In the last post, I outlined the first two components of the actual practice of the Sabbath. Here, I will share the final two along with some encouraging application from Psalm 23.
Certain people drain us; other people restore life to us. This is a simple truth of life. On the Sabbath, leaders should surround themselves with people they actually enjoy. The recreating power of relationships is about leveraging time with those who help us live with peace and joy. On the Sabbath, spend time with family and friends, but do so differently than you do during the week. Time here should be purposed for life-giving conversations and family activities, not draining ones.
Speak differently with your spouse and children on the Sabbath. Look at them with love on this day. Enjoy them and find joy in them. Rejoice in your heart for the gift of family that God has given you. If you spend time with friends, make sure they are restorative people, not difficult ones. The command “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” means taking steps to protect the day from ruin. This is your day and your time. Shelter it from anything or anyone that would make it unholy in the sense of violating its purpose of rest and renewal.
Over time, leaders can develop a kind of weariness that cannot be cured with a good night’s sleep. Spiritual fatigue is a weariness of the soul where the emotional and spiritual resources needed to sustain life and leadership are drained. Here, demand exceeds supply.
The Sabbath not only gives rest to our bodies, but, when practiced properly, it brings restoration to our souls. On the Sabbath, labor ceases. But the Sabbath does not necessarily mean being finished with work. Rarely do we complete all our work in a given week. Instead, the Sabbath means being free from the internal need to work. The idea is to rest as if all your work is done.
The Sabbath separates us from the notion that the world can’t survive without us. It serves as the antidote to the idea that I am indispensable to the world and that the things in the world, to which I give myself six days a week, are indispensable to me.
Partially quoting his father, Abraham Joshua Herschel aptly states:
We need the Sabbath in order to survive in our culture: “Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly man must fight for inner liberty” to remain independent from the enslavement of the material world. “Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people . . . This is our constant problem—how to live with people and remain free—how to live with things and remain independent.”[i]
Time and money are two primary assets of our lives and both are very important and practical dimensions of living. There are amazing similarities in God’s commands toward the management of our time and the management of our money. The Sabbath and the tithe stand as clear directives from a loving God in how to steward these precious resources:
- In doing both, we can imitate God. In giving and in resting, I am doing what God himself did.
- Both draw me close to God. As I do what God did, I fellowship with him deeply, better understanding his ways and identifying in relationship with him more.
- Both are an antidote to the culture. Tithing stands as an antidote to greed and materialism; Sabbath stands as an antidote to addictive work and indispensability.
- Both bless me in return. The irony is that, though I give away my money in tithing and give away my time in Sabbath, I have enough money and enough time for living. God provides in return so that, by giving, I receive and my needs are adequately supplied. It is amazing to see how efficient and effective my time becomes on the other six days of the week when I sabbath on the seventh. The same is true for my money when I tithe.
- Both set my priorities in the proper place. By tithing and keeping the Sabbath, I do not allow my money and time to manage me. Instead, I manage them. This keeps them in proper perspective for healthy living. The disciplines stop the encroaching power of time and money and the obsession associated with each. Tithing and the Sabbath keep time and money from becoming idols of worship.
- Both are proportional. Sabbath is one-seventh of my week; tithing is one-tenth of my money. While all my time and all my money are his, I practically give to God for a specific purpose in proportion to all he has given me.
- Both are systematic. I give from the first of my income and from the last of my week.
- Both are sacrificial. Time and money are precious, limited resources and therefore are not easily given to God, which is exactly why God requires them.
Both reveal my level of trust in God. Tithing and Sabbath-keeping are a constant, concrete reminder that God is the owner of all and that I can trust him with the most important portions of my life. They remind me that he is the provider and will make up anything I might lack through giving and keeping the Sabbath. To reject the Sabbath or refuse to tithe means not trusting or believing God in the most practical sense. Not giving and not keeping Sabbath are practical atheism. When I give and when I rest as God prescribed, I show my trust in him, my belief that he knows best, and my dependence upon him for all of life.
The Sabbath, therefore, is an act of faith. It means trusting God with the leadership of our organization in our absence, trusting him with our need for rest (whether we think we need it or not), and trusting him with the need for consistent, weekly worship. The Sabbath is not a suggestion. It is not a nice recommendation from God. It is a clear command. But, it is a command from a loving Father who seeks the best for his children and who desires for leaders to experience authentic power from within.
“Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelops you. Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think.”[ii]
Finally, we find great encouragement and solace from the first few phrases of Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
(1) “The Lord is my shepherd…”
David’s affirmation here is that God is his shepherd, i.e. the Lord is the leader of his life. So the question for you and me is this: “Is God the leader of my life?” Because, if God is my leader, then He will lead me to the places and to the life-giving realities found within these places that are described in Psalm 23.
(2) “I shall not want…”
The first result of God leading my life is contentment. Contentment is peace flowing from freedom from need or want. Here’s the accompanying principle: With God leading my life, it is characterized by less stress and complexity, because, in this present-tense moment, I am content with both the possessions I have and the position I hold. Here we say, “I am free from want and worry because of this one truth: the Lord is my shepherd.”
(3) “He makes me lie down in green pastures…”
Notice the phrasing: “He makes me…” Often, this is because we are unwilling to lie down. So, you must either take the Sabbath or the Sabbath will take you. And it will do so in the form of burnout, ill-health and poor relationships. Not taking a Sabbath will indeed catch up to you. So, rest and restoration are a part of God’s leadership of our lives, not separate from it.
(4) “He leads me beside still waters…”
The keyword here is stillness. Do I make time for solitude, quietness and stillness in order to hear myself, hear from God, and be set free from the noise of life?
(5) “He restores my soul.”
This is the result. And it sounds like a place called home to me.
May God bless you as you learn to remember the Sabbath.
Editor's Note: This post is part 4 of a 4-part series. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
[i] Herschel, 77.
[ii] A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Christian Leadership: A 366-day devotional. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2001. 128–129.