REST: The Importance of Sabbath & How to Incorporate It in Your Life
“And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
- Mark 2:27
When was the last time you made time to rest for 24 hours, doing things that were only restful and worshipful? A lot of you might answer this question with a big old “NEVER.” I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t know if I have actually ever done that either for a full 24 hours, so I’m sitting in the boat right next to you, paddling and paddling trying to get somewhere, rather than just sitting back and taking a moment each week to enjoy the view.
The truth is, there’s a big debate on whether or not the Sabbath still applies to believers today. In a snapshot, it’s one of the 10 commandments, and the other 9 very much all still apply because they are moral laws, yet Sabbath has a lot of stipulations attached to it that definitely do not need to be followed anymore because they were ceremonial and civil laws of the time, not moral laws like the 10 commandments (read this for more on that because it’s kinda confusing, I know). Long story short, there is freedom over whether one chooses to observe a weekly Sabbath rest or not, as seen in Hebrews 4 and Colossians 2:16.
However, I would like to propose that we as humans need rest. God created us to work and to rest. That goes back before any law or the ten commandments to the week of creation, where God, who did not need to rest, rested to set a pattern for us to follow of working six days and resting for one. Hear me now: I’m not advocating that you all of a sudden start dropping all responsibility an entire day a week but that you start incorporating a weekly Sabbath into you schedule, even if you only start with a few hours.
John Mark Comer, the pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland and an expert on Sabbath, said, “An even greater threat to the future of the church than secularism and the progressive agenda is honestly just the distraction and the busyness and the materialism of our culture.”
The enemy wins when we do not make time to be refreshed by God. We become like dry wells, with no life-giving water to share with anyone else because we, ourselves, are not being filled by going to the fountain of life. We must consistently go to God to be filled in order to refresh others and point them to the living water. If we are leaders in ministry, we especially need a Sabbath rest, as we are responsible for pouring into the lives of others, and we better have something to offer them of eternal substance, rather than just our own empty thoughts and feelings.
“If you’re too busy to practice Sabbath, then you’re just too busy.” - John Mark Comer
This statement might seem offensive, but it’s true. I’m too busy, and you’re too busy. Our culture values high-speed, 24/7, always advancing, never putting the phone down, and never slowing down. But, as with many things, God’s values do not always line up with the world’s, and God values rest. And if God values rest, then we should too. In Mark 2:27, Jesus declares that the Sabbath was made for man, meaning it was made to allow us to rest. God put guidelines in place for our good! Can you believe that? He did it not so we’d have another rule to follow, but so that we could ultimately be closer to Him, just like when we follow the other commands he’s laid out for our good.
However, Sabbath is not an easy practice to just start doing, so read these tips below to get started.
How “to Sabbath”:
“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.” That oxymoron was coined by Dallas Willard, and it rings so true that we do not rest and grow in Christ because we have too many obligations and distractions. What can you say “no” to today? What is it that is weighing down your calendar and not purposeful or life-giving that you can stop doing? For me, it’s limiting my time on social media by setting daily time limits on my phone, as that’s my biggest time waster.
Pick a day of the week and what hours you are going to Sabbath. If you don’t put it in your calendar as time reserved for rest and worship, you will manage to fill it with other obligations. Derik Idol, one of my professors, always says we must calendar our priorities or the tyranny and urgent in life will always overtake them.
Prepare for your Sabbath. Sabbath doesn’t mean you can slack off during the week, because then you will be stressed when you’re supposed to rest. Getting into a routine of taking a Sabbath isn’t easy, and I have not mastered it, as it requires working harder to manage your time and homework during the week and especially the day before, so you can devote all your attention to the Lord on your Sabbath day.
During your Sabbath, the filter for what you choose to do should be: Is this activity rest and worship? Obviously, we should be spending time in the Word and prayer, going to church to worship corporately and have fellowship (if you Sabbath is on Sunday), and just being in God’s presence, but other than that, what are we supposed to do? What’s allowed and what’s not? Sabbath is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, but about resting and worshipping, so anything that brings you rest and allows you to worship, do it! I enjoy painting Bible verses, going for a walk in nature, and taking a nap. I’m in the process of learning to not use technology on my Sabbath day, as that does not bring me rest, so I actually scheduled this blog to post on Sunday afternoon, so I don’t have to manually post it.
If you mess up or miss it, don’t give up! Again, Sabbath is not legalistic and not about rules. It’s a time to experience God’s grace and rest in Christ. If you do something work-related on your Sabbath day, it’s okay. If you miss it completely one week, it’s okay. It’s like a spiritual discipline that we are going to get better at the longer we practice it. God created Sabbath so that we could rest in Him, not so we had another thing to perfect.
I hope these words and tips inspired you to take a Sabbath! My final word of advice to you is to pick a day right now, before clicking off of this article, as when you do, the distractions of life will be right there waiting for you.
John Mark Comer, an expert on Sabbath that I quoted and pulled thoughts from multiple times throughout this article, has a podcast that I would LOVE for you to listen to, as it goes so much deeper than I can go in a few hundred words. He has years of practicing Sabbath, as well as study to go along with it, so he’s a better modern-day resource than anyone else I know on this topic. Click here to listen!