Practice of taking a Sabbath?
In my life prior to being a full -time missionary I had not ever considered the principle of taking a Sabbath , but quickly became aware of what it can be like to be a full -time Christian worker. The demands are great, we set our own agenda’s often without accountability, we never finish our work, we keep giving out and giving out. I started hearing words like “burn-out”, boundaries, compassion fatigue, accountability, long -term sustainability and the idea of needing to take a Sabbath. I have lived cross culturally now for 12 years and have learnt how the Africans are so much better at self -care in many ways than we are in the West. They make people and community much more important than productivity and material gain, they have never heard of to-do lists!! For us from Western cultures it is hard to stop and just be, we are so consumed by productivity and outcomes, which is why the idea of having a Sabbath Day of Rest every week is critical to maintaining ourselves so we can be used by God more. God commands us, and gives us permission to rest!
“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy. Six days shall you do all your work but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord. On it you shall do no work, for in six days the Lord made the Heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and made it Holy.” (Ex 20v 8-11)
“I gave my children my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I am the Lord, who had set them apart to be holy.” (Ezekiel 20 v 12 )
1. STOP For 24 hours let go of your work and trust that God will handle it. It is an act of faith and a reminder that God is in control
2. REST Resting that is centred on God. We have time to sleep, walk, exercise and do things to refresh our bodies.
3. DELIGHT / EMBRACE Taking the time to delight in God afresh. Time to embrace our calling, time to review and listen for direction and be strengthened. Embrace time remembering it belongs to God.
4. CONTEMPLATION / CELEBRATION A day that includes fun and festivity, a time to talk with friends and family, shared meals etc.
God's Gift to His People
God gave this gift to his children originally as they came out of slavery as they were not used to having rest, it was a sign of God’s love for them, a time for them to rest and be refreshed for living a Holy life. We are no different today, our lives are full. God himself gave us an example when he rested after creation, not because he was tired !, but because he was making a point. Jesus modelled the need to rest and renew his relationship with his Father during his time on earth as well. The Sabbath is a gift for us, not an obligation, or another thing to try and fit in! It’s a gift of time to re-connect with family, with friends, a day where we have permission from our Heavenly Father to play and rest, a no obligation day. It is a command from God for our good.
Rhythm was important for God, every seven days we are given a Sabbath, if we are to pace ourselves for the long haul of Christian Ministry we need a day each week to take a Sabbath. If we do, we will have something in reserve to keep giving out to others, if not we will overwork and crash. God created us and knows how we are wired and he gave us a special gift so why do we not embrace it? What it is not: It is not a day off to complete all the household chores we have not had time to do, it’s a non-productivity based day.
Why is it not a priority then in our lives?
Many of us Christian Leaders fall into the trap of needing to be “doing” things for God all the time, the pressure to produce results and keep producing is enormous, we believe being Godly means working hard, the needs are great and never ending, many people are relying on us and we feel we have to always respond.
Because of all of these reasons we must have moments of rest weekly when we remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing, to trust God with our work load so we can rest. Once we are rested then we can enter into another period of labour, it’s not an optional extra but an ingredient of Godly living, in a hostile world where we are constantly living against the culture, so we can still be shining until we go to our eternal rest.
This article first appeared in Training Brief, the publication of www.christiantraining.org.uk