Sabbath ceasing means to cease not only from work itself but also from the need to accomplish and be productive, from the worry and the tension that accompany our modern criterion of efficiency, from our efforts to be in control of our lives as if we were God.
Being a hard-working, never-resting individual is becoming more and more common today, especially if you live a missional lifestyle. It is almost a badge of honor to complain to our friends how tired we are and how busy our schedules are. As one New York Times contributor remarked, “Everyone I know is busy”
To combat this dilemma I want to recommend we set aside time each week for recalibrating and reflecting. Whether it is Saturday, or a different day, the Sabbath was created by God for a reason.
Everyone’s schedule is different. My newly married friends have amazing Saturdays when they can sleep in. Another friend I have works nights as a 911 operator. She works 4 days on and 4 days off, so every week she has a different day of rest. I have five kids so if I sleep in on Saturday I wake up to a disaster zone filled with kids who have watched too many cartoons and eaten way too many coco puffs. So, even though Saturday is my “day off” it is still a day that we parent, we clean, we pay bills, we get caught up on laundry etc. Often it is a day of driving kids back and forth across town. In fact, Saturday is quite a busy day usually.
So how can we make the most of it?
Saturday in Jesus’ time was different than ours. It was observed as the day of rest. It was the Sabbath.
They saw in the first chapter of Genesis God’s rhythm of work modeled for us.
Six days on, one day off. Genesis 2:2-3 tells us, “On the seventh day, God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work… So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”
This seventh day off, called “Sabbath”, would have been followed religiously by Jesus and his disciples growing up in their Jewish homes. It would have begun the night before at sundown with prayers and candle lighting. They would sing
“Blessed are you O LORD Our God, King of the whole world…”
In order to rest, to cease, to slow down, they recalled to mind that God was the king of the whole world.
This was the point of Jesus’ Sabbath healings. He demonstrated over and over that he was indeed King of the world.
He has it all in hand so we can let go. We can stop our work, and just be.
As Tim Chester explains in “A Gospel-centered approach to busyness” Just as we worked during the week for the glory of God, now we can rest for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The Hebrew word for Rest and Wholeness are both “Shalom.” Jesus dedicated Saturdays Shalom. On a Sabbath He healed a man with a withered hand in the synagogue. On another Saturday he laid his hands on a woman who had been hunched over. And for the first time in 18 years, she was able to stand up straight. He also gave sight to the blind, and made the lame to walk, all on the Sabbath.
Jesus revealed God’s plan for Saturdays is wholeness, peace, Shalom, in mind, body and Spirit.
Try These Tactics
Get out alone by yourself and walk in silence. Clear your mind and meditate on Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God” Look around at the natural world and recognize the God who made it all.
Gather your roommate, your spouse, your kids and tell them that you all are going to take 20 minutes today as a household to get some solitude to read God’s word and pray. Make sure everyone has a Bible. I recommend a hard copy Bible, not an app. It helps avoid the distraction to check email, catch up on the game or shop online. For preschool kids you will need to read to them a picture Bible of their own, or wait until naptime.
Determine what feels like work to you and AVOID IT. This may take some creativity, but it is possible. If laundry is work for you then rearrange the rest of your week to get that work done on a different day. Trust me, it is possible, and it is worth it. In our home, doing dishes feels like work. So on our day of rest we will often use paper plates or we will go out for meals. Marva J. Dawn says, “Sabbath ceasing means to cease not only from work itself but also from the need to accomplish and be productive, from the worry and the tension that accompany our modern criterion of efficiency, from our efforts to be in control of our lives as if we were God, from our possessiveness and our enculturation, and finally from the humdrum and meaninglessness that result when life is pursued without the Lord at the center of it all.”
Think about your place in the universe. Look at the stars, with the new SkyView App. And contemplate Job 9:4-10 Reflect on your values and your life goals. God put you here to glorify him and enjoy him forever. Reflect on your heart’s desire to love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength. Reflect on your desire to love your neighbor as yourself. In the November 2015 edition of Harvard Business Review one of their top ten criteria for “What Makes a Great Leader” was that great leaders make time for reflection.
If a full day is too much for you, start small. Take a walk, have a 20 minute quiet time. See if you don’t feel more connected and less out of control.
Thomas a Kempis said, “Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. …God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.”
Now, GO REST
How does Jesus bring freedom for you to stop striving and start resting?
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