Sprinkled throughout the Scriptures is this profound teaching on a day that’s unlike an other day. It’s called the Sabbath. Most of us brush past these verses and insights, wondering if this has anything to do with us.
But I’ve been rethinking the role of the Sabbath in my life. God gave His people a gift in this day of rest and we’d do well to pay attention to our own Sabbath rhythm.
Most of this insight comes from a compelling book I read called The Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazero. The books is about leadership, but it’s also about slowing down and opening up your life to be in tune with God.
One of the teachings Scazero implores us to reconsider is the importance of the Sabbath and what it actually is.
The Sabbath is not just a day off.
The Sabbath is not about laziness.
The Sabbath is about worship and connection and leadership.
Traditionally, this is practiced from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. It is a twenty-four hour period of rest, focus, and worship.
On several occasions, Jesus seems to take issue with the Sabbath. He stands on the side of grace, while religious leaders uphold this day in legalistic fashion.
I’ve often read this as Jesus is against the Sabbath. Perhaps many of us have felt that if Jesus healed on the Sabbath, then we should be doing a lot more. After all, there are no days off in life and ministry.
But the Sabbath was created out of God’s love for His people. Jesus’ opposition towards it was more about the way the religious leaders had missed God’s intentions behind it.
It wasn’t about procedures and plans and the minute details of the day. It was a break from the norm and a reminder of where our worth comes from.
When the Israelites were rescued out of Egypt, God gave them a special day, a reminder that their worth was not from their labor or the quotas they filled. They simply got to stop and know that God is God.
On Sabbath we do the same thing. We pause and reflect. We allow rest to take precedence in our lives.
The Sabbath proclaims that who we are is more important than what we do. It loudly proclaims that we don’t have to try and earn God’s favor by our productivity. We simply receive it.
For many years, the Sabbath seemed like a good idea to me, but not something I could actually follow. It was an ideal; a pipe dream reserved for a utopian future where I could take a break once a week.
This sounds insane–and it was–but this was my thinking. I’ll take a day off, of course, but to just stop working? Impossible.
Most of us act like we’re sharks when it comes to our jobs: if we stop moving, we’ll die.
For most of us, the reason behind this idea is not ambition or drive or a stellar work ethic.
The real reason is our identities are so caught up in our jobs that if we don’t work, we feel lost. We feel we have nothing to offer.
But this is the secret beauty of the Sabbath. You can be loved and you can be totally and completely fine with doing absolutely nothing.
The Sabbath says…
There is nothing to prove.
There is no one to impress.
There is nothing to achieve.
God sees you, right now, and loves you all the same. This is how good God is. His love is lavished on His people in the gift of a time when you don’t have to do anything…and you’re love through and through.
On a practical level, I’ve attempted to develop a Sabbath rhythm in my life. This hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth the effort.
Unapologetically, I guard the time that is reserved for activities I love, rest, and time with my wife. I have a list of “Dos” and “Do nots.”
I take a hiatus from any type of ministry work. No message prep, no phone calls, no stewing about things that need to get done. I also go AWOL on social media. No scrolling and no posting.
I treat my phone like an early 2000’s model. It’s just there for phone calls and even those I don’t take outside of family or an emergency.
I sleep in on the Sabbath. I read books for fun. I may do a little writing, but nothing focused on productivity. I’ll just write for fun. If I can, I head to the beach for some R&R and contemplation.
Being out in nature and doing a little exercise is refreshing too, especially if I can go on hike or a bike ride. My worship increases when I slow down and take time to notice God’s creation and beauty.
I also make sure that on my Sabbath I set aside time to spend with God. This includes prayer and a healthy dose of Scripture.
My Sabbath observance is still a work in progress. I’m learning what it means to prioritize this day so I can lead better.
Challenges to Sabbath keeping are numerous, especially if you have kids or a job where your schedule changes on a weekly basis (hello ministry!), but this is part of the discipline.
The discipline is to plan your week so you can have your Sabbath. Often times, this is a challenge in and of itself.
It always seems you’re most needed on the busiest weeks. This makes complete sense when you really think about it. Life isn’t always so neat and organized. But the discipline is learning to adjust and live in the varying seasons.
So, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m learning to live in this rhythm, to prioritize rest and Sabbath.
Because God gave us this day of rest as a gift. So I’m learning to delight in it.
Just for fun: Do you currently practice Sabbath? What are some of the challenges you face in creating this day of rest?