How to Lean Into the Gift of Sabbath Rest

What’s the most important day in your week?  If you are a preacher, maybe you’d say Monday because you want to get a jump on your work.

Or, perhaps you’d answer Sunday because that’s game day for church staff.  Maybe you’re on the production staff, so you might answer Thursday because that’s when you set the auditorium for weekend service.  

My answer is Friday.  Why?  Because it’s the day I’ve designated as Sabbath.  I have learned—mostly the hard way—that the most important day of my week is the Sabbath. 

Without it, I never would have made it through the challenges and stress of COVID, I wouldn’t have a healthy marriage or family, and I wouldn’t be as effective as I am in ministry.  

I want to convince you that you need a weekly Sabbath.  It’s not optional.  It’s designed by God for your joy and productivity.  Let me share a few ideas I picked up from my friend Brad last week while on a study tour in Israel. 


The Hebrew word that we translate as Sabbath essentially means, “stop.”  It means to cease.  God modeled Sabbath for us in the creation story when he stopped after six days of work. 

I think you can make a strong argument that we were designed for six days of work and one day of ceasing from work.  We are at our best when we follow this design.  

Here’s how this idea challenges me.  It’s possible to designate a Sabbath day in your life without actually ceasing work.  This happens when we exchange one to-do list for another. 

In other words, I put down my work to-do list only to pick up my house to-do list.  I won’t respond to emails but I will do chores and projects around the house.  

What I’ve learned is Sabbath means to cease—to stop working and rest, reflect, and do what’s fun and restorative.  That’s what is meant by Sabbath.  The day should feel different, which brings me to the next idea about Sabbath.  



Here’s something interesting that my friend Brad pointed out while we were in Israel.  The first thing that is designated as holy in the Bible is the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was to be holy, as in set apart, meaning that it was to be different from any other day. 

Because of this, we shouldn’t just exchange to-do lists, but rather, sabbath should be a totally different and sacred kind of day.  It should be a day that is purely about enjoying God, His creation and the people He has put in our lives.  It should not be a day for productivity but for restoration.  

When I was growing up, I hated the idea of Sabbath because it felt like a day that you couldn’t do anything fun.  You had to just sit there and be bored.  I don’t think that is even close to what God had in mind. I think it’s a day where you ONLY do what is fun, relaxing, and restorative.  



I think it’s important to recognize the context in which God gave Sabbath as a gift to his people in Israel.  As I understand the story, they were only 50 days removed from Egyptian slavery when God gave them the law through Moses at Sinai. 

They had been in slavery for generations.  I’ve got to believe that they still felt, thought, and acted like slaves.  A slave’s worth is measured in productivity—in what they can do.  

Sabbath is a weekly reminder that you are not what you do.  

Your value and worth is not measured in your productivity.  Your value and worth comes from the fact that you are made in the image of God and belong to him. To celebrate Sabbath is to remind ourselves weekly that we aren’t what we do.  



Have you ever noticed that in the creation account, the writer of Genesis says, “And there was evening and there was morning—the first day” and on it goes through the days of creation.  The Hebrew way of understanding a day is evening then morning. In other words, the day begins with the rest of a night’s sleep.  Interesting.  

What’s more, Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening.  Sabbath begins in the evening.  Also, the Jewish week begins with Sabbath.  All this points to the idea of rest being the launch point of work.  Sabbath is the engine of our work.

I’ve always thought of Sabbath rest as a reward for a tough week’s worth of work.  But, in the Hebrew mindset it’s opposite.  Rest is actually the engine that powers work.  In other words, without Sabbath rest, you’ll never bring your best to the work God has given you.  

That is exactly why you and I need Sabbath.  You’ll never be the pastor, leader, volunteer or parent that God designed you to be without a rhythm of Sabbath rest.  


Wrap Up 

So, if you aren’t in the practice of celebrating Sabbath, when can you start?  Pick a day.  I already mentioned that mine is Friday.  It’s not the traditional Jewish or Christian day but it’s the day that works for my schedule.  Sabbath is a gift.  I really don’t think God cares when we celebrate it, just that we do.    

It’s possible that the idea of celebrating Sabbath is so foreign to your life that you can’t even figure out how you would set aside an entire day.  Might I suggest starting with a half day and then working up to a full day.  

This is important for all of us.  Let’s all begin to lean into the gift of Sabbath rest.