Let’s wrap up our series called Choose Joy. We’re going to look at our core scripture for this series one more time:
Isaiah 61:3 NKJV – …to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…
In other words, God wants to take your ugly past and make it beautiful. He wants to take every area of your life where you are bummed out or depressed and pour joy all over it. He wants to clothe you with praise so you can live freely and lightly. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
All of this is yours. God has already said yes. He’s just waiting for you to say yes. In other words, if you want joy, you have to choose it.
Imagine you are back in elementary school gym class and you are choosing your basketball team. Everyone is lined up and you get to choose who you want to be on your team.
These kids have some interesting names. There’s joy and depression, praise and heaviness, prayer and worry, freedom and regret.
All this time you’ve been choosing depression, heaviness, worry and regret for your team in life. But God is giving you another chance through this series to build your team the right way.
The person next to you might need a little help with this, so go ahead and tell them, “You probably want to choose joy.”
In part one of this series, we examined the life of the Apostle Paul and found that we will not be equipped to choose joy if we don’t choose to pray first. We must all develop a lifestyle of prayer if we want to experience joy.
The reason it works like this is simple. Prayer draws us closer to God and I probably don’t have to convince you that you need to be close to God in order to experience lasting joy.
In part two I explained how choosing joy is a life-changing choice. It doesn’t just change your life, but it multiplies your ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
I mean, just think about how you are blown away when you see someone who still has joy even when their circumstances suck. It inspires you! And you can do the same thing for other people by choosing joy.
Last week, in part three, we talked about the sacrifice you are going to have to make to experience joy in your life. It’s strange to link joy and sacrifice together. At the same time, it makes total sense.
We have to take all of our feelings to the altar, sacrifice them, and then choose to praise God whether we feel like it or not. That is why the Bible calls praise a sacrifice, because you need to choose to praise God even when you don’t feel like it. Did anyone get that opportunity this morning?
Every week during this series, I’ve given you one choice you need to make to experience lasting joy in your life. Let’s recap the three I’ve given you so far:
- Choose Prayer
- Choose Purpose
- Choose Praise
To wrap up this series today, I am going to have to break away from my list of words starting with the letter P. I know that is going to hurt some of y’all out there who have a strong need for this next one to start with P as well. But we can make it through this together.
To give you a chance to work through it, let me tell you a story first.
I got out of bed early this morning when it was still dark because I wanted something. Quite a few things, actually.
I wanted to spend time alone with God before the three creatures of infinite energy that live in my house awoke and demanded to be fed (talking about my awesome kids).
I wanted to practice this message so I could deliver it in a way that honors God and changes your life.
I wanted to make sure I had enough time to eat breakfast and get dressed without being rushed.
My point is, I woke up with all sorts of desires, and those desires are what pulled me out of my warm bed this morning before the sun even started to rise.
Desire is a great motivator. It’s like the spark plugs in an engine. It gets us started and keeps us going.
But when desire gets out of control, we’re in trouble. Because desire is one of those things that is never, ever satisfied. You know you’ve lost control of desire when you start singing the song, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
What would it take to feel satisfied? It’s easy. Everything. Eat at every restaurant, travel to every country, own a mansion in every exotic island, experience raging success in every business endeavor… you get the idea.
Problem is, even if we had access to unlimited funds, time shows up to rain on our parade. Time just doesn’t cooperate with our desire to experience everything all at once.
Point is, desire is infinite. It has no limit. It’s never satisfied. But we have all sorts of limits – we have to sleep, we will never know everything, we can only have so many friends, we can only eat so much food.
So here we are, living with chronically unsatisfied desires. No matter how much we see, do, buy, sell, eat, drink, we always want more. The question for us as followers of Jesus is, “What do we do with all this restlessness?”
First, we must realize that human desire is infinite because God made us that way. We were created to live with God forever – to live in a world that provided everything we need and nothing we don’t.
Our only hope is to put desire back in its proper place on God and put everything else back in its proper place, below God. Desire will only be satisfied by the One who is infinite, eternal, and able to supply all of our needs.
Nothing in life, apart from God, can satisfy our desires. But here we are trying to satisfy them with vacations, jobs, cars, sex, substances, food, all this stuff. We keep doing it even though it never works.
Trying to satisfy our desires with what the world has to offer always leads to restlessness. We live our lives in a hurry, bowing to the gods of busyness, materialism, and careerism. In other words, we live a life void of joy by choice.
Question is, is there a practice from the teaching of Jesus to help us overcome this nonsense? Did Jesus teach us something that would help us overcome the restlessness so we can live from a place of rest and experience joy?
Of course He did. Everything that Jesus teaches us is to lead us towards an abundant life. Yet, there’s one practice of Jesus that most American Christians ignore. And it’s probably the most life-giving practice He gave us:
This is a churchy word and it’s become so unpopular you may have never heard it before. So let me explain it to you.
It comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat and the word literally means “to stop”. So, we can define it this way:
Sabbath: A day to stop.
Stop working, stop wanting, stop worrying, just stop.
Now you know why modern culture has scrubbed this word out of its dictionary. We don’t stop. We go, go, go. We work long hours. We work every day. We always make progress. We hustle.
Some would even argue, “The devil never takes a day off, why should I?” Well, the last time I checked, the devil lost. Plus, he’s the devil. You really want to copy what he is doing?
The real issue here is it takes quite a bit of discipline to follow this life-giving practice called Sabbath. It will never happen automatically. You have to prepare for it. You have to say no to a list of good things to say yes to the best.
I love how an Old Testament scholar explains it:
“People who keep Sabbath live all seven days differently.” -Walter Brueggemann
So there’s your warning. Sabbath doesn’t just mess with one day per week, it messes with all of them. But in a good way. It actually redefines your entire life from one of hurry, striving, and hustle to one of rest, peace and joy.
It’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea of stopping everything for an entire day each week. We can comprehend a Sabbath here and there, but EVERY week? It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.
So to help you renew your mind so you can get your thoughts lined up with God instead of culture, let me give you three reasons we should all practice Sabbath every week. Here’s the first one:
Jesus practiced Sabbath.
Jesus, the Son of God, had limited time here on earth – 33 years to be exact. But here’s the kicker, He didn’t get to start His ministry until age 30. So He only had three years to accomplish the whole reason He was here in the first place – to save mankind.
If anyone had a reason to ignore Sabbath and work every day of the week, it was Jesus. Yet, built into Jesus’ life rhythm was a core practice – an entire day, every week, set aside to just slow down, to stop.
In Mark chapter 2, we read a story of Jesus enjoying Sabbath. He was casually walking through a field with His disciples. They were picking off heads of grain and snacking on them, just having a nice relaxing time together.
And then here come the Pharisees – the religious elite – fussing at them for harvesting grain on the Sabbath. They had completely missed the heart of God behind this practice.
The religious people were so focused on following rules and regulations that they forgot the purpose of Sabbath. Of course, Jesus cleared it up for them:
Mark 2:27 MSG – “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath.”
So, back then the Jewish people were so serious about Sabbath that they lost the heart of Sabbath. Although they were following all the rules, they weren’t experiencing the rest because they had it all backwards.
We have a different problem today. We don’t even consider Sabbath. Most Christians don’t even know what it is exactly. Actually, we think people who do practice Sabbath are weird.
Beth and I started practicing Sabbath at the beginning of this year and we went all in. We don’t look at our phones the entire day. We don’t have a schedule or an agenda. We just wake up, relax, and go with the flow.
The first few weeks, the people I work with would call me on Sabbath. I don’t look at my phone on Sabbath, so I didn’t see the missed call until the next day. I call them back and explain the delay.
The first time people say, “Really? Like you are really not going to look at your phone for an entire day every week?” And I just reply, “Really. You should try it some time.”
So here we are in a culture that doesn’t understand Sabbath and it’s easy to see the results of it. We’re exhausted, overworked, and spiritually malnourished. We’re slaves to the unsustainable rhythms of our success-obsessed culture.
God knew we would struggle with this. So He gave us a gift – the Sabbath.
We’re not talking about following rules and regulations today. We’re talking about receiving a gift that God created for us, which is the second reason we should all practice Sabbath every week:
God created Sabbath for me.
The story of the Bible starts with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” After six days of hard work to get the universe up and running, here’s what happened next:
Genesis 2:2 NLT – On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.
Did you catch that? God rested.
“Yeah, I’m not really into this Sabbath thing. I’m an extrovert and have plenty of pent up energy to stay busy…”
“Yeah, this Sabbath thing sounds nice, but I work a demanding job that I love, and I just can’t make the time because…”
“Yeah, but I have three little kids at home and Sabbath is really not an option in this season of my life. Maybe later when…”
Do I need to say it again? God rested. And in doing so, He created a rhythm for all of humanity:
Work for six days, rest for one.
When we fight this rhythm, set in motion by God Himself, we go against the grain of the universe. And when you go against the grain, you get splinters. No wonder you’re so fussy.
Study after study has shown that there is no correlation between hurry and productivity. Actually, they found that productivity plummets after you work a certain amount of hours in a week.
Any guesses as to how many hours that is? Fifty hours. Ironically, that is about the length of a six-day workweek.
One study even found that those who logged seventy hours in one week and those who logged fifty-five accomplished the same thing.
Work for six days, rest for one. God set this rhythm in motion. It wasn’t someone’s idea – it was God’s idea. So if you want to fight it, just know you are fighting God.
There are many reasons why we should all practice Sabbath. First of all, Jesus practiced Sabbath. Secondly, God created Sabbath for you. Here’s the third:
Sabbath is life-giving.
We just read how God himself rested on the seventh day. Now take a look at the very next verse:
Genesis 2:3 NLT – And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Two things to note here. First, Sabbath is “blessed.” When God created the heavens and the earth, He blessed three different things:
To start, He blessed the animal kingdom so it would be fruitful and multiply. Then He blessed humanity the same way, be fruitful and multiply. Beth and I have taken this one to heart.
Then, God blesses the Sabbath. Wait, so God blessed animals, humans, and then… a day? What does this mean?
It means that Sabbath, just like animals and humans, has the life-giving capacity to procreate, to multiply itself, to fill up the world with more life.
In 2014, a doctor completed a survey to determine why a group of Christians called Seventh-day Adventists seem to be the happiest people on earth. By their name, you’ve probably already realized they are serious about Sabbath.
The doctor noted that, on average, this group lives ten years longer than the average American. If you do the math, you find that if you Sabbath every week, it adds up to – wait for it – ten years over a lifetime.
So when I say that Sabbath is life-giving, it’s not just a theory. It literally gives you an elongated life. Just imagine ten more years of enjoying your grandkids and retirement.
So first, the Sabbath is “blessed”. Secondly, it’s “holy”. Wait a minute, how could a day be considered holy?
This is one of those times where you want to dig into the meaning of the original Hebrew word translated to “holy”. Take a look:
Qadash – prepare, dedicate, be holy, be separate
Remember when I told you that Sabbath won’t find its way into your life by accident? It’s something you have to prepare for. You have to dedicate yourself to it. You have to separate it from the other six days of the week.
Ah ha! The light bulb is starting to come on, isn’t it?
Sabbath is blessed and holy. It is a rhythm set in motion by God. Work for six, rest for one. And when we tap into this rhythm, we experience the abundant life that Jesus promises to give us.
But when we fight this rhythm by ignoring it, making excuses, looking for ways to get out of it, we reap the consequences.
Up until this year, Sabbath wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I had heard the word many times before, but I thought it was an Old Testament thing – something I didn’t need to pay attention to.
Then God brought it to my attention at the beginning of this year when I stumbled across a book called, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.” When I read the book, the purpose of Sabbath gripped my heart and so I grabbed Sabbath and brought it into my life as quickly as possible.
My prayer is that the same thing happens for you today. It’s hard to express in words how much more joy and peace I have now that I practice Sabbath every week. My life today looks nothing like it did before Sabbath.
I’m at ease. I trust God. I’m not rushed in my time with God. I’m not rushed in my time with family. I’m not even rushed at work. I now walk through this life instead of running through it. And it’s all because of Sabbath.
I pray that Sabbath grips your heart in a way that you can’t ignore it. Because you need it in your life. To ignore it is to deny one of the very first gifts God gave you. I don’t know about you, but I want all the promises of God in my life.
Let me end today by making this practical for you. I would hate to convince you to start practicing Sabbath without showing you what a Sabbath day actually looks like.
To start, let me make sure we are all clear on this:
Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.
Uh oh. This is going to mess some of y’all up because you were about to cheat and call your day off a Sabbath. Well, what’s the difference?
A well-known Presbyterian pastor had a great name for a day off; he called it a “bastard Sabbath”. In other words, it is the illegitimate child of the seventh day in Western culture.
On a day off, you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You just do all the things you don’t get paid for. You run errands, clean the house, go shopping, pay the bills, mow the lawn, take your kids to sports practice.
It is great to have what we would call a day off so you can get caught up on the things at home. But, it’s not a Sabbath. On Sabbath we only do two things:
Sabbath is rest and worship.
As you incorporate this into your life, you are going to struggle a bit on what you should do on Sabbath. But you can figure it out by running every activity through a filter, “Is this rest and worship?”
If the answer is “no”, or “kind of” or “Umm…”, then just hold off. There are six other days of the week for all of that, so what’s the rush?
To give you an example, I will tell on myself. For the past few weeks, Beth and I have been going to look at houses on Sabbath. But as I was preparing this part of my message, the Holy Spirit asked me, “Is that rest and worship?”
Ummm… nope. Time for an adjustment. There’s six other days of the week for that.
I love how Dan Allender explains it in his book written about Sabbath:
“The Sabbath is an invitation to enter delight. The Sabbath, when experienced as God intended, is the best day of our lives. Without question or thought, it is the best day of the week. Sabbath is the holy time where we feast, play, dance, have sex, sing, pray, laugh, tell stories, read, paint, walk, and watch creation in it’s fullness. Few people are willing to enter the Sabbath, sanctify it, to make it holy, because a full day of delight and joy is more than most people can bear in a lifetime, let alone a week.”
Sabbath is a full day of delight and joy, or at least that is what it is supposed to be. We delight in the Lord through worship and we experience joy through rest.
Rest and worship are both broad categories. This means that my Sabbath is going to look different than yours. Sabbath for a family with small kids is going to look quite different than Sabbath for a retired couple.
But remember the words of Jesus we read earlier. It’s not about what we do on Sabbath. The important thing is setting aside a full day every week to receive the gift of Sabbath by doing nothing but rest and worship.
This is so important to God that it even made it into the Ten Commandments:
Exodus 20:8 NLT – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
There were only two commandments where God attached a “why” to the command and this is one of them. For the others, it was simply a command.
God didn’t say, “Don’t murder, and let me tell you why…” or “Don’t steal, and here’s why it’s a bad idea…” But for Sabbath He tells us to remember it and set it apart as holy and then gives us they why:
Exodus 20:11 NLT – For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
Isn’t it fascinating that Sabbath is the only spiritual discipline to make it in the Ten Commandments? There’s not a commandment for going to church or reading your Bible. Not even prayer!
Sabbath is the anchor discipline for the people of God. No wonder the American church is in such a mess. We don’t know how to stop. We don’t know how to rest. And therefore, we do not really worship because we are too busy.
I’m making this practical so you know how to start practicing Sabbath. First, Sabbath is different from a day off. Secondly, Sabbath is rest and worship. Here’s the next one:
Sabbath is resistance.
Let’s fast forward forty years after Moses received the ten commandments from God. So much time had passed that the Israelites needed a refresher course, so Moses gave them the second edition.
Most everything remained the same, but there was a subtle shift in the commandment given for Sabbath. Take a look:
Deuteronomy 5:12 NLT – Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.
Did you catch it? Forty years before, he said “remember the Sabbath”. This time he said “observe the Sabbath.” Apparently everyone knew about it at this point, but they weren’t really good at actually practicing it.
So a minor tweak there, but then Moses goes off the rails. He gives us a totally different reason why we should be observing the Sabbath:
Deuteronomy 5:15 NLT – Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.
Wait a minute. I thought we were supposed to rest on the seventh day because God rested on the seventh day? We know that is still true, so why did Moses give us a totally different reason why to practice the Sabbath?
Well, this was the first generation to grow up in freedom. Their parents were slaves to Egypt. And their grandparents. And their great-grandparents.
Egypt had a culture with an endless craving for more. They had all kinds of stuff and it was all built on the backs of slaves. Actually, they had so much stuff, they had to build “store cities” to store all their extra stuff.
Slaves don’t get a Sabbath. They don’t even get a day off. They work all day, every day, until they die. They aren’t even seen as human. They are line items on a spreadsheet, there to build wealth for the rich and powerful.
You’ve probably noticed, but Egypt is alive and well. We live in the thick of it. We are smack dab in the middle of a culture of more. We lust for more food, more clothes, more devices, more square footage, more experiences.
We, like Egypt, have so much stuff we don’t need that we have to build our own store cities. We just call them storage units. Pharaoh would love the USA.
Just like Egypt, we have a culture built on the oppression of the poor. We’ve just found our own way to do it guilt-free. We moved it all overseas. Out of sight, out of mind.
The odds are, your home is full of the stuff they have produced: t-shirts, shoes, the clock on your wall, the bananas on the counter. Most of the stuff we have was produced by people overseas working seven days a week, twelve hours a day, in terrible conditions.
This is uncomfortable to think about, isn’t it? And what in the world does all this have to do with Sabbath?
Sabbath is an act of resistance against materialism. It’s how we make sure we don’t get sucked back into slavery, or worse, become the slave driver ourselves.
Sabbath is a way of saying, “Enough.” It’s not that buying things is bad. But if we don’t set up some boundaries, it becomes a never-ending search to fill our house with things we don’t need.
That’s why, under the Old Testament, they were not allowed to buy and sell on Sabbath. It wasn’t just a rule, it was a life-giving practice and a way to break free from the twin gods of accomplishment and accumulation.
I am not saying that accomplishment is bad. But it should all come from a place of contentment. You simply decide, “I don’t need another pair of shoes, or a bigger paycheck, or another day at the spa to be content.”
The truth is, we all have more than enough in a material sense. What we really need is time to enjoy what we already have, with God.
Sabbath is how we keep the materialistic culture out of our homes. We take a day each week and stick it to culture. Don’t buy. Don’t sell. Don’t shop. Don’t surf the web. Don’t read a magazine. Don’t browse the Houzz app.
Instead, enjoy ordinary life. A meal with friends, time with family, a walk in the park, an afternoon cup of coffee on the porch.
This quote really sums it up:
“We are restful when ordinary life is enough.” -Ronald Rolheiser
So what will it be? Are you going to continue living the unfulfilling, hurried life that everyone else is? Or you are going to be the weirdo that takes one day every week to stop and simply enjoy what God has given you?
How to Begin with Sabbath
Beth and I have been faithfully practicing Sabbath for about eight months now. We will never go back. Nine times out of ten, Sabbath is the best day of the week for us.
In the Bible, Sabbath was always on Saturday. Since we run our venue as an event center on Saturdays, I had to choose another day because for it to really be Sabbath, there can be no work interruptions. Zero, zilch, nada. So we Sabbath on Mondays.
It’s the day I feel most connected with God and my family. It is really the day I feel most alive because I am able to think freely without the weight of having to accomplish something. It’s the day that fills my joy tank.
But boy do I remember when we first started practicing Sabbath. The first month was pretty much a train wreck. I had anxiety from not looking at my phone all day. “Somebody needs me! There might be an emergency! I can just feel it!”
I felt guilty for not accomplishing anything. I have a to do list that never ends and ignoring it for an entire day caused quite a bit of anxiety at first. But now that I am practiced up, I celebrate the fact that I don’t have to look at it on Sabbath.
For the first month, I was actually so tired I just laid around all day, which made me feel guilty because my kids wanted me up and playing with them. The reason I was tired is because I had a deficit to catch up on from living my life without Sabbath.
A few months in, I began to come alive and we all settled into our Sabbath flow. We get up without a plan. Sometimes we go to breakfast, sometimes we cook breakfast. Then we play outside or go see the chicks at Atwoods or whatever.
We might go have a picnic for lunch, or just eat leftovers, or whatever. Then everyone takes a nap while I go out and sit in my zero-gravity chair in the woods. Get this – usually for an hour and a half, I just sit there and stare at the trees and have a casual conversation with God.
I wanted to tell you our story so you realize that it is going to take some time to get this down. Your first Sabbath may not be a good one, but keep at it. After all, it is called “practicing” Sabbath for a reason.
To begin, just set aside a day. Clear your schedule. Turn off your phone (seriously, most important thing). Invite the Holy Spirit to instruct you how to Sabbath.
And then? Rest and worship. Whatever that looks like for you.
Sabbath is freedom.
Free from the need to do more, get more, be more. Free from the demonic spirit of restlessness that enslaves our society. Free to experience contentment and enjoy everything God has given you.
Are you ready to experience the joy of Sabbath? Ask the Holy Spirit to help this message be planted deep in our hearts to grow a great harvest of joy, rest and peace.
The Bible says that heaven throws a huge party every time someone says yes to Jesus. There must be a never-ending party going on up there. Heaven is going to be a good time, no doubt about that.
I want to be real with you though. Saying yes to Jesus is more than a prayer you say one Sunday morning. It’s more than the emotions you feel after a sermon that touches your heart.
Saying yes to Jesus is saying goodbye to your old life and yes to new life in Christ. Some of you have been in church for a long time, but you’ve yet to do that. Well, heaven is blowing up balloons now to get ready for your party.
It’s time to say goodbye to me, myself, and I and say yes to Jesus. Yes, I will follow you. Yes, I will do what you Word tells me to do. Yes, I will choose joy.
If that’s you, I want you to have that conversation with Jesus right now. Between you and Him, make that commitment.
Salvation Next Step
If you just prayed that prayer, we want to support you along the journey that’s ahead. But we can’t support you if we don’t know. So we set up an easy way for you to tell us. Simply text the word Jesus to 918-373-9883.
We’re not going to bug you. We’re not going to spam you. We are just going to help guide you through your next step. We’re here for you. So please, go ahead and send that text.