6 Thoughts on Sabbath Rest

rest“Six Thoughts on Sabbath Rest (inspired by Pastor Tim Keller)”

Grace Church Surviving Suburbia Sermon #3 Post Script


Sabbath rest is an act of liberation. Sabbath reminded God’s people that they were free. No longer slaves, they were free to rest from their toil. For us today, Sabbath reminds us that we aren’t slaves to our jobs. We aren’t defined by our income or our accomplishments (either their fulfillment or lack). Additionally, Sabbath reminds us that we are free from other people’s expectations of us. We are free to say “no”.

Sabbath rest is an act of trust. Sabbath reminds us that we are not God; He is. Through Sabbath-keeping we are reminded that it is not our responsibility to keep the world running on its axis.

Sabbath rest needs to be balanced. Tim Keller says that a true Sabbath rest should include three separate kinds of rest.

  • Rest must be a-vocational—i.e. something you normally don’t do. It needs to be something different from your job.
  • Rest must be contemplative—it must include practices that remind you of the story of who you really are. The reason we often struggle to truly rest is because we aren’t sure of who we are. Consequently practices like worship and prayer can reorient us to our place in God’s epic story.
  • Rest must also include times of inactivity—this is unstructured, unplanned leisure. This is biblical, by the way. Every seventh year in Israel was a “Sabbath” year and the land was to be left untilled. They were told to “rest” the land and trust that whatever grew in it would be enough for them.

Sabbath rest requires accountability. In our culture today, there will be seasons where we will need to overwork for a season. For instance, doctors are required to overwork for three years during their residencies. However, we need to be accountable to stop the overworking when the mandatory season allows it. You WILL overwork, but you need someone who will stop you when you’re taking it too far.

Sabbath rest needs to be injected into our work. This does not mean being lazy or taking advantage of our employers—certainly not. However, it might mean fewer goals. It might mean slowing down in the race to get to the top. At some point we might need to say, “I’ll do the things that must be done and then the rest will have to be up to God.” Note: If you do these things, it’s possible that you might fall behind in your career. Maybe God will let you fall behind; maybe He won’t. Is He in charge or not? Does He know best or do we?

Sabbath rest should be practiced in community. Gather some people around you who are in your same profession and ask, “How can we do this and stay sane? How can we live balanced lives wherein we work hard, honor God, and reap the glorious benefits of Sabbath rest?”

We don’t have to rev up a strict, 24-hour, Old Testament practice of Sabbath-keeping, but we do need to realize that we’re not in a frantic sprint toward a cosmic goal line. We’re running a marathon. We have time.

The eyes of the only one who truly matters have already looked at us and said, “I’m satisfied with you. I’m pleased with you. Slow down. Enjoy your life. Invest in the things that really matter the most and I’ll make sure you arrive at all of your appointed ends.”

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