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The world or your ministry may not give you permission to stop, but God does.

All my life, I’ve been taught how to go and go faster; no one ever taught me how to stop.

When I was six I got my very first bike at Christmas. It was a Vroom bicycle with motorcycle handlebars, and it made the sound of a motorcycle engine. There was just one problem. I didn’t know how to ride a bike.

So, on a cold December day, my dad took me out to teach me. He walked alongside, holding the bike as I slowly learned to pedal and keep my balance. It wasn’t long before my dad pointed the bike back toward the house and told me I was on my own.

Well, I did great until I arrived. I knew how to go, but I didn’t know how to stop. I panicked and decided the only way was to run into our car. As you can see, learning to stop is a lifelong problem for me.

Embracing Rhythms

In recent years I’ve begun to understand the importance of stopping and have begun to embrace a theology of rest. I have come to understand the importance of rhythm. We live in a universe defined by rhythm. As you inhale and exhale, your breathing has rhythm. Your heart beats in rhythm, and you have brainwaves that move in rhythm.

The seasons of the year are all about rhythm. Farming has a rhythm of planting, growing, and harvesting. The ocean waves have rhythm as the tide comes in and goes out. Even building muscle is marked by the rhythm of workout and recovery.

In fact, the reality of rhythm traces its roots all the way back to creation. After God completed his work, he rested on the seventh day. He certainly did not rest because he was worn out from six straight days of creating. He rested to model rhythm.

After God completed his work, he rested on the seventh day. He certainly did not rest because he was worn out from six straight days of creating. He rested to model rhythm. Click To Tweet

This seventh day, the day of rest, was so important that God blessed it and declared it holy. The first thing the Bible ever declared holy was not an object or a place, but a “time,” a twenty-four-hour period called Sabbath.

The world or your ministry may not give you permission to stop, but God does. In fact, he has commanded that we stop and rest.

The world or your ministry may not give you permission to stop, but God does. In fact, he has commanded that we stop and rest. Click To Tweet

In her practical book on Sabbath, Lynne Baab reminds us that Sabbath isn’t about resting only when everything has been completed. “Sabbath is God’s gracious ‘five o’clock whistle’ that gives me permission to stop and lay down my tools, ready or not.”

God’s “top-ten list” included the command to observe the Sabbath. This is the longest of the Ten Commandments, with the most explanation attached to it. If we take seriously God’s commands about adultery, coveting, stealing, lying, and idolatry, we also should take him seriously when it comes to practicing Sabbath.

My own addiction to speed and noise and productivity has made the practice of Sabbath incredibly challenging. Who knew “doing nothing” could be so hard?

The Importance of Sabbath

When I first started trying to practice Sabbath, I hated it. It was not enjoyable or spiritual. It felt like detox. I kept wanting to check e-mail or work on a ministry project or whittle down my to-do list. I was so driven and overloaded that slowing down actually felt uncomfortable. And even when my body was still, internally I was still amped.

Over time I’ve learned that Sabbath is not a have-to, it’s a get-to. This incredible gift from God allows us to reflect, restore, replenish. During Sabbath God whispers, “I’m in control. The world can get along without you for twenty-four hours.” We are not as indispensable as we think.

When I practice Sabbath I find that I’m more present. I tend to do a better job of living in the moment and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. I notice the beauty of creation more easily. I listen a little better, and I feel more joyful.

Practicing Sabbath is like getting a weekly perspective adjustment. When I stop and reflect and pray and spend time with God, I’m reminded of what’s most important.

Practicing Sabbath is like getting a weekly perspective adjustment. When I stop and reflect and pray and spend time with God, I’m reminded of what’s most important. Click To Tweet

Living in the twenty-first century is like being in a jar of muddy river water. Only when the jar remains still will the sediment drop to the bottom and the water once again become clear. Sabbath keeping helps me see God and life more clearly.

Through Sabbath I am learning that my significance is not wrapped up in my productivity. On Sabbath, I am not Lance the pastor, Lance the leader, Lance the financial provider, or Lance the Replenish guy. I am simply a beloved son.

Through Sabbath I am learning that my significance is not wrapped up in my productivity. Click To Tweet

I love Pete Scazzero’s template for practicing Sabbath—Stop, Rest, Delight, and Contemplate.

  • Stop. Put productivity on hold for twenty-four hours.
  • Rest. For some of us the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap.
  • Delight. Isaiah 58 talks about enjoying and delighting in Sabbath. Sabbath is a day to enjoy what God has created.
  • Contemplate. Take time to “be” with God. The seventh day is a Sabbath “to the Lord.”

Maybe as you consider the practice of Sabbath, you’re filled with questions about how this would look practically.

Or maybe in light of your season of life or responsibilities, the practice of Sabbath feels unrealistic. I want to challenge you to wrestle with this biblically and then have some serious conversation with your family or ministry team about developing a healthy rhythm.

I don’t know exactly what it will look like for you, but Sabbath is helping me become a better Christ follower and a better person.

I encourage you to check out two other articles I’ve written recently. Rest and a healthy soul is more important now than ever.

How Is It With You Soul?

The Need for Speed: Why an Insane Pace Isn’t the Price Tag of Effective Leadership

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