Sabbath as a Sermon for the Ambitious

This is the craziest time in my life. I recently wrote and released a book, born out of leading more than 250,000 Christian entrepreneurs and creatives in the Called to Create ministry. I also lead a venture-backed tech startup called Threshold 360, where we’re on a mission to map the inside of every public location on earth in 360°. And then there is the joyful work I do at home, laboring alongside my wonderful wife to raise our two young daughters.

If you bump into me on the street and ask how I’m doing, I’ll likely say, “Great!” (which is true), but the whole truth is that I’m exhausted. And I bet you are, too. Part of the reason I wrote Called to Create was to inspire a generation of Christians to lean in harder to their work. But if in all our ambition we forget to rest, we’ll miss an unparalleled opportunity to preach the gospel to ourselves and to those around us.

Sabbath as Gift

About a year ago, by the grace of God and a book by John Mark Comer, I started to keep the Sabbath. For me, Sabbath was just an ancient word for a day of the week, not something to actually practice. But the craziness of life caused me to take a closer look at Jesus’s words on rest—and his exchange with the Pharisees in Mark 2 in particular. The Pharisees are asking why Jesus and his disciples are picking grains on their Sabbath walk. Jesus replies, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

If in all our ambition we forget to rest, we’ll miss an unparalleled opportunity to preach the gospel to ourselves and to those around us.

The Sabbath was made for man. Honestly, it wasn’t until I re-read that verse a year ago that I began to see the Sabbath as a gift. To me, the Sabbath had always had legalistic connotations, prompting me (and I suspect many other millennial Christians) to write off the Sabbath entirely.

I didn’t start practicing the art of Sabbath out of conviction or guilt. I started once I realized that rest is a gracious gift from God to give us a break from the relentless demands of this world and our work.

Life-Giving Enjoyment

So what does Sabbath-keeping look like for me and my family? In short, we only do things that are “life-giving,” trying as best we can to cease all “striving” and “productivity.”

For us, that looks like staying off of our phones, eating our favorite foods, spending unhurried time in God’s Word, and being with family and close friends. And perhaps most significantly, temporarily suspending any “productive” conversation. Yes, we talk about our work, but only in the context of how grateful we are for the gift our work is and what the Lord is accomplishing through it.

As my wife and I began to practice Sabbath, it quickly became clear why Jesus said the Sabbath is for man, and not the other way around. The Sabbath is an opportunity to rest from the pressure of the world to constantly accomplish, earn, solve, spend, and do. It’s a day to step back, as God himself did on the seventh day, and enjoy the fruit of our labor. It’s a day to look at our life, our work, and the cross and say with great contentment, “This is enough!” Tim Keller puts it well:

The purpose of Sabbath is not simply to rejuvenate yourself in order to do more production, nor is it the pursuit of pleasure. The purpose of Sabbath is to enjoy your God, life in general, what you have accomplished in the world through his help, and the freedom you have in the gospel—the freedom from slavery to any material object or human expectation.

Rest in Jesus

The world offers up careers as one of many means of self-salvation. If you accomplish enough, make enough money, or accumulate enough fame, you will be accepted. You will be okay. You will be “set.” Deep down, this is what all humans crave: peace with ourselves and, ultimately, with our Maker. And so we work insanely hard to achieve this peace and to prove to the world we aren’t a chump.

But as Christians, we know that neither our work, nor any other counterfeit god, can satisfy or save. Jesus Christ is the only One who can bring the salvation the world so desperately desires. When we rest—when we keep the Sabbath—we’re saying to ourselves and to the watching world that while we could squeeze in one more day of productivity, profits, and performance, we don’t need to. We’re okay. We’re satisfied. It’s not our work that is saving us. It’s something else. It’s someone else.

Almost every Sunday, on our drive to church, I repeat these lyrics from “In Christ Alone” to myself over and over again:

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

If we’re doing the work God has called us to, we should be ambitious for it. But let’s also embrace God’s good gift of rest, and thereby preach a powerful sermon to ourselves and to the world that even “when strivings cease,” we stand secure in the love of Christ.

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