in our sleep (Psalm 127:2). As Spirit-led believers, we can also claim the promise from Psalm 4:8: In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety. If we call ourselves His beloved, do we lie down and rest in peace? Or, are we part of the restless statistics that characterize sleepless Americans? The antidote to the present-day plague of restlessness and sleeplessness is evident. If we will but give ourselves to God, surrendering our life during the day, we will know His sweet rest at night. It is part of our heritage as blood-bought believers. May we give ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, without reserve, that we may quiet both our hearts and minds and find our rest in Him. May we all rest well tonight in the arms of our Beloved!
Lord God Almighty, You are the One who gives us true rest. The flesh and the devil seek to kill, to steal, and to destroy. We resist the enemy, not allowing him to steal or destroy our rest in You, O Lord. We lean on Your blessed arms, knowing that You will give us rest if we will but "come". Thank you for the promise of rest while we sojourn upon earth, and thank you for the hope of rest eternal in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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