taking sabbath seriously

I just finished reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller. I’ve probably been working on it for two months or so, and – I’m not gonna lie – I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the epilogue. While it was a great book, it was a very dense book, and it just took time to completely grasp some of the concepts. 

The theme of the book is faith-and-work integration; the Gospel should not only affect our decision for salvation and our relationship with God, but how we approach life, and specifically, our view of work and the way we work. The theology of work and the idea of living a fully-integrated life has been a huge theme for me and Eric over the past couple of years, and it is actually a huge piece of the puzzle for us as we join staff with Cru and prepare to work with college students. 

While there are many things I could write about, some of which I will potentially write about later, the last chapter really resonated with my heart. I will do my best to not make this like a book report, but some of the background information might be necessary in helping relate this piece to the whole.

In discussing the “power” given for work by the Gospel, the chapter addresses “the work under the work” and “the rest behind the rest”:

But the relationship between work and rest operates at a deeper level as well. All of us are haunted by the work under the work – that need to prove and save ourselves, to gain a sense of worth and identity. But if we can experience gospel-rest in our hearts, if we can e free from the need to earn our salvation through our work, we will have a deep reservoir of refreshment that continually rejuvenates us, restores our perspective, and renews our passion.

Keller and co-author Katherine Leary Alsdorf expound on the idea of rest by providing three purposes behind the idea of rest as illustrated by God’s command to obey the Sabbath.

  1. Sabbath is a celebration of our design – “Since God rested after his creation, we must also rest after ours… Overwork or underwork violates [that rhythm of work and rest] and leads to breakdown.” 
  2. Sabbath is a declaration of our freedom – “Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you if you don’t have the ability to be disciplined in your practice of Sabbath… It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph – otherwise you will feel guilty for taking time off, or you will be unable to truly unplug.” 
  3. Sabbath is an act of trust – “To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.” 

An act of trust – a moment to recognize that we are not in control. We are not the ones who are “making things happen.” Conviction came for me after this next section:

But by now you must see that God is there – you are not alone in your work. Jesus’ famous discourse against worry (Matthew 6:25-34) is set in the context of work. He chides us that the plants of the field are cared for, though “they do not labor or spin” (verse 28). He reminds us that we are obviously more valuable to God than plants – so we shouldn’t “run after” material things through our work (verse 32). So if you are worrying during your rest, you are not practicing Sabbath.

Yikes. I can’t count how many times I have spent my day(s) off worrying about the work I am not getting done, especially during this season of fundraising for Cru where work/rest boundaries are more blurred. The crazy thing is that it is during this season of fundraising more than any before where progress is completely dependent upon the Lord, yet I waste my energy and try to take control back by worrying about what I am doing to accomplish things by myself. 

Yet the enemy feeds us the lie that it is all up to me. The burden of success, whether material or spiritual, is on my shoulders, and if I am not being “productive,” then failure will follow.

Do I view both my work and my rest as sacred? As places where God resides and has the opportunity to be given glory? And, at the end of the day, do I let go of my efforts and entrust them into His hands? 

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength. —Corrie ten Boom

My desire is to take my rest – the Sabbath – more seriously. If the Israelites could take a Sabbath year every seven years to give the land a rest (Leviticus 25), and if the Lord provided for them with a whole year off, then He can most certainly provide for us if I honor Him not just with my work but also with my rest

Do you struggle with this, too? How have you learned to “take the Sabbath seriously”? 



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