This weeks blog is written by Awaken friend and ministry partner, Pastor Steve Fry.
We live in an age of accelerated stress. We know that. You can feel it everywhere. Pushed to get ahead, pushed to fight for our rights, pushed to give our kids extra advantages, even pushed to relax!
And sometimes that stress can creep into our relationship with God. Our ‘push’ to have faith, see prayers answered, or even experience God’s Presence can be our push and not His.
The Creation story reminds us that God isn’t pushed, and He doesn’t push. He rests. And it is a rest that He invites us to perpetually enjoy. It is called The Sabbath.
The Sabbath is not just a day, but a principle. God didn’t just pick any day of the week to rest; He picked the day that His work was completed: The 7th Day. I don’t think He so much sacramentalized Saturday, as He was inaugurating a culture of rest for humanity. Adam was called simply to tend not toil.
Yet, God’s rest isn’t passivity. God did not simply sit serenely on His throne to watch His universe from a distance. Abiding in His rest, He walked with Adam, interacted with Adam as he named the animals, was keen to sense Adam’s aloneness, and thus created Eve, and communicated wisdom to them (“Do not eat of the tree” was not an arbitrary command; it was wisdom).
This doesn’t sound like God was a divine couch potato. Rest nurtured the space, if you will, for relationship between God and Adam (and later Eve) to flourish. Out of His rest, fruitful intimacy was cultivated.
This rest was not just a ‘1-day-in-seven’ rest; it was the cultural norm. It’s like God launched creation on the 1st day, finished on the 6th day, and launched the culture for that creation on the 7th day!
From God’s perspective, we’re still in His 7th day of rest. That’s what He intended for the planet. Life on the planet was meant to be a long 7th Day! Rest is the pattern of life, not the ‘break’ from life.
God set the pattern. On the 7th day He rested. And He put that rhythm into all creation: Out of rest, life was designed to flourish. Life to multiply was in all living things… All Adam had to do was tend the life God had created.
Humanity was originally called to tend, not toil… and in Christ, we get to get back to the original plan!
Because life comes from God, life can only be received not produced, cultivated not created. Even conceiving a child, flows out of the life the man and woman have already received.
God originally designed a culture of rest in order that we might live in the joy of receiving life. Setting aside the 7th day as a Sabbath (or any day) is not just law; it’s life. That’s why God requires it.
But again, it’s more than a set-aside-day. Hebrews 4:9-10 tells us that The Sabbath can now be a 24-7 emotional oasis for the believer.
Life is received, not sought. If we don’t rest, we will not be able to receive ‘life’. We will not be able to do what God did in His day of rest: cultivate relationship with people, sense peoples’ needs and meet them, pass wisdom on to others.
And most importantly, we’ll not be able to enjoy God! And that’s what God’s idea of ‘life’ is: joy. Joy is life. When Jesus says we’ll have life abundantly, He is saying we’ll have joy abundantly!
For when we are not abiding in the Sabbath rest God has provided, not only will we not enjoy God, but over time will emotionally associate stress and striving with God. One of Satan’s most subtle devices is to induce us to mentally associate God with pain, disappointment, religious duty.
Stop and think. When you hear ‘God’ what comes to your mind? Anger that He’s disappointed you? Fear that He is miffed at you? Shame? A sense of ponderous obligation?
Perhaps our language reveals what we really believe about God. We pursue Him, we contend for revival, we stir up faith, or press in to worship in order for His Presence to come. Not saying this is wrong at all, but we’ve got the cart before the horse, the software before the hardware.
If I were to describe God from this language, I would say God is a good God, but wants us to work at experiencing spiritual life; to work at achieving victory, rather than resting and receiving spiritual life, from which victory flows.
In the place of rest, we receive; out of receiving we respond. Sometimes that looks like pursuing or pressing. But it’s a response to life, rather than striving for life. Receiving God’s life springing up within us’, rather than striving to break through to life. Faith born out of hope, rather than desperation.
The secret to a life of Sabbath rest? Being absolutely convinced that you can only receive, never produce. As John The Baptist confessed, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”
We rest knowing we can only receive, we then receive all encompassing rest and the joy (‘life’) we need to tend our relationships and thus be fruitful.
We rest to receive; we then receive rest; and out of rest: LIFE! And life abundantly.