How to Honor the Sabbath
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 (NIV)
For years, I tried to find the loophole to honoring the Sabbath. It didn’t seem possible to stop working one day a week, so I tried to justify my actions. Was it really “work” if I enjoyed doing it?
I wondered, How was I supposed to rest one day a week when I had five children to care for? A home to maintain? A husband with a home-based business? Just getting all seven of us to church on time was work, so it seemed we’d already violated the Sabbath by 9 a.m. … why not keep going?
This question of proper rest nagged at me until I decided it was just too complicated to figure out how to do it right. What was work and what wasn’t? Plus, I had jam-packed my schedule so there was no way everything would get done if I didn’t keep working.
Keeping nine out of 10 commandments was a pretty good percentage, I reasoned.
Yet, God wouldn’t leave it alone. He kept bringing up the idea of taking a Sabbath rest, until one day I decided to try it. While I still wasn’t sure how to do it “right,” I decided I wouldn’t open my computer or check emails on my phone. Just those two things.
How sad is it to confess I didn’t like it? I missed my computer. But I tried it again the next week, and amazingly, I actually started to relax and enjoy it. Even more miraculously, I got everything done in the six other days.
That was years ago, and now I can testify that no other practice has reset my mind and heart like observing the Sabbath. But it did not come easy. God used the Sabbath to reveal some hard truths about my faith.
God was chipping away at all the areas of my life where I displayed a lack of trust, and observing the Sabbath was one of my final strongholds. I didn’t really trust God to help me get my work done in just six days. Plus, I was working more than I should have but felt helpless to do anything about it.
The more I’ve deliberately chosen to rest on the Sabbath, the more my enslavement to overwork has lessened. No amount of my trying to shake off those chains made a difference. As I’ve declared my trust in God through honoring the Sabbath, the chains to being overly busy have fallen off.
God created a need for Sabbath rest deep within us at creation, which is why it’s so important. We were designed to need this reset in our week — not just our bodies, but our spiritual health as well. When we honor the Sabbath, we declare our faith in God. We say once a week, “I trust You.”
We also declare this to those around us. The Sabbath was a sign of the promise made between God and His people. In Exodus 31:13, God spoke to Moses: “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.’” (NIV, emphasis added)
Centuries later, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He spoke those words to the religious leaders, called Pharisees, who’d created an elaborate system of rules about what was work (like tying a knot). Jesus explained God never meant for the Sabbath to get so complicated.
The Sabbath is a gift we should accept gratefully, not try to do perfectly.
Honoring the Sabbath seems to be more of a heart-issue than about the rules. When I tried to find that loophole, my heart was in the wrong place. But when I humbly admit I need the Holy Spirit to confirm or refine my choices, I can honor the Sabbath guilt-free.
What a beautiful gift our Father gives us in the Sabbath. A chance to rest. An opportunity to trust. An invitation to experience His faithfulness. The Sabbath is a gift I want to open every week.
Lord, thank You for the gift of the Sabbath. Show me the areas of my life I haven’t fully submitted to You, and help me learn how to accept Your gift of rest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (NIV)
If you struggle to find the balance between work and rest, Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book is for you. Doing Busy Better will help you find the holy balance that will lead to true soul rest.
Beginning in a few weeks, Glynnis will be focusing on God’s view of work and rest on her blog, with special guest posts and interviews. Click here to sign up.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do you ever feel guilty when you are resting? Why do you think that is?
What is one aspect of work you can commit to not doing this week on the Sabbath?
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