Living faithful, fruitful and fulfilled on the mission field

Why Sabbath Needs to Be One of Our Spiritual Disciplines

Why Sabbath Needs to Be One of Our Spiritual Disciplines

Is Sabbath something we need to observe today? Didn’t Jesus ignore the Sabbath and do ministry on that day? Isn’t every day holy now? These questions about the Sabbath run through our thoughts. Why take Sabbath anyhow?

For years, I felt confused by the Sabbath. I knew it was one of the 10 commandments. All the other 10 commandments were universal laws I still held in high regard. “Do not murder” and “Do not steal” were listed right there with “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Why was this command somehow less important to me than the others? I was a bit baffled, so I ignored it. It certainly wasn’t convenient or easy to make room in my life for Sabbath! Sometimes I even wondered if talking about Sabbath was a trick we pastors used to get people to come to church!

After many years in ministry, God began to speak to me about the Sabbath. I started studying it in Scripture. I knew I needed rest in my life. My lifestyle as a busy stressed out minister was not reflecting His Kingdom well.

Living Life From Rest

As I studied Sabbath, I discovered that Jesus was not against the Sabbath. He didn’t tell us to stop practicing this spiritual discipline. Like tithing and other Old Testament laws, He didn’t get rid of the law, He took it to a new level. He took it beyond the law to the transformation of our hearts. Instead of a day of rest, He wants us to live life from a place of internal rest. A great way to begin learning to do that is by observing a weekly day of Sabbath- a day where we stop our work and ministry activities.

Sabbath Isn’t Convenient

I was working in the slums. It wasn’t easy to take a day off. Sundays were our busiest day in ministry. It was the day when people were most available and likely to have time to talk to us. Not everyone in the slums got a day off, but some did. We spent the day leading house churches, visiting interested seekers, and doing well baby checks. Saturday was also an important day of children’s ministry, clinics, and team meetings. On normal weekdays, I tried to take some time off. My kids were homeschooled though so I still had to work on that. Even when I took time off from ministry, there was laundry to be done, emails to be caught up on.

Passionate about what I was called to do and highly committed, I plowed on through. “I’m fine without much rest,” I thought. I made sure my staff got a day off, but I rarely took one. There was so much to do! Honestly, I kind of took pride in not needing as much rest as other people.

Until God convicted me. “The model you are giving to others is not a Kingdom model. It doesn’t reflect me,” God said. “You are not taking care of your body or your family well. You are not living the life I paid a price to give you.” That stopped me in my tracks!

From that point, I began a journey of learning about Sabbath and what it meant to enter the rest of God. I am still learning!


“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Ex. 20:8-NIV

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ” Matt. 5:17- ESV


It Starts With STOP!

To observe the Sabbath, you have to stop. This is an important word to remember as you begin to practice a Sabbath discipline. Stop working. Stop doing things that drain you. Stop giving out.

Why do I call this a discipline? Because for many of us, this is quite difficult. We have such a strong habit of being busy. We’ve been on the treadmill so long, we don’t know how to get off of it. For some of us, we have what might be called workaholic tendencies. We feel good when we are productive and working hard. We feel important. Stopping work creates a sense of emptiness, even boredom.

If this is you, then, believe me, you need Sabbath in a pretty desperate way!

Sabbath drives us back to a place of realizing that God is bigger than we are. It forces us to realize that the ministry is His not ours to take care of. It makes us understand afresh that we are not God. We are limited and live in bodies that need to rest. God designed us to need to stop. We need to sleep each day and Sabbath weekly. We need to shut down and cease our labor.

What Do You Do on Sabbath?

why take sabbath

Sleep. Play. Relax. Make love. Do things that refresh you! Play football or listen to music. Draw a picture. Plant some flowers. Read a novel or magazine. Listen to a sermon if you want. Sit and listen to the wind in the trees. Talk to (or even better, listen to) your spouse. Make special food. More than anything else, just make sure you stop your normal activities.

Sabbath doesn’t have to be “spiritual” in what we normally call “spiritual.” It isn’t a day you spend in intercession and prayer or only reading your bible all day. You can do those things if they are refreshing to you. But don’t do them out of duty, or to once again “perform.” God is giving you a day off! Take it!

You will be surprised at how as we stop, and as we let ourselves rest, His joy, His peace, His Presence and often for me, His direction and inspiration come. Sabbath gives space for our lives to settle. Things so often then become more clear to us.

Start This Week!

Are you observing a Sabbath day each week? Do you take a day to rest from your labor in ministry? Do you stop- really stop working, and allow yourself to rest?

If not, begin this week. I promise you. This spiritual discipline will transform your life! Just as much as prayer, fasting, reading your Bible or any of the other wonderful disciplines God has given us to practice- Sabbath will do its good work.

Here are 3 Things to Do:

1) Decide when you will do this on a weekly basis. Make sure to take a full 24 hour period each week. What day will be your Sabbath?

2) Write down clear boundaries for yourself. What will you not do on the Sabbath?

3) Brainstorm a few things you will do. What refreshes your soul?

4) Prepare for Sabbath by telling others when you are taking it. Then they can respect those boundaries and not bring you work on that day.

Many blessings as you take this step forward in Kingdom living. As you practice this, “Why take Sabbath?” will become more and more clear!

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