Devotional: Sabbath rest is not optional!

June 25, 2015

The following is a devotional I prepared for our church’s weekly email blast.

On Saturday morning I’m leaving for the Dominican Republic on a mission trip, alongside many of our youth—including two of my kids—and other adult leaders and chaperones.

In my absence, I’ve arranged to have a fellow United Methodist pastor “on call” in case of emergency: Rev. David Brackman of the Mt. Carmel-Lovejoy circuit. Susie has his number. Our church’s own Randy Godbee will be preaching the gospel this Sunday. Based on the rave reviews I hear about Randy’s preaching, I know you’ll enjoy his message!

The point is, the church will be in good hands in my absence. I’m not the least bit concerned about that.

There have been times in my life, however, when I have struggled to get away from “my work”—to leave my work behind and trust that everything will be O.K. in my absence. I suspect I’m not the only one!

Research indicates that we Americans are by far the hardest working people on earth. For example, not only do we possess far fewer vacation days than our Western industrialized counterparts in Europe and Japan, most of us don’t even take all of the days that we’ve been given.

Why? Is it simply because we just love our jobs? Maybe in some cases, although, more likely, many of us feel guilty about being away from work. We feel like we’ll fall behind. We feel insecure. We feel like we’re “irreplaceable.”

But consider the scripture I preached on just last week, 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Applying Paul’s words to our work, it’s clear that God has called us to do the jobs we do. God is ultimately our boss. We work for him, not merely for human bosses, supervisors, managers, or (in my case) district superintendents and bishops.

And if that’s true, then we need to trust him when he tells us—as he does in his holy Word—that we are not designed to work all the time; we need to take a break. In fact, taking a break from work, which is another way of describing “Sabbath rest,” is our Christian duty.

But here’s the thing: You don’t get to enjoy Sabbath rest only after the work is finished—because, if you haven’t noticed, the work is never finished. And you don’t get to enjoy Sabbath rest only after you’ve tied up every loose end—because, if you haven’t noticed, there are always loose ends that need to be tied up. And you don’t get to enjoy Sabbath rest only after you’ve found other people to handle your work in your absence—because, if you haven’t noticed, no one can do your job as good as you can.

Sabbath rest is not a matter of trusting in ourselves or trusting in other people to get all the work done; it’s a matter of trusting in God alone. Remember: the Lord is in charge our work. And the Lord isn’t a slavedriver. He came to set us free.

So this new summer season is as good a time as any to remind you to take a break! Enjoy vacation! Enjoy Sabbath rest! And to do so guilt-free!

One Response to “Devotional: Sabbath rest is not optional!”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Agreed in general. However, there are certainly times for exceptions. “If your neighbor’s donkey falls in a ditch on the Sabbath, will you not help him pull it out?” Similarly, if a patient is in need of surgery on the Sabbath, will you not operate on him? Other examples could be devised. When Jesus took his disciples on a boat for a rest, but the crowds moved to where he was going, he had compassion on them and preached anyway. Still, I agree that God did not make us to work all the time and we should take that into account in working out our schedules, including recognizing that by in large we are not “indispensable.”

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