Working from Rest
By Tom Herrick
A few weeks ago, popular author Max Lucado tweeted, “God created the universe in six days; He rested on the seventh. His message? If creation didn’t crash when I rested, it won’t crash when you do!” Ouch! Pastors and church planters often have a hard time taking a Sabbath. There is so much to do and such little time to do it. I can hear you now, “If I don’t do this, who will?’
I know making time for Sabbath is difficult. I write as a fellow struggler. That being said, I also know the great relief God provides when I honor the Sabbath, as He command. A few months ago, my Titus staff leaned on me to begin taking a day off again. Their concern also provided a very helpful accountability, and it has been wonderful to see the fruit a weekly day of rest has given. Yes, doing ‘nothing’ has borne fruit! So why is it that observing the Sabbath is so difficult for some of us?
I believe it begins with the rhythms we learn as children. Our day begins at dawn and we get busy right away. It is helpful to note that ancient Hebrew culture marks time differently than we do in 21st century America. For them, the day began at sundown and all work was done after having rested. For those of us raised in the ‘performance-oriented’ western world, we work first, then rest—after the work is done (which it never is!).
Learning to re-orient and work from rest is not only biblical, but a deeply spiritual discipline. We learn to breathe, to exhale, and to listen to God throughout our day. That ongoing conversation is meant to provide necessary limits and constraints. Without them, we are at the mercy of the demands of others or, worse yet, of our own internal pressures.
Recently, Jenni Bartling, a Titus regional director, asked me what impact consistently taking a day off has had on my to-do list. As I thought about her question, I realized there have been no negative effects. I am accomplishing as much (if not more) as I was when I was working seven days a week!
Again, I am a fellow struggler. Christians aren’t bound by Old Testament Sabbath directives. But GOD rested on the seventh day. What keeps you from doing so?
Here are some tips that are helping me to honor the Sabbath:
- Look forward to a day of rest! Block out a day (it helps to make it the same one each week) in your calendar, and protect it.
- Have accountability. There is grace, of course, but it is helpful to know my team is going to ask me about my calendar and the Sabbath I’m carving out.
- Look for the fruit. After practicing the Sabbath for a few weeks, look at your to-do list, and be realistic about how far behind you are. You’ll be amazed at the productivity that comes with working from rest.
- Know God is behind you on this! As Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew writes, “The Sabbath is an old but beautiful idea that, in our frantically harried and meaning-starved culture, cries out to be rediscovered and enjoyed by people of all faiths. The Sabbath was given as a gift from God to everyone.”
Learning to work from rest creates in us a habit of centered obedience. This doesn’t come naturally or easily, but it is worth the effort. Once we make the transition, we begin to experience the deep satisfaction that comes from walking with and allowing God to “make straight” our paths (Prov 3:5-6). There is nothing that compares to sharing life with the Lover of our souls this way.
These summer months give us a great opportunity to begin a Sabbath practice. As one who is recently rediscovering this, I heartily encourage you to get started. Trust me – your work will be there when you get back to it.