Have you ever found it hard to rest? Hard to slow down, even when you’re not at work? In this message, I talk about my biggest learning from my recent Sabbatical. The message is based on Psalm 46, and begins at 28:00.
Rest: it’s important.
We all know it’s important.
Yet too few of us take time for real, significant rest.
We live in a time when the culture values busyness, almost as a badge of pride. “How are you?” someone will ask. “Oh, I’m great. Really busy,” we reply.
A while back, I saw a meme online that showed the image of a cellphone battery in the ‘red zone’ – less than 10% power remaining. It said, “You’d never let this happen to your phone. Why do you let it happen to yourself?”
We are a society of the dangerously tired. We so tightly schedule our own lives – and those of our children – that we leave little margin for God to work in our lives, or for us to notice God’s work in our lives. We need rest.
The Bible follows an “order of creation” model for teaching us about the value of rest by suggesting that because God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we, too, should take one day a week for rest and re-creation. Every week. Yes, every week.
Many of us think that would be impossible to do, but it wouldn’t be impossible. We just have to undertake the hard work of prioritizing what matters in our lives.
As I’ve said before, in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus. Work does not prepare us for eternity. Sports do not prepare us for eternity. But worship and rest do prepare us for eternity.
Eternity is a long time. Don’t you think that which prepares us for eternity deserves top priority?
Christians traditionally take Sunday as their day of rest, because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead. And it is from that day of rest and worship that we are able to have the energy to undertake all that the coming week holds.
I know that not everyone is able to take Sunday as a rest day in our secular culture. But if you can’t take Sunday every week, at least take a day somewhere in there.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20.8, NLT).
Encouragement From The Word is taking an eight-week hiatus while I take a long-planned and much-needed Sabbatical. This weekly email will return on Friday, November 29, 2019.
Where I live, this weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer: the Victoria Day long weekend. The major north-south highway that is just a few kilometres from here will be plugged with vehicular traffic making its way to and from the cottages that populate the many lakes of what Ontario calls “Cottage Country”. People will be breaking out the shorts and the sandals, irrespective of the weather. But opening up the cottage can be a fair bit of work. There’s cleaning and raking and so many other little tasks that need to be done in order for enjoyment to take place.
Many people, though, will stay home, preferring to mark the long weekend with yard improvements and maintenance. This is the time when nurseries and home renovation stores do a booming business.
Here’s a question to ponder: how often does a long weekend, for you, include rest? The idea behind statutory holidays is to give workers time off from their paid labour, to be sure; but whether or not we include time off from our unpaid labour is our own responsibility.
As human beings, we were created not for constant work, but for a cycle of work and rest. When God made the world, he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh. This is not so much a scientific statement as it is a theological statement: the God of the universe, who is all-powerful, so believes in the value of rest that he himself took a day off.
So why wouldn’t you?
We live in a culture that values busyness. But the church, we are reminded, is called to be counter-cultural.
By all means, enjoy your cottage, enjoy your back yard, enjoy whatever this weekend holds for you…but take one day off from things that mustbe done. I recommend that day be Sunday, so you can worship God in community and share fellowship with others. See you in church!
“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62.1, NIV).
Leadership expert John Maxwell tells the story of why animal trainers go into a cage of lions carrying whips, pistols and stools. Why stools?
Apparently, the trainer holds the stool by the back, and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. It tries to focus on all four legs at once, and in that attempt, a sort of paralysis overwhelms the animal.
It becomes tame, weak and disabled, because its attention has been fragmented.
Does that sound just a wee bit familiar? It does to me, that’s for sure.
I keep myself busy, without a doubt, as I’m sure you do. And at times, I consider whether I should stop doing something, but when I do, I realize that if I did stop something, I would likely just pick up something else in its place.
We have accustomed ourselves to doing something all the time. There can be value in that, but only up to a certain point. Each of us needs margin in our lives.
If you’ve been looking at all four legs on that stool, and you feel paralyzed, it’s time to stop and re-evaluate. What could you give up to build more margin into your life? Sometimes, we need to give up something good, something very good, in order to have time for that which will make usbetter, not least of which is time with the Lord.
“Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46.10, NLT).
We live in a world that never sleeps, don’t we?
It used to be that we’d refer to New York as “the city that never sleeps,” but it seems like the whole world is that way now. And it’s rubbing off on us: we’re working long hours, wasting our time getting worked up over pointless things, and not getting enough rest.
Someone once likened the human body to a seven-day wind-up clock. (Last week I wrote about a watch that ticked; today, it’s about a clock that needs winding! Watch for next week’s instalment, where we talk about sundials!) Yes, back in the day, clocks needed to be wound or they would not keep time. If the winding ritual were to be neglected, the clock would run down and stop completely.
Taking a day of rest – a Sabbath of some sort – is like winding the clock of your body, mind and spirit. We can’t work constantly and expect to keep our health at any level. And by “work”, I’m referring not only to your ‘day job’, but also to anything that saps joy from you.
Unless you’re a pastor, it’s hoped that you can take Sunday as your Sabbath rest day. For a long time, it was assumed that you couldn’t do anything fun on the Sabbath; if we adhere ourselves to the ceremonial laws of Leviticus, that’s true. (Of course, if we adhere to those laws, we should be taking Saturday off, not Sunday – but we are an Easter people, and we celebrate the Lord’s Day!)
Take time on your Sabbath for worship, for rest, and for doing that which gives you life. But above all, take time for Sabbath. Don’t let your clock wind down.
This Sunday, I’m going to be talking about the importance of Sabbath (and its connection to sin). You can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, watch the message on Facebook Live, or catch it later on my blog or on YouTube.
It may be summer, but it doesn’t always feel like a time of rest. Honour God and yourself by taking time for Sabbath. Don’t let your clock wind down.
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 5.12, NLT).
Donald Grey Barnhouse once told the story of a man who operated an ice house and lost his watch in the sawdust. (You know it’s an old story when it’s talking about keeping ice cool with sawdust!) He wanted his watch back badly, and offered a reward to anyone who could find it. Many people went through the sawdust, by hand and with rakes, but to no avail.
A young boy went into the ice house after all the searching was done, and he came back out with the watch.
How did he find it?
“I just lay down in the sawdust and listened, and finally I heard the watch ticking.”
You may not have lost your watch, but in the busyness of life, you may be missing something else: your body and soul may be out of sync. Your relationship with God may be off the rails. Your spiritual disciplines may be not all you wish they were.
With kids out of school and summer finally here, perhaps this is your opportunity to lay down in the sawdust and hear the watch ticking. Maybe now is the time to let your body and soul catch up with each other, to re-rail your relationship with God, to beef up your spiritual disciplines. You have the chance to gain some rest…in the Lord.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28, NLT).