I’ve been convicted periodically the past couple of years about sabbath rest, and how I don’t take it or seek it out. Yes, that’s right, this post is as much for me as it is for you. I’ve found my tendency to run to things of this world, my art, my writing, a TV show, snacks, social media etc to give me rest. These things, though they can be good in moderation and in the appropriate context, should not be our primary source of peace as Christians. This blog post is about what sabbath rest is, some of my personal difficulties in keeping it, and blessings we can receive when we stop skipping sabbath rest.
First things first, what does sabbath rest even mean, and why should we keep it? Keeping the sabbath was one of the laws of the old testament 10 commandments (as seen in Exodus 20:8-11). It is in fact a commandment, one which many of us, including myself, often neglect. From my understanding, the way in which you observe the sabbath and the particular day to observe it is not something that needs to be observed in a legalistic way. It is a commandment nonetheless and I believe it is something we should strive to obey.
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
We know from the Bible that sabbath was made for us and not us for the sabbath (see Mark 2:27). Therefore it should not be a legalistic teaching. Jesus’ disciples picked food to eat on the sabbath, which would have constituted as ‘work’ to the Pharisee’s at the time. Yet Jesus defended this action with scripture, stating that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. All that to say, I do not think it is right to judge people who are not keeping the sabbath in the same way you interpret it should be kept. As a disclaimer, I would like to say again, that my knowledge and discipline in keeping the sabbath is very limited – Hence why I am saturating this blog post with scripture. I encourage you to comment your thoughts on the topic, or additional scripture that would be relevant.
I heard a sermon preached recently where ‘peace and joy in Christ’ was referenced. I realized that by avoiding sabbath rest, I am missing out on the joy, peace, and comfort that can be found in Christ. Spurred on by my friends’ accountability I’ve confessed this in prayer and attempted this past Friday to have a day of rest. It was in this flawed attempt to rest in the Lord that I realized more of the depth of sin in my heart. I’ve been distracted in prayer, apathetic to sin, and my prayers have been quite stoic, despite having emotionally hard things going on in my life that I need to take to Jesus and process through. Given those data points, my goals for this past Friday were to 1) Not use any social media (as it often distracts me from my rest), 2) do any of my usual ‘work’, 3) spend an extended time in prayer and scripture reading, as well as do something else that I find rejuvenating.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
I was shocked by how hard it was to stop looking at my Pinterest, Instagram, or scroll through my personal Facebook. I didn’t realize this had become such an idol for me. If this past Sabbath taught me anything, it taught me anew that I am in desperate need of sanctification from the holy spirit and that my acts of good are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God and the standard He holds us too (Philipians 3:8). It’s important to remember that as Christians, we don’t need to be worthy or do everything perfectly because Jesus already paid the debt for our sins – Jesus makes us righteous through His sacrifice on the cross, not because of anything we have done. I’d tried to make sabbath into yet another thing to do perfectly, and I was humbled by how difficult it was for me to just rest in the Lord.
My idols often center around wanting personal success in my life or having a control over my life. This has manifested the past few months by trying to keep myself busy, despite Covid-19 canceling many social events (even changing my own wedding plans, see blog post here). Somehow I’m correlating busyness with success. My thought process being that if I am busy doing everything I can, then at least I’m taking charge of my life right? I’m in control of my life and giving myself (so I like to imagine) every possible chance at success. By being busy and not taking sabbath rest I’m heading towards the (ever changing) magical vantage point of being successful and content by my own means. Ha. I’ve learned the lesson once and a thousand times but I’ll repeat it again for my sake and your benefit; We will never be content pursuing peace and joy apart from the source of true peace and joy. One more time in for the people in the back. You can’t find true peace and joy while excluding the maker of peace and joy! The joy and peace you find apart from God will not last and will not help you in times of heartache and disappointment.
Psalm 4:7-8 “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
The discipline of Sabbath should be something that reminds us of God’s sovereignty. It is a tangible reminder that Jesus should be our source of peace and joy, not our own actions or things of this world. It should also be a reminder that God is our provider, not us. By taking a break from work, I’m exercising trust in God as my provider.
Psalm 127:1-2 “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
The Sabbath should also be a time to intentionally spend time with our father who can give us comfort and peace in our fast paced, busy lives. There are so many expectations put on us by this world and so many people to seek approval from. The only expectations and approval we should worry about however, is that of the one who saved us. God calls us to surrender those desires, expectations, and anxieties to Him. He loves you, He saved you, and He is in control of your life.
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed and overworked, but Jesus calls us to Him. Wherever you can start – whether it is a full day, or an unplugged lunch break – I encourage you to take some time to rest in Jesus. Not only does the Bible have a commandment for us to intentionally take time to take Sabbath rest, but He gives an open invitation to all who need Him, at any time. That’s why we should stop skipping sabbath rest.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
What is your experience trying to take sabbath rest? Any advice for me or for other readers?