Chances are, you’ve heard it before. It’s one of the 10 Commandments – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8 But in the hustle and noise of life today, is Sabbath really essential? If it is, how do we do it? And in fact most importantly, why?
The Loved Bible Project is currently doing a series called Everyday Rhythms, adapted from the BLESS Series from the Saturate podcast. You can listen to the conversation on Sabbath here, and you can go back to read the previous posts in the series on our blog. We’re focusing on the ways we can go about our regular lives, interacting with the people we already see frequently, and build relationships that let us reflect Jesus’ love, generosity, and intentional discipleship. One of TLBP’s core values is to be mission-centered, because Jesus called his followers to make disciples and teach them his ways. Steps 4 and 5 of the Loved Bible process are to Give the Bible Away, and Invest/Invite. Living ‘on mission’ means we intentionally build relationships in which we can tell others who Christ is and what he’s done.
So why Sabbath? What does time set aside to rest have to do with building relationships?
The Why: SABBATH IS AN ACT OF HUMILITY
Sabbath is a gift from God; it’s his way of reminding us that we are not God. Whew! That’s a very good thing. Sabbath is a day to rest, to enjoy God, and enjoy the reality that we are limited, but we worship a God who is limitless and his mission does not cease when we do. It’s a chance to enjoy God for who he is and be refreshed, to remember he’s pursuing us too, to rest in his sovereignty, and to pause and hear his voice.
Yes, God has called us to make disciples and that is our mission.
But because we live in a broken world, we can so easily and sinfully allow the enemy to convince us that we can’t stop. There’s always more to do, someone who needs you, meetings to attend, plans to prepare; and before you know it, your schedule enslaves you. Sooner or later, the mission becomes about us and the lie that we are the one to save. Without a Sabbath rest to hear God’s voice, we begin to believe we’re bigger or more important than we actually are, we develop a ‘Savior Complex,’ and we’ll soon be burned out! Wouldn’t the enemy love to take us out like this?! Sabbath allows us to remember that as hard as someone’s situation may be, we are not the answer to it. Instead, when we’ve spent the time enjoying God and remembering we are not him, we’re equipped for the call to humbly point others to Jesus.
On the Sabbath, we remember what God’s voice sounds like, so we can hear it throughout the rest of the week. We take a rest from the mission, for the sake of the mission.
The How: PRACTICAL TIPS FOR SABBATH
But life is so busy! What if we fall behind because we ‘took a break?’ We have responsibilities! Oh yes, there’s always more to do. It’s easy to get consumed in the tasks of work, parenting, and ministry. Parents of young kids don’t really get a day off, so how do they do Sabbath well? Often, even when we actually see the value of keeping the Sabbath, it’s easy to get consumed in the tasks of how to do it ‘right.’
Here are 5 things to consider as you plan your Sabbath: (adapted from saturatetheworld.com)
THE BIG PICTURE
- Pick a day. Decide what day you can adjust any meetings or activities. Prepare to set aside work, chores, and events. Plan for time to watch God work, hear his voice, and realize his faithfulness, knowing you’ll be rewarded by taking a stance against the frenzied pace that rules your life.
- Pursue true inactivity. Take time to be still, mentally reflect on all God’s done in the previous week and the burdens you carry. Avoid filling the day with tasks and agendas. Rest in God’s goodness and receive the gospel for yourself on this intentional day.
- Engage in prayer and Scripture. Take time to read a Psalm, reflect on it, and pray. Make prayer a constant priority throughout the day. Give thanks for who God is and what he’s done. Remember, Jesus is our true rest.
- Gather with the saints. When possible, spend time with your church family and be reminded of your identity, your calling, God’s true story, and the gospel. Worship Jesus together, and be refreshed as you connect with God as a community of his people.
- Recreate. Have fun! Sabbath is a sweet gift from the God who loves you. Consider ways you can unplug and do things you enjoy (alone or as a family).
Here’s a great tip! Do something that’s opposite of work: If your work typically requires a lot of thinking, do something on your Sabbath that uses your hands. If you usually work with your hands, spend time reading and meditating on your Sabbath. Or if your work is highly relational, take time for solitude on the Sabbath. Conversely, if you work alone, enjoy God on the Sabbath by engaging in relationships.
Hike, swim, paint, read, eat good food; remembering that all these activities are ways you can worship God. Avoid watching TV, surfing online, or devouring social media. You likely don’t enjoy those things as much as you think.
The Sabbath command from God is for our good. Create space for a regular rhythm of sabbath as a reminder that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, our work, and our world. When we truly recognize this, we’re able to walk alongside others in our everyday lives, share God’s Word, invest in the process of deep discipleship, and invite others to join us as we make disciples who make more disciples.
God calls us to a lifetime of stewardship, and Sabbath is the way he’s chosen to refresh our perspective in regular rhythms. Ideally these rhythms of reflection happen
- daily: like stepping outside for a few deep breaths and a prayer
- weekly: a sabbath day to rest in God’s goodness and focus on his kingdom
- yearly: intentional time to get away, disengage, pursue God, have fun, and give him thanks
The end result of intentional Sabbath is not just endurance, but also focus and clarity on what and who God has called us to. It’s a source of energy and refreshment as we remember it’s God’s work we do, and we are not him.
While the Sabbath command is a sign of God’s Old Covenant with Israel, and Christians today aren’t bound to keep it in the same way, there’s still great value in taking time to pause, reflecting on God’s faithfulness, remembering that his work goes on without us, and letting him refresh our souls for the sake of making disciples.
Do you have a regular practice of Sabbath? If so, how did you get to that place? If not, what’s keeping you from starting?