By Melisa Turner
It may seem strange to say that a place of rest could be dangerous. But I have encountered not one but two ways that Sabbath keeping is a threat to my soul. They both have a lot to do with my attitude and my perception of what Sabbath is really for.
DANGER #1 – Enduring instead of Enjoying
This puts our focus on getting to the end of an obligation and not reveling in the presence of our God.
After dinner Eliza Jane and Alice did the dishes, but Father and Mother and Royal and Almanzo did nothing at all. The whole afternoon they sat in the drowsy warm dining-room. Mother read the Bible and Eliza Jane read a book, and Father’s head nodded till he woke with a jerk, and then it began to nod again. Royal fingered the wooden chain that he could not whittle, and Alice looked for a long time out the window. But Almanzo just sat. He had to. He was not allowed to do anything else, for Sunday was not a day for working or playing. It was a day for going to church and for sitting still.
Almanzo was glad when it was time to do the chores. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy, p. 94
Now obviously it is hard for a nine year old boy to sit still and so he waits until he can do chores. But how many of us are Almanzo during Sabbath time? We obey the letter of the law and schedule down time, off time, family time or recreation time. But, the entire time we are fingering beads we are not allowed to whittle, staring wistfully out the window to something we are worried won’t be finished on time, or we visit with Jesus like he is an aging relative we don’t know and we are nine years old.
Can I go now please?
May I be excused?
This danger is much more subtle because on the surface it looks like semantics. But, it goes so much deeper to the way we live daily and it can affect our purpose and calling.
God created man and woman on the sixth day…on the first full day of existence for Adam and Eve, God rested. And so did Adam and Eve…After a busy day of being created, the next thing we did was hang out with God for a whole day. Then work began…From this we see an important principle of life: We are to work from our rest, not rest from our work.
Fruitfulness happens in stages and seasons: abide, grow, bear fruit, prune, abide. This is the rhythm of the swinging pendulum…We cannot bear fruit if we do not spend time abiding. But we cannot simply stay put in the Abide mode; a branch that does not eventually bear fruit will be cut off and cast into the fire (Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad, A Passionate Life, p. 69 and 73).
The danger lies in working until a rest must be taken and then lacking the desire to swing back into motion. If we work to exhaustion and then finally begin to abide we might not get up again!
But, if we rest in order to do the work God has called us to do our view of Sabbath keeping is different. We are no longer trudging in the trenches frustrated that a rest is required. Sabbath now is a place to be with Jesus that He might restore, prune, and grow us. This gives us stamina to accomplish our call and purpose. Then we will want to come back to abiding at the end of the work because it is what fuels our work. God is now our truest source and motivation. He is not just the place to catch our breath.
Enjoy your Sabbath keeping that it might sustain the work you have been called to do.
Melisa serves alongside her husband as senior pastors of Oroville Assembly of God, in Oroville, Washington. She sees women’s ministry and ministry in general in this way: “In so much as anyone pushes you nearer to God, she is your truest friend.” It is her calling to facilitate spiritual growth in women; to help them be fruitful. To inspire, refresh, and enable them to do the same for others in their lives. One way she reaches out is to host a no cost bazaar annually that is designed to help women in small business. This event allows her to bless them in their current situation and share the love of Jesus with them all day long. She also hosts a weekly bible study for women in the Oroville area. Some of the ladies are from her church body and other church bodies, and some have no current church home. Melisa is able to serve her community in this way through Blossom Ministries. Melisa’s ability to bring women together, preparing them to “grow in their spiritual walk and bear fruit” is one of her many strengths that we welcome to our team. It is her heart and hope that she spreads the fragrance of Christ wherever she is allowed to minister.