February 2, 2012 is a day I will never forget, a day that changed my life and ministry forever. The message shared that day on sabbath dramatically impacted my life, my relationship with Jesus, my family and my ministry forever. I was a classic workaholic pastor. I took time off and relaxed, but I never shut down. I was always connected and constantly available. I blatantly ignored the sabbath command. I was too important; the church and the world needed me. Rest was fine for Jesus, the God of the universe, but it was not necessary for me and did not fit the culture of ministry.
To say I was convicted that afternoon would be a gross understatement. In ignoring the sabbath, my own sense of self-importance outweighed God’s command, which was ultimately best for me as a Christ-follower, husband, father and pastor. That day I committed to honoring the sabbath. The change was not easy. It took practice and time. I felt guilty, yet my family celebrated.
Over time I have found a sabbath rhythm that has brought me greater health than I could have imagined. Every night before my sabbath day, I turn off my cell phone as well as my work email on every computer and other device I own until Saturday. I truly disconnect, relax, focus on God and find true rest, embracing the abundant life in Christ. I have no to do list and focus on doing things that provide relaxation and give me life. I read, nap, kayak, go out to lunch, a used bookstore, spend time with my family, hike and pray. My relationship with Jesus is more dynamic than ever. My marriage has improved, and I am a better father. I am able to model sabbath to my family and my congregation, and as a result, they have a healthier and more dynamic spiritual life. My wife and children understand that they are more important than the ministry. My priorities have changed and my relationships and ministry have been transformed as I embrace a different way of life.
Sabbath is not a suggestion. Sabbath is a command. It made the top ten list. We all know murder is wrong, yet we blatantly ignore the sabbath. Sabbath is not about doing absolutely nothing, but it is about rest and disconnecting from work. Sabbath means connecting with God and doing those things that bring you great joy that are not your work. Jesus took time away to rest and to pray. In Genesis, we read that on the 7th day God rested. If it’s good enough for the father, it’s good enough for us. If Jesus did it, we as disciples are to model our life after his and must do it as well. Who are we to think that we are more important that God? Who are we to think that we can do more and are needed more than Jesus?
So often, we refuse to rest because our culture demands productivity and constant consecutiveness. Technology is a great tool and can be a gift, but like any other tool, it can also be a curse. Being constantly connected has caused us to ignore rest. We feel the need to constantly do, to consistently perform, to always be available. We have convinced ourselves that good Christians are always doing. As human beings (not human doings) we are created in the image of a creator who rested and commanded that we rest too.