Biblical Rest in a Weary World
by Rev. Nicholas J. Kersten
In his recent book, “You Found Me,” evangelism researcher Rick Richardson, with the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, charts and interprets recent evidence about those people around us who do not believe in Jesus Christ. Contrary to some studies well‐publicized, Richardson believes that the standard, sloppy, defeatist narrative around Christian witness with those who don’t believe in our times is overplayed and overgeneralized, and in a way that discourages from living out what our faith teaches.
The remedy for this inertia in our witness, according to Richardson? Authentic faith which reaches out to our neighbors. According to Richardson, “…We belong out there [in the world] as individuals and the church; bless people where we live, work, study, and play; and then bring them into the community of our congregation. People then go through a cycle of becoming the beloved in community. They connect to Christians, contribute their gifts and abilities to the congregation, commit to Christ, and communicate what God has done in their lives, inviting others into the same journey.”1
I will comment further on some of Richardson’s findings in future columns, but for now I want to focus on one aspect of Richardson’s work: blessing people “out there.” As Seventh Day Baptists, we are missing one very important opportunity we have because of our Biblical convictions to bless the people around us in the underpromotion of our distinctive belief in the seventh day Sabbath of the Bible. Elsewhere in this issue of the SR, other articles have addressed our Biblical belief about Sabbath and how we can be led by the Scriptures and Spirit to keep it and believe rightly about it.
We need to carefully study the Scriptures on these matters for ourselves and to live from how we are led under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we study, but that guidance is not only for us. Our genuinely lived‐out convictions regarding the Sabbath can be a powerful testimony to a world that is obsessed with never switching off. Real rest, even for our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not share our conviction, is difficult to find.
It has become so difficult to find that there is a proliferation of Christian books about finding “a Sabbath rest,” or “holding to the Sabbath principle.” We have important things to contribute to this conversation, both experientially and theologically, but our witness in these things is only as good as our lives can demonstrate. Ironically, one of the best things we may have to offer our world is our testimony as SDBs about what we refuse to do, or more correctly, when we refuse to do it. To a frantic world, an opportunity for real rest and fellowship with the God of the universe that can refresh us is very, very good news, both for believers and unbelievers alike.
As Seventh Day Baptists, we have long held that the seventh day of the week is sacred time, set apart and sanctified by God for rest—cessation from our weekly labors in a way that is totally different from the other six days of the week. We have affirmed this belief repeatedly, but a belief we don’t hold convictionally or won’t follow through on in our own lives has very little benefit to anyone, including ourselves. If it has been a while since you have gone back through Scripture and considered what God has done in providing the Sabbath for His people, it is high time for you to prayerfully return. This is not only for you, but for the good of our world and your neighborhood. God’s Spirit can work powerfully in your own life and in the lives that touch yours—but for that doorway to be open, you need to be in God’s Word, you need to be living out your conviction, and you need to be in contact with people who need God’s rest.
This article was first published in the February 2020 edition of The Sabbath Recorder, which is the official publication of the Seventh Day Baptist Church. We encourage you to follow them and read more of their material at: https://www.sabbathrecorder.com/
1 Rick Richardson, You Found Me: New Research on How Unchurched Nones, Millenials, and Irreligious are Surprisingly Open to Christian Faith. IVP Books, Downers Grove, IL. 2019, p230