Simply put, Sabbath is a day of rest.
It’s a gift, one of God’s most precious gift’s to His people – and we seriously need it!
Our amazing God is so good, caring and loving that He has provided for us an entire day in our week for rest. In the Old Testament, God created this Sabbath day as part of a series of rules to make His people distinct from all others, while forcing them to rely on Him to accomplish in 6 days a week what other people (who worked endlessly) achieved in 7 days.
Sometimes we look at God’s directives as restrictive rules. But that really is not the case – in fact many of Jesus’ controversies with the Pharisees and other religious leaders focused specifically around the Sabbath, and Jesus’ belief that the Sabbath should not be surrounded by legalism and rule-keeping, but instead freedom. That’s what led Jesus to declare in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
God created a day of rest for us, because He knows how easily we become depleted without regular rest. God isn’t about creating rules to be mean or to make life tough – no, just the opposite.
And God wants to show us what real life looks like.
In the same way that a baby needs to learn how to sleep, eat, walk and talk, we too have to learn what it’s like to live in God’s realm. We are so used to living in the world of fear, death and decay. But that’s not God’s world. God’s world is filled with life, grace and love. True love, life giving love.
Our God is a God of love.
And that is what God is offering you and me when He tells us we need to rest, just as it is written in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
And by the way, what an amazing rule! Seriously, imagine our lives without any break from work. Just an endless cycling of waking up, getting to your work as soon as possible, finding only a couple hours perhaps before bed to rest, only to repeat the cycle over and over.
God knows this is too much for us; He knows that our bodies and minds need relaxation. We need breaks! So the wonderful God that He is, created a rhythm for us to follow and that is to break each week and rest.
This is what the author of Hebrews tells us, “There still remains a place of rest, a true Sabbath, for the people of God because those who enter into salvation’s rest lay down their labors in the same way that God entered into a Sabbath rest from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 The Voice)
But the question is: “How do you rest?”
In the Christian tradition, Sabbath usually occurs on Sunday.
Going to church should be a point in your week where you become refreshed in God’s presence. Where you meet Him in worship, in word (both spoken and written), through other believers, in prayer, and possibly through serving.
But practicing the Sabbath through church attendance does not always equate to rest.
Church has become a busy place. As a professional minister, I know this very well! Sundays have been some of the busiest days in my life, and certainly my week. There’s just so much to do. So many people to talk to. So much to accomplish. Sunday, for me, is often the least restful day of the week! That’s why I often choose another day of the week to be my Sabbath, usually a Friday.
I know you may not be a professional church employee, but lack of rest on Sunday isn’t just reserved for clergy. I have seen many volunteers operate in this capacity too! They have Sunday school class to teach, coffee to put out, people to greet, worship to lead.
There is a serious risk of church turning into another task to accomplish for the week – a stressful time not a restful experience. I know this may not be true for you who is reading it, but it is a problem for a lot of Christians because Church should be the place that enables us to step deeper into our restful Sabbath.
Because Sabbath is about rest and rest in God.
It’s not about doing, but about being. And being with God.
And once church service lets out, the Sabbath still continues.
Often times, Sunday afternoons become an opportunity for adults to do projects or chores around the house. I know it’s a perfect time to get things done.
“Went to church, check! Now I have the rest of the day to catch up on everything else that needs done.”
We need a whole day and believe me I know it is hard to say no to things that “need” to be done in order to do “nothing.” But it’s that nothing that you need. You need to do nothing. Nothing that is that’s work-related, at least. Nothing that is stressful. and nothing that isn’t restful.
I’m not a legalist by any means. All I am trying to do is awaken your heart to how you are practicing Sabbath and how well you are resting in God.
In our current cultural climate, we work ourselves to the bone, and then guess what happens? We get burned out. We turn agitated. And we get hostile. Our relationships suffer and often fall apart. All because we are tired and are not refueling where there is an endless supply of life.
We need rest.
And God is waiting for you to take it with Him.
25 Creative and life-giving ways to make the most of your Sunday
- Attend church purposefully, thinking of it as an oasis for your soul. Check out this post on how to prepare your heart for worship, find it here.
- Enjoy nature. Spend sometime in God’s creation. Go to the park or a lake. Take in His splendor.
- If you can play a musical instrument, learn a new Christian worship song. If not, find someone you may know who plays a musical instrument and worship together.
- Creatively retell Bible stories with your family. Work on acting a story out or making a modern parable.
- Make a prayer box for a loved one. This is one of my favorite gift ideas, especially for kids. What’s great about this prayer box, if you are making it for your kid, is that you can read together the prayers each night. It’s an amazing bonding experience and a great way to introduce children to heartfelt prayers. Check out our post here.
- Find a relaxing activity and spend sometime resting in the Lord. We have a great at home free retreat that will help you rest in God you can find here.
- Do a social media or TV fast. Replace your time on social media or watching TV for time with God.
- Take a walk with God, get outside and breathe in the fresh air! A friend of mine from seminary, Sharon, would always do this. She would walk the trials and speak out loud to God. She fully embraced God’s presence with her and she simply just verbally communicated with God. Sharon had a deep prayer life and a deep connection with God I was always in awe with, maybe she knows something about communicating with God that we all could learn.
- Listen to your favorite sermon online, for great sermons check out Passion City Church. You can find there amazing sermons here.
- Make a war binder. Alicia from HopeDreamJournal.com has a post on how to make a war binder you can find here.
- Take some time to reflect on service/mission. Examine where you are serving (or not serving) currently and ask God to open your eyes and heart to opportunities to extend grace to His creation, people.
- Explore a section of Scripture you don’t know much about. See what God opens up to you by listening to His voice as you read. Use a commentary for better expansive knowledge.
- Make a birthday bag for children in a shelter. Courtney has a wonderful idea for this concept and it’s something you can do with your kids! Check out her post here.
- Take your favorite worship song, write it out, and use it as a prayer.
- Take a prayer walk/run, praying as you go for all of the things you see.
- Find an activity with a slower pace, like gardening, and create some intentionality to do it with God.
- Start a prayer notebook. Go to the craft store and have fun! Leigh Ann from IntentionalByGrace.com has a post on making a prayer journal you can find here.
- Schedule a lunch with a friend you are praying for. Take the opportunity to have a conversation about their prayer request. Remind them that you are praying for them and are journeying with them in their need. This is so important, as you are becoming the hands and feet of Jesus for your loved one by following up with them and staying on top of their concerns.
- Create your favorite worship songs playlist. Spend some time thinking and looking for your favorites and compile them into a list you can easily access whenever you need a worship moment!
- Create a spiritual sanctuary in your home. I love this idea! For this idea, check out a great resource from Samantha at HeavenOnEarthBlog.com.au – check out her post here.
- Grab a Christian coloring book and color some Scripture. I have done this in my own life and it is a great way to connect with God and saturate your heart with His word. Check out my post here.
- Take a chapter of the Bible and outline the main points. Reflect what this might mean for your personal walk with God and where He may be leading and guiding you.
- Make a kindness bag for someone in need. Sarah Ann, from FaithAlongTheWay.com, has an amazing idea from a simple observation on Black Friday that prompted this God-driven concept. Find her post here.
- Spend time connecting with God through prayer. Check out these prayer practices that may assist you. Find them here.
- Make Scripture memorization cards. We have a post that walks you through how to make pretty cards that will help you soak in God’s Word wherever you are, check it out here.
And finally everything you do today should be done through the understanding that God is with you.
Take hold of your Sabbath and radically change it by incorporating the spiritual exercise of Practicing the Presence.
Practicing the Presence is a spiritual discipline that helps you become aware of God’s presence always with you. As you have the Holy Spirit residing with you, you are literally walking with God each moment of the day. Practicing the Presence is consciously drawing your attention to this wonderful reality. So as you go about your daily activities, washing the dishes, driving to work, doing paperwork welcome God’s presence into the task with you. Whatever ideas from the list above you may choose, remember God is with you and become aware of that reality by inviting Him into the activity.
For example, as you go about your Sabbath, recognize that God’s presence is with you. God is with you at church. He is with you at lunch. With you while you play a game. With you while you do a craft- God is with you. Keep that in the forefront of your mind.
Look for ways to rest on your Sabbath, and rest and live in God’s presence and His love. See what happens when you start to take on a new intentionality in your Sabbath, it might just change your life!