The elevators are full of tired people who needed to return to work in order to rest from their long, three-day weekend. I think we are missing the point of the holiday! Our constant, 24/7 culture is wearing people out. Rest has become synonymous with the picture of someone slumping down in a chair, exhausted from activity. Even when a person slumps down in that chair, he or she will probably reach for a television remote or laptop computer. The true meaning of rest is more than just ceasing physical activity, it means ceasing all activity. Most of us have lost sight of an important commandment. God told us to rest, and he wasn’t making a suggestion.
God created us to need rest. Spiritually, we cannot know God and his presence in our lives, unless we rest from the other activities of the world. Attending church can become another activity. Christians know worship is important. Christians know that Sunday morning church attendance is important. A lot of Christians don’t know that attending church doesn’t guarantee they will worship. Warming a spot in a pew or chair doesn’t mean that God’s heart will be warmed by your worship. Did you sing to God last Sunday, joyfully meaning the intent of the lyrics? Did you pray to God, seeking him – or did you bow your head and listen to someone else’s words? What did God say to you through the Bible passage and the pastor’s sermon? Were you resting from every other thought, so that you could rest in God’s presence?
Sundays are for rest. Resting in God’s presence is one way to worship him. I know that if you have small children who were squirming in the pew it was difficult to think of anything else. I remember sitting with two small boys every Sunday, with no help from Dad. He was up on the platform preaching. (We did sit fairly close to the front however, so he could send the look that said stop now or we talk later!) There were a lot of weeks when I wondered if I would ever worship again…but I did. I learned that my best worship took place when I took my walk, or put on my music, or simply turned off every other distraction so that I could focus only on God. You can rest from the world and worship everyday.
When God instituted the Sabbath the culture was very different. Human nature however is fairly consistent. The ancient culture could not eat if they did not fix a meal. People could not survive if they did not go somewhere to get water. Restaurants, plumbing, grocery stores and washing machines were not even a part of people’s imaginations yet. God knew that people would work all the time, if he didn’t command them not to. The focus of life became surviving this world instead of living eternally in the next one. If we don’t rest from this world, we won’t stay focused on things eternal. So God commanded us to rest.
I was teaching a lesson on the Sabbath and after preparing the lesson I was very convicted. I did not know one single person who kept the Sabbath commandment. In fact, most of us who were church staff or teachers were most exhausted Monday mornings because of our Sunday schedule. That is when I pursued the subject with God. Here were some practical changes I made after that time:
- I taught my boys that it was their choice whether they wanted to listen to the worship service or not. That was between them and God. I told them that they were not allowed to disturb my worship or the worship of anyone else around them. If they did, that would be between them, God and their two parents. Interestingly, the boys settled down. They learned that they had a responsibility to worship, that I, and the others around them, needed to worship, and that the rest of their week depended on them doing a good job in the pew on Sunday. Both boys are in ministry today. They both were faithful to worship in college and continue to worship today. Craig became a worship leader and is now my teacher on the subject! It worked out pretty well.
- My boys had to bring their laundry to me on Saturday if they needed something for Monday. The washing machine didn’t run on Sundays.
- The boys played with each other on Sundays because that was a family day. They “rested” from friends except for at Sunday School and other church activities. (I did give this one up in the teen years, however.)
- We didn’t rest from football games or other television – but typically we didn’t watch a lot of TV on Sundays and if we did, it was mostly together as a family.
- The Sabbath day should be a day of resting from other priorities in order to focus on God’s.
I’m sure there were flaws in my ideas of Sabbath rest and I clearly remember some bad Sundays! The best I could seem to do was try to make Sundays different by making them special. I tried to show that nothing else should ever take priority over obedient focus on God.
If you are reading this exhausted from a three-day Labor Day holiday, then allow yourself a brief rest from everything else right now so that you can seek God. What would he lead you to do, or more importantly not do, on Sundays from this day forward? Pray and ask him. He wants to answer that question in our lives.
God loves you and he loves your family. He wants all of us to rest and remember what matters most. I hope next Sunday, and every Sunday from here on will be a better, more holy Sabbath than before. Mark 2:27 says it perfectly, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Rest wasn’t just God’s command, it was his great and perfect gift. Enjoy it.