HABIT #4: MAINTAINING BALANCE (1 of 2)
10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 7
This last week I came across some unedited statements written by children about the Bible. I thought you might like to hear some of them: – The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten amendments – A Christian should have only one spouse. This is called monotony. – Moses died before he ever reached Canada. – Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol. – The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still, and he obeyed him. – Syntax is all the money collected at churches from sinners. Finally, The Fifth Commandment is to humor your father and mother.
We shouldn’t be surprised; our children are not alone. A lot of adult’s struggle with understanding the Bible as well. In fact probably one of the greatest areas of contention is the Sabbath. What is it? When is it? Is it Saturday or Sunday? Which day is the right one? Did it change? What should we do on the Sabbath? And so on…
This morning we’re going to look at what God has to say about the sabbath. As your pastor, when it comes to understanding the Bible, I am far more concerned that you know how to apply it than argue it.
All along I’ve said that the Ten Commandments are for families, they’re for the home. God intended moms and dads to be the primary spiritual caretakers of their children. The fourth commandment is no exception. The first part of this commandment says, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8, NAS). Most people are familiar with just the first eight words of this commandment: Remember to keep the sabbath day, to keep it holy. They think the fourth commandment is only about a day. But that barely skims the surface. In truth, the fourth commandment is about so much more. Listen to the rest: Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:9-11). God not only tells us we’re to set aside one day a week for quality rest and worship, but we’re also to put in six days of quality work. The fourth commandment is not only about the ethic of rest, but of work as well. It also reminds us of the dignity and freedom of the individual and the value of their work, whether lowly manual laborer or lofty high-powered executive. Both are equally made in the image of God and God has personally experienced both roles. He had dirt under His fingernails, so to speak, when made formed the Earth and made the Garden of Eden (Ps. 8:6). And He sovereignly rules over all His creation (Ps. 22:8). Jesus was a carpenter (Mk. 6:3). God has so much to say here, I want to take two Sundays to unpack it all. For today, I want to look at two basic questions surrounding the fourth commandment, namely the Sabbath: 1) What is it? And 2) How does observing it help us maintain balance.
I. What is the Sabbath?
A. What does it mean? Sabbath simply means to rest or to cease. It says in Genesis that when God finished creating everything, He rested on the seventh day. The word for rest comes from the word Sabbath. God did not need to rest, He can never be exhausted or burned out, but He knew we would. Since we are made in His image, He set the example for us to rest. It was the Jews failure to understand and obey God’s command that determined the 70 years they were exiled from their land. He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans. . . to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths (2 Chronicles 36:17,21, NAS). The Jews still misunderstood it in Jesus’ day. They had no problem watering their animal on the Sabbath, but when Jesus healed a human being, they got upset. Jesus reminds them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). That is, man was not created to meet the needs of the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was created to meet the needs of man. God did not give us the sabbath to burden us but to benefit us. It is a gift from God. Some believers have thought they were honoring God’s sabbath by making it the dullest day of the week; a day burdened with a long list of things we can’t do. Jesus reminds us the Sabbath was made to benefit, not burden us. How is the Sabbath a gift, a benefit? It is both a reward and a reminder. It is the reward of rest after completing our work for the week. When we work non-stop and forget to use God’s gift of rest, you become a slave to your work. Not only do you pay a price, but your family does as well.
While we were in graduate school my wife worked as the faculty secretary. Most of the students were trying to balance a full load of classes as well as full-time jobs. Most of them were also married and had children. It wasn’t unusual for these busy students to stop by my wife’s desk making a comment like, “I’ll make this time up to my family after I graduate.” She would answer, “No you won’t. What makes you think you won’t be any less busy after you graduate? The truth is, you’ll be even busier!” God’s saying, “I’m giving you a day of rest because I don’t want you to have to apologize to your wife or your kids down the road.” Wrapped up in God’s Sabbath is the reminder that God and our families need to take priority over our work.
It also served as a reminder in another way. It reminded the Jews that when they were slaves in Egypt, they didn’t have a day of rest. But now that they were free, they have rest. The Sabbath is a reminder of their freedom. Not only does the Sabbath protect us from becoming workaholics, but it reminds us that because we’re made in God’s image, we’re meant to be free. Some have described God’s fourth commandment as the first workers bill of rights. God’s ordained day of rest is an inalienable right. During the days of Israel’s enslavement in Egypt, there was no freedom to rest. The Sabbath was God’s weekly gift of rest to remind the Jews they were now free. The NT says Jesus is our rest. When we enter into Jesus by trusting Him, we become free.
B. What day is it? Answer: any day of the week. The fourth commandment, observing Saturday as the Sabbath is the only commandment we’re not told to keep in the New Testament. Instead, we’re told, One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord (Romans 14:5-6a). Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). The point is, it’s not the day that matters. What matters is that you set aside one day a week and rest, stop your normal activity and devote it to the Lord. For Jews it’s Saturday. For Muslims it’s Friday. For Christians, it is typically Sunday. But it can be any day as long as it is once a week. We need to be careful that we don’t spend so much time arguing about it we forget why it’s important.
C. Why Sunday? The main reason is because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9). In addition, the Church was born on the first day of the week, Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Jesus commissioned His disciples to preach the Gospel on the first day of the week (John 20:21). The early Church regularly met for worship on the first day of the week. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread (Acts 20:7). For those reasons and others in the NT we worship on Sunday. But mainly, we worship on Sunday because this is the day Jesus rose form the dead. So we celebrate our victory in Christ over sin, death, the grave. We celebrate God’s rescuing us from the bondage of our sin and the new life He gives us in His Son Jesus Christ!
II. How does observing the Sabbath help us maintain balance? God is far more concerned that we observe it than argue it. He’s far more concerned we keep it holy. What does it mean to keep it holy? Holy means set apart, different, unique. God says, “I want you to set aside one day a week to serve as a reminder of your faith and a reward for your labor.” The truth is, every day is a day that belongs to the Lord. He is sovereign over work as well as our rest. But God wants us to set aside one day for Him, otherwise it will not be different. Just like our money. All of our money belongs to the Lord, but the Bible tells us to give a portion as a reminder that all of it belongs to the Lord. So we set one day aside to remind us that everyday belongs to Him. So, what does God want us to do with that day? Rest physically, Renew emotionally, Refocus spiritually.
A. We’re to rest physically. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep (Psalm 127:1-2). Some people are too busy for God. They think their work will reward what their heart hungers for. If I work hard enough, long enough, I’ll finally be able to rest. I’ve yet to hear someone say on their deathbed, “I sure wish I’d have spent more time in the office.” You will never find the rest your hear longs for from your work. God’s intent behind setting a day aside for Him is to remind us in Christ alone will we find the rest our souls long for. Bill Gates was once asked why he didn’t believe in God. He said, Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on Sunday morning. An unwillingness to take a day off is basically saying, “I’ve got so much work to do, I’m so important, the world will stop if I do.” I want to let you know that you can resign as general manager of the universe. God already has that job and He’s far better at it than we are.
Production analysts say that after forty hours of work, production takes a nosedive. People need to rest physically. The point is: you’ll never find rest from your work, no matter how hard you work. God’s gift of physical rest serves as reminder the rest we truly desire is in Him.
B. We recharge emotionally. Have you ever noticed you can rest physically all weekend but when you go back to work, you still feel emotionally drained? You feel like you never took time off? I once had a conversation with someone who told me they had a “Sick of workday” and took the day off! I find that if I don’t recharge emotionally, I get irritable, impatient, my tolerance level drops, and my hostility rises. I start not liking people. That’s not a good thing for a pastor! Jesus recognized this need for His disciples He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31). How do you recharge emotionally? Getting away is not enough.
Spend unhurried time alone with God in His Word. Journal your thoughts. Put your feelings on paper to the Lord. There’s something about writing our feelings out to the Lord that is very calming. It helps sort and soothe our troubled emotions. The greatest example we have of this is the book of Psalms.
Spend time with your family. You cannot recapture time with your kids. The Jews spent their Sabbath’s with their families. Sabbath is to be a family day.
A. We refocus spiritually. The Sabbath helps keep our lives focused on what’s important. Why we’re here. Have you ever wondered why God said to Remember to keep the Sabbath holy? Because He knows we are prone to forget, prone to wander. What happens when you wander too long? You get lost. The problem for a lot of people, both believers and non-believers is they’ve turned Sunday into a Funday. They’ve taken a holy day and made it a holiday. What happens is we forget our purpose, we lose our perspective. Jesus warned, For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:36). I read of an old miner once who explained to a visitor that he kept his mules out of the mines one day a week so they wouldn’t go blind. When we don’t break away from the daily grind of life, whether work or play, and spend time with God, we go blind in our souls. let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
It’s not unusual to hear someone say something like, “When I miss church, my week feels empty.” Have you ever felt that way? You get refocused, recharged, rested.
In the NT Christians often ate their meals together. That’s why we make it a priority to share time together after each service downstairs. It’s a great way to build and enjoy relationships in the church family.
For you as parents, this third part – refocusing spiritually is so important for your kids to see genuinely modeled in your life at church and at home. Whether you see it or not, you may say Church is important, but your life-style is what will really speak to your kids. This is especially true for fathers as the spiritual leaders of your home. What are you modeling in your life when it comes to taking a day off? God says, every seven days, rest, recharge, and refocus.
When you buy a car, you get a book that has a maintenance schedule in it. That maintenance schedule says if you do certain things at certain times, your car will last you a long time. The owner’s manual for your life is the Bible. God says the maintenance schedule for living is taking every seventh day and resting, recharging, and refocusing.