Are you enjoying the rests of God? Yes, you read that correctly, "the R-E-S-T-S of God." God gives to you his nightly rest in sleep (Psalm 127:2), his daily rest in His Word and in prayer (Psalm 1:1-3), and his weekly rest which we also call Sabbath rest (Genesis 2:1-3). Sabbath rest is the "missing piece of the puzzle" for most people. Here are four things we need to know about this rest:
The Sabbath is our weekly "snow day" from God.
Even those of us in South Florida know there's a big difference between a snow day and a hurricane day. One conjures images of warm fires, unhurried pace, and chillin', while the other brings thoughts of generators, long lines for gasoline, and enough debris clean-up for a small army. Sabbath rest is a "snow day" from God. It is a time to stop, rest, and get recharged.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3 ESV
The Sabbath is a creation ordinance. God thinks so much of rest that he weaved the idea into the fabric of creation. God is telling us something very important by doing that. He is saying: "You are human beings not just human doings." God is saying, "I love you!" I love you so much I want you to rest!
The Sabbath helps us to reorient our lives to God.
In the 16th century Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the prevailing model of the universe. The brilliant mathematician and astronomer placed the sun, not the earth, at the center of the known universe. Until that time, scientists postulated that the sun rotated around the earth.
The Sabbath is my Copernican-like reminder that I am not the center of the universe -- God is! God does not revolve around my life, my life revolves around God.
“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. Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
Did you notice something . . . the Sabbath is "to the Lord" not "to me." The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this all-important question: "What is the primary purpose of humankind?" The answer? "Humankind's primary purpose is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." The Sabbath helps us reorient our lives to God:
- Through remembering who He is In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says, "There is a terrible cost to our busyness. It erodes memory....Busyness destroys the time we need to remember well." Sabbath helps us to slow down, look back, and remember who God is and how he has worked in the past. Remembering how he showed up, how he came through, and how he has cared in the past, helps us find strength for today.
- Through stillness The Scriptures do not say, "Be busy and know that I am God" but "Be still and know that I am God." In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says, “In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in 'muchness' and 'manyness,' he will rest satisfied." Stillness is God's means to arrest noise, hurry, and crowds.
- Through worship Sabbath rest comes through worship. Eugene Peterson has said, "Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God." I tell our church, "I can't survive without worship with God's people." I need to raise my voice in song, pray, and interact with the family of God in worship. Without this weekly practice I would dry up and blow away. The internet cannot provide true worship with the people of God. We must show up!
- Through being with the family of God One of God's great Sabbath gifts is being in the presence of God's people. There we mix and mingle with fellow travelers of the faith. We all need that. We need the mutual encouragement, prayer, confession, hospitality, and thanksgiving. Seeing newbies to the faith encourages us. Seeing long-timers encourages us. The Psalmist pegged it, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1 ESV)
The Sabbath gives us a taste of what's to come.
I like tasting the samples at Costco. There's nothing like a little "taste test" to whet my appetite for more. That is what Sabbath rest does -- it gives me a little taste of what God ultimately has in store for us.
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Hebrews 4:8-10 ESv
The nation of Israel did not find ultimate rest under Joshua in the Promiseland. That's because true rest comes from Jesus whose death and resurrection provides a rest from striving to please God and a rest through the forgiveness of our sins. In Sabbath rest we remember what Jesus did for us and we look forward to the final rest that God will give us in eternity. The certainty of that rest strengthens our souls to bear up under the weight of crazy busy days.
The Sabbath helps us to see God at work.
If you want to see God at work in your life, practice Sabbath rest. Read the verse below and you will see that God makes an amazing promise.
On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it.Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”
On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”So the people rested on the seventh day. Exodus 16:22-30 ESV
The promise God is giving here is profound. God is telling us that he can do more in six days than we can do in seven.
Truett Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A. In the mid-80s, Truett faced a crisis of faith. Prior to that time he had always closed his doors on Sunday. But with revenues down and chicken prices up, Mr. Cathy knew he could head off a financial challenge by opening his doors all seven days. He wrestled with this decision then made up his mind that he would continue to trust God, honor Him, and keep his doors closed on Sundays. The Chick-fil-A company is a living example of this important truth:
God can do more in 6 than I can do in 7.
We can all find lots of reasons why "it's just different" when it comes to our lives, but the bottom line is that God really can do more in 6 than we can in 7. He wants us to rest and let him take care of the rest.
Some really good questions:
When I preached this message I ran out of time to address some of the important questions that arise when it comes to this topic:
- Is there some metric for determining if we've really rested? When I'm feeling the pull toward activity and ignore it, I'm probably moving toward rest. For example, it is easy to think, "Well, I'll just tackle a few emails" while I chill." When the Holy Spirit helps me to see that I am drifting back to a work mode and he stops me . . . that's a good sign. I also think I've really rested when my heart seeks God and not simply "time off." Naps and fun can be a part of Sabbath rest, but true rest should result in filling up my emotional, physical, and spiritual tank.
- Are there seasons when we can "miss the Sabbath"? I think so. Luke 14 records Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees and the experts in the law. Jesus asked them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (Luke 14:5 ESV). There were times to "do work" on the Sabbath. We all encounter times and seasons (war, the birth of a child, emergencies, etc.) when it is hard to rest. But when a busy season becomes a busy lifestyle we are missing out on God's best.
- What do I do when I work in a place where there is no Sabbath value? That's hard. Globalization and 24/7 workplaces make this a very real challenge. Paul tells us, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). He is saying that we must all grapple with how we follow Jesus where we live, work, and play. We do know that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). In other words, we serve God not the Sabbath. At the same time we need rest and worship. Pray!
How do we experience the fullness of Sabbath rest?
This may seem counterintuitive, but it takes a degree of work to rest. Hopefully, these thoughts will help you "work out" the idea of biblical rest in your life:
- Plan your work around your rest. We all do what we want to do. Work consumes hours of time. If we are to honor God and experience the rest he has for us, we will have to plan rest (worship & purposeful inactivity) into our calendars. If we don't claim that time someone or something else will.
- Start on Saturday night. A friend shared his family's practice: Set an electronics curfew (TV, phones, iPads all get turned off at a set hour). Get to bed at an hour that enables you to wake refreshed and ready to meet with the people of God. Pray for God's blessings on your Sunday worship and rest.
- Get simple on Sunday. Use paper plates, institute a "no homework" policy, refuse to do yard work, set some TV limits.
- Rest toward God. The poet David Whyte said, "The antidote to our exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness." Whyte was emphasizing the necessity of giving ourselves fully to what we are doing. That is so important when it comes to Sabbath. We need to be fully resting toward God. There is a big difference between reading a novel for pleasure and reading the Bible to meet God. Both can be rest, but the time in the Word is resting toward God.
- What about NFL Football? God has richly given us everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). It's okay to watch football. In fact, take it with a Deuteronomy 27:7 attitude. Receive it as a gift from God. However, know your limits. Vegging in front of the TV watching game after game might be a temporary diversion, but it is not the kind of rest that is going to restore your soul.
God has a gift for us . . . it is the gift of Sabbath rest. For many of us it is the missing piece of our weekend puzzle. May God help you find true rest in Him.