The Sabbath excuse

Is Sabbath an opportunity to help and heal, or just to sleep?

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(Photo: iStock)

A close friend of mine is on an exciting journey, getting to know God better. In fact, I am amazed and inspired at how God has helped him and changed him in the past couple of months. From a secular Australian background, he is embracing the tenets of belief wholeheartedly, reading and studying and coming up with lots of questions.

A recent question he had was difficult. His supervisor wanted him to attend an awards event on a Friday night. From the outset, he had told them he wouldn’t work on Sabbath. However, they were trying to convince him to attend, stating that it was required and that they had already paid for it, subtle pressures applied along the way. He called me, not sure what to do. I could hear the conflict in his voice. He wanted to conform and didn’t want to rock the boat at his new job, but also wasn’t sure of the spiritual ramifications of one choice or another.

I encouraged him but didn’t give him an answer straight away. We would chat about it, face to face, later that night, when we could read some verses together and talk it through, so he’d be comfortable with his decision.

So, when I had a spare moment, I sat down to write out some thoughts to share with him, to prompt some reflection and ideas on why he was choosing to keep this day special and what might be appropriate—some of which I’m including here.

I ask myself these questions when deciding whether or not to do something on Sabbath:

  • Who am I doing it for: God, others, myself?
  • Who am I serving: God, others, myself?
  • Who does it bring glory to? Who does it demonstrate is most important in my life?

The Sabbath is a gift from God—it is a parcel of time in the week given to us to rest and to spend time with Him and those we love (including church family). Keeping the Sabbath reminds us that God is in control and that we owe our lives and allegiance to Him.

By trying to set stringent rules we undermine the relational aspects of Sabbath. By trying to cut corners or make excuses to do stuff we place other things before God. For example, it’s clear where our priorities lie if we miss our child’s birthday party for a business meeting. 

"Our beliefs are made up of a million little decisions and stands that we make, especially for the right thing in the face of adversity."

We can’t make Sabbath an excuse to avoid building relationships or to sleep all day. There must be opportunities to help and heal on Sabbath as Jesus did.

I told my friend: “at the end of the day this is a tough decision that no-one can force you to make one way or the other. You need to decide for yourself and you need to pray about it. Pray for strength and for God to give you courage if you choose not to go.”

Our beliefs are made up of a million little decisions and stands that we make, especially for the right thing in the face of adversity. Every time we don’t stand, our witness is diminished.

That’s why it is so good to share the good news with people when we can. It causes us to refresh and revisit our own beliefs. It challenges our practice and our priorities. This is a challenge we all face as Seventh-day Adventist Church members. We ask ourselves what is right and wrong on Sabbath and what will we do when our beliefs and convictions are challenged. I’ve been challenged by discipling him as it has forced me to ask myself questions. Am I just conforming to Sabbath observance or am I making the most of the Sabbath hours?

What will he do?

My friend stood his ground and told his employer he couldn’t attend. He told me he didn’t want to set a precedent and be asked to work back on Fridays, especially in the future. They were fine with it and his supervisor said he would explain to the higher ups. I praise God for this chance for my friend to exercise his faith and for this reminder of why mine is important.

Please pray for him as he finds his feet and establishes and grows in his faith.

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