Sabbath Observance: Is it for me? – Dr John Fluit

Applying the ‘sabbath’ principles to your ‘Lord’s Day’


From Luke’s Journal 2022 | Rest | Vol.27 No.1

If you are a medical professional and you want to avoid physical and mental burnout, feel strained in family relationships, or distant from the Lord, God has the answer for you. It’s called ‘the Sabbath’, and it was made for Christians. So let’s look at the basics.

Who is a ‘Christian’?

A Christian is a bearer of Christ’s name, and this comes first and foremost above all other roles we may have: doctor, dentist, nurse, parent, etc.

As such, a Christian is to be:

Glorifying God. Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is the main purpose of mankind?” Answer: Mankind’s main purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Holy, set aside for His service. Every aspect of our lives must submit to the leadership of Jesus Christ, so that there is no compartmentalisation that places ‘God stuff’ in a separate box away from ‘making money’, ‘family’ , ‘leisure’, ‘career’, etc. In John 15:4-5 we are told, “Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.” In Matthew 22: 37, Jesus replies, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Trusting God for all needs, both spiritual and physical. Matthew 6: 28-34 tells us to, “Seek first His kingdom.” When we prioritise God’s kingdom and trust God, who is “the sovereign disposer of all things good for those who are in Christ Jesus” 1, He will provide all things necessary for our lives as we submit to His will. Illness, money and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) won’t have a hold on us.  

What does God say about this ‘Sabbath’ then?

My hope is that this article convinces you that it is legitimate to apply the ‘sabbath’ principles to your ‘Lord’s Day’.

Genesis 2:1-3 “So on the seventh day He rested from all his work.Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” 

God was not tired, but was setting a precedent for His creation.

Mark 2:27-28 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath is for our benefit – for spiritual, relational and physical health, but not for selfish indulgence. Though it is a day made for us, the principles of Christian living apply like any other day and there are many opportunities to appreciate God’s grace.

Exodus 31:12-17 “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”

The Sabbath is a lasting covenant and sign, setting God’s people apart and bearing witness to the unbelieving world that we have different priorities and trust God for our needs. It can be a powerful witness to unbelievers and to our community.2

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Now the theme of redemption is added, pointing to the eternal rest we can expect as redeemed children of the Father.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We are living in times of unprecedented challenges, changes and attacks on Christianity. Now is the time for Christians to return to God and use the grace given to us to stock up on God’s rich provisions in preparation to give generously.

“Now is the time for Christians to return to God and use the grace given to us to stock up on God’s rich provisions in preparation to give generously.”

Recently, worldwide persecution of Christians and destruction of churches has become much more prevalent. Public worship is no longer possible in much of the world. In Australia, we may not always enjoy the freedom to meet that we currently have. 

Zoom is just not the same! It’s hard to feel close to and meet each other’s needs one to one on Zoom! We have so loved being back with our church family now that restrictions have eased. Zoom was necessary and valuable in continuing public worship during restrictions, but it has now also given some churches and individuals the opportunity to be slack in resuming physical meetings on the Lord’s day, and even with Bible studies.

Matthew 11: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

Although it may not be fashionable to do this, I urge you to read your Creator’s instruction manual, the Bible. He made us and He knows what things are good for us. Rest is one of them.

Isaiah 58: 13-14 “….if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord ….”

The Sabbath should be a delight, approached with an attitude of gratitude.

Romans 6:11-18 “…you are not under the law, but under grace….” (read the rest of Romans 6 as it is very helpful)

“We are indeed not ‘under the law’ in regards to our salvation because Jesus perfectly kept the law for us, but in regards to godly living, His ten commandments are a prescription for living that honours Him and respects others.”

We are indeed not ‘under the law’ in regards to our salvation because Jesus perfectly kept the law for us, but in regards to godly living, His ten commandments are a prescription for living that honours Him and respects others. Keep in mind these commandments were given to the Israelites while they were His people (not to become His people), and to prepare them for the Promised Land, as we are also being now. Keeping the Sabbath is not a legalistic requirement. If we think it is, we’re missing the whole point of the gospel.

Putting ‘Sabbath’ into practice

Well, what about putting this into practice for medical professionals or spouses of the same?

We live busy lives and are probably more prone to burnout than most other professions. Putting into practice what it is to be His children and what He says about the ‘Lord’s Day’ can be a challenge but one with both temporal and eternal benefits. 

The first and most vital part of the day is corporate worship. It is most easily accessible on Sundays and should be a high priority. Attending church gives an anchor to the day. Public worship is a privilege, a command, and a reminder to rest in His finished work. It rightly ascribes glory and majesty to the King of kings. 

God speaks to us through the preaching of His word for our eternal good. Believers have been freed from the law by Christ who fulfilled it. As such, we can set aside a day of rest with hearts thankful to God. We can acknowledge dependence on his faithfulness while anticipating the full rest of God’s presence in heaven.3

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels

Families – If you have children, the day also lends itself to a particular time for teaching our children. We might perhaps do this in a more relaxed setting, sharing about God’s goodness in the history of the world, and in our personal journey of walking with Him. In Deuteronomy 6:5-7 we are instructed to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” 

Rest from usual activities and concerns. This is the hard part. 

In regards to paid work, medical people work in an essential service area, so there will be times when you have to work. However, this is different from actively seeking Sunday work when you don’t have to. A serious pandemic in our society occurs when teenagers in Christian families enter the workforce. The type of jobs typically available to them frequently involves Sunday. This has the potential for fragmenting family worship and adding to marginalisation of church attendance.

Rest from usual weekly activities can be a grey area. We need to at least minimise chores on the Lord’s Day and not get stressed about things that we feel must be done. This includes housework, shopping4, organised sport5 and even some leisure activities. We will find that some things can be put off, or with better preparation for the day, can have been done earlier.

I must say here that one of my passions is to challenge students with this: that they don’t need to study seven days a week. God has ordained you to rest one day a week (at least). If you honour Him in this, He will honour you. Ask yourself, do you really need to study Sundays? What is study keeping you from doing on the Sunday that’s more in line with God’s priorities and will benefit you and the community of saints? I’m not a super Christian, nor particularly smart, but throughout my seven years of university I rarely did any Uni work on a Sunday. When I moved from country Victoria to Sydney to study, I was ‘adopted’ by a family from a small church and spent the day with them, usually attending church twice and getting involved in various church outreach programs. I don’t think I ever failed a Monday exam because I didn’t study Sunday (but I did study hard the other days!).

“Sunday rest often requires some preparation during the week. This can reduce pressure to fill the Sunday with jobs that could have been done through the week.”

Sunday rest often requires some preparation during the week. This can reduce pressure to fill the Sunday with jobs that could have been done through the week. Could you have done that assignment through the week to keep Sunday free? Don’t stay out late on Saturday night so that all you do is sleep on Sunday, including during the sermon (a common malady that I’ve observed).

If you are struggling with issues in this regard, or in doubt about what is acceptable activity on the Sunday, apply the motivation test: “Is this activity primarily for my selfish benefit or will it glorify God as it fits in with His overall direction for Godly living?”

PRAY, ask God for clarification of His desires for you and your family and the HOLY SPIRIT will guide you!

Keeping the Sabbath has consequences:

There are all the obvious positive things I’ve already mentioned, primarily that we are being obedient to God’s will.

There may be losses in terms of lost income, opportunities, meeting with family and friends etc. but keep in mind that godly living involves sacrifice.

Less secular involvement in sport or other leisure activities may be difficult, particularly for kids. These things are not bad in themselves but can usurp more important things, especially on Sundays.

In summary

The believer, knowing he or she has been freed from the law by Christ, who has indeed fulfilled it, can set aside a day of rest with a heart of thankfulness to God and acknowledge His faithfulness while anticipating the full rest of God’s presence in heaven. This day of rest in this context is a great source of assurance and hope for the believer as he or she navigates life in a still sin-scarred world and looks forward to when all things will be made perfect. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
(Romans 15: 13)

Dr John Fluit
Dr John Fluit has been a GP in Newcastle for 37 years. He is married to Anna and they have 5 children and 11 grandchildren. They attend a Presbyterian church.

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  1. John Wesley c1800
  2. Some years ago while on holidays, we dropped in at a friend’s oyster farm on a Sunday. Some people were working in the next shed and told us, “Those people are Christians so they’re never here on Sundays.”
  3. I’ll just mention something that I have noticed over the years. Students who come from other places to a city to study, often gravitate towards Uni churches, which is understandable. Having been part of a few smallish churches over the years, young students attending these churches can be a blessing and greatly blessed by the fellowship of a wide age range church, including older saints, rather than where all the other students are going. Please give it some consideration if you’re in that situation.
  4. My wife Anna and I have always tried to avoid any shopping on Sunday, not so much because we are causing other people to work (they carry their own responsibility), but again to set the day apart and not let it become a day which we fill up with leftover tasks from the week. Such tasks have a habit of snowballing so that corporate worship can be relegated to an ‘if there’s time left’ activity.
  5. Sunday sport is another way in which pursuing Christian rest and fellowship can be seriously compromised. The secular world cares nothing for pursuing godliness and Sunday is a prime day for organised sport, especially for kids. Kids’ sport is a minefield which can be very damaging to family and church involvement. This is something we tried hard to avoid as much as possible when our kids were at home. To be blunt, we need to ask ourselves the question, “What’s more important, our kids’ souls or sporting prowess?” Fortunately, there are Christian sporting associations that play during the week and hold matches on Saturdays for that reason (though “Christian” sportsmanship is sometimes lacking!).