Has there ever been a time when you decided that for a length of weeks or months that whatever you were doing at that moment was SO important that you couldn’t afford to take a day off. So you didn’t. And over time you found it just wasn’t worth it. While getting some things done, you became more irritated with your family. You became short with your wife. You became more tired. And in the end you didn’t get as much done as you thought. This just doesn’t work.
But I get it. There are occasional seasons of unbalanced schedules but it is incredibly prideful of me to think that what I’m doing FOR God at that moment was more important than listening to WHAT God said about how He made me.
God made me to need rest. And because humankind would never come to this conclusion on our own God instituted the Sabbath, a day of rest every week.
If you don’t take time off your body’s going to make time off. Most pastors feel weird about resting. But God has made us so that we need rest. If your car engine light was showing red, you would stop because you would know it’s going to damage the engine. God says if you don’t take one day out of seven to rest, if you keep pumping the adrenaline all day, every day, eight days a week, your engine is going to explode.
If you don’t slow down by choice, circumstances are going to force you to slow down. God says I want you to make the choice. I don’t want it to happen that way. YOU rest your body,
On a Sabbath day do things like: just being quiet, reading, napping, calling on an old friend, reconnecting in relationships, renting a good movie with your family, recreation that rejuvenates. I’m not talking about competitive recreation. Some of you aren’t getting any recharging of your emotions out on the golf course. You’re just getting angry at the other guy. I like to garden. But I’ve found out I can easily move from rest to all of a sudden I’m going to take on the entire back yard. No longer am I resting. I’m working.
Of course, when we Sabbath we don’t take a day off from God. We worship. Worship puts life into perspective. No sport can do that. No hobby can do that. As enjoyable as those are I need time to put my life in perspective by remembering how great God really is. I need time to be alone with God. Pastors more than anybody need time with their Shepherd.
To do this, I have to schedule it. It does not happen automatically. I have to remind myself of Psalm 127:2 “It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know that God enjoys giving rest to those He loves?”
Pastor, take a day out of seven to rest. Don’t call it a day off. Call it a day of Sabbath. When you do that you remind yourself God enjoys giving rest to those He loves. Also, if we call it a day off you’re going to be tempted to cheat on it sometimes, to work through it, to use it for work, to skim over it. If you call it the Sabbath which it is then you’re more likely to keep it.
My Sabbath is Friday noon to Saturday noon.
I know a pastor who one of his member’s got mad at him because he said he tried to call him several times on Monday (his Sabbath) and couldn’t get a hold of him. The pastor said, “Sorry, but that’s my day off.” The member said, “The devil doesn’t take a day off.” And the pastor said, “You’re right. And if I didn’t I’d be just like the devil.” Satan is not my model for balanced living. Jesus Christ is my model.
“But I’d rather burn out than rust out.” That’s what I told my parents when they warned me of my non-stop church schedule. I was 19. I was hard core. I was wrong. Zealous! But wrong.
Sure, there may be brief seasons of an unbalanced schedule for pastors. But as a rule of pastoral life, take one day every seven days and Sabbath. I feel bad I didn’t listen to my dad when I was young and tireless. It’s amazing how smart I’ve become the older I get.