I once thought I could leap (or build) tall buildings in a single bound, until I realized I was a man of flesh, not steel. Several years ago I became spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally unhealthy because I had consistently neglected practicing the Sabbath.
Let me encourage you with these three important steps to successful Sabbaths.
1. Receive the Sabbath as a Gift
The Sabbath originally was a gift to freshly emancipated slaves. Slaves don’t usually get gifts, much less days off. Yahweh wanted them to know they were no longer slaves, but His sons and daughters.
He not only provided deliverance, but also rest and food. God provided twice the amount of daily manna they needed on the day before Sabbath, so they would not have to collect it during their only day of rest. What a generous God! You would expect high-fives all around, but the Israelites were awkward with the new normal.
The people of God were not yet used to life without their Egyptian taskmasters. Some even wanted to go back to that awful life of slavery. Embracing a new lifestyle on God’s terms took a considerable amount of courage. It still does, especially for the pastor who believes the success of the church depends on him.
God not only blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy, He blesses those who courageously and consistently observe it.
I sometimes marvel at how quickly I slip back into my chains of slavery. I still struggle every single week, but I am not going back to Egypt without a fight!
2. Obey the Sabbath as a Command
Rejecting or neglecting this gift is nothing short of open rebellion, which was initially enforced with a death penalty. While those desert rules were intense (and fortunately temporary), they do give us glimpse into the seriousness of the Sabbath to God.
The Sabbath is number 4 on God’s top 10 list, and is a literal 24-hour cease-and-desist order. The word “sabbath” simply means “to stop.”
We pastors are among the worst at ignoring the Sabbath command. Motivated people like us don’t comply because we don’t want to, don’t think we need to or, frankly, don’t know how “to stop.” God won’t let your job and family and ministry fall apart because you obeyed Him and unplugged for a day.
Many pastors are conservative in what they believe about the Sabbath, but are liberal in their practice of it.
3. Create a Healthy Rhythm to Your Life and Ministry
Balance is an illusion for driven people. Life is way too unpredictable to balance. A better biblical goal is to live a life in rhythm. Athletes understand the need for a pre-season, season, and off-season. So do accountants and politicians. Even nature’s seasons and cycles remind us of God’s rhythm.
Jesus demonstrated how we can live in a healthy rhythm with our lives and ministries. We see Him oscillating between work and rest. Sometimes He would encourage the crowds to stay and eat, heal one more person, or pray all night. Other times He would retreat to the lakes, mountains, or wilderness for rest and renewal.
Are you a healthy pastor, or just surviving between ministry sprints? Are your seasonal ministry sprints followed by periods of intentional rest? I think you will find that your life and ministry will be richly blessed as you consistently obey and enjoy the Sabbath.