“Rest and Faith’s Expression”
Scripture: Mark 4:35-41
Sometimes it’s difficult to enjoy and experience the God-given gift of sleep and the rest God intends to give us in it. When the Bible speaks to this issue, it does not offer us sleep techniques but it seeks to get to our hearts. What we learn is that sleep is ultimately an expression of faith. Sleep is a defiance on the one hand and a submission on the other. It’s a defiance against our own self-sufficient, autonomous nature and it’s an act of submission to the sovereign hand of God.
When Jesus calmed the storm in Mark 4 it was in the evening, a time when everybody should have been asleep. However because of the storm, sleep eluded the disciples and they were kept from resting that night. Fear filled their hearts as water filled the boat. Jesus rebukes the storm and turns to ask them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” He wasn’t downplaying the terror of the storm but questioning why they didn’t trust in him after all they had seen him do and heard him teach. Their sleeplessness was due to struggling faith.
Often we are kept up in our anxieties and worries because like a balance scale, the reasons we have to fear outweigh the reasons to trust God. When we begin to follow the trail of “what if’s” in our heads, we go down a dangerous path. We add speculation upon speculation. In the end what’s really going in our hearts is that we are doubting the goodness, the wisdom and the power of God. Like the disciples, we wonder if God cares about us at all. But something begins to happen when you replace the “what if’s” with the definitive truth of “what happened.”
So what happened? Mark 4 is contrasted against Mark 14. In Mark 4 the disciples rebuke Jesus for sleeping in the boat but in Mark 14 Jesus rebukes the disciples for sleeping in Gethsemane. In Mark 4 Jesus slept as the disciples faced the storm and cried out but in Mark 14 the disciples slept as Jesus faced the cross and cried out. Jesus slept in the storm but trembled at the cross because he knew weather and water were not to be feared. It was God’s wrath against our sin that was truly dreadful. But Jesus took that for us. He died in our place on the cross and removes greatest reason to be afraid. Now through his sacrificial death he also gives us the greatest reason to trust him. He mercifully and unconditionally loves us.
When we preach the gospel to ourselves, we remember that because of Christ’s sacrifice on Golgotha’s cross we can experience sleep in Galilee’s seas. So our displays of faith in God are not just through extraordinary acts of obedience but can be evidenced in the everyday ordinary act of going to bed. We sleep trusting that God is working all things for our eternal good and his endless glory.
Although sleeplessness can be a sign of lack of faith in God, so can loving and cherishing sleep too much. Sometimes faith in God can be replaced with faith in sleep where we look to sleep to escape our worries and our fears. Sleep then turns into an idol. When we long for our beds in order to give us rest from the hassles and hardships of life, we are looking to sleep to give us something only God can give us. Faith needs to be shifted again to God.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- Which tends to be your greater struggle: experiencing sleeplessness/restlessness or loving/enjoying sleep too much? What kinds of things give you anxiety and keep you up at night? What kinds of things do you want to escape from in sleep?
- What other beliefs do you have in your heart when you feel afraid, anxious and worried? In those moments, what are you believing about yourself and what are you not believing about God?
- Share what you learned from this series on “The Best Rest” or any testimony of your experience of rest as a result of this series. Have you developed any new insights or perspectives?