Sabbath: Living from Rest Rather than for Rest

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Many of us march to the beat of stressed out and over-worked life rhythms.

A few of us desperately need to change the beat of our frantic rhythm before our beat beats us down.

Like many of you, I’ve heard sermons and read a number of articles and books about the importance of Sabbath in my life. The insights and practical ideas I’ve gleaned from each sermon and article have been incredibly helpful. However, I’ve found that many of these practical principles don’t address a fundamental flaw in our thinking. Quite simply, we locate rest in the wrong place in our life rhythm. We live as if we’re working for rest. We rarely take breaks, work long hours, and we willingly lose sleep so that we can “just get around this bend in life,” “drain the ‘in’ box’” and finally give ourselves the permission to slow down and get some rest. We mistakenly live as if Sabbath is something we can only enjoy when we get everything “done,” rather than a life rhythm we get to enjoy now regardless of our circumstance.

God had a completely different rhythm of life in mind for us. In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve the exciting responsibility of stewarding of his lavish creation. On the very first day of his existence, Adam dove into his work by naming the creatures of Eden. Quite likely, he woke up on the seventh day intending to get back to a task he found incredibly invigorating, but Adam didn’t arise to another day of work. Instead, according to Genesis 2, God rested on day number seven, and so did Adam and Eve. Thus, Adam and Eve’s first complete day of life was a day of rest with God rather than a day of work for God. That means God didn’t establish a rhythm for the human race where we work six long days in order to earn the opportunity to finally slow down and rest. Instead, God set a rhythm of life that starts in Sabbath leading out into significant work empowered from that rest.

The fact is, God designed us in such way that we thrive when we work from rest, rather than working for rest. We just barely survive, when we continue working at break-neck speed, pressing to finally arrive at some “good place” where we can finally take a break. On the other hand, we thrive when we take regular, rhythmic, renewal seriously and from that rest enter, with greater invigoration, into the meaningful work God’s given us to do for his kingdom. People who keep working for rest tend to burn out along the way as they sincerely try to “get through this busy schedule and then take my vacation.” People who learn to live in God’s rhythm of life, working from rest, acknowledge that nothing in this life will ever be “done,” and therefore rest in a serene trust of God’s sovereign control over all the work he’s given us them do in his name. God’s designed us to live in this rhythm, and he invites us to enter it so that we can thrive.

Here are some practical suggestions as you learn to work from rest rather than for it:

Take That Day Off

Working from rest means we can no longer wait until “everything in my life is finally running smoothly” to take regular days off. We need to make that day off a non-negotiable in our life rhythm so that we can be that much more empowered and effective in the significant work God’s given us to do throughout the rest of our week.

Get Sleep

Working from rest means getting somewhere between 6-8 hours of sleep starting tonight, instead of burning the midnight oil until we reach a vacation where we can finally “catch up” on our sleep. Sleep researchers repeatedly inform us that there’s no such thing as “catching up” on sleep. The sleep we lose is simply lost. Therefore, we need to get the sleep we need starting tonight.

Do What You Enjoy

Working from rest includes rediscovering and reengaging activities we’ve abandoned because we’ve told ourselves they weren’t “useful” or “productive.” There is life-sustaining power in consistently doing the things we enjoy regardless of how useful or productive they are. Don’t wait until retirement to pick up that craft, hobby, or sport that replenishes and renews the spirit. It’s not that we don’t have the time for what we enjoy, it’s that we haven’t made the time for it. Fight for the time it takes to engage activities that renew you.

Download our free ebook, Sabbath Keeping: It’s About Time by J. D. Walt.

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Andy Lewis is a pastor, author, and musician who lives in Santa Cruz, California. Currently he serves as lead pastor at Faith Community Church in Santa Cruz.

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