This is a reprint of an article that appeared first in August of 2011. I hope you find it helpful.
Part 6 of 6
Over the past week we’ve been going through a series focused on how
to make positive change in our lives. This is the conclusion of the
series. Just before we get into it, let’s review.
Part 1: Put God First – The Principle of Priority
Part 2: Take Out the Trash – The Principle of Transformation
Part 3: Do Your Own Dishes – The Principle of Responsibility
Part 4: Write It Down – The Principle of Clarity
Part 5: Do It Now – The Principle of Inertia
Turn It Off – The Principle of Restoration. My wife and I just
returned from a week-long vacation to Oregon a few weeks ago. As we were
getting ready to leave I remember the stress and the pressure to get
things done. There were plans to be made, messages to finish, a wedding
to prepare for that would take place as soon as I got back. My wife had
schedules to prepare and amend, lessons to plan, and many other stresses
to cope with.
But once we got on the plane, we settled in, put on a movie, enjoyed
the view out the window and thought about reconnecting with people we
hadn’t seen in a long time. The week was a whirlwind of activity,
talking, laughing, reminiscing and enjoying one anothers company. We
didn’t intentionally set out to be renewed and refreshed but it
happened, because we were able to turn off the work motor and give our
minds and bodies a break. That’s the way that we are designed.
We live in a world that is constantly telling us to do more, go
faster, hurry up, work harder, earn more. And sometimes, those messages
are true and good. God made us to be productive; there is a dignity and
value in hard work and creativity. If we don’t have an outlet for those
things there is something lacking in our lives. But the same God who
created the world in six days set us an example by taking the seventh
day as a day of rest.
He didn’t do that because He was tired; He did it in order that we
would know that we should rest as well. In Exodus 20:8-11 as God was
handing down the law to the Jewish nation through Moses, He said this: “Remember
the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do
all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On
it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter,
nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner
residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and
the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the
seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it
holy.” It is the fourth commandment.
The law was given as a part of the covenant agreement with God’s
people, the Jewish nation. There is still a lot of discussion about what
the law has to do with us who live on the other side of the New
Testament. My purpose today is not to dig too deeply into that, but I
will touch on it. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to fulfill the law
and He also came to establish a new covenant with us – a covenant of
grace. Paul wrote about the Sabbath in Colossians 2:16-17 – “Therefore
do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to
a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These
are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is
found in Christ.”
speaks about the Sabbath rest for the people of God and how that is
fulfilled in Jesus Christ by His finished work on the cross. Because of
what He did, we no longer have to “labour” in law-keeping in order to be
justified in the sight of God and this includes the observance of the
Sabbath. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has
By saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”
(Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest
was put in place to relieve man of his labours, just as He came to
relieve us of our attempting to earn salvation by our works. We no
longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our labouring to attain
God’s favour. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door
to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever. There is no other Sabbath
rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and
He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan
for us to cease from the labour of our own works.
There is nothing sacred about any particular day, either. The Old
Testament Sabbath was Saturday. After Jesus’ resurrection, the early
church changed the day of worship to Sunday, the first day of the week,
likely in remembrance of the day that Jesus rose from the dead. But in Acts 2
and elsewhere we see that the early Christians also met on other days
of the week. In our culture, for centuries, Sunday was set aside as a
day of rest and worship because the vast majority of people were
Christians and Sunday was when public services were held. Stores were
not allowed to be open, there were no organized sports on Sunday, and
most everyone took the day off work. I don’t think we’ve gained anything
by changing that.
However, all that being said, the principle of restoration still
applies in our lives, not as some kind of legalistic thing that we must
do to win favour with God, not to make anyone feel guilty who has to
work on Sundays, but as a practice that enables us to be refreshed and
refocused on a regular basis. We’re not made to have the switch always
set to “on.” John Ross Schroeder called the condition of our age “Hurry
Sickness.” It’s to the point that many feel like a hamster on a wheel.
They get on as a young adult and can never find the way off. But let’s
look at what we see in the Biblical pattern.
We see, in the way that God has created nature, that there is an
order to everything. The earth orbits around the sun every 24 hours and
spins on its axis so that there is a day and a night. From the dawn of
creation, the day has been for work and the night has been for sleep.
Before electricity this was especially so. People would wake at first
light to take advantage of the sun and they would sleep at night.
Studies have revealed that, on average, we sleep 90 minutes less than
our ancestors just 100 years ago. With the rise of the internet and
satellite and cable TV, we’re sleeping 25 minutes less than we did even
10 years ago.
God also divided time up in chunks of seven days. There are seven
days in a week – not 50. Our Creator knew that we have limits, and we
need a break every seven days. You can manipulate that any way you want
to, you can pretend that you’re invincible and work crazy shifts for
weeks on end without a break, but eventually it catches up to you. We
all need that break.
Time has become such a valuable commodity that we joke about wishing
there were more hours in a day. I don’t wish that. I find that no
matter how many hours there are in a day, I can fill them with busyness.
What I need is wisdom to know how to manage those 24 hours properly. In
Psalms 90:12 we read: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Alan Redpath, former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, had a plaque on his wall that read: “Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.” So, time is important; it is a precious commodity. What do we need time for as it relates to our subject today?
Time to rest.
We need time to rest. It doesn’t matter who you are, how smart, how
strong or how talented – you need times of regular rest. I have learned
this the hard way in my own life. I know that many have joked that
pastors only work one day a week, but I think you’d be surprised. There
are times when I’ve allowed the demands of ministry to crowd out my
schedule to the point where it seemed that days off were only a rumour.
I’ve foolishly allowed myself to be stretched beyond where I could
easily recover. It’s interesting that the time the board advised me to
take off to recuperate some years ago was called a “sabbatical” – a time
Jesus, entrusted with the most important mission in the history of
the world, regularly took time apart to rest. He also encouraged His
disciples to do the same. In Mark 6:31 it says, “Then, because so
many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance
to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place
and get some rest.’” We all need it. For you workaholics out there - Stop! It’s okay to take a break.
Time to recreate.
When we think of recreation we usually think of sports or outdoor
activities – things that we do. What do they have to do with our
well-being? Merriam-Webster defines the word “recreate” like this: “to give new life or freshness to.”
Particularly for those of us who sit at a desk for a good portion of
our day, it’s important to get out and do something that gets the motor
Looking back on our trip to Oregon, it’s amazing how many activities
we packed into a short period of time, and how good it felt as we were
doing those things. Recreation is literally the refreshment of one's
mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates. For
some that may mean a long walk, for someone else it might be a good book
or a puzzle; for others it might be strenuous physical activity, but it
really does recreate us.
Time to reflect.
The late author Norman Cousins observed: "We in America have everything we need except the most important thing of all, time to think and the habit of thought."
In a world that is chaotic and non-stop and where mindless
entertainment is available 24/7, one of the most important things that
we can do is to unplug from all of that and allow our minds some
Taking some time apart allows us the space to really look at our
lives. For a lot of people I know, the thought of that terrifies them.
They have no desire to stop and consider the current state of things.
It’s much easier just to keep running. What is going well in your life?
Are your relationships healthy? Are you fulfilled? Are you growing? Are
you happy with the direction you are headed? What problems are you
facing? What can you do to face them and fix them? Pick your own
Read good books that inspire and challenge you. Listen to good music
that lifts and motivates you. Engage your mind in something
challenging. It might hurt the first few times, but you’ll get over it.
Time to reconnect…
With Others. The final subject I want to touch on
is the need to reconnect. It seems that the inevitable thing that falls
through the cracks of our busy lives is relationship. We love our family
and we love our friends, but in our busyness, we just don’t have time
to keep those relationships healthy. But when we live on purpose, and by
our priorities, we can change that.
God made us for relationship. Much of what Jesus shared in the
Gospels was on the subject of relationships. He gave us the Golden Rule:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The writers of the letters of the New Testament followed His lead. In Ephesians 4:32 Paul wrote: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I have a list in my files of all of the “one anothers” in the New Testament. It’s a lengthy list. “Love one another, bear one another’s burdens, care for one another, pray for one another…” The list is an extensive one.
It was John Andrew Holmes who said "It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others."
When we get back to the heart of the principle of the Sabbath rest,
the underlying need is for us to remember our desperate need of God. We
are so prone to forget Him. As the old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”
I wish I could write a song that captures that sentiment for this
generation the way that one did in the 1700s. What’s the point? The
point is this – if God is to be the priority in our lives and truly be
the rock upon which we stand, we have to regularly take the time to
re-center ourselves on that reality.
We need to take the time to read and hear His Word; we need to take
the time to foster a relationship with Him through prayer; we need to
take the time for corporate worship; we need to stop and focus our minds
attention on Him: His Word, His will, His world. When we take the time
to create an opportunity and an openness, God will speak to us. But we
have to take the time. What has God been speaking to you about lately?
If you don’t have an answer to that question, why not?
Some my find it odd that the last principle in a series on bringing
about positive change is related to rest. How are we to change if we
stop and rest? It has been my experience that when I live my life in
proper balance, and take those breaks, I have the energy needed to take
on those necessary changes. It is a part of God's plan and ongoing
pattern for our lives.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10
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I Love Me!