Sabbath: Boundaries for Rest

When I was a kid, my family packed up our 1998 Ford Windstar minivan and began the 25-hour trek from central Ohio to the Rocky Mountains for a spring break that I’ll never forget. We were no strangers to road trips, but this one was different. It was smooth sailing through the plains of Kansas, but something happened when we reached the foot of the Rockies. As we began our climb up the mountain highways, my dad’s demeanor changed. If you hadn’t heard of the term “white-knuckle driver,” you could have figured out its meaning by looking at him that day. It was shocking that anyone would build these roads with no guardrails, no boundaries to protect travelers. People who drive there live life on the edge indeed. Any small slip and you’d fall off the face of the earth.

Are you flying down the highway at a speed that has brought on anxiety, stress, or burnout? What is God’s answer to the problem of a fast-paced life that you and I tend to lead? The Sabbath rest is a gift from God, the perfect antidote to our modern pace of life. But often, we disregard this command from God because we falsely believe that we don’t have time to rest. What boundaries, or guardrails, could we put into our life that would promote and protect a Sabbath rest for us?

Boundary of Rhythm

Balance is a myth. You know it. You feel it. You’re nodding as you read this because you know it’s true. God gave us a rhythm to march to in life. This rhythm actually begins with rest. In God’s kingdom—the upside-down place that it is—He calls us to rest first. Our culture has told us to work until we can’t possibly work anymore, and we come crashing back to reality in a fit of anxious burnout. Mike Breen says this: “Rest is God’s healthy starting point for us. We are human beings, not human doings. This is the order God has established for us: rest, then work.”[1] What does your rhythm look like? Do you view your Sabbath as rest from your work? I think God asks us to work out of the rest He provides. He calls us to natural rhythms of rest. Find the rhythm, and march to that beat.

Boundary of Confidence

Youth ministry never ends. This isn’t very inspirational, but you’ll never finish the work that God has called you to. That’s okay. I was listening to a podcast once about someone’s onboarding at a well-known megachurch. The pastor came into the orientation and said, “If you think God needs you to work more than 50 hours a week, your god is too small.” You are called to be faithful. God will handle the outcomes. God is more concerned about you than your output. The confidence that you have in Jesus must outweigh the need for you to work hard enough to gain favor. Having faith that God will do what He says He will do is confidence. Being able to abide in Christ even when the world would say that there is more work to be done—that’s confidence.

Boundary of Vision

“The greatest threat to youth worker longevity is not our lack of skills or creativity, but our inability to manage the competing, confusing, often chaotic demands on our time.”[2] A boundary of vision will help you realize that there is always more to do, but taking time to rest and abide in Christ will give you the ability to last in youth ministry. Are you unable to look past the issues that are demanding your attention? Do you find it hard to imagine the future for God’s people where you are? If that is the case, then a good chance is that you’re not taking enough time to pause, rest, and abide. Having an imagination or vision for the future will help create an appetite for rest. You want to be around long enough to see God’s plan come to fruition—the Sabbath is the vehicle to help you arrive there safely.

Jesus said it like this, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Jesus has a great plan for you. He has invited you into this incredible work of redemption. But it’s only in His power that you’ll be able to do this. These boundaries can help you stay on the path God has laid out for you and keep you healthy as you lead His church. Start with rest. Find your confidence in Jesus’ promises. Find a vision to create longevity, and see the future God has in mind for His people.

 [1] Breen, Mike. Building a Discipling Culture: How to Release a Missional Movement by Discipling People Like Jesus Did. 2nd ed. 3DM Publishing, 2011.

[2] DeVries, Mark. Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why most youth ministry doesn’t last and what your church can do about it. InterVarsity Press, 2008.

Joey Bocook
Latest posts by Joey Bocook (see all)