Graeme Anderson - Senior Pastor Northside Baptist Church
The life giving habit that I want to talk about today is Sabbath. Sabbath is simply taking a day - 24 out of the 168 hours on offer each week - and receiving the opportunity to rest from accumulating, possessing, and protecting. We listen to the words of 1 Timothy 6:17, don't put your hope in your wealth, which is so uncertain, but put your hope in God, who richly provides you with everything for your enjoyment.
At its simplest, this habit teaches us to place our confidence in God. At its most profound, it teaches us to sleep - deep, restful, replenishing sleep.
None of these habits are acts of righteousness, they will in no way change your standing before God. (Although Sabbath has I think the closest the Bible comes to mandating out of any of the habits...and also perhaps the one we struggle with the most.) This simply creates a space in our week to be shaped by the grace of God.
A sabbath is much more than merely a day off. It is an intentional day of rest and trust. It begins at sunset, with a meal (I love the fact that for this culture, the day began at sunset, it meant that the first 8 hours of the day were spent sleeping - so when you wake, you're simply joining in a day that has safely got underway while you checked out).
Ideally, a day of Sabbath rest will include a time of worship and receiving God's word, a time of fellowship (ideally around a table), and a time of quiet relaxation (let's call it a holy waste of time).
'But I'm so busy...I'm so time poor.' Is the usual response I get when I talk about Sabbath. Again, this simply comes from a sense of lack and helplessness. We each have 168 hours a week that we can receive with gratitude. The way we fill them is our choice. Let's together choose to banish that phrase - we have plenty of time, our issue is that we’re choosing to max it out.
The perfect Sabbath for Jen and I begins on Thursday evening with what we call family date night. After sleep, there is time on Friday morning for reading or listening to a podcast. Then wasting time with family and friends. It sounds lovely, and it is lovely, when it works, which is not all the time. It does take intentional planning and communication for it to work. It also takes discipline.
I know there are emails and texts backing up on a Friday, I know that Sunday is coming and the sermon might not be ready. It is always tempting to check in or do an hour. But I choose not to place my confidence in my productivity, or an apparent work ethic... I choose, in the words of Eugene Peterson, to get out of the way for a while. It's a bit of a hit to the ego to realise that if I step out of the way for a day everything travels along quite well without me … and that I really needed the rest.
A regular habit of sabbath teaches me to receive rather than gather, to relax rather than protect, and to be grateful rather than fearful.
Do you need a rest? Hear the words of Jesus again. Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my way of life on your shoulders, learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls.