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SLEEP WELL
By Bryan Matthew Dockens

Our God, being the caring God He is, is concerned even about the amount and quality of sleep we get.

God exemplified the need for rest. "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work" (Genesis 2:1-3). It is difficult to think that God, Almighty as He is, could possibly have needed rest. Likely, He rested as an example to teach man.

God commanded rest. That the Mighty One sanctified the seventh day for rest was not known to man until Moses' law (Nehemiah 9:14). In that now expired law (Romans 10:4), Moses proclaimed to Israel, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Jehovah your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:8-11). This was done for man's benefit, not to impose harsh restrictions on him. Jesus explained, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Sabbath law was for the Israelites, not for Christians (Galatians 5:4). Yet, it remains appropriate for us to learn to balance hard work (2nd Thessalonians 3:10, 12) with occasional rest.

God taught how to rest effectively. A vast array of sleep aids are on the market today. From sleeping pills to Tempur-Pedic mattresses, it seems many need help getting their rest. The softest pillow, though, has always been a peaceful mind.

Solomon extolled the value of "sound wisdom and discretion" (Proverbs 3:21), saying to those who keep them, "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet" (Proverbs 3:24). It is easier to fall asleep knowing you've made right choices that day.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul reiterated the old command, "Honor your father and mother" (Ephesians 6:2). Earlier, Solomon assured his readers that doing so improved sleep. He penned, "My son, keep your father's command, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; tie them around your neck. When you roam, they will lead you; when you sleep, they will keep you; and when you awake, they will speak with you" (Proverbs 6:20-22).

Solomon strongly decried debt (Proverbs 22:7), and specifically urged his readers to refrain from surety (Proverbs 17:18; 22:26-27) - which is co-signing for others' loans. He advised those who had made such a financial blunder to re-negotiate (Proverbs 6:1-3), and expressed urgency in the matter, saying, "Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself" (Proverbs 6:4-5). The burden of financial stress is a real deterrent to good sleep. Those who make monetary mistakes should correct them in order to rest easy.

Hard work is conducive to effective slumber. It is written, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). Wearing oneself out with an honest day's work means you can fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, even with an empty stomach.

David's son warned that "the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). The burden of the wealthy is staying wealthy. The thought of managing those assets and keeping them profitable keeps the rich awake at night. Paul said that money lovers have "pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1st Timothy 6:10). Learning to "be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5) is a terrific relief from stress.

Lovesickness detracts from restful sleep. "I sleep, but my heart is awake; it is the voice of my beloved!" (Song of Songs 5:2). The one who has found who he wants to marry should not delay nuptials with an unnecessarily long engagement because "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). And those already married should enjoy the benefit of that holy relationship often (1st Corinthians 7:3). "Do not deprive one another" (1st Corinthians 7:5).

God insists on moderation in rest. While our Lord is concerned for the amount and quality of sleep we get, He does not want us to be lazy. "Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty" (Proverbs 20:13). We are warned, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep-- So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man" (Proverbs 6:10-11). We should sleep enough, not too much.

God is most concerned for our spiritual rest. Jesus invited, "Come to Me, all you 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" (Matthew 11:28-30). When Christ comes in judgment to afflict the unrighteous, He will give rest to the faithful (2nd Thessalonians 1:7). We are assured that "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11).

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