This is part 2 of an article I wrote for Charisma Magazine that appeared in its March 2018 Magazine entitled – Sabbath Rest Is More Than A Command. If you have not read part 1, please refer to my June 22, 2019 Blog.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NLT) –Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (9) You have six days each week for your ordinary work, (10) but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. (11) For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
God has wired us physically to require outward rest. We need to seriously consider God’s command to take a day of rest. I know so many people who really never slow down. They trudge through life day after day, rarely pausing for a needed break. And I think that we pastors may be the worst at this.
Over the last several years I have attended conferences with other pastors, and sat in the audience as a fellow pastor shares with us his or her experience of finally wearing out. I have heard pastor after pastor share that they reached a point one day that the accumulated stress of ministry did them in, and they hit the proverbial wall physically, mentally, and emotionally, feeling totally empty and unable to carry on ministry.
None of us is superhuman. We need our breaks. Some years ago, God dealt with me severely about taking a needed sabbath break once a week. I was reading the book of Daniel, which was written during the Babylonian captivity of God’s Old Covenant people due to their disobedience.
God’s people were in Babylonian captivity for seventy years, because they had disobeyed by refusing to allow their land to rest every seventh year the way God had commanded them in Leviticus 25. They missed the land rest sabbaths for four hundred ninety years! That means they missed seventy land rest sabbaths. So, God forced them to take these all at once during their seventy year captivity in Babylon. That’s tough!
For confirmation of this, the prophet Jeremiah tells disobedient Judah that they will be removed from their land for seventy years until the land enjoyed her sabbaths. (See 2 Chronicles 36:20-21; Jeremiah 25:9-14; Leviticus 25:4-5.)
I was thinking on this one day, and the Lord spoke clearly to me, as I struggled with being too busy and not taking a break once a week. I heard, Mitch, if you don’t take appropriate weekly rest, you may compromise the length of your life, and the time you failed to rest may be taken off the end of your life. I got the message clearly. Now, for many years, I have sought to take my weekly days of rest.
We’re wired to work hard, and then take a break. Without rest, we give no opportunity to rejuvenate the systems of our bodies. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, we are designed to be replenished by rest. God rested from His work of creation on the seventh day. One of the Ten Commandments is to remember the sabbath day of rest. Life is richer and better when we follow the Creator’s rules for healthy living.
We need both inward rest and outward rest. Let me encourage you to take seriously the need for weekly rest, and to make the changes necessary to be refreshed weekly. Consider working into your routine of life one day a week where you rest from your normal routines.
I end this article with some quotes about rest from Charles Spurgeon in his book, Lectures To My Students (1):
The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body.
Even the earth must lie fallow and have her sabbaths, and so must we.
Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength.
… A little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause.
Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and get our machinery in order for future service.
To tug the oar from day to day like a galley slave who knows no holidays, suits no mortal man.
Millstreams go on forever, but we must have our pauses and intervals.
Who can help but be out of breath when the race is continued without intermission.
Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the sabbath of wintry months; and a man, when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigor or grow prematurely old.
It is wisdom to take an occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall sometimes do more by doing less.
On, on, on, forever may suit our spirits emancipated from this heavy clay, but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord with Holy inaction and consecrated leisure.
Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for a while, but learn from the experience of others the necessity of timely rest.1
1. (from Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Lynchburg:Old Time Gospel Hour, reprinted from editions issued in England in 1875,1877, and 1894) p. 174-175.