Striving for Sabbath

Very rarely does God encourage us to “strive” for anything, but there’s a notable exception: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. … Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:9,11).

Sabbath is a regular rhythm of rest in which we stop and entrust everything to God. But why should disciples strive for Sabbath? For me, it’s because Sabbath ultimately disciples us in three crucial identity questions: Who is God? Who am I? Who are we, together?

  1. Who Is God?

Oh, how our hearts brim with misconceptions. Let’s first recall who God is not. The real God does not view his children as nameless tools. That kind of harsh taskmaster God exists only in our broken imaginations. The real God is delightfully good and delights to call us friends (John 15:15).  

So Sabbath is actually a beautiful revelation of God’s identity. He longs to usher us into rest, to carry our burdens and to set us free—which is what Sabbath is all about. Even more than working through us, the God-Who-Is delights in us—even when we are loafing, even when we are doing nothing at all. “The Lord … will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17). On Sabbath, we stop and hear God sing.

  1. Who Am I?

On Sabbath, I recall that if God is the Creator, then I am the creature. When my children were babies, my Spanish-speaking husband and I loved to call them criaturas or “creatures” (in Spanish, the word criatura can also refer to an infant). In all their burping, wiggling and cooing, their creatureliness was clear. But we adults forget that we’re creatures, too.  

Sabbath reminds me to acknowledge my fundamental limits and to bask in God’s limitless power. Sabbath reaffirms my identity as a creature, meaning that I can only do what creatures do—fully depend on the Creator and the Creator’s provision.

  1. Who Are We, Together?

Sabbath is meant to provide more than personal rejuvenation. It is also designed to herald a new way of doing life together. I find it intriguing that one of the original purposes of Sabbath was to foster caring community—to resist oppression and overwork, thus emphasizing the equality of all people before God (see Exod. 23:9–12). In his article, “Sabbath, a ‘Little Jubilee,’” Richard Lowery reminds us that Sabbath calls us to “accept the responsibility to make the world better … to make decisions that promote dignity, freedom, well-being and life-giving power for all God’s people.” So Sabbath is also about corporate identity. Sabbath affirms that God longs for us to become a just, beloved community, grounded in the saving love of Jesus Christ. 

By now we are well aware that our mission is gargantuan. There are so many people to reach, so many disciples to make, so much injustice to fight. Really, the mission is endless—which is precisely why we need the Sabbath to remind us to entrust our mission to an endless God.

Michelle T. Sanchez is a discipleship executive with the Evangelical Covenant Church and author of Color-Courageous Discipleship (WaterBrook).

Michelle Sanchez
Michelle Sanchez

Michelle T. Sanchez has served in various discipleship and evangelism leadership roles for more than a decade, most recently as executive minister of make and deepen disciples for the Evangelical Covenant Church. She’s the author of Color-Courageous Discipleship (WaterBrook).