One of the greatest joys in my life right now is being a grandparent. I love watching little Henry and John grow and explore and enjoy things. It’s simply fun to watch them play and learn.
One thing I’ve noticed, though, since my own children were young, I had forgotten the importance of those kids taking a quiet time for a nap each day. They don’t function very well without one. In fact, they can be quite a challenge to be around when they don’t get their nap. They need to rest. Mom and dad need them to take a rest as well. Otherwise their craziness, crankiness, and rebelliousness can set in.
As children of God, we place our trust in Jesus Christ (that’s what makes us children of God). We can get quite crazy, cranky, and rebellious as well without proper rest in our lives. Our heavenly Father knows well that we don’t do very well when we’re all tired out. All of God’s children need a quiet time. Yet, when you look around, there seems to be an epidemic of tiredness. People are overwhelmed, overworked, overscheduled, and overstretched.
When you talk with people and ask them how they’re doing, they will often say, “I’m so busy,” or “I’m tired.” It seems like we have this illness called “hurry sickness.” We’re always on the run. Dr. Richard Swanson, who wrote the book “Margins” a few years ago, shares these words: “Even our sentences are peppered with such words as time crunch, fast food, rush-hour, frequent-flier, expressway, overnight delivery, and rapid transit. The products and services we use further attest to our hurry: We send packages by Federal Express, use a long-distance company called Sprint, manage our personal finances on Quicken, schedule our appointments on a DayRunner, diet with SlimFast, and swim in trunks made by Speedo.” It seems like whether we are Christian or not, we’re extremely overwhelmed.
All too often we are on the phone as well. Think about it – we take in a steady stream of information, reading, typing, so on. We’re wearing out our brains. All kinds of things get damaged when that kind of thing overtakes our lives. It hurts our physical and mental health. A fatigue sets in, an exhaustion. You hear people talk about burnout, depression, and it does damage to our ability to have relationships. It’s difficult, pretty much impossible to build meaningful relationships when you’re always on the run.
It’s difficult to have a good relationship with God, to build a solid, close relationship with Him if we’re always on the run. It’s so easy to forget Him and end up chasing little idols in life we think we need, such as getting ahead, personal security, possessions, reputation, and so on. God gets put on the shelf.
It’s difficult to build a relationship with others as well in this world. It’s difficult to love when you’re always tired out. Have you ever noticed that? Sometimes the best thing I can do for my friendships is to make sure I get enough sleep!
I love the story about the businessman who constantly is bringing his briefcase home from work each day. His little boy disappointedly watches him pull his briefcase out every night after supper to do more work. One night his son asks him, “Dad, why do you do that?”
The dad answers, “I can’t get all my work done at the office.”
The little boy thought for a moment and said, “Well, can’t they just put you in a slower group?”☺ Sometimes it would be nice if we could just get into a slower group, I think.
We do damage in our relationship with our self. We get crabby, lonely, and stressed. Perhaps you’ve heard the statement, “Constant work turns human beings into human doings.” We’re not meant to be human doings. Have you ever gotten to the place where you say, I don’t like me this way. I don’t like what I’m becoming. Have you ever found yourself longing for childhood again? I just want to go back in time and be a little kid again when life was simple. God says to those of us living in this world, Take a pause. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Now why would I be willing to do that? Three good reasons I can give you.
1. As an expression of your love for God. It’s a responsive obedience to the One who saved you for Himself. Israel had just been saved from slavery in Egypt. As Christians, we’ve been saved from slavery to sin, death, and the power of the devil through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. He has given us this gift of life, saved us, and given us eternal life with Him. The question, then, for the recipient becomes, How can I say thanks? How can I express my love and gratitude for belonging to Him?
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” our Lord says.
2. Remembering the Sabbath is the wise thing to do because it is for our good. We are actually wired for it. In Genesis chapter 2 at the end of the creation story, we see God rested on the seventh day. In the passage we looked at today in Exodus, Moses is basically saying, The Lord God rested on the seventh (Sabbath) day; rest then your self. Rest like me, and rest with me. God’s pause, though, was not because of tiredness – He is God. It was a pause to enjoy what He had created in the previous six days. Remember, after each thing He created God said, “This is very good.” His pause was a time to enjoy some triumph as someone pleased with what He had just accomplished. His pause was to relate to His creation, to put in some of what we might call “garden time” with Adam and Eve.
Believe it or not, we are wired to take a pause and a rest. Think about it, we were created in the image of God. That means that if the Sabbath is in God’s being, then it should be in ours as well. It is part of God’s maintenance plan for your body, your mind, and your spirit. It is a wise thing to do.
3. We remember the Sabbath because Jesus did it! Jesus in fact called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. One day when He was being hassled by the Pharisees and the religious scribes who had turned the Sabbath day into a legalistic burden for the people, Jesus took them on. He didn’t deny the importance of the Sabbath – in fact He said, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath,” but He talked about it in another way. He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It is a gift from God to us for our good.
So let’s explore a little bit this thing called the Sabbath. It is an old-fashioned, churchy word. Sabbath means a time of rest, to not work. It is holy to the Lord, Scripture tells us. It is a day to pause from our labors and routines. It is a special day set aside for us – and we all need one. God is very insistent that we take one.
The Sabbath is a time for resting. We take a physical break, an emotional break, a spiritual break from the run, run, run of life.
It is a time for remembering. We remember God. We remember ourselves – who we are and whose we are. We remember God’s grace and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. We remember the big picture – God has a whole world in His hands. Forgetting that kind of rest can lead to sometimes forgetting God, how big, and powerful He is, and how much we need Him.
It’s not only time for resting and remembering, it is also a time for resisting the world’s call to work, work, work in order to justify our existence. It is basically a declaration of freedom, when you think about it. I am not a slave to my work. I belong to God. In Deuteronomy chapter 5, which is another repeat of the Ten Commandments, God says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Remember that you were a slave. Not anymore though. God has set you free.
The Sabbath is also a time for reflecting about what’s important and looking at where my life is headed. Am I on track with the Lord? It is a time to relate to God. It is a time to set aside and put some focus, some intentional focus, on the God who created me and saved me through His Son, Jesus Christ. In other words, it’s a rhythm for living out life with God, and it’s a rhythm we were created for.
I like what writer Eugene Peterson says about the Sabbath. “Sabbath is the time set aside to do nothing so that we can receive everything, to set aside our anxious attempts to make ourselves useful, to set aside our tense restlessness, to set aside our media-satiated boredom. Sabbath is the time to receive silence and let it deepen into gratitude, to receive quiet into which forgotten faces and voices unobtrusively make themselves present, to receive the days of the just completed week and observe the wonder and miracle still reverberating from each one, to receive our Lord’s amazing grace.”
Still, we struggle to follow this commandment. Why can’t we – and why don’t we – hit that pause button more eagerly and more regularly than we do? It’s probably a variety of reasons.
1. We probably don’t want to believe this. I like to believe I am tough and can handle things myself. I’ve heard people say, I can rest later. I have things to accomplish. I don’t need a rest.
2. Perhaps we want to get ahead, outdo the doers, and come out on top in the race. We sometimes feel we have to keep up in order to attain a better life that we dream for ourselves, to hang onto the American dream.
3. Perhaps we don’t have the time to enjoy the things we want to enjoy in life because we’re working all the time.
4. Perhaps we simply see working as a justification for our existence to others. Look at what I’m doing. Look at what I’m doing. I’m important! I belong in this world! I think people sometimes wear busyness as a badge of honor. It’s almost like they’re proud of saying I’ve been way too busy and I’m tired.
5. Sometimes we try to justify our actions to ourselves. It’s like Rocky said to Adrian in the first Rocky movie when she asked, “Why are you going to all this trouble?” he said, “I just want to go the distance so I’ll know I’m not a bum.”
Someone once wrote, we have become a generation of people who worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship. I think there’s some truth to that.
6. Finally, I think we struggle with keeping this commandment because it doesn’t come easy. Sabbath keeping is hard. Taking a Sabbath rest requires effort, because it’s going against the current of the times. It doesn’t come as naturally as we like to think. It can be very difficult for us to just drop things. We just can’t do it! It is a strenuous act of the will. It’s intentional. It’s learning to say no.
To not take a Sabbath pause is a dangerous and disastrous way to live one’s life. We need to do this because without it, there will be breakdowns and burnouts. We all know stories of people who have wrecked their bodies, their families, their friendships, even their very souls because God’s instructions were ignored. Even Jesus said, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his very being (his soul)?” Mark 8:36. The folks of Jesus’ day never slowed down. They never paused. They never scheduled a deep Sabbath rest into their weekly calendar, and there is a price to be paid for it.
It does not have to be that way for you. God has been forthcoming on giving you the solution to avoid that kind of ending. The question is, What are you going to do (or are doing) about it?
We need to ask ourselves, Who do I want to become in this season of my life? Do you want to get closer to God? Do you want to be more effective in serving Him in this world? Do you want to become more loving and patient and kind and filled with joy? How you decide to treat the gift of the Sabbath, which God has given you, will have an impact on whether that happens in your life or not.
Today I encourage you to make a commitment to be a Sabbath person in Christ. Build that pause into your life. Here are some things you can do.
• Be a regular worshiper. It was the habit of Jesus, Scripture tells us, to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Find yourself a church and go regularly. Put worship on your calendar. For people, the day has too often become a coin toss because so much it going on, competing for your time on a Sunday morning. If you want to become a dialed-in, growing Christian, someone who knows a little more about your faith, someone who looks a little more like the One you follow, then write church on your calendar and keep that appointment.
• Use the day to relax with others as well, to laugh and enjoy people, have recreation and time of play.
• Build some quiet time into your life on that day. Make it a time to reflect. It is a great day for picking up on your hobbies, doing what you like to do when you’re not doing what you have to do.
My appeal this day is to be careful with this one and only life God has given you. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, and you will thank God you did. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer