“Rest” is defined as “peace, ease or refreshment.” “Relax” means “to become loose or less firm, to have a milder manner, to be less stiff.” The Bible speaks quite highly of rest. It is a repeated theme throughout Scripture, beginning with the creation week (Genesis 2:2-3). God created for six days; then He rested, not because He was tired but to set the standard for mankind to follow. The Ten Commandments made resting on the Sabbath a requirement of the Law (Exodus 20:8-11). Notice that God said, “Remember the Sabbath.” It wasn’t something new; it had been around since creation. All God’s people and their servants and the animals were to have one day in seven to rest. The command to rest was not an excuse to be lazy. You had to work for six days to get to the Sabbath. The land also needed to rest (Leviticus 25:4, 8-12). God is very serious about rest.
God desires rest for us because it does not come naturally to us. To rest, we have to trust that God will take care of things for us. We have to trust that, if we take a day off, the world will not stop turning on its axis. From the beginning (Genesis 3), when we decided that we would start making all the decisions, mankind has become more tense and less able to relax. It was disobedience in the Garden that started the problem, but obedience now will bring the rest that God so desires for us (Hebrews 3:7 - 4:11). If one of the definitions of “relax” is “to become less firm,” then relaxing our grip on our own lives, careers, families, etc., and giving them over to God in faith is the best way to relax.
For the Christian, the ultimate rest is found in Christ. He invites all who are “weary and burdened” to come to Him and cast our cares on Him (Matthew 11:28; 1 Peter 5:7). It is only in Him that we find our complete rest—from the cares of the world, from the sorrows that plague us, and from the need to work to make ourselves acceptable to Him. We no longer observe the Jewish Sabbath because Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We can now cease from our spiritual labors and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always.