This is the one-hundred-seventy-fourth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
It’s Sunday morning. A pastor goes to the lectern in front of his church in Lancashire, England, opens a document with the peculiar title The Declaration of Sports, and begins to read slowly. He reads reluctantly because he thinks it’s ridiculous, yet has no choice in the matter—King James I of England has commanded the document be read in the churches. The same king who sponsored the magisterial translation of the King James Version of the Bible was in a petty tug of war with the Puritans over what Christians could or could not do on Sundays. While the Puritans were legalistically restrictive, James’s Declaration of Sports said that believers could in good conscience dance, leap, engage in sports, and drink ale on Sundays.
It appears as though we don’t do well when we try to make the idea of Sabbath about regulations. The carry-over from the Old Testament to the New Testament (and so, to our age) is that it is wise to have a special day during the week when we worship and cease regular activities so we can connect with God and with the important people in our lives. But Sabbath is also an attitude we carry with us every single day.
In his excellent book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath, pastor and author Mark Buchanan says there are two dimensions to this command of God: Sabbath day and Sabbath attitude. Sabbath attitude is simply this: rehearsing the truth that God is sovereign and we are not.
That may seem like a simple proposition and one that we already know well. But the truth is we do not know it well. We’re continually trying to control more things in life than we’re able to. We think we know more than we do. We’re most comfortable in environments where we control the temperature, the lighting, the surroundings.
When God says “shabbat,” he’s saying: “Stop and remember that I am God and you are not.” Trust it. Believe it. Rest in it. That will do more to revolutionize our lives than making laws about what we can or cannot do on Sundays.
Make two columns on a single piece of paper and write “Things I can do” at the top of one and “Things only God can do” at the top of the other. Then list particular things in the next 24 hours that fit each of these categories. Pray for God to bring a “Sabbath attitude” into today.
[See previous – Seven Days a Week]
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.