I was reminded I should have clarified last weeks blog on slowing down has its roots in the thought processes I am contemplating as I prepare for a 2-month Sabbatical in July and August as Janet and I begin our 7th year of ministry at VCF.
We were created by God with a need for renewal. Every breath we inhale renews and sustains our life. If we do not eat, drink or sleep, we will eventually die. We understand this physically, but less tangible is our need for spiritual renewal.
This need for renewal is ongoing, moment by moment. Thus, Paul instructs us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thess. 5). God has also created us with the need for a deeper rhythm of renewal that touches all our being—spiritual, physical and emotional: Sabbath.
For many, the word Sabbath conjures up thoughts of Old Testament law and practices of parentally enforced nap times on Sunday afternoons. God’s view is different. Sabbath is a day He has blessed and called holy (Gen 2). A sacred space that is different from the rest of the week. A time in which we worship and celebrate our God, enjoy the fruit of our labor, and rest our weary bodies.
We act differently, but also have the space to think differently, worship intentionally, relate more intimately, celebrate more fully and enjoy the beauty and wonder of all that God has created. It’s a gift God has given us that is often unopened and discarded.
Why don’t we open this gift of Sabbath rest? In my own experience, it’s often a matter of trust and values. I need to always ask myself two questions.
First, do I trust that God will accomplish all that He desires through me in 6 days of work? Mark Buchanan, (Rest of God) says, “Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills, depends on …complete confidence and trust. Confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that God is good, and God is sovereign.”
We do not build God’s Kingdom, He does. We have the privilege to participate as his stewards in that process. Buchanan goes on to say, “Either God’s always at work building the city, building the house, or you need to try harder.”
Second, Do I value the gift God has given me of Sabbath rest as essential, blessed and holy? Within the conflicts that are recorded in the Gospels between the religious leaders and Jesus regarding the Sabbath, Jesus never devalued the Sabbath but directed his listeners to the heart of the Sabbath. For the religious leaders, it was law, but as the Lord and originator of the Sabbath, Jesus renewed the vision of God’s intent that “Sabbath was made for man” (Matt 12, Mark 2).
It’s challenging to live a “sailboat life” in a “speedboat” culture (see last week’s blog), but the benefits of living within God’s design and trusting Him to bear fruit through me as I abide in Christ gives me life and peace. And, yes, I’m more productive and fruitful.
As a leader, the habits I steward into the realm of influence God has given me will either hinder people or give them space in which they can thrive within God’s design. As Jesus put it in John 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”