No matter how we handle the Scripture most of us will agree that there is sage advice, perhaps even inspired words in its pages. One of these passages for me is, “Remember the sabbath day, and 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; you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it” (Exodus 20:8-11).
I know that some of you will think that this is one of my favorite passages because I’m a company man, aka pastor, and that all I want is better church attendance. Not so! I’m rather promoting rest.
Most of the time we only quote the first part of this commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” We think we have it nailed down by attending a worship service for an hour or so. Well yeah, that’s part of keeping the Sabbath, but the “rest” part is important, also, and that’s the part I don’t think we get.
I recently read a quote that over half of those living in the United States don’t use all of their allotted vacation time. They’d rather work than rest. This is followed up by surveys that indicate we are working longer hours and that we have less leisure time. There seems to be a trend here! We are not only NOT resting, I believe that most of us don’t know how to rest.
There’s a difference having a day off and taking a day of rest. If you’re like me, a day off is filled with errands. I mow the lawn and trim the shrubs. I wash the cars or have them repaired. The house usually has one or two items that need my attention, and of course there are some emails from work that absolutely need to be answered. When bed time finally rolls around, I’m exhausted. If I do have a little free time, I sometimes waste it by watching a movie or television program that I really don’t want to watch—but there was nothing else on.
A Sabbath rest is an intentional stepping off the merry-go-round of life. Sometimes a Sabbath rest includes a nap. Rest may include reading a good book, working on a hobby, getting some exercise, or having a pleasant conversation with a friend. The guiding rule is that the activity is to relax, renew, and rejuvenate. A day of rest is a big step if you aren’t used to it. If you’d like to try it, start with two or three hours of rest—you don’t want to overdose.
A Sabbath rest isn’t easy, though. We’re attached to our work. It identifies us. It puts food on our table. We’re more comfortable working than we are resting. When we take time to rest, we are admitting that the world can get along without us, if even for a short time. Rest is a humbling experience. Rest is also a step of faith. When we rest, we are declaring that we do not need to work 24/7 in order to provide for our needs. We are acknowledging that God is the ultimate provider and that God can provide for us without our help. There are times when we take a step of faith that we really have to examine what we believe.
STAY AWAKE NATURALLY
Caribou Coffee has the motto: “Life is short, so stay awake for it.” I agree, but I’d rather be awake because I’m rested and renewed, than because I drank four large super caffeinated cups of coffee. Work hard so that we can appreciate our times of rest and renewal. Rest so that we can savor all of the blessings of life—and have the wherewithal to face the challenges.