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Even as I write this, I am convicted that I have to grow in how I observe the sabbath. I began to observe the sabbath a few years ago while I was still a student. I did all my school work on Saturday so that I would have no work that I needed to do on Sunday. Immediately I felt the blessing of going to church freely with no anxiety caused by work that needed to be completed that evening. I also began to observe some times of prayer in the afternoon when I came back home. Finally I did things that I enjoyed doing, thanking God for a time to rest and enjoy some of my hobbies. I think this was a good model, because observing the sabbath has a few components to it. Here are my recommendations on how to observe the sabbath:

1. Rest from work – Again, this doesn’t mean that we should have absolutely zero strain in the day, to do that you would have to stay in bed, but it does mean that I work harder on the days before (much like the Israelites collecting double the manna bread on the 6th day while in the desert) so that I can free myself of work responsibilities on Sundays. Sometimes unexpected needs rise up, or people ask me for help in certain tasks and I generally am willing to help them and deal with responsibilities that can’t wait. I learned to entrust God with tasks that I left unfinished and often found that in fact things that seemed pressing could wait for the next day.

2. Worship and remembrance – The sabbath is a day of worshiping God and remembering who He is. One thing that I want to grow in is taking intentional time to remember the things God has done in the bible and in my life. To thank Him and to remind myself that He is the one working in me. It may be good to write down things you are thankful to God for or ways that you recognize God as worthy of worship.

3. Loving God and loving others – Jesus makes it clear that all commandments rest on this, the sabbath should be a time that we foster our love for God and I believe it should include time in fellowship with others. You should find ways to fellowship on those days. And if you see someone in need, take some time to help them. That being said, I personally avoid making large service project or party plans on the sabbath. I do not find big activities restful, and if I were to regularly plan big projects on sabbath days I would not be resting on those days.

4. Rest by doing activities you enjoy – I believe the sabbath is a time that it is appropriate to play. Historically some Christians condemned playing sports on the sabbath because of the physical strain, but I believe that as long as you provide time to recover from it, sports or other activities of play can be good things to enjoy both on your own and with others. That being said, I have found that when I only play on my sabbath and do not intentionally observe the spiritual side of it, I often end the day restless. Play and physical rest are not substitutes to the spiritual rest we need in God. Nor is it honoring to Him if we do not take time to remember and worship Him on the sabbath.

I will include a final note about when to observe the sabbath. Some people insist that Sunday is the sabbath while others that Saturday is the sabbath day, and others that you can just pick any day and make it a day of rest. The Jewish culture specifically observed the sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. The Christians gradually began to adopt the habit of observing Sunday as the sabbath as it was the day that Jesus resurrected from the dead. This trend was confirmed in the 4th century by an official council. I am inclined to think that while it is best for the Christian community to observe a unified sabbath (some churches hold their primary service on Saturdays, Sundays or even other days of the week), it is also acceptable to observe alternate days as a sabbath rest (many pastors do this because Sunday is a full days work for them). I think that when considering which day to Sabbath on, you should consider a day that you don’t need to work on, that you will have a chance to encounter other Christians, and that you can set aside more time than usual in worship and prayer. Finally it should be a day that you can physically rest on.
I encourage you to take time to pray and consider the question of how you should be observing the sabbath. I am also examining myself and seeing how I can better worship the Lord through the sabbath. I used to think it was an impractical part of the law, but I have come to see that the Lord truly made the sabbath for man. We need to practice the discipline or resting in God, and the sabbath is a reminder of His grace and love towards us.

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