On Shifting Your Sabbath Habits

In this excerpt from Soul Rest, author Curtis Zackery describes a common struggle we all know: reverting back to the habits we’re trying to change.

He explains how keeping the Sabbath isn’t simply about restraining from work, but about pursuing meaningful, soul-renewing rest—a shift in our habits toward something good, not just away from something bad.

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I remember the day that my dad taught me how to shoot a basketball correctly. Until that point, I had my method that I had developed over time to get the ball up to the hoop. The form was sloppy, but it got the job done. It mainly consisted of me pushing the ball up from my chest and heaving it forward. My dad began to show me the benefit of shooting with your elbow in closer to your body and lined up with the hoop.
At first, this was uncomfortable, because I had my own established rhythm. But slowly, with some practice, I began to see how this could enhance my ability to play. I stayed there with him shooting for a while and became a bit more comfortable.

After my dad had left the park, though, I jumped into a pickup game with some friends. Over the course of the game, all of the helpful knowledge I had just acquired slowly began to wear off, and I went right back to shooting the old way. It was clear that it was going to take some time to establish this new way of thinking about shooting and it was going to take practice before it became a regular part of my game and would happen naturally.

What’s interesting about rest is that it can become, like other disciplines, something that we think is spiritual in and of itself. For example, there have been many times in my life that I’ve found myself attempting to fast, believing that there were merit and spirituality in the act itself. The spiritual perspective of fasting is the act of withholding or abstaining from something, with the intentionality to achieve clarity, direction, or invigoration. But if we fast from food and are not replacing the food with the invitation for an engagement of spiritual sustenance, we simply aren’t eating. There isn’t an inherent spirituality in the act of withholding. We need to replace the emptiness created by the withholding with substance.

The same can be true about Sabbath and rest. There is an opportunity to relax our physical bodies, which can be a good thing, but not do as Exodus 20:8 instructs us to do, which is to keep it holy.

When we withhold from something to honor God, we have to repopulate the time. When I’ve emptied my day, and my day off work, I need to replace it with worship and honor and remembrance of the good news of who Jesus is to and for us. Many have wondered why “not doing anything” in hopes of having a Sabbath day leaves them feeling as though they haven’t been refreshed spiritually. Inactivity alone will not help us to keep the Sabbath day holy. When we are not doing our work, we have to remember His work.

Our temptation, of course, is to shift the emphasis on the rules or the do’s and don’ts of the Sabbath day and allow this to consume us. But by doing so, we find ourselves establishing modern-day fences in our lives. We start to miss the point of the gift of the Sabbath when we allow the rules and laws to steal the rest and dominate our mind-set. Slowly we try to rest “for God” instead of experiencing the rest that comes “from God.”

He desires that rest would be a gift to our souls and be an opportunity to find refreshment that comes from remembering His finished work. We can find pathways to rest, but the pathways aren’t the real rest that we are pursuing. They are a means to the real thing that we are hungry for and that God built us with—real soul rest.1

  1. Zackery, Curtis. Soul Rest: Reclaim Your Life. Return to Sabbath. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press, 2018.
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Faithlife Staff

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Written by Faithlife Staff