- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 17, 2004

The following is an excerpt from a recent sermon by the Rev. J. Philip Ashey at South Riding Church in Virginia.

Do you ever get tired just thinking about everything you have on your “to do” list? Have you ever brought work home only to find that you have neither the time nor the energy to do it at home and then feel even more exhausted when you get up in the morning?

Have you ever planned to take a genuine weekend off — only to find that when you get there, you can’t seem to let go of the work and get away from the computer, the Internet, the phone, the Palm Pilot and the e-mail?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it means you live in Northern Virginia. In Exodus 20:8-9, it says, “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. You have six days in which to do your work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to Me. On that day no one is to work. …”

In Hebrew, “shabat” means literally to cease, to pause. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The Sabbath is the antidote to burnout. It is the God-given gift for you and me of a margin built into the very fabric of creation, to protect us from the stress-filled world we live in.

God has more to say about taking the Sabbath seriously and taking a day off than He has to say about murder and adultery. It’s the longest of the Ten Commandments. It’s as if He’s saying, “I want you to take this seriously. This is not a suggestion. I am commanding you to take a day off.”

Experience tells us that if we slip into workaholism and drivenness and fail to observe the Sabbath, eventually we will end up observing it at home — sick and exhausted — or maybe for several days in a hospital, whether we like it or not.

We work and work and work and get so caught up with what we are doing and what we are accomplishing that very soon we slip into an attitude that our work is indispensable and that we are indispensable and suddenly we in our work make ourselves the center of the universe.

In our home, [my wife] Julie and I experience an unwillingness to stop, to lie down and to rest every night. It’s called bedtime. And Julie and I ascribe that unwillingness in our children to stop and lie down and rest as childishness, immaturity, stubbornness, rebellion, and just being overtired and out of control. It’s painful when we hold the mirror up to ourselves and see exactly the same reasons for our own unwillingness to stop.

When I observe a genuine Sabbath and genuinely relax, it makes my wife and children feel loved. Their spirits lift; the spiritual atmosphere in our home becomes more happy and peaceful; and that blessing is multiplied in the ways that we all relate to each other.

When you don’t put Jesus Christ at the center of your life, when you don’t follow God’s principles, your priorities will be out of order. You will be chronically fatigued, a constant emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue that will leave you confused. When William Wilberforce, great leader of the anti-slavery movement in 19th-century England, was tempted to abandon his call to this mission by political opportunity, he took his regular Sabbath, and his journal read: “Blessed be to God for the day of rest and religious occupation wherein earthly things assume their true size. Ambition is stunted”; and he resumed his calling.

Imagine what would have happened to the abolition movement had he been sidetracked. Thank God for the Sabbath.

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