Discipleship,  Life

Seeking Rest – Seeking Sabbath

If you are like me, you probably think you are busy. Am I right?

I listen to several podcasts each week (on average 12, but sometimes a few more). (I like listening to music, but you can only listen to the same stuff over and over, so when I am driving more than 15 minutes, I listen to podcasts or books.)

I listen to podcasts which analyze news from a Christian perspective, are related to productivity, or are leadership-oriented, among others. As I do this, I realize that every one of the people I listen to is far busier than me.

And, I am busy.

I serve as a pastor. I write this blog. I have a weekly podcast on Christian education. I teach multiple classes online and on campus at a seminary. I have a missions-based organization. Oh, and I have a wife I love very much, three children (I consider our son-in-law as part of my own children), and friends (and the friends are the ones who often get the leftovers).

And yet, I listen and observe these people from afar and know others from a closer perspective who are much busier and much more effective than I am. That is why I listen and hope to learn how to be even better.

But I have come to realize that one element of my life is missing. Rest.

I do not mean sleep. I do struggle sometimes, but largely when I reach the end of my day my brain is exhausted and I am ready to recharge. But I do not have the margin in my life to allow me to simply unwind for a period of time. I do spend time with my wife each evening, but a part of that is usually with me catching up on something (emails, some light grading, etc.) while watching tv with her before I shut down and give her more attention.

What I need is extended time. I need to be away from my phone and computer. I need to be able to just relax. Maybe it is tv with Susan. Maybe it is doing a puzzle (something I used to love to do, but have not done for years). Maybe it is just to drive around without the focus on where I need to be, what time I need to be there, how long I have to be there, etc.

I need rest. REST.

In fact, we all do. God knew that. And thus, He prescribed the Sabbath. God rested on the seventh day after creating everything. He did not need to rest. He chose to rest.

But He knew we would need rest. And so, as part of the Ten Commandments, He instructed it not only to the generation that came out of Egypt (Exodus 20.8-11) but to the next generation who was to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 5.12-15).

Now, I realize that the Sabbath is old school – literally the Old Testament. And I have reasoned (justified!) that because Jesus healed on the Sabbath (multiple times, c.f. Mark 1.21-28; Mark 3.1-6), that the Sabbath is optional for us today. (This is rather naïve theology, but we all justify ourselves in various ways.) But in the verses just prior to that second healing (Mark 2.23-28), Jesus remind us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (v. 28).

That is, we need rest. REST.

But I am too busy. And you are too. And yet in the podcasts, I am beginning to hear a theme of rest – and yes, even Sabbath. And, these people are far busier than I am. These people, and in one case, the people being interviewed, are far busier than I will ever be. And they find time for Sabbath. Wait. What?

Well, if that is true, and if God says that man needs rest (which is true), and Jesus reminded us that the Sabbath (the day of rest) was made for man to get that rest (which is true), then why do I think I do not need to do it? After all, Jesus said to “Follow Me” and that is the mark of a true Christian (not just saying a prayer and being baptized).

I need to learn how to find this rest – this Sabbath – for me. Doing so will not only be for my benefit, but will also be for the benefit of others. Paul wrote in Philippians 2.3-4, that we should not only focus on ourselves, but on the interest of others as well. But how can I focus on the interest of others if I am not caring for myself in the manner God has designed?

Thus, as I am forced to do somewhat regularly due to my teaching on campus being on different days each semester (or my class load being different), I am going to be re-evaluating my schedule. However, this time, I must also do it in light of my vision, my mission, my strategy, and my steps. And a part of that will be to determine where Sabbath fits.

One idea I recently heard (on a podcast) was keeping the Sabbath means not producing. That is a fascinating insight which I am still processing. That is, Sabbath is not about doing nothing (again, Jesus showed and taught that Sabbath is more than doing nothing), but it is about not doing regular work, and not producing something for tomorrow (whether for ourselves or others). I must dive deeper into that thought, and intend to do so, which will include reading a book (and maybe more) on the Sabbath.

I do not know where all of this study will lead, but I intend to bring you along for the journey. Again, I know we all feel busy – and, indeed, most of us are busy in our own ways. But I also know that God gave us all 24 hours each day and 7 days each week to do what He needs us to do. And none of us fill that time perfectly for our sake, let alone His.

So, my hope is to encourage you to evaluate your schedule and your life in light of the required rest (REST) that God has designed for each of us. We may all find a different way (including a different day!) to practice, but I hope the journey will lead us to the same destination – to a place of rest (REST!). The challenge to be faithful to the process will take a lifetime, but my goal is to complete the research and be ready to claim this idea of rest within a few months (around the start of Summer).

Do you need rest? Do you know others who need rest? If so, will you commit to joining me (and inviting others to join us) on this journey over the next few months?

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