Follow Us

Sabbatical Reflections

Sabbatical Reflections

I just returned from a seventy day sabbatical. It was a gift! There was adventure: visiting Israel, England and Scotland. There was study: presenting a paper at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England and writing the first chapter of my PhD thesis. There was also fun: ice cream cones, boat rides, picnics, mini-golf and visiting Shelburne Farm. There was also rest: time to think, pray, read, reflect and get refreshed.
The word “sabbatical” comes from the word “Sabbath” which comes from the Hebrew word “Shabbat.” Many Protestants and Catholics observe the Sabbath every Sunday, according to Exodus 20:8: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
My brother-in-law Tom Hess, director of the Jerusalem House of Prayer for All Nations, wrote a book called Enjoy the Rest of His Presence: Shabbat. Hess states that Shabbat means “intermission…to cease, to rest or be still, to leave, to rid, to put or take away” (10). He offers the following insight: “Man was created to go into and abide in God’s rest. You were created first to enter into God’s rest and not into His work. You could have been created to enter into God’s work, but humans were created on the sixth day to enter into His rest of His presence on the seventh. We then work in and out of the rest of His presence into the beginning of the next week”(18).
I finally started to learn this lesson during my Sabbatical. I must preach, teach, serve and lead out of a place of resting in God’s presence. All too often I have done those aforementioned activities with an unhealthy urgency, as if my pants were constantly on fire. Why did I work that way?
As I prayed and reflected, I realized there have been seasons in my life when my desire for success and achievement turned ugly. I became driven, and pursued my own agenda rather than God’s agenda. Its healthy to want to be good at what you do, but not if it leads to a pile of wreckage in your wake. Unfortunately, a good desire had gone haywire and began to enslave me.
God reminded me that He, and He alone, must always be the supreme desire of my heart. Otherwise, my life and ministry will always be imbalanced, even destructive. God pointed me to a sermon titled The Expulsive Power of a New Affection from the Scottish Minister Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847). Chalmers says “It is seldom that any of our bad habits or flaws disappear by a mere process of natural extinction at least it is very seldom that this is done by the instrumentality of reasoning, or by the force of mental determination, but what cannot be destroyed may be dispossessed, and one taste may be made to give way to another and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind. The boy, who ceases at length to be a slave to his appetite, does so because a more mature taste has brought it into subordination. The young man may cease to idolize sensual pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has gotten the ascendancy…The heart’s desire for an ultimate object may be conquered, but it’s desire to have some one object is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is through the expulsive power of a new one. It is therefore only when admitted into the number of God’s children through faith in Jesus Christ that the spirit of adoption is poured out on us — it is then that the heart, brought under the mastery of one great, predominate, and supreme affection is delivered from the tyranny of all its former desires and the only way that deliverance is possible.”
So how do I change? I repent of allowing lesser affections/desires to rule my heart. Then I ask Jesus to show me how lovely, pure, good, merciful, strong and faithful he is. Then I will be captivated by his beauty and abandon myself to him, making him the supreme desire of my heart.
Are you being dominated by a good desire gone haywire? Repent and turn to Jesus, gazing at his beauty.
Have you ever seen a child greet her Father returning from a military deployment? Without fail, it always makes me cry. With total joy and abandonment, she squeals and sprints and plunges herself into her daddy’s arms, hugging him tight.
If you do the same, you will discover that Jesus satisfies all your heart’s desires.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pastor Paul Hoffman