Practicing Sabbath

iStock-1317367958Practicing Sabbath


Have you ever experienced the supreme disappointment of going to Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday only to remember they are closed?

When Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A, opened his first restaurant in 1946, he decided to keep the doors closed on Sunday, and the Closed-on-Sunday policy is still in effect today.

According to Chick-Fil-A, “While many question the chain’s policy and how Chick-fil-A could forgo sales on one of the busiest days for food service, Cathy answers challengers by saying closing on Sunday is one of the best business decisions he has ever made. […] Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the “Lord’s Day.” […] Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people.”

While Chick-Fil-A still practices the Closed-on-Sunday policy, many Americans have done away with the “Lord’s Day.”

A study by Deseret News found, “Half of U.S. adults today (50 percent) say the Sabbath has personal spiritual meaning for them, down from 74 percent in 1978.”

There are probably many reasons this is true. One is that our lives are busy, and we seldom have one day of the week that doesn’t have a giant to-do list. Another reason is that people don’t understand the value of practicing sabbath.

Priscilla Shirer writes, “It is time for us to breathe and build margin into our lives for God. Sabbath was intended as a gift, and it is still a gift to us today. If you are weary, worn out, and exhausted the concept of sabbath will change your life.”

As you read today’s blog, we hope you’ll come to appreciate sabbath for the gift that it is.

What Sabbath Really Is

Let’s start with defining sabbath.

The Bible begins with the creation story. After God created the world and all that lives in it, He rested.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

– Genesis 2:2-3

Did God actually need to rest?

The Hebrew word for “rested” here is shâbath. This word doesn’t communicate rest because you’re tired but rest in order to celebrate. In fact, the same word can be translated, “celebrate” or “delight.”

God set apart a day for delighting in His good creation.

Not only did he set this day aside for rest, but He also made it holy. This seventh day was holy because there was something uniquely special in it than the other six days.

This creation story eventually became the grounds for what we now know as sabbath, a regular rhythm of work and rest.

Our Lives Don’t Leave Room for Sabbath

The problem is that even though the creation story includes sabbath, most people’s lives today don’t leave room for it. Life seems to have become about doing more, making more, and getting more, and in all of this, we have begun to look more like human doings than human beings.

The country group Alabama had a popular song called “I’m in a Hurry” with these lyrics:

I'm in a hurry to get things done

Oh, I rush and rush until life's no fun

All I really gotta do is live and die

Even I'm in a hurry and don't know why

How many of you can relate to these lyrics? When your life is spent hurrying, you don’t leave room for sabbath.

Our Hurried Lives Hurt Us

The truth is that our hurried lives hurt us.

Corrie Ten Boom said, “If the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy.”

We have been left restless, broken, and rushed. This has caused emotional instability, relational strife, and spiritual apathy. How often do you ask someone how they are doing, and the first word that comes out is “busy?”

For Christ-followers, this hurrying hurts our ability to do what Christ calls us to do: love others. When you are hurried, you are not loving. You are not loving God, others, or yourself.

Sabbath is a gift from God to us so that we might rest ourselves in His love for us and might become so saturated in that love that we then become people of love.

Jesus Recognized the Meaning of Sabbath

When Jesus was questioned about the sabbath law, he shocked his listeners with a catchy phrase but a profound truth. He said, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

What did Jesus mean?

Jesus is pointing out that sabbath is no longer a burdensome command but a beautiful reality.

Sabbath is not your gift to God, rather it is God’s gift to you.

What Happens When We Resist the Gift of Sabbath

Too often, we resist God’s gift of sabbath. And we suffer the consequences.

There can be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll.

There is a deep need to stop and rest at a biological level. When we don’t, we risk our physical and mental health.

Plus, it hinders our productivity. Studies have shown many times that more work does not equal more productivity. In fact, the opposite is true.

When we resist sabbath, we run ourselves spiritually and emotionally dry.

Truths Learned in Sabbath

Practicing sabbath teaches us several things, including,

  1. I am loved apart from my performance.
  2. I am freed from the role of holding everything together.
  3. I am blessed with the opportunity just to be present.
  4. I am kept in the care of Almighty God.

Moreover, Sabbath rest is a witness to the power of the gospel and good news of Jesus.

The grace of God in Jesus Christ has enabled us to rest, not for God’s love, but because of God’s love.

How to Practice Sabbath

Shâbath is literally to stop or cease. But, more than that, practicing sabbath is stopping, resting, delighting, and contemplating.

  • Stop – We cease all work, paid or unpaid. We embrace our limits. We come to grips with the fact that it is God who is running the show.
  • Rest – We nap, read, eat good food, listen to a podcast, sit on the back porch with afternoon tea. We pause and breathe in the oxygen that God blesses us with.
  • Delight – We enjoy the good life that God has given to us. This includes but isn’t limited to our marriage, our family, nature, etc.
  • Contemplate – We reflect on the love of God and the salvation he has given to us. Sabbath is a day where our minds can be filled with thoughts of God, who he is, and what he has done for us. Consider journaling, singing worship songs, or meditating.