You need a vacation! You’re busy, stressed, and overwhelmed by kids, deadlines, meetings, commitments, or bills. You may think you can’t afford to take a vacation. I would say you can’t afford to not to take a vacation. In fact, I take a vacation every week. Confused yet? Well, I may call it a vacation, but God calls it the Sabbath. You’re about to learn how to calm your heart and breathe deeply after a week of racing. Think of the two minutes you take to read this post as the beginning of the true rest your life has been desperate for.
You might have heard the word “Sabbath” before. Maybe you think the Sabbath is a term for the day we go to church. Actually, it’s one of the 10 Commandments—you know, the basic 10 concepts everyone should get behind without bickering. We’re supposed to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
But how are you supposed to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy if you don’t even know what it means? Well, let’s start by breaking down some common myths about the Sabbath and contrast them with God’s truths.
- Myth #1: The Sabbath is the “Lord’s day” which is the day we go to church. Truth: Every day is the Lord’s day (Psalm 118:24, Psalm 24:1, Psalm 74:16). In New Testament Greek, “church” means: a gathering, assembled ones, or a body of people. In essence, church is not directly connected to a building or a time slot on the weekend. (Thank You, Jesus, for Church Online.) In fact, many people take a rest day each week that is a different day from the day they participate in church.
- Myth #2: The Sabbath is set aside for worship. Truth: Christian worship is a lifestyle of laying ourselves down before God every moment of every day. (Romans 12:1, Psalm 145:2).
- Myth #3: The Sabbath was part of the law and was abolished by Jesus. Truth: The 10 Commandments are separate from the 600 Levitical laws on maintaining ritual purity. Jesus fulfilled these laws as the ultimate purification sacrifice. The 10 Commandments are about our relationship with God and with others, making them a vital guide to the Christian life (Matthew 5:17, Galatians 3:23).
In a world where working harder than anyone else can become an idol and resting seems impossible, we need to observe a weekly Sabbath more than ever. Let’s agree to place the same importance on this commandment as we would for the other nine. We don’t take lightly the order to stay away from idol worship or murder or adultery. This same intensity needs to be placed on making a Sabbath part of our lives each week. Remember, observing a weekly rest isn’t a suggestion. It’s a commandment! Now, don’t beat yourself up if you mess up now and again. That’s just part of being human, and we thank God for His grace when we slip.
Second, we must understand the true meaning of the words that are used. Sabbath, in the original language, means: to pause, to cease, or to rest. The word “holy” means: separate, set apart, or different. So, the literal meaning is to separate one of our days each week for pausing activity and resting. Don’t be tempted to over spiritualize the words. Just follow what they mean. Set aside a day each week to rest. Is your pulse starting to slow yet?
For me, I take one day off every week, and I really unplug. Think: no emails. No texts. No side projects. I don’t even talk about work if I can avoid it. It’s a real pause. A real break. A real rest. My team and colleagues know which day is my “off” day, and they leave me alone barring an emergency! They know I’m resting out of obedience to God’s command. It’s good for my brain, my mind, and my spirit. Slow breath in … slow breath out. Are you starting to feel the freedom of rest yet?
My weekly break is also good for my ego. Remember how we said working hard can become an idol? Hard work has many rewards for sure. One of them is the feeling of joy at your accomplishments. But that’s where it can get tricky if we don’t let God’s principles stay active in our lives. If I look backward and see how hard I’ve worked, I might start to take too much credit for it. I might get an inflated sense of what I bring to my work. I might even think: It’s all up to me. If I take a break, everything will fall apart. God knows how the human mind works. He knows some of us need to rest to help us see the miracle of God’s power at work through us. Sabbath rest is built on the same concept as tithing. God can do more with our finances when we give away our first 10 percent to Him. It’s the same with our time. Taking a rest, or Sabbath, teaches me that when I obey God, I get more done by doing less.
The good news: God wants you to take a vacation! He made the Sabbath for you! He made it as a gift for us to get rest to our bodies and our minds, so we could continue in His mission for the world. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), but He gave it to us as a gift to steward for our own good. You and I need a vacation this week, so who’s going to take one? Plan it or it will get sucked into your normal weekly vortex of obligations and fears. Whatever you do, just remember to set apart one day a week for rest. Enjoy living in the freedom and rest God has asked us to live in!