Sunday, August 23, 2020

Freedom from Workaholism: The Call to Sabbath Rest

Today we’re talking about the important biblical concept of sabbath rest, as we go through our series of Key Issues of the Faith. We find this command of scripture in the original ten commandments that God gave to Israel through Moses.

Exodus 20:8-11 ESV says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

So the Lord calls us to his blessed rest. God gives us time to work, and time to rest from our work. In life we can get going so quickly. We rush around from here to there, do this, do that, and we drive ourselves crazy.

We always seem to have to have some sort of input on. The tv is on, music is playing, we’re on the computer, on the smart phone, and we’re exhausting ourselves mentally.

For those of you today who are run weary by the busyness of life. There are some words from Jesus that offer encouragement: 

“Matthew 11:28-30 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

When we give our lives to Jesus, and become Christians, we give over the heavy burdens, of our sins, our guilt, our shame, and our brokenness. And all those things we worked for become so much less important.

We all operated in the past from our basic instincts. We obsessively tried to provide security for ourselves, with work, housing, food, and so on. That’s our most powerful instinct, our security instinct. We also tried to provide socializing, and support network around ourselves, through friends and family. That is our social instinct. And we also tried to get that sexual desire fulfilled, whether through dating, marriage, or empty affairs. But that was how we lived, without real rest, constantly desperately trying to fulfill our base desires. And always in a state of quiet fear that somehow, someday we might lose our security, by losing a job, or lose our social network, through the death of a family member, or lose our sexual fulfillment through a divorce or affair.

I saw this sort of desperation play out during the COVID crisis. People who don’t have God in their lives panicked to the extreme. You saw people crazy with fear. Obsessively attempting to prevent sickness.

As Christians we didn’t have to panic over the crisis. We took precautions. We made sure we were safe. But we didn’t go crazy. Because ultimately we know, that God is in charge of the universe. And we can’t control what happens. And we know if we die, we’ll simply wake up in paradise with Jesus. This is a joke to the world, they think we’re foolish, believing myths, but they haven’t really done the research themselves either.

But during the crisis, these non-religious people knew, threw and threw that they were alone, and their only hope was to somehow manipulate events and situations to not get sick, and to somehow rush around to find food, and somehow rush around in a panick to stay safe. I saw it play out with many. They believe they are alone in the universe. They don’t believe in God. So they have to try to play god, and force things to work out just right. Which is hard when you’re facing a pandemic.

But as Christians, instead of selfishly living to fulfill our three base instincts for security, socializing, and sex, we instead have been rocketed into the fourth dimension of existence. We live for God. And we live to serve Him. And we recognize that God is in charge of the universe. We don’t control anything.

There is a great deal of rest available in simply releasing control. Have you released that control over your life to God? That is the first command I make to you today, give control over your life to God. Have you done that practically? Do you pray before you make a big decision? Do you wake up and ask God to guide you through the day?

Now don’t get me wrong, we make decisions every day as Christians. We make decisions about where we’ll go, what we’ll do, who we talk to, and so on. And that’s good, we have choices to make. But always hovering over all that I know that God is in charge, and when big decisions come, I pray to God before I make any decision.

There is freedom in that, let go of the control. I can’t control how life will turn out. I turn it over to you God. Completely. There is peace in that.

God’s in charge. So that’s the first rest I invite you to today, to rest in your mind, stop trying to control everything, and let go, and let God.

Secondly, we consider the day. Sabbath rest is a gift from God brothers and sisters. I try to take one day a week to simply rest. For most of you that day will be Sunday. For a minister like myself, I work on Sunday, but I also treat Sunday as a special day. I don’t buy anything on Sundays. I don’t sell anything on Sundays. Even if I want a snack from the store. I wait until the next day. Even if I have an order I want to place online. I wait til the next day. Sundays are the day of rest. For me, since I work on Sundays, I take Mondays as my rest day. I don’t do any work on Mondays. I simply enjoy prayer, music, movies, television, I enjoy food, and recreation on Mondays, I’ll go for a bike ride, or go for a walk, or go to the beach and just relax and read.

God has designed us for rest. God made the universe and the world in six days. And on the seventh day, God rested. Why would God rest? Does God need to rest? No, God is eternal and infinitely powerful. But God likes to rest, just as you and I like to rest.

Now I know some of you are workaholics. You love to work. But you take it too far. You work seven days a week. And then you and someone else, this is common in the salvation army, will sit down together, and have a contest in conversation as to who is more busy. This is what I call the busy contest. One will say, “Man over this last week I’ve worked 50 hours.” Then the other one will say, “Heh that’s nothing I worked 60 hours. And at my work we had to get a report together and I barely slept Thursday night.” Then the other guy will say, “Yeah well last year I actually slept on a couch at work for four days straight working on our budget.” And so the competition goes, until one of the workaholics has defeated the other workaholic with sheer busyness.

I don’t play the busyness game. I don’t drive myself crazy working 80 hours a week. I set aside time for rest. Because I recognize that I’m not god. If I work 120 hours a week, and I don’t pray, or rest, I’m not gonna get anywhere. But if I work 35 hours a week, and pray an hour a day, God is going to do above and beyond what I could possibly imagine. Because I’m showing God that he is in charge and I’m not. God prefers that. And this is why you’ll see people who work themselves silly, 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a week. And when you look at their ministry, they have little to show for it. But if you work reasonably, and rest, and pray, and give it to God, it’s amazing how God will do more than you could’ve done working 90 hours a week.

Set aside a day of rest. And pray. Let God rush about pulling things together. Fight the battle in prayer. If only we believed in God like we really should. Too many of us treat prayer like a caboose at the end, something to throw in last minute. But instead we should fight the battle in prayer the night before. That’s where the battle is won or lost, in prayer.

Rest. You aren’t God. You can’t force everything to work through sheer hard work. It’s God’s battle not yours, workaholic. Repent. But don’t be lazy either. There’s always balance to these considerations.

Jesus Christ during his three year ministry was very busy. But he also took time to rest. It says, “Mark 6:31 ESV And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”

Take a day. Rest. Eat. Drink water. Seek God on that day. Pray on that day. Read his word on that day. For you it’s Sunday. You come to morning services, for orange Sunday school, for the holiness meeting, then you come again in the evening for dinner church, and in between I hope you’re resting and praying and seeking God. That’s a great thing though, you’re filling your sabbath day with God. I love that!

Thirdly, when we consider rest, we ought to recognize that Jesus Christ is now our sabbath rest. In the time before the coming of Jesus in Israel, the pharisees had developed a very legalistic understanding of what the sabbath was. For the Jews the sabbath was on Saturday, which is considered the last day of the week. The pharisees would have all sorts of rules about keeping the sabbath. If you were caught walking around carrying something, like the man who was caught carrying his mat, to them you had broken the sabbath. One time Jesus followers were walking through a field and they started pulling of the heads of wheat to eat, and the pharisees saw that accused them of doing work on the sabbath, because they were picking the wheat and eating it. Ridiculous right? But to this day, orthodox Jews will practice those sort of intense sabbaths on Saturdays, from sun up to sun down. I’ve seen where the elevator at a building will be set to stop at every floor, because the Jews believe that pushing the button for the elevator is breaking the sabbath.

But Jesus told the pharisees something very simple, Mark 2:27 ESV He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the sabbath rest was a gift from God. It’s for us to enjoy. We’re not made to be enslaved by the sabbath as something we have to drive ourselves crazy on to not do any sort of thing that might look like work.

For us now, Jesus is our rest. We’ve entered the rest of Christ, our sins are gone. Hallelujah. That’s why we celebrate the sabbath rest on Sundays instead of Saturdays, because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, the first day of the week. Isn’t that beautiful?

So in conclusion today, there are two big views of the sabbath, one that we must rigidly obey the sabbath rest. Some would say, like the 7th day Adventist church, that we should be meeting on Saturdays because that was traditionally the jewish sabbath. Others would say Sunday is ok, but we should be much more strict about it. On the other end, the more modern view is that Jesus is our sabbath rest, so we shouldn’t take a day to rest from work at all. Now I would tend more toward the view that we ought to practice a sabbath rest on a single day. We should not work or buy or sell on that day. But we should regard it as a good day, a special day, a beautiful day of connection with God, not a heavy burden. For God’s burden is light. For those who would suggest we shouldn’t sabbath at all, I just wonder where they get this idea from.

Colossians 2:16-17 ESV says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Christ is certainly the substance. We live under the two great commands of Jesus, to love God, and to love others. But do you know what Jesus was summing up with those two great commands? The ten commandments. The ten commandments, commands one through four tell us how to love God. Commands five through ten tell us how to love our neighbor. So to love God properly, we ought to practice a weekly sabbath day of rest. Plain and simple.