Four Principles of Sabbath Keeping
If you are like me, sabbath is a lesson that you need to continually learn.
As I recently preached a 3-week series on sabbath in my church, I realized in those 21 days, I had either worked for Horizon (my church), Strategic Renewal, Friendly Stitches Sew & Vac (my business I co-own), a side job cleaning carpets, or worked around the house on my “to-do” list every day. For three whole weeks, I had not stopped for an entire day just to Sabbath, just to rest. It was more than ironic (and sad) that I was preaching a series on Sabbath, and I wasn’t even practicing what I was preaching.
Into the crazy busyness of our lives, God says STOP!!! Stop the need to keep going. Stop the need to get one more thing done. Stop. Breath. Rest.
The 4th commandment tells us that on the Sabbath you shall not do any work. Not for your family. Not for the people you employ. Not even for the animals you are responsible for, that help you with your work. Stop the labor and ALL your work – the to do lists, the shopping, the laundry, all those things that you have to get done.
To observe sabbath rest, we must stop. We must stop working. We must realize that we are not indispensable. The world will not stop running if we don’t get that report done, answer that email, respond to a Facebook post, or tweet. No one is going to die if we don’t respond to an email until after your sabbath rest, at least I hope not.
On Sabbath, we have to stop working to realize that we are not the center of the world. We must stop wanting. Sabbath teaches us to stop wanting those things we don’t really need anyway. That is why we are to stop commerce on our Sabbath. We have this incessant drive to be happy and fulfilled and to think that something is going to fill that, we just have to find it. That’s why God says, “Stop trying”
We must stop worrying. We can’t change the past. We need to not be anxious about what’s coming – tomorrow will take care of itself. On a Sabbath, we are resting in today, trusting God for yesterday and tomorrow.
Hebrews 4:9–11 tells us…
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. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Jesus alone gives the rest and satisfaction we need. He gives us rest from the rat race. He gives us rest from the pressures of constantly performing. He gives us rest from the enslavement that our identity comes from what we do. He gives us rest, period. But we must we first choose to STOP!
Rest, ironically, is an activity that must be prepared for and then pursued. Not only are we invited to stop doing things, we are invited to stop on purpose – to stop long enough to do something that will feed our soul.
In a sense, it is a weekly 1-day vacation. The root for vacation is the same as vacate – to empty. We empty our place of employment by not being there. But it is also emptying our mind of work which often occupies our thoughts. To vacate, we not only need to leave the 6 days of work, we need to keep the work there.
So to vacate well. Engage in activities that keep your mind off of work. Instead, do things that restore – worship, listen to or make music, go for a bike ride, go for a walk, visit with friends, or something that helps you enjoy life.
We are also called to delight. Delight is different than pleasure. Delight is not self-focused. It is enjoying something that is out there, outside of ourselves, that we can experience through hearing, seeing, tasting, touching. One day a week, we are not just invited, but commanded, to revel in child-like wonder of God and His creation.
My parents used to visit friends and I would ask them how was their visit. They would say they had a “delightful time”, enjoying the presence of people, not to get anything out of them, but just to enjoy their presence. And so we are to delight, by spending time enjoying our relationship with God, relationship with others, and God’s creation.
And for a Sabbath to be more than a day off, we need to become aware. Not just self-aware, although that is important, but God-aware. We are to remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, or set apart, to the Lord. God is to be the focus of our Sabbath. He brings life and rest. That doesn’t mean we are to have 24 hours of scripture and worship.
For one day, we are to slow down and pay attention, to reflect on what God is doing in our life, to pause long enough to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. It really is paying attention to God in order to restore our soul. We need to take time out of our busyness to be renewed and to be refreshed. This is not a modern idea, but a God-given blessing
So today, what do you need to do in order to stop, rest, delight, and contemplate?
Jon Hoekema has been pastor at Horizon Community Church in Downers Grove, Illinois since December 2003. Jon is deeply committed to the Word of God, to prayer, and to seeking God’s presence and power. Jon helps lead several local and national ministry efforts including: leading a prayer movement among congregations in the Chicago area with the Christian Reformed Church, and through partnership with The 6:4 Fellowship and Strategic Renewal.