Awake and Arise in the Rest of the Lord

Brothers and Sisters, it’s good to be with you this evening. Thank you for being here, for sacrificing and consecrating time, effort, and energy. It’s starting to get late; some of you are tired and ready to go home. A story from the New Testament might be appropriate for the situation.

The Apostle Paul was a tireless champion of Christ. As a special witness of Christ, he preached of the resurrected Lord and His gospel in whatever situation he was in. Paul was a powerful preacher who was also, on occasion, long-winded.

Paul was busy traveling, teaching the good news of Christ, and organizing the church wherever he went. One Sunday, disciples of Christ held a church meeting with Paul presiding. They were in a city called Alexandria Troas, which was on the west coast of modern day Turkey. Needing to get an early start on a journey the next day, what did Paul do? Did he keep the meeting short? We read that Paul preached “and continued his speech until midnight.” One of those at the long meeting was a young man. Of him we read: “And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus [yu-tichus], being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.”[1]

Eutychus, understandably, dozed off while Paul taught long into the night. This normally would not be a problem but he sat on a window ledge on one of the upper floors. The reduced muscle tone with sleep combined with elevation and gravity resulted in the fall and demise of Eutychus. It can be said that Paul bored this young man to death.

We get a glimpse of Paul’s character during this situation. Paul rushed down, embraced the fallen young man, and raised Eutychus from the dead. Many might have taken this as a sign to stop preaching but Paul then went back up, broke bread, likely as part of the ordinance of the sacrament, and “talked a long while, even till break of day.” Paul wasn’t one to let a little thing like death and bringing someone back to life get in the way of a good sermon. Paul’s actions towards Eutychus were a sermon about the love and power of God. In the early morning Paul left and the people there “brought the young man [back home] alive, and were not a little comforted”, which is perhaps one of the greatest understatements in the scriptures. Maybe they were partially relieved the meeting was finally over but also comforted by witnessing the miraculous healing power of God.[2]

There are many reasons why Paul preached for so long. One of the most important is that Paul was a visiting authority who had to instruct and organize the church. Paul had one week and maybe only one sacrament meeting to teach and organize the church in that city. So he taught, day and night, without ceasing. Yes, Paul was long-winded but he was an unflinching and unfailing witness of Christ. He set an example of witnessing of Christ even when weary and tirelessly testifying of truth.

Tonight I will not speak as long as Paul, but will, like Paul, testify of Christ. I will not be offended if you, like Eutychus, fall asleep but I am grateful none of you are sitting far above the ground. If you do fall asleep, where better to do so than here in a chapel where you can rest in the Lord?

Pres. Nelson powerfully taught at General Conference how we can overcome the world and find the Lord’s rest, which is not just sleeping during a church meeting. He quoted the Savior: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”[3]

Biologically, rest and sleep are important. Rest rejuvenates. It refreshes weary minds and muscles. Rest can assuage anxieties, temper troubles, and soften sorrows. Sleep is particularly powerful. We spend approximately 1/3 of our lives sleeping. When I was younger I thought sleep was a waste of time. Without fatigue and sleep I could do so much more in a day! Now that I better understand the purpose of sleep, I am grateful for it. Sleep has important benefits, including helping us improve physical health. Sleep helps wounds heal. Sleep is an important time where our muscles not only relax but also our brains can process the information, thoughts, and emotions of the day, thus being important for maintaining cognitive and emotional health. Importantly, sleep also is a time when fluid within and around our brains essentially takes out the trash generated by our brains each day. Rather than being a waste of time, sleep is one of the most important parts of our daily routine! Too little or too much sleep can be detrimental to health.

I recognize that many of you receive less sleep than you hope to do. Little or big children can disrupt your sleep. The cares and concerns of the world hang heavy. You might on sleepless nights, with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, run through a long internal monologue, longing “to sleep, perchance to dream.”[4] You might look in the mirror and think the bags under your eyes could have their own zip code. I don’t have much to say to this other than you are not alone. Jesus Christ is intimately aware of you and loves you. As Elder Holland said, “Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them.”[5] The Savior offers rest even through trials like sleeplessness.

While the rest unto our souls the Savior promised is not the physical sleep we need each day, both have restorative powers.

Pres. Nelson taught what this rest of the Lord is:

“You can overcome the spiritually and emotionally exhausting plagues of the world, including arrogance, pride, anger, immorality, hatred, greed, jealousy, and fear. Despite the distractions and distortions that swirl around us, you can find true rest—meaning relief and peace—even amid your most vexing problems….”[6]

The rest the Lord offers is like the Living Water offered to the woman of Samaria – a spiritual sustenance and redemptive restoration of faith, hope, and peace. The rest of the Lord is the power of relief and peace even when surrounded by the commotion of “the spiritually and emotionally exhausting plagues of the world.” The rest offered is overcoming “the intensity, uncertainty, and anguish of this world.” The apostle Paul, who was clearly good at inducing rest, invited the Hebrews to “labour therefore to enter into [the Lord’s] rest.”[7] He pleaded, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”[8] The rest of the Lord is therefore also in part the glory of God. It is His power and His presence. His power and glory are restful and comforting. His glory sanctifies us, purging us of impurities and turning us into glorious beings. It is this power that gives assurance amid animosity, peace through trials, and faith instead of fear.

We can receive this rest through covenants and striving to keep God’s commandments, as Pres. Nelson taught.

“My plea to you…is to find rest from the intensity, uncertainty, and anguish of this world by overcoming the world through your covenants with God. Let Him know through your prayers and your actions that you are serious about overcoming the world. Ask Him to enlighten your mind and send the help you need. Each day, record the thoughts that come to you as you pray; then follow through diligently. Spend more time in the temple, and seek to understand how the temple teaches you to rise above this fallen world…. As you let God prevail in your life, I promise you greater peace, confidence, joy, and yes, rest.”[9]

The rest of the Lord in this sense has little to do with physical activity or inactivity. It does not mean taking a break from work; the rest of the Lord means doing a different kind of work. It requires, as Isaiah said, putting off doing our own pleasure or works to assist in the Lord’s work[10]. The Lord’s work is fulfilling, rewarding, and uplifting, especially as we serve out of a love for God and His children. It is restful even if sometimes physically and emotionally tiring.

Again, God’s rest requires work! It requires us, as we sang, to awake and arise. The great prophet and teacher, Jacob, pleaded, “O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell.”[11] The prophet Isaiah also preached using this theme: “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion”[12]. Nephi, in his beautiful psalm, similarly pleaded, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul”[13]. Lehi pleaded with his wayward sons: “Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men”[14].

Again Lehi pleaded with his sons, “Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust”[15]. We don’t just sleep and dream of our mansion above[16]. We need to get up, rub the sleep from our eyes, cleanse ourselves, and get ready for the dawn of a new day of repentance and righteousness. We should then be ready to greet and serve with the Son of God, who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[17] Through repentance in the name of Christ, we need to remove the bonds and darkness of sin and step into the light, where we are yoked in an enlightening work with the Savior. As we do this, we array ourselves in the protection of personal righteousness. These beautiful, protective, and powerful garments or armor of righteousness are our covenants with God and faithfulness to those covenants.

There is much work to be done. We are asked to help hasten the Lord’s work. Pres. Nelson said, “you may be thinking this sounds more like hard spiritual work than rest. But here is the grand truth: while the world insists that power, possessions, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh bring happiness, they do not! They cannot! What they do produce is nothing but a hollow substitute for ‘the blessed and happy state of those [who] keep the commandments of God.’ The truth is that it is much more exhausting to seek happiness where you can never find it! However, when you yoke yourself to Jesus Christ and do the spiritual work required to overcome the world, He, and He alone, does have the power to lift you above the pull of this world.”

I feel it important to state that we are not asked to do more, work harder, or run faster than we have strength. The rest of the Lord can include a break from our labors, as Paul taught: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [on the seventh day] did from his.”[18] We all need to take a break from time to time. Relaxation, recreation, and rest are important. We are not asked to do everything for everyone. What we are asked to do is come unto Christ, keep our focus on the Savior and His work as we walk towards Him and invite others to join with us. The Lord loves effort!

God has promised those who labor diligently in their faith will obtain the rest of the Lord – the “greater peace, confidence, and joy” Pres. Nelson spoke about. They will also eventually obtain an audience at the throne of grace and partake of the mercy of God. Those who receive this rest also receive the glory of God, making the works of God their works forevermore. They become joint-heirs with Christ.[19]

Brothers and sisters, the time is far spent. Before too many of you follow Eutychus’s example, it is time to end my address. I hope tonight has been a spiritual feast and rest where you received both spiritual nourishment and rejuvenation. As we depart tonight I invite you to ponder on how you can follow the invitations of Pres. Nelson and more fully enter into the rest of the Lord each day as you awaken and turn your attention to God. It is my solemn witness that God loves you and has an important work for you. He invites you to join in hastening the work of salvation on both sides of the veil. As you more fully join in this work, you will receive greater peace, confidence, joy, and rest. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] See Acts 20:7-12

[2] It’s possible Eutychus did not die but was simply unconscious for a time. The scriptures are not clear if Eutychus died and was brought back to life or if Paul rushed down and realized the young man was alive and otherwise okay. The story works either way, if being less dramatic if Eutychus was not dead.

[3] Matt. 11:28-29

[7] Hebrews 4:11

[8] Hebrews 4:16

[10] See Isaiah 58:13

[11] Jacob 3:11

[12] 2 Ne. 8:24-25; see also Isaiah 52:1-2

[13] 2 Ne. 4:28

[14] 2 Ne. 1:21

[15] 2 Ne. 1:23

[17] Matt. 11:29-30

[18] Hebrews 4:10

[19] Romans 8:17

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