I don’t feel like working today.
I have a headache, it’s one of those mellow rainy days, and my brain is tired- as evidenced by the fact that I initially typed that sentence as “I’m brain is tired.” (Which is one of those statements that just intrinsically confirms itself.)
So I’m not going to.
And you know what? That’s okay.
Because the world doesn’t depend on me.
I know that. We all know that. None of us would actually come out and say “were it not for me, the Earth would stop rotating and explode and all life in the omniverse would cease forever.”
As is often the case, none of us would would say we believe that.
But almost every single one of us lives like we believe that.
The way we structure our lives- working 20 hours a day, setting up email notifications to be pushed directly into our cerebrums every five seconds, etc.- you’d really think we believe we’re Superman… like if I’m not available to leap into action to head off any potential crisis, then the world as we know it is doomed.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work hard and be a productive member of our society/family/Church. We absolutely should.
I’m also not saying that any time we feel we’re not operating at 110% power, we should just drop everything and spend the day on the couch. We absolutely shouldn’t.
But I am saying that every now and then, as we are able, we need to take a day (in addition to our regular days off) as a spontaneous holiday, a day to unplug from work, turn off the phone, and just relax.
Because, you see, there is a Superman.
But it’s not me (or you).
There is a King who is seated on the throne, ruling and reigning.
But it’s not me.
There is a Lord who holds all things together by the power of His Word.
But it’s not me.
There is a God who knows all, sees all, and is working all things together for the praise of His Glory and the good of those who love Him.
But it’s not me.
And when I take a day to rest from work and enjoy everything that He has blessed me with, I am reminded of that.
Because of Jesus, I don’t have to pretend to be a little “god” in charge of my world, holding everything together.
That is his job, and I think he’s pretty dang good at it.
Trust me, He doesn’t need my help, nor yours.
He doesn’t need anything.
He is the self-existent One, or, as my favorite old hymn says, “The Great Unchangeable ‘I AM’, The King of Glory and of Grace.”
To Him be all praise, all glory, and all honor- forever! Amen.
So here is my challenge to you, friend:
Take a day off this week.
Have your own spontaneous holiday.
Enjoy a mini-vacation.
I promise, the world won’t explode without you.
Rest easy in the knowledge that the true King is seated on the throne, and He is not relying on you (or me) to hold the world together.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a comfy chair and a good book calling my name.
I will leave you in the more than capable hands of the great Dr. Tim Keller with some excerpts from his “Words on Wisdom and Sabbath Rest” (below the jump).
The Lord bless you and keep you, friends.
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Some excerpts from Dr. Tim Keller’s “Wisdom and Sabbath Rest”:
“In Ephesians 5, Paul invokes the biblical concept of wisdom:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
The King James Version translates verses 15–16 as, “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the
time, because the days are evil.” Living wisely (or circumspectly) is to a great degree a matter of how we spend
However, applying the principle of “making the most of every opportunity” from a kingdom perspective may be harder today than ever.
Especially in global cities, we find more pressure, fewer boundaries, and less
stability in our daily work than perhaps ever before. Part of the issue is how connected we are through
technology. Part of it is globalization, which creates such enormous economic pressures that everybody is
pushed to their limits.
Employers are trying to get so much productivity out of workers that many of us are being asked to go beyond what is really fair and right.
Even though technology and contemporary idols have created longer and longer work weeks, “do not be
foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Discern God’s will. Long ago someone told me that-
God does not give you more to do in a day than you can actually do
…and I’ve wrestled with that for many years.
We may feel there’s way too much to do, but some of it is not his will.
The pressure is coming from you, or your employer, or your friends, or your parents, or someone else besides God!
So what is the Sabbath about?
According to the Bible, it is about more than just taking time off. After creating the world, God looked around
and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed
what he had made. What does this mean for us? We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy
the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.
Although Sabbath rest receives a much smaller amount of time than work, it is a necessary counterbalance so that the rest of your work can be good and beneficial. God liberated his people when they were slaves in Egypt, and in Deuteronomy 5:12–15, God ties the Sabbath to freedom from slavery.
Anyone who overworks is really a slave.
Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave—to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest.
Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.
Thus Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. We need rest from
the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or
the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s
finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to “walk away” regularly from
your vocational work and rest.
Of course, ”making the most of every opportunity” is not simple.
It never has been simple. Yes, two hours
spent in prayer with God will produce far more spiritual benefits than watching an old Cary Grant movie;
Yet, recreation is something you must have!
Mental refreshment is part of a balanced diet for the body and soul, so prayer cannot replace all recreation, exercise, and so on.
Sabbath encompasses several different types of rest, as outlined below.
1. Take some time for sheer inactivity.
Most people need some time every week that is unplanned and unstructured, in which you can do whatever
you feel like doing. If your Sabbath time is very busy and filled with scheduled activities of “recreation” and
ministry, it will not suffice. There must be some cessation from activity or exertion. This pause in the work
cycle is analogous to Israel’s practice of letting a field lie fallow every seventh year to produce whatever
happened to grow (Leviticus 25:1–7). The soil rested so over-farming would not deplete its nutrients and
destroy its ability to keep producing. Whatever came up in the soil came up. You need some unscheduled time
like that every week to let come up—out of the heart and mind—whatever will.
2. Take some time for avocational activity.
An avocation is something that is sheer pleasure to you, but that does require some intentionality and gives
some structure to your Sabbath rest. In many cases an avocation is something that others do for ”work,” which
is analogous to occasionally planting a different crop in a field to replenish the nutrients and make the soil
more fertile for its normal crop.
Include these elements:
• You need some contemplative rest. Prayer and worship are a critical part of Sabbath rest, from any
perspective. Regular time for devotion, reading the Scripture, and listening to God forms the basis for inner
rest and provides time away from the more exhausting exertions of life.
• You need some recreational rest. The Puritans and others were rightly skeptical of recreations that required
spending a great deal of money and time and exertion, because those types of recreations exhaust people. Be
careful that recreation really refreshes.
• You need to include aesthetic rest. Expose yourself to works of God’s creation that refresh and energize you,
and that you find beautiful. This may mean outdoor things. It may mean art—music, drama, and visual art.
God looked around at the world he made and said it was good, so aesthetic rest is necessary for participating
in God’s Sabbath fully.
3. Consider whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.
When planning your Sabbath rest, ask yourself what really “recharges” you. This self-assessment can help
you determine how relational your Sabbath time should be. Introverts tend to spend their energy when out
with people and recharge their batteries by being alone. Extroverts tend to spend energy in personal work
and recharge their batteries by getting out with people. If you are a real introvert, be careful about trying to
maintain all of your community-building relationships during your Sabbath time. That would be too
draining. On the other hand, relationship-building could be one of the greatest things a true extrovert could
possibly do. Don’t try to imitate an introvert’s Sabbath rhythms if you are an extrovert or vice versa! Recognize
that some avocational activities take you into solitude, while some take you out into society.
4. Don’t necessarily count family time as Sabbath time.
Do a realistic self-assessment of “family time” and how it affects you. Family time is important, but parents
need to be very careful that they don’t let all of their regular Sabbath time be taken up with parental
responsibilities. (Introverts especially will need time away from the kids!) Keeping all of these things in good
balance may be virtually impossible when your children are very young, but this too will pass.
5. Honor both micro- and macro-rhythms in your seasons of rest.
Israel’s Sabbath cycles of rest-and-work included not only Sabbath days but also Sabbath years and even a Year
of Jubilee every forty-nine years (Leviticus 25:8–11). This is a crucial insight for workers in today’s world. It is
possible to voluntarily take on a season of work that requires high energy, long hours, and insufficient weekly Sabbath time. A new physician has to work long hours in a residency program, for example, and many other
careers (such as finance, government, and law) similarly demand some sort of initial period of heavy, intense
work. Starting your own business or pursuing a major project like making a movie will require something
similar. In these situations you have to watch that you don’t justify too little Sabbath by saying you’re
“going through a season”—when in actual fact that season never ends.
If you must enter a season like this, it should not last longer than two or three years at the most. Be accountable
to someone for this, or you will get locked into an “under-Sabbathed” life-style, and you will burn out. And
during this “under-Sabbathed” time, do not let the rhythms of prayer, Bible study, and worship die. Be creative,
but get it in
‘Injecting’ sabbath into our work lives:
I have come to see that if you develop the foundation and inner rest of Sabbath, it will not simply make you
more disciplined about taking time off, but it will also lead you to be less frantic and driven in your work itself.
This is perhaps the most important application of Sabbath, where we can truly act as a counterculture, and
here’s how it works.
Associated with the Sabbath laws were “gleaning laws”
…such as Leviticus 19:9, in which field owners were not allowed to “reap to the very edges” of their fields. They had to leave a percentage of grain in the field for the poor to come and harvest.
Sabbath, then, is the deliberate limitation of productivity, as a way to trust God, be
a good steward of your self, and declare freedom from slavery to our work.
In concrete terms this is the hardest thing to do, because it’s a heart matter. Personally, this has meant
deliberately setting fewer goals for myself in a given day and week, rather than harvesting “out to the edges.’”
In global cities, many people are stingy with their money yet freely give their bodies away. By contrast, we
Christians are stingy with our bodies and generous with our money. Likewise, many people are willing to
mortgage their souls to work…
…but at a certain point Christians have to say, “I’m willing to set fewer goals, not go up the ladder as fast, and even risk not accomplishing as much, because I have to take Sabbath time off. And ultimately, I don’t need to be incredibly successful. I can choose this path of freedom because of the inner rest I’ve received from Jesus Christ through what he has done for me.”
You have to actually inject this Sabbath rest into your thinking and into your work life.
Some of our work worlds are institutionally structured toward overwork.
Sometimes you have to “pay your dues” in the early stages of your career when you’re in a season of hard work (as I mentioned previously) or are trying to gain
some credibility in your field. When you’re more established in your field, you may be able to moderate your
However, at some point, even if that doesn’t happen, you will have to trust God and honor Jesus—
who is Lord of the Sabbath—by practicing Sabbath and risk “falling behind” in your career.
It may happen that you will fall behind, and yet retain your sanity. Or it may be that God will allow you to
keep moving ahead in your career despite your practice of Sabbath and the “gleaning” principle.
It is up to him.
The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the
pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to
any material object or human expectation.
The Sabbath is a sign of the hope that we have in the world to come.”
-Dr. Tim Keller (www.redeemercitytocity.com)