In today’s fast-paced marketplace, the idea of stopping or even slowing down seems like a fantasy. Rick Warren says this about slowing down:
“Yet in our modern society, people aren’t doing that. Even on their day off they’re working. And even those who go to a church service go home afterward and go right back to work, trying to get all the stuff done that they didn’t get accomplished during their work week. That’s not a Sabbath!”
The Sabbath has to be an important part of your life. You need it to rest. You need it to have time for things you enjoy like your family, friends (remember them?) and your hobbies. Most importantly, you need it to have focused time with God.
Here are three types of Sabbath every leader needs:
Daily Sabbath: The first Sabbath every leader needs is a daily Sabbath. Some may call this a daily devotional, prayer time, or quiet time. You will be amazed at how this daily time can make the most difficult conversation easier and the most overwhelming meeting or situation more achievable simply by making Christ the first part of your day. Your daily Sabbath is your time to re-center and align your daily focus with your life’s purpose. These daily Sabbaths are best done as the very first part of your day, but some like to have these in the middle of the day or as they wind down for bed. You can spend at least 10 to 15 minutes every day in prayer and reading Scripture. Sometimes it’s all at once. Sometimes it’s scattered throughout the day. Sometimes it’s only 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s an hour or more.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. – Psalms 1:2
Weekly Sabbath: It might be engrained in your office culture that to get ahead you have to think about your work every day of the week. You’re in the office five days a week. You use your slow Saturday to catch up on the work tasks you couldn’t get to during those first five days. Then you spend some time Sunday after church in a weekly review preparing to start the cycle all over again.
However, this style of work ethic does not honor God. He gave us a specific command, in the 10 Commandments no less, to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” How you adhere to this commandment may very well reveal your true priorities. The Sabbath was established by God for several reasons. The most important is to recognize His role as Creator in your life. Ezekiel 20:12 says, “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” When we can’t take time away from work to slow down and rest, we’re saying that we don’t trust God’s dominion over our work. When our life is so full that we don’t make time once per week to worship God and truly rest from our work, we’re saying our earthly desires are more important than our relationship with him.
If work is your main priority, then it is easy to look at Sunday as just another work day rather than a sovereign day of rest and worship. A believer who has faith in God makes a weekly Sabbath a priority.
Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest. – Exodus 34:21
Seasonal Sabbath: I have written a blog on the topic of rest before, but this is much deeper. Seasons of higher than normal workload are a great opportunity to bring excellence to your work, but with heavy seasons comes a strong need for rest. Sabbatical, vacation, spiritual retreat, PTO, whatever you may call it, you need to spend some significant time away from work every so often. If you are forfeiting unused vacation time, this one is for you.
I would recommend doing this at least once a quarter for at least one full normal work day or more. These times away are best scheduled at the end of an unusually busy season of work, or near a holiday when you want to focus on spending significant time experiencing God alone. Maybe it’s through quiet moments on the river alone going fishing or at a marriage conference with a spouse – you name it.
Adversely, trying to do this in the middle of a busy season is torture. You know how it goes – you work extra hours to get ahead so you can take a few days off just to return back to the office and see the work piled up on your desk and in your inbox. Coworkers are emailing, texting, and calling you to get your urgently needed input on the project you were right in the middle of before you left.
To do this type of Sabbath right, they need to be pre-planned and strategically placed in between busy seasons. If you don’t have gaps between busy seasons, you may need to revisit your workload. Overlapping busy seasons lead to burnout, and neither you nor your employer want that.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28
Why take Sabbath seriously? Because we physically need it and we recognize that God has power and dominion over our work.