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What's a Sabbath?

It was 2015. Life was good. The church my husband pastored was in the middle of a building program, I was traveling with the ministry I started, and we were in a great season of life. But one thing was missing that would soon rear its ugly head….rest. thing was missing that would soon rear its ugly

I started noticing when the phone ringing with a new text, email, or call was becoming an annoyance, instead of an opportunity. Things that used to make me emotional were having no effect. My compassion for others was waning. A good night’s sleep wasn’t doing the trick anymore; I still felt tired when I awakened. I was snapping at my husband and had no patience with people. Things were getting ugly. My friends started asking me if I was feeling okay because I looked tired. My husband was experiencing all these same signs.

When we finally recognized and discussed how we were feeling and that something wasn’t right, we realized: we could not remember the last time we took a day off. You see, we used to have every Friday with each other. We called it “Free Friday” and we would make ourselves be technology-free, phone-free, social media-free, and the result was amazing. Our minds recovered, our health recovered, and we felt less tired. Slowly, life took over and, without us even recognizing the shift, Free Friday’s became a lesser priority, and then vanished.

As Christians, we hold the Ten Commandments as precious to us. Many of us can recite these life-giving boundaries or, if we think about them for a moment, could work our way through them. We all know…God was serious about those. We take most of them seriously. We wouldn’t dream of making a carved image and bowing down to it. We would never take the Lord’s name in vain. We wouldn’t murder someone, or go commit adultery. But why is it so easy to not take the Sabbath seriously? Maybe you do take a Sabbath on a regular basis. I hope so. I just don’t hear a lot of sermons preached about the importance of Sabbath rest, nor do I hear my friends talking about it.

Go read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.

Seriously…go read it. I’ll wait.

Those are pretty heavy commands, aren’t they? They’re commands that keep US safe from harm and enable us to be prosperous on this earth. But in our busy, technology- laden, always available society we have taken this one command and, at best, have made it go to the bottom of the priority list. Just like Jack and I did for a time, some will ignore the Sabbath altogether. Somehow we believe rest is synonymous with laziness, or weakness and this is just not true.

We need to pull Sabbath rest back into our view where we have the other commandments, which we would never break, and we can realize He was serious about this command, too. When we start realizing that our not taking a Sabbath is looked at by God the same as committing adultery, or bowing down to a carved image, it takes on a whole new dimension in our minds. And it should. This is sobering stuff.

Now, I get it. You can’t find a day in the week to take off. Well, get creative. Maybe look at the Sabbath as a 24-hour period; noon until noon, or 7:00pm until 7:00pm the next day. And I dare you to go one step further and turn off your phone. Shut off social media, email, and text messages for 24 hours, and see that your mind doesn’t feel better the next day. Go for a walk, look at the sky, sit on the ground beneath a tree, walk through a museum, all the while being mindful of what you are seeing, what you are touching, what you are smelling, and the people who are present.

Presence is one of the greatest gifts we can give the people we love.

Presence is one of the greatest gifts we can give the people we love, but if we are not healthy, we can’t give them that presence. Sabbath rest will bring health in to your life-- spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. There’s a reason He made this one of the Top 10!

If you take the message of Sabbath rest to heart, your life will be changed. This one day per week is designed just for YOU! You are called to great and mighty things. Make a decision that working from a place of only resting the 6-8 hours you sleep is not cool. A lack of rest will one day catch up with you and consequences will ensue. Don’t do it! Plan your rest every single week and hold it, keep it, guard it with all your might just like you would any other important appointment or commandment.

Now, you may be wondering what my husband and I did to recover. We were in total burnout, and it was all because we had not rested. We ended up taking a six-week sabbatical. And I mean it was a sabbatical, not a vacation. We bought a new phone and only gave the number to our executive pastor, our boys, close friends, and family. The pastor knew he was not to call that number unless someone in the church died. Seriously, that’s what we told him. We turned off our phones and were off social media the entire six weeks.

We were purposeful with every day; seeking God, reading His Word, visiting other churches where no one knew us and didn’t expect anything from us. We took time to refuel, and refill what had been lost. This time with God was one of the greatest times we have ever had. We now call ourselves Sabbatical Evangelists because the minute we talk to a ministry couple who are struggling, that is the first thing we suggest. My encouragement to you is that you simply do not let yourself get to the point we were. Rest in Him.

Just rest.


What's a Sabbath? is Entry One in our October blog series at Sanctuary, Rest Up! We are looking to hear from you! If you haven't been taking the Sabbath commandment seriously lately, can you name one of the negative side effects you're experiencing? Or perhaps you're experimenting with Sabbath rest and how to do it effectively. What's working for you right now? Let's talk.


Sheila Harper and her husband, Jack, have been in full-time ministry at SaveOne since 2000. The couple planted a church in 2007 and pastored there until this past year when they resigned to devote greater time to SaveOne. Sheila and Jack have two adult sons and a brand new daughter-in-law! When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Sheila answered, "Pain. Plain and simple. I started SaveOne from a place of wanting to make sure others didn’t experience the same pain I did after an abortion. I wanted everyone to know the truth of what abortion really does to you." Sheila enjoys "hiking, drinking coffee, hiking, reading, hiking, hanging in my hammock in the woods, and hiking" when she comes across some free time. Sheila's greatest passion in ministry comes from seeing people be transformed from the inside out. "When a person walks in and doesn’t know Jesus, gives his/her heart to Him, lets themselves be discipled, and their life start to come together….I don’t know of a greater joy than that."

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