his article is due today. I probably should have written it yesterday, but I could not because yesterday was my day off.
I take every Monday off. I am not legalistic about it. I just believe if I can protect it, I will. So I have sanctified it—I have set Monday aside. Let me explain why.
- Some Things Need Explaining
Since 1997, my wife and I have been parenting twins. Obviously, raising one child is a huge responsibility; raising two is twice the responsibility. It is our job to help them grow up into responsible, respectable Christians.
In our endeavor to help them mature, we have had countless conversations about what they should and should not do. Some of the instructions are short. They are easy to comprehend, and they do not require lengthy conversations. At other times, we must go into more detail to drive the point home.
In giving the Ten Commandments, God kept some short: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal. He elaborated on some of the other commandments—especially the fourth one. God uses 99 words in the NIV (94 in the KJV) and four verses to teach His children about the importance of observing the Sabbath:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Ex 20:8-11 NIV).
I do not believe any one of the Ten Commandments is more important than any one of the others. God gave all of them to us for a reason. However, when it comes to Sabbath, we can easily get caught up in our busyness and push this commandment aside.
God knew this could easily become a neglected area of our lives, so He explains in detail the expectations He has concern- ing the Sabbath. Sabbath is a commandment, not a suggestion.
- Who’s in Charge?
Man and woman were created just before the first Sabbath. Before God allowed Adam to work even one day, God invited him to partake in this wonderful day of rest. The Sabbath is not, therefore, a question of only resting when we are tired, but a sign of commitment to our Father.
God requires that we rest. He alone wants to be God.
When we don’t participate in Sabbath, we are saying it all depends on us. When we neglect the Sabbath, we are creating ourselves as lord over our lives. If you are like me, I have never been successful at being my own master. I fail miserably when I try to control my life seven days a week.
- The Things That Matter Most
The Sabbath commandment bridges the commandments concerning our relationship with God and the ones about our relationships with one another.
As the speed of our lives increases, the quality of our relationships decreases. Our relationship with our spouse suffers. Our relationship with our children weakens. Our relationship with our closest friends is found wanting. If the quality of these tangible relationships decreases, imagine what happens with our relationship with our unseen yet ever-present God.
The problem with busyness is we become too busy to notice we are too busy! We don’t purposefully neglect these relationships. It just happens. Sabbath gives us one day a week to focus on the only thing that we can take to heaven with us—our relationships.
- Corporate Rest
Every July, my church participates in Sabbath. We intentionally rest as a corporate body. We still meet on Sundays, but we cancel all small-group activities and plan family-friendly events. I teach our parishioners the importance of rest and relationships.
We have done this for seven years now. I believe marriages have been saved and families restored because of our annual Sabbath month. I have watched people grow in their walk with God. They trust Him to do what they cannot do.
- It Applies to Me Too
I will let you in on a secret, but please don’t tell my church. Our annual Sabbath is more for me than it is for them. I need it. I have a tendency to fall back into my old habits and routines. Every summer, God’s Word reminds me to rest. Just like the Sabbath rest for the land mentioned in Leviticus 25:4, my life becomes more fruitful when I sanctify a time of rest.
Early on in my ministry, I neglected the Sabbath. I was at the church seven days a week and worked long hours. I justified my actions because I was doing the “Lord’s work.” In all of the good I was doing, my family was suffering. God convicted my heart and I had to sanctify the Sabbath and keep it holy.
As a lead pastor, I still work on Sundays. But now I take every Monday off to focus on my relationship with my God, my spouse, and my children. I rest from the worries of my job. I allow God to do more in that one day than I can get done in six days.
I know there are things to do and people to see. There are never enough hours in a day. So, stop. Recognize God as the Creator, setting aside one day for rest. Be still and know that He is God.