Sabbath Rest: An Act of Faith

I have been incredibly busy this semester.  It often seems that every moment of everyday is filled with work that needs to be done.  If it is not done between 5:30am and 5:30pm, then it must get done in the evening hours.  If I have meetings at night, then the work placed on the next day’s agenda.  However, if the next day cannot handle the unfinished work, then that work gets pushed to my day off.  If that work gets pushed to my day off, then I can begin to neglect my wife and my children.  So I am writing this post to challenge myself, and those in ministry everywhere.  Here it goes:

How do we define our lives?  Normally, when we are introduced to a person that we do not know, we ask them two questions: 1) What is your name?  and 2) What do you do?

Why is this?  Why do we ask people what they do?  Because most of the time we define our lives by what we do, not who we are.  Yet, God will not let us get away with this.  We were never designed by God to define ourselves by what we do, but rather, we were design by God to define ourselves by who we are in Him.

Think about the concept of the Sabbath.  We were created in the image of God.  God works.  Therefore, when God created man in His image, He created man to work. Work is a God-like activity.  And God created us to find meaning and enjoyment in the God-like activity of work.  However, we were never intended to find our identity in our work.  We were always intended to find our identity in God Himself; not in the work we do.

Consider the Sabbath. God set aside a day for man to cease from His labors and declare, “We are the covenant people of God!  He is our God, and we are His people; the sheep of His pasture!” It was a declaration that our lives are not the fruit of our labor, but rather our lives are a gift from God.  And God calls us to put our trust in Him.  He calls us to trust Him, that if we do not labor, but instead we rest in Him, He will provide for His people.  So, it is only when we trust Him that we can truly rest in Him.  It is only we trust God that we can gladly take a day off from our labor each week and know that neither the world, nor the church, nor our ministries are going to fall apart, because it is God who is holding all things together . . . not us.

Yet, there are many who are in ministry who refuse to take a day off.  They feel there is too much to be done for the kingdom of God to take a day off.  This is simply poor theology.  And theology always works itself out in our practice.  If we really believe that there is too much work to be done to take a day off, then we are saying that we have completely accepted the teaching of this culture that says, “My life is made and defined by the work I do.”

However, God is clear, our identity is not to be found in what we do, but in who we are. Working all the time, never taking a break, neglecting our families or our marriages for the sake of the ministry, is an act of arrogant unbelief.  I’ll say it again: Working all the time, never taking a break, neglecting our families or our marriages for the sake of the ministry, is an act of arrogant unbelief.

You may think that statement is too strong, but consider this: What we are really saying is: “The success or failure of our churches is more dependant upon what we do than what God does.” We are saying, in effect: “We cannot afford to take time off for our families, or our marriages, or even take time off just to rest our bodies because the work that we are doing will all fall apart if we stop working.”

However, this is untrue.  God is the One who builds His Church, not us. Certainly we must work hard, and be faithful to the task that God has given us.  But God is the One who ultimately meets the needs of people in the end, not us.  God is the One who builds His Church, not us.

Therefore, the concept of Sabbath rest is an act of faith.  If we trust God, then we will be free to stop working because life is not the fruit of our labors.  Life is God’s good gift to us.  Life is to be enjoyed.  And we are to worship God with our lives.

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