The wider framework of our time is to embrace Sabbath at all times. The glorious truth for New Testament believers is that Sabbath is no longer relegated to a physical practice sectioned off into one day, but an eternal reality to be embraced every day. Through Christ we now enter into the eternal rest of a world where all gaps between us and Him have been bridged, where working the cursed ground “by the sweat of our brow” is now overcome.
That said, it doesn’t mean the physical practice of Sabbath or the physical reality of the ground we are still cursed to work “by the sweat of our brow” has wholly changed. Therein lies the constant tension between the accomplished work of Calvary and the remaining work completed in Christ’s return. The “already but not yet” of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Already we’ve overcome the curse and can embrace His rest at all times, but not yet will we fully transcend the burdens of this world until final resurrection.
So what does this mean for all of those who call themselves Christian workers? I ask this because we could make it easy and say living the redeemed life as an employee is as simple as protecting our Sabbath day, but that’s not the answer. Sure, it can be part of it, but through Christ Sabbath is no more one day of the week than Christ’s atonement only covered some of the Mosaic law. All gaps between us and God have been transcended both in time (Sabbath) and space (when Christ tore the veil He made it so that we could be clean before God wherever we are). For us, then, the question of being a Christian worker can’t be compartmentalized to a Sabbath day but a Sabbath way of life.
What does that look like? We can look to practical markers like how many hours there are in a day and how much we need to rest, work, and play every day. That can certainly help. Still approaching the Sabbath life as a formula can miss the point. We can make Sabbath, like anything else, another source of effort to get our way to God. We can make the mistake of the Pharisees and not realize the Sabbath was made for Jesus, Jesus wasn’t made for the Sabbath.
My answer is simply this: the Christian worker lives their life through the rhythm of abiding in Christ and the all-consuming rest His Sabbath brings to all of life. It’s really that simple: grounding ourselves in our Christ-centered identity and letting all activity proceed from there. Considering work one part of our lives and play another and downtime another and even sleep another is not what it means to practice Christ’s lordship in our lives. Lordship means we see every moment through the lens of our surrender to Christ. As Brother Lawrence so eloquently put it, the Christian life is about “practicing the presence of God.” Truly, it all comes down to that. And if it sounds overly simple, great, because it’s supposed to be!
Part of the greatness of the Gospel is its simplicity, and one of the main reminders of our brokenness is how consistently we overcomplicate it. Simply accepting the sufficiency of Christ in all things, simply accepting His rest in all of life, reminds us that He is God and we are not, that all rests in His hands no matter how hard we work to the contrary. Sure there is infinite rest for our souls and bodies when we rest in His infinite sufficiency, but it also strips us of our sense of being “the infinite” in our own lives. All our works, all our activity, will never put us on God’s level, will never remove our childlike need for our heavenly Father. We can run from this vulnerability through all the working and playing of life, or we can accept our soulful vulnerability and let Him love us as the frail children we are. It’s only in that frail place we’ll find the wondrous rest He’s always had for us, and then, from that place, fill our work with the rest and joy of His eternal Sabbath.
Having said all of this, I recognize there is still room for practically applying this in our lives. On this point I would liken it most to a relationship. The whole point of our lives is to love Christ first, so whatever it means for us to connect with Him on a daily basis ought to be the foundation of our daily lives. Again Brother Lawrence’s phrasing of “practicing the presence of God” says it best. On a consistent basis what does it mean for you to practice being with Christ? There’s no timetable on it, there’s no rigid requirement, just as I don’t make a tally for how many hours I spend with my wife to determine how much I do or do not love her. We can connect through a cute joke by text one day while later needing a weekend or two week or one month getaway. The point is in a relationship there’s no easy formula for closeness. The only formula we have, I believe, is how much you’re surrendered to and trusting the other. So it is in our lives with Christ. So it is with how much we embrace and live out His Sabbath rest in all our daily activities. Whatever it means for you to truly abide in Him, to trust Him, to let Him strip away your areas of false dependence and continuously bring you toward complete dependence on Him, incorporate that into your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms.
On that note, sure, having some form of morning ritual, some form of consistent retreat every quarter or so, those things all have merit. But again there is no one size fits all for everyone. I also say this because even in saying “retreat” or “morning ritual” most of us have in mind “morning bible reading and prayer.” That is certainly foundational. But we all connect to God in different ways so that through working on your computer, attending your child’s soccer game, having dinner with friends, or working on a piece of art, if all of life is an opportunity to embrace His rest, then we should feel no guilt if the way we most connect with God doesn’t fit the norms of “daily devotionals.” The point is, again, whatever practice helps you surrender your dependence on anyone or anything else apart from Christ and return to dependence on Him, do that consistently. Then it time it may change. Be sensitive to that too. Just as you would listen to the ebbs and flows of any other healthy relationship, do the same in your relationship with Christ.
That said, I will say there’s merit in tradition and the longstanding Christian community, so there’s merit in respecting what Christians have done throughout our history to foster the surrendered life. I say this because I know some may take the “do whatever helps you most connect with God” as an excuse to not truly reflect on the condition of their heart and continue to do simply ‘what they like to do with their time.’ But maybe it’s silly to point out this caveat. Just as it is with any relationship, we are very good at creating quite justifiable excuses to not connect further with another. To make this simple, I think it’s as simple as continuously asking yourself “how close do I feel to Christ today? How much joy do I feel in my heart? How much life? How much peace? How much are the fruits of His Spirit evident? How much do I feel a love and concern for other people?” If we can be honest with those questions, I believe we can be honest about seeking out and practicing whatever we need to practice to reconnect with Him. And the more we do that, the more I believe however we spend our time, we will truly be able to do it all as representatives of the incredible peace He can bring to all of life in all we do.
For me personally, there are still other lingering questions. With the “surrendered, Sabbatical life” at the foundation for all of us, you then begin to get into the particulars of each individual’s gifts and strengths, of how each person ought to best express their surrendered identity in the world. This is where I still have some thinking to do. But that’s another bout of processing for another post of its own.