5 Steps to a Successful Sabbath
Have you ever felt like your life was moving faster than you could keep up with?
Whether you’re reading this as a parent, student, pastor, teacher, or business owner you understand how fast-paced life can be. Many of our weekdays consist of waking up early, taking the kids to school, hopping in to various meetings, working through a task list, then coming home. If you’re working from home primarily, separating work from home becomes a real challenge. By the time you reach the weekend you’re tired and just want to sleep, but the kids have practice, you have house projects and errands, and before you know it you’re back to the grind on Monday without feeling like you really slowed down at all or rested.
What if I told you that an unsustainable pace isn’t God’s will for your life? What if I told you that rest is important to God, and that it should be for you too?
In Exodus chapter 20, we find a list of laws referred to as The 10 Commandments (Read that again with a Charlton Heston voice). In the Old Testament, God provides hundreds of laws for his people to follow – but the 10 Commandments are what I like to refer to as the big “anchors.” They heavily influence our relationship with God and others to this day.
The fourth commandment is all about the Sabbath:
Exodus 20:8-11 NIV
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.
If you’re anything like me, reading a statement that says to take one unadulterated day a week to rest and not work sounds great in theory, but not necessarily easy to practice. A few years ago when I was a brand new youth pastor, I met with a mentor who provided me with a few keys on how to Sabbath well. These keys have stuck with me to this day.
- RECHARGE by Remaining in Jesus
Before you can Sabbath well or put the other four steps into practice, you need to understand that you have a need to recharge. No matter who you are – your energy levels are finite, and it’s not a question of “if” you will run out of energy, but rather “when” you will run out of energy.
As I’m writing this post, my computer battery is sitting at 39%. The more I type, play music, and surf the internet, the more the battery percentage drops. Eventually, unless I connect to a power source, my computer will die and I’ll have no other option but to stop working.
As people, we’re not that different. Every task, meeting, conversation, errand and chore takes a little bit of our battery percentage away. If we’re not careful, that percentage will hit zero and we’ll find ourselves burned out and tired. And if people are anything like devices, they take longer to reboot once they’ve been fully drained.
The Sabbath is an opportunity for us as Christians to reconnect with our power source: Jesus. Practices like spending extended time in prayer and seeking God through the scriptures on the Sabbath recharge us spiritually and keep our lives from reaching 0% battery.
In John 15:5 NIV, Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Make remaining in Jesus a non-negotiable for your Sabbath.
- REST When You Need It, and When You Feel Like You Don’t
My wife Joy and I often take road trips to Montana, Coeur d’Alene, or Spokane for visiting family, conferences, and summer camp. In fact, we make these road trips so frequently that we have all of our stops down to a science. We know where to eat, where to get coffee, how long until we need a bathroom after coffee… okay, I’ll spare you the details.
One area of our road trips where we never fully agree, however, is when to stop for gas. If we get near a quarter of a tank, I start figuring out where the next gas station is. When the fuel light comes on, Joy says “You’re fine, you have at least 50 miles left.”
Many of us approach resting on the Sabbath like a gas gauge in our car. Until the light comes on and we hear that fateful chime notifying us of our impending doom, we don’t pay attention. The Sabbath is meant to be an intentional “rest stop” in our week where we refill regardless of where our gas gauge is at, but too often we tell ourselves “I can make it, I have at least 50 miles left.”
Neglecting rest on the Sabbath is never worth it, even if you don’t feel like you need it – just ask anyone who has been stranded on the side of the freeway while out of gas.
- RECREATION That Keeps You Centered
I wouldn’t call myself an avid outdoorsman, but I would say that I enjoy the outdoors. When the first COVID lockdown hit in March of 2020, Joy and I made a habit of taking walks on a daily basis. Our lives inside the house were consumed by working from our computers, reading the news, and watching Netflix. Getting outside seemed like a great way to change up the routine and unplug from a world that was getting crazier by the minute.
When we spend time outside – whether it’s walking, running, riding a bike, taking a hike, throwing a football with your kids, or playing golf – it provides us an opportunity to unplug and spend time in God’s creation. Anytime I’m outside, I’m always reminded of how big the world is, how big God is, and the fact that he cared enough about me to give me the gift of the Sabbath.
So do yourself a favor – whatever day you Sabbath, carve out intentional time to take a prayer walk, do a bike ride with the family, or whatever outdoor activity fills you up. You’ll be glad you did.
- RELATIONSHIPS That Fill You Up, Not Drain You
Have you ever met a person that takes more than they give in a relationship?
This portion of this post isn’t meant to steer you away from people that can drain you – in fact, if you put into practice what I’m about to say, you’ll have more energy to love those people.
On the Sabbath, I spend time with what I refer to as “life-giving” people. These are the people that fill up my tank and leave me feeling more energized than when our interaction first began. For my wife and I this is one another first and a few trusted friends/couples that we know well.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” On the Sabbath, surround yourself with people who encourage you, build you up and refresh you. Not only will you find yourself recharged and ready to face a new week, but you will also have a surplus of energy to love those that tend to drain you.
- RHYTHMS that You Don’t Compromise
The final step to having a successful Sabbath is to create a consistent rhythm. Simply put, pick one day of the week to be your Sabbath and stick with it. For the Israelite people, their Sabbath began at sundown on Friday and ended at sundown on Saturday. For my wife and I, our Sabbath is either Friday or Saturday depending on the week. Pick a day that works for you and your family, and then stick with it.
Perhaps you’re reading this and a full 24 hour period isn’t realistic. Whatever the reason might be, life happens and taking a full 24 hour period can be a challenge – I get it, but let me encourage you with two things: (1) Have pockets of Sabbath throughout your week and put the prior 4 keys into practice, then (2) strive for a 24 hour period when you can and don’t go longer than you have to without it. God knows what we need – and if He thinks we need 24 hours to rest, recharge and reconnect with Him and others, I trust Him.
As you work towards implementing these 5 keys in your Sabbath, I’m reminded of one last encouragement from Exodus 20:11. God took 6 days to create the universe, and chose to rest on the seventh day. If you’re reading this and struggling with the thought of taking a day to Sabbath, let me leave you with this:
If God can take a day off, so can you.