Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sabbatical–Part 2

Matthew 11:28 (KJV)  28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Come to Jesus and our burdens will be lightened, we will be refreshed  The next two verses speak of taking His yoke upon us.  In order to understand why carrying a load bearing device would give us rest, we need to look at the complete picture

A farmer might have an ox pull his empty wagon out to the field.  Often that would be a younger ox of less strength.  The idea was to get him trained and built up.  But, when the wagon was loaded, later in the day, he might have a difficult time hauling the wagon back home.  The farmer would attach a yoke to the wagon.  And he’d get a second, older, stronger bull ox to harness up to one side of the yoke.  The younger ox would be harnessed next to him.  Both would be pulling the wagon, but the older ox would actually be pulling more than his half of the weight, lightening the younger ox’s load.

The idea of a yoke gives us a nice image of having that relationship with God.  There are a lot of situations that we have to get through.  We need to haul that spiritual wagon out to the field to get our spiritual muscles flexed and ready for use.  Once the wagon is fully loaded, we may or may not be able to pull it in our own strength, but we shouldn’t do it alone.  With Christ in the other part of the yoke, we experience enough to benefit from pulling the load, but we don’t get stuck doing it all in our flesh.  Christ carries the major portion of the burden.  So, what does that have to do with sabbaticals?

In the Old Testament, the word for Sabbath literally meant an intermission.  The New Testament Greek word clarifies even further.  The Sabbath was a period of time separated from secular work, set aside for rest.  Although that usually referred to a given day of the week, it could also refer to a time period between two Sabbath days.  When some churches celebrate a “holy week”, that fits right in with the idea of a Sabbath week.  But remember that one of our verses in Exodus, last time, said to keep the Sabbath holy.  God is still the source of rest.

Fast forward to more modern and more secular times and we see a new term: sabbatical.  It comes from the same roots as Sabbath, but it’s been given a modified definition.  A sabbatical is a longer period away from a normal job.  We often hear of people taking a sabbatical to write a book, do research, get another degree, etc.  It’s not really a Sabbath because:
  1. it’s still related to the person’s regular job,
  2. it’s just different work, not a rest period, and
  3. God’s not often considered or included.
The whole point of the sabbatical is usually to add to the person’s job related experience and credentials.  With that in mind, let’s look at my sabbatical and a usual one.

When I decided that I needed a sabbatical, it was more Sabbath oriented.  There were some physical things going on, but there really was a spiritual side to it.  I guess I’m spoiled.  I usually get an idea from God, come up with a mental outline of where it’s going, and am usually blown away when the finished product is so much better than what I planned because God was the driving force.  Not me.  But, every once in awhile, I’d hit a period where it just wasn’t coming.  Mostly for hours, but this time it was days and kept growing.

Have you ever felt responsible for something and watched it not go the way you expected it to?  That was me and very much like the young oxen.  I could pull the empty wagon.  But then I was faced with the other side of the yoke being empty.  It wasn’t that God hadn’t given the call, nor that I was looking to pull the wagon alone.  He was silent on the writing front and I was becoming aware that I had taken on more load bearing in some of the other ministry things I do.  I was seeking God, but crowding Him out when He responded.

We always have to have several premises if we want to have things happen properly.
  1. There is a God and I’m not Him.
  2. I’m not what I do.
  3. I can’t, He can, I think I’ll let Him.
The fact is that we’re not responsible for anything except our relationship with God and allowing the results of that relationship.  Which means we’re not defined by what we do or what our call is.  We are defined by how we relate to God – sinner or saint.  And we can be sure that if something’s important, our flesh (the young, weaker ox) won’t have the strength to handle it alone.  Those three premises aren’t original, but they’re important to keep in mind.

I live in Matthew 6:33 as a guiding principle – “seek first….”.  But there will be times when it seems like we just can’t find Him.  That’s the point where we need to stop all our striving and stand still, knowing He is God.  And knowing He will find us if we want Him to.

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