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The Rhythm of Sabbatical

Jesus could have done more. Have you considered those who were not healed, those who did not get to hear the voice of their Savior firsthand or those who wanted a more thorough explanation of His teachings? If Jesus had only worked more hours, worked seven days each week or done a little more to delay His death so that He had more time doing ministry.

Of course, thoughts such as these seem absurd. Yet, how often do we put ourselves through these kinds of thoughts in ministry? There is always more to do, more people to help and more teaching to communicate.

If Jesus lived in a rhythm of rest, maybe we should as well.

The first example of rest we have in Scripture is the Sabbath in creation (Gen. 2:2). God, in infinite wisdom, built into the weekly cycle a day to take a break from work, even the good work of creating.

What if we served in the same way God served us? What if we took that break in our rhythm to recharge each week?

And what if we took it even further?

We have another important example of rest at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. After He was baptized, before embarking in ministry, Jesus took 40 days in the wilderness to pray and fast (Matt. 4:1-2).

Now imagine you accepted your next ministry position with one condition: you need 40 days off right up front. That would be a nearly impossible request in most circumstances. Yet, before Jesus began His ministry (and often during His ministry) He took the time to recharge by spending time with God.

Do we need to rest from our work, or do we work out of the inspiration and energy we have obtained from our rest? Jesus put it eloquently when He said that a brand cannot bear fruit unless it remains in the vine (John 15:4). Does our fruit in ministry come from an overflow of our time with Jesus, or is our time with Jesus simply another thing we are cramming into our calendar?

This is why the concept of a Sabbatical is so critical to every ministry position. A rhythm is needed to remind us all to work out of an overflow from our rest in Jesus. A weekly day off, an extra day or two each month, a few weeks every seven months, or a few months every seven years . . . whatever the cycle we might choose, our lives needs a rhythm. That rhythm will provide two critical things.

First, it will provide us with perspective. Our calling and our passion is what brought us into ministry, but it is easy to forget that in the end it is the ministry of Christ that we are a part of, not our own ministry. Taking a break reminds us that God is still at work and Jesus is still being lifted up. Even when we aren’t the ones helping to make it happen.

Secondly, it reminds us that our first priority in ministry is always our families, our kids and our spouses. As we choose to prioritize them, we further acknowledge that God has given us a specific sphere of influence that we are accountable to, and the center of that sphere is our families. We must be examples of a life that trusts God enough to slow down and invest in our own families.

As we pursue intentional and regular times away from ministry, our perspective and our priorities are enhanced. We can take the time to recharge, and find ourselves working from an overflow of our time of rest. Our lives can be a reminder that God gave us all things by grace and grace alone; not because we worked the hardest or sacrificed the most.

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