Sharpen The Ax

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Ever noticed how God introduced the Ten Commandments?  Exodus 19:3-13 reveals to us that before God spoke His laws to the people in Exodus 20, He took time to remind them of three vital truths:

  1. The love He had for them
  2. The victories He’d won for them
  3. The future He planned for them

God spoke of how He intended to bless Israel as His children, and He warned them of the boundaries to keep – how to survive His fiery presence on Mount Sinai.  Only then did He give them His commandments to obey.  This was a genius sequence that God went through.  Let me pause here and say this: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.  Before God demanded His people keep His rules, He reminded them of His relationship and blessings.  It gave Israel the incentive they needed to follow through on their commitment.

It is in Exodus 20:1-17 that we see these commands spoken by God to Israel through the man of God, Moses.  It is this fourth command in Exodus 20:8 that I wish to focus on here.  It is a command that was in practice long before it was a command.  One would need to go back to the Genesis and find in chapter 2 verse 2 that the seventh day God rested.  The example was set for us in the beginning of time that you and I were not created to work 7 days a week.  You and I live in a society of go.  Go non-stop.  Go! Go! Go!  

It has been in just the last 7 years or so that this subject of rest is becoming a hot topic not only in the church world, but the business world as well.  We can literally work ourselves to death.  You must understand the difficulty I have in writing this, because I’m a guy who doesn’t like to sit still.  I want to be doing something all of the time.  There is a saying out there that says (and yes I have used it often): “you can sleep when you die”.  The truth of the matter though is you will die sooner if you don’t get some sleep.  Now I’m not talking about sleeping 12 hours a day and being lazy.  I’m talking about work when it’s time to work, and then take that one day a week and get some rest.  You and I need a day of rest.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin states that “Even the human body does best when its spiritual and physical sides are synchronized.”  Often times we focus on the spiritual that we forget about the physical.  Over the past decade I have read several books dealing with rest, replenishment, renewal, and refocus.  If all you do is give off and receive nothing you will eventually run out of resources to give.  In my studies on the sabbath and taking a day of rest there are six purposes that I have learned concerning the sabbath.

1. Time of rest
You and I need sleep.  Shawn Stevenson in his book “Sleep Smarter” states that “Research shows that after just 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is an overall reduction of 6 percent in glucose reaching the brain. Simple translation: You get dumber.

This is also why you crave candy, chips, doughnuts, and other starchy, sugary things when you’re sleep deprived. Your body is trying to compel you to get that glucose back to your brain as soon as possible. It’s a built-in survival mechanism.”

A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that poor sleep quality was equal to binge drinking and marijuana use in determining academic performance. The study reported that college students who were poor sleepers were much more likely to earn worse grades and even drop out of classes than their healthy sleeping peers.

Finding out that poor sleep can be as detrimental to learning as binge drinking should be a real eye-opener. Learning is a big part of our lives no matter what stage we’re at. Our ability to learn and retain information is paramount to our success.

2. Opportunity for Redemption
Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

To redeem is to rescue from loss.  When you take this one day a week, your are literally redeeming or rescuing what you have lost.  The sabbath provides for redemption.  All of your energies, thought processes, emotions, and bodily strength that you put into the work week or school week are redeemed on that day of rest.  The busier we become the less time we have for activities that replenish us.

3. Time for reflection
Reflection is important in each of our lives.  In order to properly reflect you must intentionally slow down.  You cannot reflect when you are in a hurry.  The psalmist David said in the twenty third psalm that the Great Shepherd leads us beside still waters.  Reflect on the last six days of your life.  What was good?  What was bad?  What do you need to improve on?  Reflect!  Wayne Cordeiro says in his book “Leading on Empty”:  “Solitude is a healthy and prescriptive discipline; isolation is a symptom of emotional depletion.”  He goes on to say: “Our lives are like notebooks. Some are lived with empty pages—nothing is written down. Others are filled with experiences, but once they are recorded, they are never visited again. The best lives are like notebooks whose writings are read and reflected upon over and over again. Lessons are extracted and futures are reassessed.”

4. Time for reward and repair
The sabbath is a time of reward and repair.  It is a time to recognize that your provision comes from God not from yourself.  Creators need time to enjoy their creation.  You and I are creators just like our Father.  The Bible tells us that we are made in His likeness.  

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
~ Michael Jordan

The sabbath allows us the opportunity to see where we need to fix things in our lives.  It’s only failure if you stay in the dirt.  You can either learn from failure or be defined by failure – the choice is yours.

5. Time for relationships
In a relay race, the baton isn’t transferred when the lead runner is staggering and exhausted. He is at the top of his stride when he reaches the other runner in the box.

Your family is the other runner in the box. They need you at full stride. Many ministry leaders make contact with their families when they are at the lowest point of their stride . . . when they’re stumbling with mindless exhaustion.

Build lasting relationships.  Often times the most neglected relationships are with the people in our own home.  Throw a ball.  Ride a bike.  Go on a picnic with the family.  Take a family vacation.  Spend time with those in your own home and build lasting relationships.  Give them your best, not what is left over.

6.Time to refocus
The more clearly you identify your target, the more apt you will be to hit it!  Focus on what is important not urgent.  Get your priorities straight.  Get Matthew 6:33 in line in your life.  Refocus on what you have been called to do.  Get rid of the distractions.  Habakkuk 2:2 instructs us in this manner: “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.”

Bring clarity to your purpose!  Life has a way of getting us off track.  You will go where you are looking.  Choose to live life on purpose, to love intentionally, and to plan accordingly!

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