It’s so hard to find rest in the midst of a world which never sleeps. In the context of our modern lives is a Sabbath rest still relevant or possible?
I work in a global organization and so live out the fact there is always someone up somewhere in the world, working. If you were so inclined, you could keep working all the time and never ever get rest. Would you be a super productive person that way? Probably not – I believe that your efficiency would reduce over time as your body and mind succumb to fatigue. You’d eventually burn out and not be able to do any work at all for a period of time… perhaps even indefinitely. I’ve seen this happen to others, and it’s not pretty.
God knows we need rest and designed our bodies that way. They signal to us when we are overdoing it, using tools like tiredness, sleepiness and physical pain. If we don’t listen, then we fail to operate in the way that we are designed and must brace ourselves for a malfunction. It might be physical – resulting in physical illness – or mental, resulting in burnout, depression, or even a nervous breakdown.
God modeled the pattern of rest for us in Genesis 2, where he rested on the 7th day. He also enshrined rest in the 10 commandments, directing his people to work for 6 days, but rest on the 7th. Now, I believe that we who follow Christ are no longer under the law, but under grace. I do not believe in the statutory observance of a Sabbath day, but I do believe that God knows we need rest, showed us a pattern for rest and expects us to take rest on a regularly scheduled basis. As Jesus famously said, the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. It’s for our own good that we get at least one day of rest a week.
To my brothers and sisters who think that day of rest is on Sunday and yet you fill it up with lots of church work, I respectfully submit that you’re missing the point. You need rest, at least one day a week! You’re designed that way! If you work 6 days a week in a secular industry and then spend most of your Sunday working as well, then when are you going to get the rest? If you are committed to doing church work on Sunday (and this is in itself a noble and desirable thing), then should you not ensure that you get rest on Saturday or another day, if your work is flexible enough to accommodate this? If you’re actually a full time minister of the Gospel in such a way that Sunday is one of your main work days, then should you not also ensure that you are getting a day of rest on another day? To do otherwise is to rob yourself of long term health and effectiveness.
In my industry and in my personal experience, I’ve found Saturday to be the most likely day of rest and am increasingly making efforts to treat it as such – to labor the other 6 days, but not on the 7th. I’m not there yet, but I’m better than I used to be.
I encourage you to join me in this quest. Reclaim a day of rest, and allow your body to recharge itself in the way God designed.
Of course there is a deeper rest into which we enter by virtue of believing in Christ, his death and his resurrection for our salvation. There is also a final rest into which we aspire to enter, in eternity. If you’re reading these words but have not yet taken those first steps, then consider this: the one day of rest will help your body, for the years allotted to you on earth, but you are missing out on a deeper spiritual rest that will be relevant for all eternity. (Heb. 4:1-3).
May God give us the wisdom to rest, and the grace to enter into His rest.