A Call to Live Rested
Do you struggle with “FOMO” (the “fear of missing out”)? Do you consider your ability (and tendency) to do 5 things at once a virtue or a vice? Did you know that even Jesus, the Son of God, needed to rest sometimes? Join us this Sunday as we again learn from the Master of peaceful living.
How many of you would openly confess you’re hurried? You need to slow your life down.
How many of you are overwhelmed by the pace of life you’re living?
How many of you would like me to just hurry up and get on with the message?
I believe God wants to deliver us from the kind of fatiguing existence that people get sucked into in our world.
And I want to start today by clearing up a potential misconception, which is this — the call to live a rested life is not nostalgia for an era when the pace of life was slower.
The Little House on the Prairie is not coming back. And I would not move there if I could.
I like living in our day.
I like living and working in the Bay Area.
I like being able to get on a plane and fly 2,000 miles to visit my family.
I like the challenge of many activities and strenuous pursuits.
I like to work hard and try to achieve and grapple with complexity.
I think it’s a real good thing to live in our world.
And the call to live as rested people is not a nostalgic longing for an era that’s gone and not coming back.
This is about living in the real world.
But many people in our day and many people in this room have entered into a way of life that is toxic to your soul — that has the potential to destroy your spirit and drain the life out of you.
If your whole life is just a rushed, unblinking movement from one task to the next.
If you find yourself constantly running on fumes, trying to cram more into your days.
If there’s nothing more to your life than just increasing its speed — you’re going to pay a real serious price.
Your heart will become cold, your spirit will become shallow, and you’ll become self-absorbed.
So God gave to the human race a commandment. It’s on one of the most famous lists — the Ten Commandments.
I think this particular commandment may be the most violated of all ten in our day, in our society.
So my task today is to try as best I can to persuade all of us in this room to begin to take this commandment seriously and to try to implement it in our lives.
And I’ll be the first to admit I need this.
This is what God said:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping 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.
This commandment is tied to what God himself did.
The writer of Genesis says during the week of Creation — each day God would work —
He separated the dry land from the water; the earth from the heavens; the light from the darkness.
The sixth day was the highlight of God’s work — God created human beings, male and female, in his own image.
Then Genesis 2 says this:
On 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.
Now here’s what I’d like to point out in this verse.
We would expect Genesis to say, “On the sixth day God finished the work,” because he’d been working all six days.
“On the sixth day he created the man and the woman, and that’s the end of it.”
But the writer doesn’t say that. The writer says God finished his work on the seventh day.
Question: What was God creating on the seventh day?
The very last thing God created was The Sabbath — a holy day.
God created the Sabbath, and then the writer says this amazing thing: “God rested from all of his work.”
God, himself, rested.
Why does he do this?
Clearly, God doesn’t rest because he was exhausted and burned out by what had gone on all week.
God didn’t get to the end of creation week and say to himself, “Thank Me it’s Friday!”
You have to think about that for a second.
God ordained that there was to be a rhythm to existence —
work and rest
activity and reflection
production and then gratitude
God said you need to remember that you are an eternal being. You need to remember that your life is about more than all you can cram into it between now and the grave.
It’s not just a frenzied race.
You’re destined for eternity, and as surely as you sit here in this moment right now, you will occupy every moment of eternity. Your being will never cease. You are an eternal being.
So God said one day a week, “I want eternity to invade time. I want you to remember.”
God said, “I want you to worship, and I want you to play.” You need to play. You need to be renewed physically, emotionally and spiritually.
If you don’t do this… you will become exhausted, obsessive, self-preoccupied, irritable, ungrateful, and all the compassion will get squeezed out of you.
You’ll just skim life instead of living it — skim relationships, skim friendships.
Abraham Heschel, a great writer about the Sabbath, wrote this:
Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth. On the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to someone else. — Abraham Heschel
On the Sabbath we’re to remember what really matters —
Why you were made
What your destiny is
Who you belong to
What the real gain is
I’ll tell you a kind of parable about Sabbath living.
This involves the game of tee ball.
“Last year,” the writer says, “My son played tee ball. This is the bottom step on the 20 rung ladder leading to the major leagues.
The rules for tee ball are different in many ways from the major leagues.
First of all, there are only two teams in our league with 25 kids on each team.
Parents are friendly to each other which will dissolve in several years as the lottery for positions in the major leagues comes closer and closer.
In tee ball, everyone bats each inning, regardless of how many outs there are. In fact, an out is a rare occurrence.
All 25 players play each inning and are littered through the infield, forming a wall of humanity through which it’s virtually impossible for a ball to pass.
On each team there is one player who insists on fielding every ball and then running after the base runner, never throwing it. Balls are never thrown.
If they are thrown, they must either go over the head of the intended recipient or hit them in the back.
Every player who scores has hit a home run no matter how many times the ball has been thrown into the outfield. There is no such thing as an error.
In tee ball, parents go out onto the field to console their children who have skinned their knees or bumped into their neighboring infielder.
And, of course, in tee ball, no one pitches. The ball sits on a plastic tee waiting for the batter to hit it, which happens about once every three batters.
Now, on the other team, there was a girl that I’ll call Tracy.
Tracy came each week. I knew since my son’s team always played her team.
She was not very good. She wore Coke bottle glasses and had hearing aids in each ear. She ran in her own special way, with one leg pulling after the other, and one arm windmilling wildly in the air.
Everyone in the bleachers cheered for her regardless of what team their kid played on.
In all the games I saw, she never hit the ball, not even close. It sat there on the tee, waiting to be hit, and it never was.
Sometimes, after ten or eleven swings, Tracy hit the tee. The ball would fall off the tee and sit on the ground six inches from home plate.
‘Run, Tracy, run!’ yelled Tracy’s coach, and Tracy would lope off to first, clutching the bat in both arms, smiling.
Someone usually woke up and ran her down with the ball before she reached first.
Everyone applauded her.
The last game of the season, Tracy came up and through some fluke, or simply in a nod towards the law of averages, she creamed the ball. She smoked it right up the middle through the legs of 17 players.
Kids dodged as it went by, looked absent-mindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, seemingly gaining speed, hopping over second base, heading into center field.
Once it reached there, there was no one to stop it.
Have I told you? There are no outfielders in tee ball.
There are for the first three minutes in the beginning of every inning, but then they move to the infield to be closer to the action, or at least to their friends.
Tracy hit the ball and stood at home, delighted.
‘Run!’ yelled her coach.
‘Run!’ yelled all of the parents.
All of us stood and screamed, ‘Run, Tracy, run!’
Tracy turned and smiled at us, and she, happy to please, galloped off to first.
The first base coach waved his arms round and round. Tracy stopped at first.
‘Keep going, Tracy, keep going!’ Happy to please, she headed to second.
By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves.
It’s a rule in tee ball that every one of the defending team has to touch every ball.
The ball began to make its long and secured route towards home plate, passing from one side of the field to the other.
Tracy headed to third.
Adults yelled from the bleachers, ‘Go, Tracy, go!’
Her coach stood at home plate calling her as the ball passed over the first baseman’s head and landed in the fielding team’s empty dugout.
‘Come on, Tracy, come on, get a homerun!’
Tracy started for home.
And then it happened.
During the pandemonium, no one had noticed the 12-year-old mutt that had been sleeping in front of the bleachers five feet from the third base line.
As Tracy rounded third, the dog, awakened by the screaming, sat up and wagged its tail at Tracy as she headed down the line.
The tongue hung out, mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped right there, halfway home, 30 feet from a legitimate home run.
She looked at the dog.
The crowd cheered, ‘Go home, Tracy, go home!’
She looked at all the adults, and her own parents shrieking, catching it all on video.
She looked at the dog. The dog wagged its tail.
She looked at her coach. She looked at home plate. She looked at the dog.
Everything went into slow motion.
And she went for the dog.
It was a moment of complete stunned silence.
Then perhaps, not as loud, but deeper, longer, more heartfelt, we all exploded in applause as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog.
Two roads diverged on a third base line. And Tracy went for the dog.
Six days a week, God says, six days a week you go for home plate.
Six days a week you plot strategy and you seek to be more productive.
Six days a week, the world screams, “Run!” and people run until they’re exhausted.
Six days a week you try to build up the score, you go for home plate.
Six days a week, you labor by the sweat of your brow to wring a living out of the earth.
But on the seventh day, the writers of Scripture teach, on the seventh day go for the dog.
On the seventh day, remember what matters.
On the seventh day, remember who you are.
On the seventh day, remember, for God’s sake and for your sake, why it is that you were put on this earth.
On the seventh day remember that the seed of eternity has been planted in your heart, and you will not come to the end of your being when you enter the grave. You are an eternal being.
On the seventh day, remember the God who made you and loves you.
On the seventh day, remember that compassion is greater than winning.
God says, “Six days in a week you run and you labor and you work by the sweat of your brow, but the seventh day is mine.”
I want to talk about the seventh day. I want to talk about the practice of the Sabbath, about why we were made.
In Jesus’ day, a lot of people turned the sabbath into a burden.
In his day, there were all kinds of rules about how you keep it.
For instance, you couldn’t carry a burden on the Sabbath. That would be work, and that’s wrong.
People wanted to know, well, what’s a burden? So they came up with lots of rules, like:
Anything made of iron is a burden. So if your shoes had iron nails, every time you lift them up, you’d be carrying a burden, so you can’t wear them on the Sabbath.
If they’re woven together, even if they’re heavier, that didn’t count as a burden. But if they had iron in them that’s a burden so you couldn’t wear them.
There were dozens and dozens of rules like that.
There was one rabbi — I’m not making this up — who actually wrote that he would not eat an egg if it had been laid by a hen on the Sabbath because then the hen would have been working.
It seems to me it would have been a lot more work for a hen that wanted to lay an egg to have to hold it in all day than to just lay it. I don’t know.
Jesus said, “No more of that nonsense.” In Mark 2 he said:
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
Paul, when he wrote to the church in Rome, in chapter 14, indicated quite clearly that no one day is more sacred or holy than others. All days have been redeemed.
So this day is not about a rule of do’s or don’ts.
I know some of your schedules are such that they might involve sometimes no choice about working on Sundays and so on. It’s not primarily about a particular day or a list of rules about do’s or don’ts.
But we need a Sabbath rhythm in our lives.
I want to challenge us to begin to take the Sabbath seriously, to begin to actually observe it and to make observing it a priority, because I think there’s lots of Sabbath breaking going on in our midst.
I know I’m guilty of this, so this message is for me as much as it is for anyone else here.
God commands us and longs for us to become Sabbath keepers.
So in the time that remains, there are four things I want to suggest Sabbath keepers make part of their lives.
The first one is the first thing the writers of scripture say about the Sabbath.
Just the word rest. The writers of Scripture say on the Sabbath God rested. He quit working.
The Sabbath itself comes from a word that originally meant to cease — just stop and rest.
We ignore this at our own peril.
And some of us do.
There are consequences to not resting.
I’m not a car guy. I like driving fast cars, but I don’t know much about them.
One of the things I’ve had to learn the hard way is the practice of auto maintenance. It doesn’t come naturally for me.
In college I bought an old Nissan Sentra.
In the early days, I followed the owner’s manual pretty well in terms of the maintenance guidelines. But eventually things just started to slide. There were other things to do.
I was busy in school and working and pastoring so I didn’t do the proper maintenance.
And the worse condition the car was in, the less motivated I was to maintain it until eventually it was falling apart.
The hood was rusting out for reasons I never could understand.
The tires were not in great shape.
The alignment was enough of a problem that I had to keep the wheel at a perpetual 20-degree turn just to drive straight.
The engine was reluctant to start, but once it did, it would continue for some time even after I turned the car off and got out of the car.
I remember a guy in college had a 75’ Mustang Cobra in mint condition. It looked like it had just rolled off the assembly line. It was a beautiful car.
The paint was gleaming; the frame was unmarked, unscratched. You could eat off the grill. You could see yourself in the rims.
What sounded like a 10,000-horsepower engine purred underneath the hood like a contented animal. It was like something out of a movie.
This guy looked as perfect as the car did. I said to him one time, “I had no idea anyone could drive something like that.”
He looked at me and looked at my car and said, “I had no idea anyone could drive something like that.”
Question: What was the difference between his car and my car?
It was maintenance. Maintenance… and thousands of dollars.
I can ignore the maintenance instructions from the owner’s manual if I want to, but I’ll pay. It’s just a matter of time.
God says, “I’m going to give you the owner’s manual, and I want to lay out some maintenance instructions for you.”
God says, “I’m creating the Sabbath and on this day you’re to rest. Just stop.”
Rest is a state of body, mind and soul that’s essential for health.
We must be rested to live well. Over the long haul I can’t violate that.
There’s a process through which we restore balance.
We rejuvenate energy.
We regain perspective.
We wipe off the windshield, and problems that have been magnified get downsized appropriately.
We allow our emotions to recover.
And most of all, Sabbath keepers enjoy God. They enjoy being in the presence of God.
God says you need to have a day in the week where you simply don’t do work. You realize it’s possible to say no to overactivity and the frenzied activity of our day.
“No work,” God says.
Don’t talk about it, don’t think about it, don’t plan it. Just rest so your body can be refreshed, your emotions can be renewed, your perspective can be restored.
The question is, are you doing this?
Do you trust God enough? Because this really is a trust issue.
Do you trust God enough to rest or are you actually saying to God, “My devotion to work and success is more important to me than trusting you — I actually don’t trust you. I don’t trust that keeping the sabbath will benefit me.”
Am I just deliberately disobeying him on this one?
Am I a Sabbath keeper or a Sabbath breaker?
God says, “Just rest, people.”
Rest, and you’ll discover an amazing thing.
There’s a real good chance even if you don’t do any work all day on the Sabbath, there’s a real good chance the sun will come up again the next morning; because it isn’t your world.
It was doing pretty well before you came along, and it will probably still be here when you’re gone from it.
It’s God’s world. God created it, and God sustains it, and on the Sabbath day when we rest, we realize that’s true.
Alright, the next thing Sabbath keepers do is: Reflect
They reflect, and this too is built into the process of creation.
We’re told in the opening words of Genesis that God does work — he created the heavens and the earth.
The way God works is real striking. God just speaks, and it’s so. God just says it, and it happens.
Wouldn’t that be a great way to work?
God says, “Let there be light,” and there’s light.
God says, “Let there be darkness,” and there’s darkness.
There’s this refrain that runs through Genesis: “And God said… and it was so.”
Then it gets interesting because God doesn’t just plunge ahead to the next task.
The refrain has three lines repeated over and over and over in Genesis one, “And God said… and it was so… and God saw that it was good.”
One of the amazing things about God — and one of the most frustrating things about him for us — is he’s not in a hurry.
He could have created the whole thing with a snap of his fingers, but he doesn’t. He took time, apparently a lot of time.
At the end of each day, of each period, the writer of Genesis says, “God stands back and reviews what he’s done.” It says in Genesis 1:31
Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!
God reflects on what happened that day. He savors it and muses on it.
Do you do this?
I was aware of a Sabbath time once when I was up at Hume Lake with my daughter when she was really little.
Hume Lake is a place where you have a lot of time. You have time because it is a Sabbath place, and you have time to reflect. I do that quite a bit when I’m up there.
I want to share one of those moments with you. It’s kind of personal, but I’d like to share it with you.
I was canoeing out on the lake with my daughter. It was a gorgeous day — a brilliant sun. We were out on the lake when no one else was around.
The only sounds we could hear were the sounds of nature, just the sounds of creation — birds singing and water lapping against the side of the canoe and wind going through the trees.
All of a sudden, this just kind of came, I wasn’t planning this. It just struck me, “What an amazing daughter I have.”
I thought about her love of nature and beauty and her creativity, and I thought about her intelligence and her quick mind. I thought about how fun she is to be with and about her gifts and the way God uniquely wired her.
I thought about her desire for adventure, and her love for life.
All of a sudden the thought came to me kind of in these words, “And I get to be the father of this magnificent child.”
I don’t mean to idealize this. She certainly isn’t perfect.
She’s a flawed person and so am I, but my heart just welled up inside me because it was just like for a moment I had some sense of what it must be like to see the image of God in someone, which is in everyone.
It’s in the person you’re sitting next to. It’s in you.
But for a moment it was like I had some little tiny sense of what it must have been like for God when God reflected on his work and said, “It’s good. It’s really good.”
Or what it must have been like for God when God thought about you. God thought about the possibility of your existence, and God saw it unmarked by sin or junk.
When God thought about you and your existence on the earth, God said, “It’s good. That’s very good that you should live and exist and bless the earth and be a joy to me. It’s very good.”
For a minute at least, in reflecting, I had some taste of what that must be like — it was a remarkable moment.
But I’ll tell you something. Moments like those don’t happen if we just move from task to task in unblinking obligation mode.
Moments of reflection can become little mini Sabbaths if we allow them to.
One dad told me about a practice of his. He would get home from the end of a long day’s work and go inside and know there were going to be demands placed on him.
So he would just stop and reflect and say a prayer, “God, thanks for this day. Thanks that I get to be a husband. Thanks that I get to be a dad. Help me to remember when I walk through that door, God, these little people are made in your image. Don’t let me rush through this, God. Give me a loving heart.”
I was thinking when he told me that — what would it be like if everyone decided that before they walked through any door, they just said, “I’m just going to be a Sabbath keeper. I’m going to do a little mini Sabbath before I walk through that door and say, ‘God, give me a loving heart.’” Because he’ll do that.
We can have little mini Sabbaths at the end of every day.
We can do what God did at the end of each day in the Creation week. Just review what happened during the day.
And hopefully there will come a moment where you’re filled with gratitude about something. You’ll think, “Man, that was good. God, thank you so much. I’m so grateful.” And you get more connected to him.
You’ll see some things that you did during the day that were really bad, and you’ll say, “God, I’ve got to confess this.”
You’ll see some ways where you really have to change, and you’ll say, “God, help me to become a different person,” and he will.
You’ll see some areas where you’ve got a problem and you don’t know what to do, and you say, “God, give me wisdom,” and he will.
You just review your day, and you say, “There’s some burdens and concerns from this day, God. I’ve got to go to sleep. You’re going to be up all night anyhow, so I’m just going to give them to you and you take care of them. I’m going to sleep.” And he will.
Are you reflecting?
I’m going to give some of you a challenge on this.
I want to be real honest. Some of you are here, and you’re accomplishing a whole lot. You’re running real hard and scoring a lot of runs from early in the morning until late at night, and your life looks pretty impressive.
But the truth about you is prayer has become an afterthought.
You don’t think about God.
Your soul is empty.
You don’t even know your own heart.
Pride is driving you.
Envy is eating at your soul.
Greed is dominating what might have been a generous spirit.
That conscience that could be sensitive has become dull and lazy.
And you may be immersed in sin, and you don’t even know it anymore.
You don’t know your friends.
They don’t know you.
You don’t love your family.
You don’t marvel at the gift of life, just the sheer miracle of waking up in the morning and being alive.
You don’t tremble in the presence of the God of the universe.
You don’t do any of that.
You’re successful maybe, affluent, secure, well thought of, influential… and spiritually dead — bankrupted for God.
The worst part is you don’t even know it.
You just stay real busy. You keep running real fast so you don’t have to face what Jesus said about such people.
Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
You have ears, but you don’t hear. You have eyes, but you don’t see.
I’m asking you:
Will you change?
Will you be still before God?
Will you remember the seed of eternity that is planted in your soul?
Sabbath keepers do that.
I want to give you another challenge on this.
Sometime in the next few weeks, read the gospel of John. Reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus.
Another thing Sabbath keepers do — and this is a great gift — summed up in a word it’s — Recreate
You need, more than you know, to engage in some activities — hobbies or crafts or pastimes or games —
Not because they have some practical value.
Not because they give you business contacts that will make you more successful.
Not because they provide opportunities for you to meet new people.
But things that you do just because they breathe life into you; and remind you that God is just so good.
It reminds you that your worth is not measured by your ability to do work, your production capability, or how many times you cross home plate.
Very often these activities involve the nature that God created because our joy in nature and mastering crafts and playing games and being creative is, in fact, a reflection of the image of God in our lives — that’s the way God is.
C. S. Lewis wrote, “Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern.”
What are the activities that just breathe life into you? The ones that remind you of God’s goodness and restore your soul?
Maybe it’s taking a long hike in nature.
Maybe it’s getting in a car and just driving.
Maybe it’s gardening.
Maybe you have a deep love for music through which God renews you.
Maybe you love to cook and you love to get together with other people who love to cook.
Maybe you love to eat, and you want to get together with people who love to cook.
Maybe it’s just an all-out athletic contest, no holds bar, that breathes life into you, and you feel fully alive.
Sabbath keepers are involved in rest and reflection and recreation. They get re-created.
And then a last word, a beautiful word, one of my favorites — one of the most important things that a Sabbath keeper does is the word Remember
God says in Exodus 20:
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
The word remember is a common connection with the Sabbath.
“Remember,” God says as he explains it, “that once you were slaves in Egypt.
“Remember that at one time you were trapped, you were stuck, you were without hope.” Then he says, “Remember what happened. Remember that I delivered you.
“Remember when the strong, right hand of God plucked you out of hopelessness and gave you freedom. You remember.
“Remember about this world — that I, the Lord your God, created it. You didn’t make it. It doesn’t run according to your word. I created this world, and I’m at work redeeming this world. You remember.”
Sabbath keepers remember.
A friend wrote about something he did with his 10 year old daughter while he was at camp with her one summer. He told his daughter:
“I want to do something with you that’s going to be kind of a sign, kind of a symbol, so we need to take a little walk.”
So they took a walk in the woods and he got some pine needles and crushed them up. He said to his daughter, “Smell them,” and she did.
She said, “It smells just like Christmas.” He said, “Every time you smell that smell, I want you to remember that your dad is crazy in love with you.
“Every year when it’s Christmastime, when a tree gets put up, every time you go through a park or on a hike in the woods, every time you smell that smell, I want you to remember your whole life long, no matter what other memories you have, because you’ll have some really painful memories.
“But in the midst of all those memories, I want you to remember one thing. Someday, many, many years from now, when you’re old and you’ve got white hair and wrinkles and I’ve been gone for a long time, and you smell that smell, I want you to remember that you had a dad that was just crazy in love with you. I want you to remember.”
Isn’t that beautiful?
Well this is what God has done for you and me.
God says, “I love you so much.”
He sent his son, Jesus Christ to be crushed on the cross.
God says, “Every time you see the cross, I want you to remember how much I love you.”
Sabbath keepers remember.
Every time you gather for worship, like we do in here every week — we sing and we worship and we learn — but I think maybe the most important thing we do is we just remember.
With all the other horrible memories in a painful world like this, we remember our father loves us so much. You can’t remember like that without being changed. You can’t.
Alright, let me pray for you.
Blue Oaks Church