These next few weeks are about finding meaning and fulfillment in God, rather than in our work, our possessions, or relationships. To do that, we need to take time to strip away many of those things, and make it a habit to do things that keep us focused on where our contentment really comes from. To do that, we are going to look at three key disciplines this week: Rest, Celebration, and Fasting.
Rest (a Sabbath day)
In the Ten Commandments, God gave the nation of Israel 9 moral commands and 1 practice to mark them as different from the nations around them: the Sabbath day. (Signs are a pattern God uses every time He does something significant in our world: Noah received the rainbow, Abraham received circumcision, and at the Exodus Israel began a new year and the Passover celebration) God himself modeled this practice when He created the world so that mankind would always have a compelling example to rest, but He made it a requirement for the nation of Israel as the last day of their week: Saturday.
When Jesus came along He didn’t renew the covenant of Moses—He was the second Moses creating a NEW covenant with people from EVERY nation. He created new signs in place of the old ones: instead of festivals and dietary laws, we observe Communion when we gather together. Instead of circumcision, we are baptized when we enter the Christian faith. And instead of making a mandatory day of rest, He allowed the principle of rest from creation to instruct us once again. That’s why the church in Paul’s day often gathered on Sunday instead of the Jewish Saturday—and why that tradition continues to this day in the U.S. and other parts of the world. There’s no command, but a very important principle to consider. Hurry is a dangerous thing—and we must find some habit to help us from getting destroyed by it.
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. ~ Genesis 2:3 ESV
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. ~ Exodus 20:8-11 ESV
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28, ESV)
16 Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath. 17 Such [things] are only the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality (the substance of what is foreshadowed) exists in Christ. (Col 2:16-17, AB)
You know you need a Sabbath when:
- The only time you are alone is in the bathroom.
- It takes you over thirty minutes to fall asleep because your mind is racing about things you forgot to do.
- You think rest is standing still in traffic.
- You go to check your e-mail for a moment and are still there an hour later.
- You cannot remember anything you ate the last 3 days.
- You drove upstate for an hour and had so much on your mind that when you arrived, you are not sure how you got there.
- You don’t know what day it is.
- You find yourself jealous and angry when someone else is enjoying life.
- When you can’t remember the last time you sat down to eat breakfast
- When you tweet during movie, text during dinner, read e mail during meetings and classes, and learn about your spouse’s day from Facebook.
Excerpts from The Life You’ve Always Wanted:
Mentee: What’s the secret to staying spiritual healthy?
Mentor: Relentlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Mentee: What else?
Mentor: There is nothing else.
Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life.
For many of us, the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them…
Hurry is not just a full schedule, hurry is a disordered heart.
The most serious sign of hurry sickness is a diminished capacity to love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible.
~ John Ortberg
Sometimes it’s a trap we have fallen into because of society: radios, computers, & cell phones keep us connected and distracted. In the past we used to use dull quiet moments to think. Now we simply fill our time with the use of these devices. (Curse Flappy Bird!!!) Don’t just fill your time with entertainment. Fill your time with thought. And fill your kids’ time with something other than a toy too! Teach them patience, listening, and thought.
Sometimes it’s a symptom of a greater problem: hurried people often judge their self-worth or security on how much they can get done.
Jesus was a Jewish man living in a Jewish culture. Though we don’t get many glimpses of him specifically leaving the crowd, we get a few, and we can probably be certain He practiced the Sabbath similar to everyone else. In fact, we often see people waiting until the end of the Sabbath to bring Him sick people to heal…though He did not ask them to do this, we can bet that He got a break on Saturdays. We can also see that He was rarely in a hurry, and never seemed to be too busy to help someone in need.
Also, we are not quite who we are designed to be when we always rush around. Jesus had TONS to do in His time here on earth, but He NEVER seemed rushed. He could have spent more than 3 of his 30 years here doing traveling preaching…but He contented Himself to waiting until the time was right and making the most of limited time. We need to learn to do the same.
What might a day of rest look like for you?
Rest. Reflection. Recreation. Relationships. Looking Ahead.
Rest. Take a nap. Yep. Stop in the middle of the day one day this week, and prioritize rest.
Next, take a whole day off. Don’t use it for To Do’s around the house. Start the day with a nice long time with God, then enjoy a movie, a date, or time at the park. Remind yourself that God prioritized rest for His people, because we NEED it. Getting the proper amount of rest needs to be a priority for us.
Reflect. Ask yourself, how did this week really go? See if you can walk through the events of the week and get God’s perspective on how well you managed your time, how well you responded to opportunities, and what you should do differently in the future.
Recreation. Do some things that really refresh your spirit. Paint. Play music. Play a game. Take time to do things you can only do on a free day.
Relationships. Spend time with the people you love most. Be lazy together. Talk about things that you haven’t been able to discuss with the hustle of daily life. Make plans for future events.
Look Ahead. Think about the challenges that lie ahead. What do you need to prepare for? What should you be praying more about?
What might it look like for you to slow down?
- Get in the slow line at the supermarket and just relax.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Eat slowly.
- Set your cellphone to the side for an hour at a time. Keep it in your pocket during key conversations and meetings.
- Make it a point to engage strangers in conversation, even if it keeps you at the store longer.
This week’s question to answer:
o What day am I going to rest? What is that day going to look like?
o What things will I do to slow down?
o What things will I avoid that tend to speed me up?
Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally. The very sea pauses at ebb and flood. Earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintery months, and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint, must trim his lamp or let it burn low, must recruit his vigor or grow prematurely old…In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.
~ Charles Spurgeon
Joy is the serous business of heaven. ~ C.S. Lewis
“We will never understand the significance of joy in the human life until we understand its importance to God. I suspect that most of us seriously underestimate God’s capacity for joy…we will not understand God until we understand this: God is the happiest being in the universe.”
“How often have people misunderstood God because they attributed to him the grim, judgmental, defensive, soul-wearying spirit of many who claim to be His followers.”
~ John Ortberg
Question: Who teaches babies to laugh? Where does their capacity to find something funny come from? Watch this video, let them make you laugh, and then ask the question, am I laughing enough?
Question: Are you content with the present, or anxiously striving for the future?
We live life with the illusion that joy will come someday when we arrive:
- We will be happy when we graduate
- We will be happy when we get married
- We will be happy when we have children
- We will be happy when the children grow up and move out
- We will be happy when the children come visit
God created and commanded a life for His people Israel that expected life to have times of joy and celebration. There were required feasts that the entire nation was expected to celebrate each year, as well as other times of gathering and celebration: The Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Harvest, Weeks, Passover, & Tabernacles were times when the nation gathered to celebrate.
(see Exodus 34:18, 22-24) Israel was to be continually reminded and joyful that God had delivered them from Egypt, God have given them the Law, God had provided in the harvests of each season.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah
“Be joyful always.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23, HCSB)
Celebration is an act of defiance. We remind ourselves to live in the reality of heaven, which is to come. We express gratitude for all the blessings we have already received in this life. Remind yourself that joy in this life is a glimpse of heaven—we will one day be in a place where there is endless joy.
Celebration destroys the power of temptation.
“Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good. Here lies the strength of temptation.” ~ Dallas Willard
We must arrange life so that sin can’t promise us more joy than we experience following God.
Big Idea: EVERY DAY is a gift from God, to be enjoyed.
Where does our joy come from?
- Our salvation – just like Israel’s celebration of deliverance from Egypt
- Our ongoing relationship with God
- The expectation of heaven
- The way God is using us to share His love to others
- The way God uses everything to transform us
- The people who love and live life with us in our church family
“Blessed are you when men hate you … Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23).
- Get up and make it a practice to thank God for the day.
- Start calling your alarm clock your opportunity clock ~ Zig Ziglar.
- Watch a youtube clip of your favorite song, favorite comedian, or favorite movie. Let that joy start your day and carry you forward in it.
- Stop to thank God for the things you really enjoy each day…and make saying grace before a meal about thanking God, not about asking for anything.
- Start a list of things to be thankful for, and try to add 50 things to the list. Write down things you’ve accomplished this year. Things you’ve been given and are grateful for.
- Put together a playlist for rejoicing. Add the songs that make you want to dance, to sing, and to celebrate life.
- Name 2 things you find joy in on a regular basis
In its most traditional form, fasting is taking a day and not eating from the time the sun comes up (7am) to the time it goes down (7pm). Simply drinking water. Sound easy? It’s not. Beware, the angry, mean, pushy, Hulk inside of you will probably make a public appearance. Why else would they coin the word “hangry”? You will probably become a very grouchy person when you don’t have much to eat.
Other fasts work in 24 hour periods that can repeat for up to a week—but be warned, fasting for more than 3 days usually requires the supervision and advice of a physician. After that, benefits are usually outweighed by negative effects. Some people have completed 40 day fasts, but they were thoroughly monitored and had some special provisions.
When food was scarce in previous generations, fasting was a regular occurrence, even a weekly routine. Today it seems crazy! A generation ago, John Wesley refused to ordain pastors who did not fast twice a week. Israel had the fast of unleavened bread to remind them of the conditions in Egypt and in the desert. They also
Fasting humbles us by showing us just how fragile our surface personality is. That part of you is ready to raise its ugly self anytime you are not careful—what does that say about you—about us as people? You keep parts of you held under the surface of your life by willpower…but what happens when that willpower gets weak? You need to find a way to bring these things to the surface on your own power and destroy them. If you don’t deal with them, they will show up in a weak moment when you can’t control them and hurt or embarrass those around you.
“Is there anger in me? I can usually control that with a hamburger and fries. Am I resentful, irritated, over ambitious, fearful? I can smother that with pizza. Am I depressed or embittered, suffering from a sense of life’s unfairness? I can artificially perk myself up with a (cup of coffee).” ~ Mark Buchnan
Fasting churns up the sin issues that lie under the surface of our lives. We need to identify these things so that we can deal with them.
“Search me oh God, and know my heart…see if there be any wicked way in me.” ~ Psalm 139:23
Fasting reminds us that we need God more than we need anything else…and that having material possessions often tempts us to rely upon ourselves and our possessions. What added meaning does that experience give to the phrase: “give us our daily bread” or “man does not live on bread alone”? We need God just more than we need food–remember that.
“I can run on my own strength for long stretches. I can forget my limits and become self-reliant, cocky, swaggering, thinking that apart from me, Jesus can do nothing.” ~ Mark Buchnan
2 Remember that the LORD your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deut 8:2-3, HCSB)
For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath~ Deuteronomy 8:12-18
Fasting reminds us to follow God because He’s God, not simply because we enjoy being a Christian, or because it makes life good, or because we expect Him to bless us as we follow Him.
26 Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.”
28 “What can we do to perform the works of God? ” they asked. 29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God — that you believe in the One He has sent.” 30 “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You? ” they asked. “What are You going to perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” 32 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always! ” 35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them.
60 Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it? ” 61 Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you?
66 From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you? ” 68 Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God! ” (John 6:26-69, HCSB)
16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt 6:16-18, HCSB)
Fasting gives us strength where we need it: mentally, emotionally, & spiritually. Understand that Jesus did not fast in order to suffer in the wilderness. Fasting brings strength. Though you are not required or recommended to do it, when you can limit your intake to water (or juice) you eventually get to a place where your body cleans you blood, rests your digestive system, and gives you great clarity of mind and heart. You also walk away from fasting with a greater sense of self-control, having taught your body that denying its tendencies isn’t as bad as it thought.
Fasting reminds us of the plight of others too. You can go and get food anytime you want…but many will go hungry because they simply do not have the food or money to get food. They are suffering these hunger pains out of necessity. Now that you are fasting, you can empathize with them on an authentic level.
When Should I Fast?
- When you need to follow God better and feel that fasting will help you focus and hear Him better.
- When you have a great burden or prayer request and feel that you need to remove hindrances to hearing God talk to you about that issue or person.
- When you have a sin issue in your life and need a time of focus and purification to help you hear God better.
- Fast from sun up to sundown 1 day. (it make take a few tries…you’ll find yourself forgetting and eating something the first day if you are not careful)