Yesterday we talked about the fact that honoring the Sabbath is something important to God. It is something He calls His people to remember and regularly practice. In the sermon we studied why the Sabbath is so important, we did not look at how to practice the Sabbath. While the Bible obviously calls us to practice spiritual disciplines like Sabbath, it doesn’t always tell us how to do them. One of the main reasons why the Bible doesn’t always explain how to do them is that these practices were so common in their culture that you didn’t need to tell people how to participate. For example, there was not a real need to tell people how to fast in Biblical times. Spiritual disciplines were so much a part of their upbringing and culture that they knew things like what you are supposed to eat before a fast, how to avoid dizziness during a fast, and how to break a fast. This is not always the case in our culture today. The idea of practicing spiritual disciplines such as taking a regular Sabbath is a foreign concept to a large number of evangelical Christians.
Giving practical ways to practice spiritual disciplines is always a tricky subject because it is easy to turn guidelines into rigid rules. After all, this is exactly what some of Jesus’ contemporaries did to the Sabbath. So, there is always a danger in turning disciplines into a set of rules and regulations. Therefore, we are caught in this tension between needing to take steps towards being more disciplined, but also knowing these disciplines can quickly turn into a set of legalistic rules rather than a path to experiencing God’s liberating freedom. With that being said, there are some pointers when it comes to regularly practicing the Sabbath we can learn from history and Judeo-Christian tradition. Here are a few practical ways you can begin to practice Sabbath in your own life:
- Run your errands and prepare your house (or meals) beforethe Sabbath begins
- Sabbath is not a day to get your “to do list” done
- Pick a day of the week that you can regularly practice the Sabbath
- It’s not more “authentic” to do it when it comes to you
- Remember: The Sabbath is all about establishing a rhythm
- Light a candle to symbolically start the Sabbath
- This is the traditional way Sabbath begins in Judaism and is an intentional way to begin the period of rest
- Practice this discipline with family and friends
- Sabbath is not meant to be a private discipline
- Set yourself up for success and start small if necessary
- Instead of doing 24 hours, intentionally rest for 4 hours or even 15 minutes if that’s what it takes to start practicing Sabbath more fully
- Only practice restful activities
- Do things that bring you closer to God and others
- Go on a walk, play games with your kids, take a nap, or read a book
- Create a “Sabbath box”
- Put your work projects, computer, phone, or anything else that might tempt you to break your Sabbath in the box during the Sabbath
- Save stressful conversations for another day
- This is not saying you shouldn’t have difficult or tough conversations in your relationships; this just means you should avoid these if at all possible on the Sabbath
- Remember to seek peace and harmony on the Sabbath
- Refrain from competition that puts you in a bad place (this includes watching competition that produces anger inside of you)
- Anger is usually a result of our need for control (or unmet expectations), and the Sabbath is meant to teach us to not rely on our own strength
Some questions to think about while you are discerning how to practice Sabbath more fully are:
- What do you do to experience rest and renewal?
- What types of “recreational” activities actually end up draining you even more rather than giving you rest?
- How can you avoid these types of activities during the Sabbath?”
- What is the biggest thing keeping you from regularly practicing Sabbath?
- When we overload our schedule, it shows that we don’t want to acknowledge our limits. What keeps you from wanting to acknowledge your limits?
For anyone looking to go deeper in practicing Sabbath, these books are a few of the resources the practical advice was drawn from and may be helpful for further study: