Dude, Where is My Sabbath?

It is Saturday again, and this morning I am at home trying to prepare the seminar topic for the Friday night MBF next week. I still have not really started because my head is still in pain from last night's evangelistic meetings. Vivian and I have been struggling to keep the Sabbath for a while. It ain't funny. But going back to the first principle - why are we keeping it today? What defines as work and what is not? What should we do when there is too much work and we might need to sacrifice our Sabbath?

In Briefing issue 293, pastor Joshua Ng wrote an article on the Sabbath Rest. Overall, it is a good idea to keep one day in a week special, and have rest on that day, because...

  1. God rested on the 7th day of his creation.
  2. God gave us the Sabbath for our good.
  3. we do look forward to the real rest in heaven.

A Christian usually would devote one day in a week to God and his church, i.e. Sunday, and therefore people often take another day off from work and ministry, i.e. Saturday. At the same time, we try to avoid being legalistic about it, i.e. keeping it does not win our way to God. However, I do sense that in FOCUS, "not keeping the Sabbath" might label you as a "unfaithful Christian". Maybe not in the legalistic sense, but people started questioning you - aren't you trusting God enough? Aren't you appreciating God's gift of 1 day rest in 7? The problem of keeping the Sabbath starts rolling in...

The problem is, it is not that workaholic-ism here that makes people like me finding difficult to keep the Sabbath. It is not that I am still doing the income generating activities on Saturday. I do enjoy what I am doing from Monday to Friday at "work". In fact, many full-time working Christians lay people that I met in Club-5 treat their Monday to Friday work as "rest", because it is far less stressful than ministry work on Sunday. Yes, in fact that many people have to do their full-time work during the weekdays and do the ministry work during week nights and weekends. The harvest is here, but the workers are few - so the workers go overtime to try to get the harvest done.

Vivian and I myself have been "questioned" (might not be an appropriate word) about our Saturday activities, and whether we do have some rest on this day. Some rest - definitely yes. I don't feel that stressful today as I do have the whole day to prepare what I am going to do next week. Keeping the Sabbath - probably not, as I still have some "tasks" to do today. Even though these "tasks" are not the kind of "work" that puts bread on the table, but I won't argue that they are not work thus I am keeping the Sabbath. But the fact is, I do want to take some rest but at the same time there are still a lot of ministry work to do. Especially for this session, which has just started, that we have lots of contacts from new students who are interested in finding out Christianity. Moreover, Mandarin Bible Fellowship have this new bi-weekly event every Friday night that I sometimes need to give seminars and talks. Shall I mention that there are always people from church want me to fix up their broken Windoze PeeCee, which I am pretty sure many guys doing CompEng or CompSci will be able to help?

The problem is also on the resources we have. As I said previous that the harvest is here but few is the worker (actually, Jesus too said that in Matthews 9:37), that simply adds more work on already limited resources. Besides, everyone wants to have Saturday off, but then who will be preparing for the Sunday will come straight after?

What then can be the solution?

  • Continue as it is now, and do as much ministry as you can on Saturdays and Sundays. Even the Apostle Paul works every Sabbath in the synagogues persuading both Jews and Gentiles in Acts 18:4! To be gospel minded? Continue doing ministry on Saturdays and Sundays!
    • Pros: The work is done. Your fellowship will be happy, and the number increases. People become mature in their faith, and they become your pride and joy in heavenly reward.
    • Cons: You don't have rest, and are burnt out after 6 months - either end up in the hospital or unexcited about ministry anymore. You are also criticised of not trusting God enough.
  • Take a whole day rest on Saturday. You trusted that God will provide enough good workmanship amongst your fellowship, and you trusted that it is God who can change people's heart - your work on Saturday cannot. Moreover, Sabbath is given by God as a pattern of rest in heaven, and we should appreciate it.
    • Pros: You become refreshed after your rest on Saturday, and you can now minister more effectively on Sunday. And your family are happy because you spend more time with them.
    • Cons: Quite possibly that when you turn up on Sunday, the Bible study is not prepared properly, some people do not turn on because of lack of follow up, and people still critise you of being lazy.

See the dilemma here? Maybe a mix and match might help a bit, but maybe I really do not trust God enough, it is likely that I will take the first approach.

Off to write the seminar now.

Update 8 March 2003 @ 12:27 PM: Just thought of something. What should we do when someone refuse to help out in ministry because he/she wants to "keep the Sabbath"? How should I respond to this kind of reasons? Or is it just I myself trying to justify doing ministry work on Saturdays? Confused.