Do you ever feel as if you are living life on fast-forward? Do you ever feel as if you are constantly bouncing from one project to the next, one message to the next, one app to the next, one meeting to the next?

In our fast-paced world we tend to value speed, intensity, and productivity. And recently I’ve tried to rethink how I can be more effective and productive in the various spheres of my life: husband, father, pastor, writer, professor, friend, disciple-maker. While away last week with my family, I received a reminder from the Lord about what’s truly important in life.

Here are the three lessons I believe the Lord was teaching me from my time away.

  1. Pause. Close your eyes. Take a nap. Go away. Guess what? The world will go on just fine when you are on pause. Yes, there are things God has assigned for you to do. Yes, you have a responsibility to be productive and faithful for the glory of God. But thank heavens you and I are not irreplaceable to God’s plans of redemption and salvation in the world. God gave us the gift of Sabbath (day of rest) to remind us of the importance of pausing and resting. When we pause and rest, we give ourselves the opportunity to exercise our trust muscles that the Lord has everything handled in life.
  2. Pray. I am naturally analytical and a people pleaser. It is my tendency to do. Maybe you’re like me. Or maybe you’re very different. However you and I are designed, we often find it easier to do than to pray. Unfortunately, we feel as if prayer is passive when we ought to be active. The opposite is true. To pray is to actively exhibit trust in God who is able to do far more than we can do.
  3. Pay Attention. In my quiet time yesterday, I read from Acts 20. When talking to the elders and leaders of the Ephesian church, Paul said this, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). You and I are responsible for our spiritual lives. When we get distracted from the importance of our walk with God, we have a tendency to lose sight of what matters most. Pastors are responsible to pay attention to their own spiritual lives as well as those they shepherd. This verse reminds us that we should take spiritual inventory of how we are doing in our walk with Christ.

So this week, make time for these spiritual disciplines.

Pause. Make time in your day to rest. Take a deep breath or a walk. Go for a hike or a swim. Get away from the hustle and bustle, and remember what is important.

Pray. Make time time in your day to pray and to think. Don’t go another minute without bringing your burden to the Lord. Talk to God. Listen to him speak through his Word. Trust him to handle that situation that’s bigger than you.

Pay Attention. Make time in your day to inventory your spiritual life. Are there sins you need to confess? Habits you need to break or add? Relationships you need restored? Be attentive to yourself and those around you.

Turn these actions into spiritual habits.

You are your habits.

So what are you doing regularly? What would your spouse, kids, and friends say about your habits and practices? Would they say you know how to pause, to pray, and to pay attention? Or would they have to say that you are bustling from one thing to the next constantly frazzled by the busyness of life?

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Last Monday, I posted part 1 of rest and worship. You can read it here. While this installment completes my blogposts on the subject, I hope it does not represent the last of the lessons God will teach me about rest and worship.

I must commend Adam Mabry’s book The Art of Rest to you. It is filled with insights and instruction aimed at reminding believers who God is and who they are in Christ. Rest and worship flow from a right relationship with God.

Before sharing a few practical insights about rest and worship here are several quotes from the book that I trust will encourage and challenge you:

You won’t lose anything by resting that you need to keep, and you won’t gain anything by overwork that you won’t one day lose.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 38.

In a section dealing with how the people of Israel forgot God by forgetting rest, Mabry made the following point.

If you’re concerned that by embracing regular Sabbath rest you’re in danger of coming under some harsh legalism, simply ask yourself how not observing Sabbath rest is going for you. It’s not rest that threatens to oppress you, but your refusal to.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 48.

Here’s a final, extended quote that God used to speak to me. In this chapter, Mabry emphasizes that we are no longer slaves. We are now children of God, granted the privileges of inheritance from our Father.

Slaves can’t rest. Slaves can’t take a day off to recuperate, reflect, and enjoy God. Slaves must work–either to pay off a debt, to please their master, or to simply stay alive. And most of us are slaves–because we enslave ourselves to the American Dream, the boss, our kids, or even (and worse) to earning God’s favor. We’re so often working to prove something, or to pay someone, or to get the promotion. But whoever enters God’s “rest” lays down that kind of life-proving work. We have rested from our works. Why? Because suddenly and supernaturally, we are secure. We have been saved apart from our work, regardless of the merit of our work. We have been adopted as children without regard to our achievements. Only children can rest.

Adam Mabry, The Art of Rest, 103.

One of the theological challenges I’ve wrestled with over the years is how to implement the command to keep the Sabbath. It is a command, but it is not emphasized in a legalistic fashion in the New Testament epistles. Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not in the legalistic manner of the Pharisees. Maybe the early believers and apostles did not emphasize it because early Christianity had a large slave population. Many early Christians were not masters of their daily or weekly schedule. So reiterating a command they had no control over keeping would not make sense.

Paul also makes clear in his letter to the Colossians that we are not to argue over special days and legalistic questions of the faith.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Christ has fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). So in Christ, all the commands of God are accomplished. Yet God modeled the Sabbath for man, commands us to build rhythms of rest and worship in our lives, and invites us to bring our weariness to him (read part 1).

So, it is wise to build rest and worship into your weekly schedule. It is unwise if you do not. So what does this look like. Here are some things God is teaching me through Mabry’s book and in my own relationship with him.

  • Make time throughout the day to pause and rest in God. We need to remind ourselves of the gospel, of what God has accomplished for us, and who we are in Christ. Moments and minutes in between meetings, projects, and sermons are good times for me to pause, pray, and worship.
  • On the day that I worship, make time to rest. For me Sunday is a day of worship and my day of work. I love the privilege and calling to preach, but it is draining (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). As I worship with God’s people on Sundays, God is reminding me that it’s ok to take a nap and recuperate with family after worshiping with with the church.
  • On the day that I take off of work, make time to worship. While we all should build in a day off from our regular work, many of our jobs require us to be on call or require rotating schedules that make a set day off difficult. While it is certainly ideal for most of us to have a Sabbath rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), some of us have to work on that day (pastors, doctors, nurses, restaurant employees, etc.). God is teaching me to spend extra time with him, just resting in him, listening to him, reading his Word, praying (not preparing for a sermon) on my day off.
  • Take a day off to unplug and disconnect. This might be the greatest lesson God reminded me of in the book. If I really want a mental and spiritual break from my stresses, then I need to unplug and disconnect from the devices and screens that drive work and drive worldly desires. Admittedly, this will be difficult. But if resting in God is as important as the Bible teaches, then learning to disconnect from worldly voices and constant connections is a must.
  • Turn annual vacations into holidays. We used to go on “holiday,” but now we call it vacations. Holiday emphasizes time set apart, with spiritual purpose: to be quiet with God, to rest, to read, recuperate, and recreate in a healthy way. Vacation emphasizes getting away from work, but getting active with something else. It’s not wrong to vacation, but the mindset of holiday keeps our time away in perspective. Holidays, vacations, or staycations (whatever term you use) should be time to disconnect, to pause, to rest, and to make time to be with God.
  • Take advantage of the quiet moments. Some days there are not many of these. But at times (in the car, after the kids are asleep, or when everyone else is busy), there are moments when the noise stops, silence happens, and God is there. God is teaching me to pause and listen to him (reading his Word) and talk to him (pray) in the quiet moments through the day.

If you have spiritual practices that help your program of rest and worship, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to share in the comment section below or on the platform on which you read the article.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash