What Most Busy Families Don’t Know About Beating Burnout |02.06.24| True Rest pt.1
Drew Williams   -  

Mark 2:23-3:6

Pastor Drew Williams

When I was a little kid, I was afraid of swingsets. Not like afraid to see them or be near them, but when I was 5 or so, I didn’t like the feeling you get in your stomach when you go fast on a swing.


You know what I’m talking about? Where your insides tingle and come alive, and your whole body feels the exhilaration of swinging forward before you come to the top of the cycle and start to head backwards again?


Over time, I came to love that feeling, but at first, I was afraid of it. It was too much for me. But my oldest daughter, Emersyn? No fear at all.


[SLIDE 2] lower third blank

In our backyard, we have a tree swing that she LOVES to be on. She’s now learned how to push herself on it, but at first, the only way she could swing was if I helped her.


And I wouldn’t just push her a little. Oh no. I would gently hold the back of the swing and pull it back before letting it go. The farther I would pull back, the farther and faster she would swing forward. And she LOVED it when she swung far and fast.


But she had to LET me pull her back. I would be pulling back, and she’d say, “Now, let go now!” But I knew I wasn’t pulled all the way back. So I’d keep backing up. “Now, let go now!” But I had to keep backing up. She had to TRUST that I knew how far to pull her back so that she would launch forward with the most thrust.


And if she trusted me and let me pull her back all the way, then she would experience the rush and the thrill and the forward momentum that she truly craved.


And there is something to learn in that image for all of us when we think of work, rest, busyness, rejuvenation, and following God’s habits for a full life.


Because as we finish the school year and head into summer, there are all sorts of transitions happening in our lives and around us.


Young people are starting up jobs and internships, outdoor activities are opening up, farm life is in full swing, and sports and summer activities are filling our calendars.


For many of us, our daily experience is something like this: you’re juggling work, school runs, household chores, and extra activities. Your calendar is packed, your energy is drained, and your patience is wearing thin. The constant hustle leaves little time for meaningful connections with your spouse or kids, let alone moments of peace for yourself.


Maybe you feel anxiety creeping in, burnout starts to feel inevitable, and the joy of family life seems like a distant memory.


Most busy families feel trapped in this cycle and don’t know that there’s a life-changing solution at their fingertips, built into the fabric of time itself.



If you’re interested to find out more, open your Bibles with me to Mark chapter 2, which can be found on p28 Of the NT in your black, seat-back Bibles. As you find it, I want to let you know that we’re going to look at the Biblical concept of Sabbath. We’re going to learn what it truly is, what it ISN’T, and how our lives can be transformed for the better when we begin to practice it as a habit with our families.


Now, as we prepare to read this Jesus story, here’s a little background. The Pharisees were the super-religious elite Jews. They tried to follow all the laws perfectly, because they thought that would make God happy and then he would bless them. And they wanted all the Jews to do the same, so that they could all be so “perfect” as a people group to win God’s blessing.


So when people weren’t following the religious laws well, the Pharisees would come down hard on them, since in their mind those people were ruining their chances for God’s love and blessing for the rest of them.


Then along comes Jesus, a new religious leader whose teaching and miracles are getting him a lot of attention and a lot of followers. So you can understand why the Pharisees want to make sure he’s leading people in the way THEY want, since he’s got such a following. Let’s read together.


[MARK 2:23-28]


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I know this isn’t a long passage, but it already has a lot going on, so let’s do our best to figure out each part. It starts by saying that Jesus is walking along with his disciples on the Sabbath.


For the Jews, the Sabbath is traditionally on Saturday, and as one of the 10 Commandments, they took it seriously. The commandment says to not “work” on the Sabbath, so somewhere along the way, they set up guidelines and extra rules around that to make sure they didn’t break the commandment.


These extra rules probably happened over time and naturally, just like how two siblings in the back of a car on a long road trip usually get extra rules put on them as the trip gets longer.


“Don’t hit each other” transitions to “don’t TOUCH each other”, which leads to “don’t even LOOK at each other!” Extra rules are set up to keep you farther and farther away from the actual bad thing you don’t want to have happen.


And the devout Jews didn’t want to accidentally work on the Sabbath, so they started setting up rules about what is actually “work.” So pretty soon “Don’t work” becomes “don’t carry heavy things long distances,” which becomes “don’t even WALK long distances”, which becomes “You should only walk enough steps to get you from your home to the synagogue and back on the Sabbath, that way you’re definitely not WORKING.”


[SLIDE 5] vv23-24

So Jesus is walking on the Sabbath, and they cut across a field, probably because it was a shortcut, and shortcuts on Sabbath are a good thing, because then you’re not accidentally walking too many steps.


And his disciples grab a few heads of grain as they walk, a little snack for the road. But the Pharisees, the super-focused rule followers, see them and get mad about it. Because, in their mind, grabbing a few heads of grain is probably too close to harvesting grain, which is definitely “work.”


[SLIDE 6] v24

“Jesus, your followers, your students are WORKING. On the SABBATH! Stop them! Tell them they are making God angry. Tell them they are ruining the rest of our chances for making God happy today so that he can bless us.”


[SLIDE 7] vv25-26

But instead of doing what they ask, Jesus responds with a story from Israel’s history. It’s about King David, the one who beat Goliath, but it’s from before he was officially made king.


[SLIDE 8] 1 Sam 21:3-4

David is on the run from King Saul, and he comes to the house of a priest, and asks for something to eat. The only thing the priest has is what is called the “show bread”, which is bread that is baked with the grain offerings from the jews and then set up on the altar as an offering of thanksgiving to God.


It’s supposed to be sacred, holy, set apart. It’s used for worship, not for snack time.


But the priest knew that the rules surrounding that offering weren’t meant to be used to oppress people. And he’s got the presumptive king in front of him, on the run and super hungry. So of course he gives him the bread.


[SLIDE 9] vv27-28

And Jesus points to that as an example of where too many extra rules aren’t actually helping us worship God if it means we are hurting people.


“The Sabbath was made for humankind, it wasn’t set up as a thing we are supposed to be slaves to.”


[SLIDE 10]

And so we get our first truth about Sabbath and what it ISN’T. Sabbath ISN’T about RULES.


Jesus makes it clear that when Sabbath was set up by God, it wasn’t set up as a heavy RULE that we have to follow in order to make God happy.


It’s not a have-to. But it IS still important. After all, it’s one of the 10 Commandments, and Jesus even practiced it weekly. Let’s see if we can learn more by reading further.


[MARK 3:1-6]


[SLIDE 11] vv4-5

Jesus is there in the synagogue, on the Sabbath, gathering with others to worship God, which is what the Sabbath is all about. But no one is paying attention to the church service going on. They want to see if Jesus is going to heal someone on the Sabbath. Is he going to do “work”?


And Jesus looks at them and says, “You all are the perfect rule-followers right? So is saving a life a good rule to follow? Or is it a better rule to destroy a life? Is it a better rule to let someone suffer?”


Clearly, Jesus knows that Sabbath isn’t about RULES. Sabbath is about WORSHIP. And what better way to show worship to God than to participate in restoring someone to better life? What better way to worship God than to receive the gift of the day with gratitude?


[SLIDE 12]

Sabbath isn’t about rules. It’s about worship.


Many of us have been raised to learn that Sabbath is one of the ten commandments, and that we “have to” go to church, and we “should” do certain things in order to follow it correctly.


It’s easy to feel that Sabbath is all about something we “ought” to do, and then we feel guilt and shame when we don’t follow Sabbath correctly. Or we make excuses about why we can’t follow Sabbath right now. “It’s too hard with kids at this age.” “My job has crazy hours, and I can’t always make it to church.” “I’ve got too much to get done, and I can’t set aside a day to just lay around.”


When we think Sabbath is about rules, we try and find loopholes to justify ourselves, or we fall into the same trap that the Pharisees fell into, where they start judging others because they aren’t as religious or pious as you.


But guilt and shame isn’t a way to worship God. And judging others isn’t a way to worship God. Sabbath isn’t about rules, it’s about worship. And it’s a gift from God FOR us.


[SLIDE 13] 2v27

Remember what Jesus said in the first interaction? The Sabbath was made FOR us. It’s a gift from God. It’s not a rule that we have to follow in order to earn God’s love. It’s a gift that he gave us because of his love for us.


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And we can see this from the very beginning of the story of Scripture. All the way back at the beginning, God created everything on purpose, with an order and a system. Day 1, created light and darkness. And he called it good.


Day 2, separated water from land. And he called it good. Day 3, created trees and plants, Day 4 created sun moon and stars. Called them good!


Day 5, he created sea creatures, birds, all the animals. And he called it good.


Day 6, he created us, humanity. And he called us VERY good!


[SLIDE 15] Gen 2v2-3

And then we see that God rested on the 7th day, and he blessed it, he hallowed it, he called it HOLY.


Days 1-5 were good. Day 6 he created us and that was very good. But the Sabbath? That was made HOLY. Set apart. Sacred. The Sabbath wasn’t made for rules. It was made for worship. And it was made FOR us. Given as a gift for us.


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Have you ever thought about the fact that Day 7 was the first day Adam and Eve experienced? Day 6, they are created. Genesis 2 tells us that God created humanity in his image, as representatives of HIM, put in charge of the rest of creation. We’re responsible for the rest of creation. God made it all, but he put us in charge to manage it for him and point to him.


He creates Adam and Eve, tells them they are in charge on his behalf, and then on Day 7, their first day of being his representatives, their first day of learning from God how he wants them to live, he creates rest.


The Hebrew word shabbat that we get Sabbath from means to stop. What’s the first thing humans are supposed to do when they are created?


Stop. Enjoy the gift of creation that God made. Spend time in his presence.


Don’t freak out, don’t try and work and forage and collect and worry about taking care of yourself, because you can trust that God is able to care for you. Rest doesn’t come at the end of a hard work week. Rest, peace in the presence of God is the place we START from, and that’s what propels us into the work we are called to.


It’s just like the swing in my backyard. In order to swing forward, we need to be pulled back. We get to trust the one pulling us back. We get to lean back into his presence.


[SLIDE 17]

Author and Pastor James Bryan Smith says that “Sabbath rest is actually a call to Sabbath TRUST, a call to visibly demonstrate in our daily living that we know ourselves to be upheld and maintained by the grace of God rather than the strength and craftiness of our own hands.” G&B Life p81


What does True Rest look like? It looks like trust. Trust that God is good. Trust that God can provide for us. Trust that God will be there for us. Trust that God cares for us.


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The Pharisees thought Sabbath rest was about what to do and not to do. They thought it was about rules. But they were so concerned about how to DO Sabbath, that they missed what Sabbath was created to DO to them.


Because Sabbath is about worship, and true worship changes us. It’s supposed to change us. Worshiping God is supposed to change us to be more like Jesus.


That’s why God gave us Sabbath as a gift.


Sabbath is more than just a “day off” from work. It’s an invitation into the presence of God. It’s a weekly opportunity for healing and renewal.


[SLIDE 19]

Jewish author and rabbi Abraham Heschel calls Sabbath a “foretaste of paradise.”


It’s a weekly taste of heaven, of eternity, where we are connected with our Creator and at peace with what he has provided.


[SLIDE 20]

That’s why one of the main spiritual habits that we learn how to practice here at New Life is Sabbath. Because it’s one of the things that God uses to transform us. It’s one of the ways that we spend time with Jesus so that we can become more like him.


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And just imagine for a second if you were able to grow in your practice of Sabbath. What would it look like if your weekly schedule wasn’t packed to the brim, but it had a whole day of receiving the gift of God’s presence and healing rest?


How would your stress levels be healed if you had a weekly time to be reminded of all the ways God cares for you and your family?


What kind of contentment would grow in your life if you had a weekly reminder and reenactment of entering into the space that God has created to bring peace, wholeness, and love?


Don’t you think that your life needs more of that? Don’t you think Jesus might be inviting you to receive that gift from him?


[SLIDE 22]

As pastor and author John Mark Comer says, “Chronically exhausted, sleep deprived, overbusy people are not loving, peaceful, and full of joy. Rest is essential to apprenticeship under Jesus.” Practicing 182


Sabbath isn’t about rules, it’s about worship because it’s a gift from God for us. And God knows exactly what we need to be able to handle the responsibility of being his coworkers in the world. He knows exactly what our souls need to recover from all the ways the world tries to form us and change us. And he’s designed this gift to help in the process of forming us to be people of love.


[SLIDE 23]

Now, you might be wondering at this point some tips for how to celebrate Sabbath for your season of life, and that’s going to be what we talk about next Sunday. So make sure to come back ready to learn some really practical ways that you can practice Sabbath and take your next step of growing in that spiritual habit.


But for now, all I would invite you to do is to reflect on your own practice of Sabbath.


Maybe you already have a habit in place. Maybe that’s why you come to church and then spend the rest of the day in certain activities that connect you to God and his goodness.


Maybe you don’t have a habit of Sabbath at all.


In either case, review your practice of Sabbath and ask yourself: is the way I’m practicing Sabbath (or not practicing it) helping me to connect with God? Is it helping me be transformed to be more like Jesus? Is it growing the fruit of the spirit in me and helping me become more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient, more kind?


Or am I approaching Sabbath like a rule? Am I treating coming to church like a “have-to?” Am I missing the gift that God is offering to me?


Just spend this week reviewing what your habit of rest is doing to your life, and then pray. Pray and ask God, what are you inviting me to try? Are you inviting me to let go of anything so that I can better connect with you?


Because true rest helps us grow in trust. It helps us experience what David wrote in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters (literally, waters of rest); and he restores my soul.”


May we be a church who knows we don’t need to earn God’s love, but may we be reminded that in his almighty love, he has saved us by the blood of Jesus and he is inviting us to experience true LIFE, here and now, as we enter into his presence, become transformed by him, and join him in his work. Amen.