Deuteronomy 5:1-5, 12-15
Mark 2:23-28

Is it safe for me to assume that all of us knows what it’s like to ride a bicycle? Can I also assume that there was a time when your bike tires were a little low? You ever wonder where that air went. You know you didn’t let it out; it just went, somewhere, somehow. And so you had to get out a hand pump and re-inflate them? And if we didn’t want to take the time or energy to do so we soon discovered that it takes more exertion to pedal with low air pressure.

Life can be like a low bike tire. We don’t purposefully take air out … it just sort of leaves. Rough day at work? Hissssssssssss (that’s the sound of air leaking). Have to work overtime? Hissssssssssss. Too many e-mails to answer? Hissssssssssss. Too much information overload. Hissssssssssss. And just as it’s harder to pedal with flat tires, it’s not as easy to live well when air leaks out of our lives.

Modern life just has a way of deflating us, of sucking the air out of life.

For many, OUR WORK is sucking the life out of us.

Americans are working longer weeks than ever. “The Center for American Progress reports that 86% of men and 67% of women now work more than 40 hours a week. Add to that how many check work e-mail at home and over the weekend and it’s not hard to imagine the toll this takes on family and one’s personal life. Working overtime is associated with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, and increased mortality. Two recent studies have linked long work hours to a higher risk of depression. We are skipping vacations to boot. After 10 years of service, the average German gets 20 days of paid vacation, the English, 28, and the Finns, 30, Americans, 15. And we’re not even taking them. 1

“The US is the only advanced country with no national vacation policy whatsoever. Many American workers must keep on working through public holidays, and vacation days often go unused. On average, U.S. workers end up taking 16 paid holiday and vacation days/year. But that number wouldn’t meet the legal minimum in most other developed countries around the world. 2

“As you might expect, work-life imbalance creates a lot of stress for many U.S. families. 69% of mothers and 68% of fathers say they have ‘too little time’ with their spouse. 53% of mothers and 37% of fathers report ‘always feeling rushed.’” 3

According to a recent study, “people who work more than 10 hours a day are 60% more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than people who clock just seven hours a day.” 4

INFORMATION OVERLOAD is sucking the life out of us.

According to the weekly journal, The Economist, “Information overload is one of the biggest irritations in modern life. There are e-mails to answer, virtual friends to pester, YouTube videos to watch and, back in the physical world, meetings to attend, papers to shuffle, and spouses to appease. A profusion of phrases to describe the anxiety caused by too much information: ‘data asphyxiation,’ ‘data smog,’ ‘information fatigue syndrome,’ ‘cognitive overload,’ and ‘time famine.’ There is a good reason why ‘wired’ means both ‘connected to the internet’ and ‘high, frantic, unable to concentrate.’” 5

Social media is sucking the life out of us. 73% of adults now use a social networking site of some kind. 16 minutes of every hour is spent on a social networking site. No wonder experts have now identified “Information Fatigue Syndrome” (or IFS), the fatigue of being overwhelmed by an incomprehensible and indigestible amount of information. The solution is what’s called Digital Detox, which is defined as “a period of time during which a person restrains from using electronic devices so one can focus on social interaction in the physical world.” 6

“Recent stats about the skyrocketing glut of electronic messages paint the picture of our culture as a work-obsessed, over-connected working generation that can only laugh sarcastically when someone suggests ‘unplugging’ for a while. Even on vacation, 44% report checking their work email daily; 10% hourly. This inability to even turn off the smartphone in order to rest well dramatically impacts the productivity of these addicted, distracted workers. The digital tether takes a psychic and emotional toll. There’s a nagging sense that you can never quite be present in the here and now, because hey, work might intrude at any moment. You’re not officially working, yet you remain entangled; never quite able to relax and detach. 7

For all these reasons and many more, it’s no wonder that Dr. Susan Koven, who practices internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, writes, “In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. 8

Excessive busyness has a way of deflating us, of sucking the air out of life!

Is there anything that can be done? Or do we just have to suck it up and keep pedaling that bike with low tires?

Strange as it may sound, as we begin 2020, perhaps we need to remind ourselves of an ancient dictum from the Book of Exodus:

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

The careful reader will notice the difference between Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus 20:11, they are to observe the Sabbath to commemorate their creation and 40 years later, in Deuteronomy 5:15 Moses adds it is to commemorate their salvation. In both cases, those two blessings; creation and salvation, were solely at the discretion of and exclusively the work of God. In other words, the people of God were to remember the work of God in their lives.

2020 years later, those two dynamics still exist, do they not? We too were created and saved solely at the discretion of and exclusively the work of God. To be sure, our salvation differs from that of the Israelites, in that they were saved by the blood of a lamb and we are saved by the blood of THE LAMB.

Putting this all together, the reason to observe the Sabbath is to remember that we are to live our lives in total dependence on God. And we rest in the fact that our creation and salvation is due to His work, His strength, His sufficiency.

Now you probably notice that the Biblical rationale for Sabbath says nothing about the benefits of rest.

But do you remember when I was preaching on stewardship in November and I told you that there is always a practical payoff to engaging in any spiritual discipline? When we engage in the spiritual discipline of giving, God’s church is taken care of. When we engage in the spiritual discipline of study, we will receive spiritual power. When we engage in the spiritual discipline of praying, we will receive peace.

Similarly, when we observe the Sabbath to remember, honor and revere God for His work in our lives, the practical payoff is rest for our deflated lives!

And with that in mind, what I am strongly encouraging all of us to consider as a New Year’s Resolution is to find a way to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

First, we must find a way to commit ourselves to remember, honor and revere God; that is to worship the Lord our God who is responsible for creating and saving us. We must leave work and e-mails and Youtube and cell phones behind in order to honor God who created, saved and sustains us.

Secondly, find a way not to work on the Sabbath. (Deuteronomy 5:13). That’s going to be very difficult for some; maybe many.

In his book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch writes, “True rest seems to be elusive for most Americans. Only one in seven adults (14 percent) set aside a day a week for rest. And on that one day a week, what do they do? Mostly, they work. Only 19% of this small group say they don’t do any work at all.” 9

But I am hopeful that I have convinced you that to do so would be of great benefit to you and your family’s peace and well-being. So let me encourage you in the strongest terms to be ruthless in eviscerating stress from your life on at least the Sabbath if not from all your life.

Third, unplug on the Sabbath; that is, turn off your electronic devices.

Fourth, related to not working on Sabbath is refraining from many other activities that have been arising and we have allowed to interfere with our Sabbath. Shopping is one of the biggest temptations. I know some of you have come to rely on Sunday to be your grocery shopping day. All I can say is I understand, but don’t do it, find another time so that you can spend that precious time relaxing with family. But shopping isn’t the only activity interfering with observing the Sabbath.

All of us should be inspired by 14-year-old Elliot Huck from Bloomington, Indiana, who decided to skip a preliminary contest to the National Spelling Bee. Though he placed 45th out of more than 250 spellers in last year’s competition and was a favorite to go to Washington again, he felt convicted to stay home this time around. More precisely, he felt convicted to go to church. You see, the Bloomington championship was held on a Sunday. In Elliot’s eyes, the competition clashed with his belief of resting on the Sabbath. He said, “I always try to glorify God first because He deserves first place in life.” It certainly wasn’t an easy choice for Elliot. He loved his time in Washington D.C. at the previous year’s competition and was looking forward to more of the same. Even so, the expert speller concluded, “I have just accepted that God knows what’s best, and I’m just going to do what He says.” 10

God has promised blessing to those who observe the Sabbath.

Observing the Sabbath on the first day of the week kind of sets us up to live well the other six days of the week. I am convinced that to observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week will help us in becoming more and more like Jesus on the other six. We will receive more spiritual power from the Risen Lord. We will be more forgiving, more loving, more peaceful.

We could all benefit by taking Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s advice: “If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.” 11

The Psalmist says it this way: Be still . . . and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10).

1 Mark Galli, “Domestic Neglect: Can You Hear the Silent Screams at Home?” Christianity Today (11-7-14)

2 Adapted from Lynn Parramore, “Why a medieval peasant got more vacation time than You,” Reuters (8-29-13)

3 Joan C. Williams and Heather Boushey, “The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict,” Center for American Progress (January 2010);
David Edmund Gray, “Practicing Balance” (The Alban Institute, 2012), p.14


5 “How to Cope with Data Overload,” The Economist (6-30-11)

6 Alonzo Mancha, “Why You’re Still Bored,” Daily Infographic (11-7-14)


8 Quoted in Scott Dannemiller, “Busyness Is a Sickness,” Huffington Post (2-27-15)

9 Andy Crouch. The Tech-Wise Family. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, © 2017]. Page 104

10 Robert King, “Sunday Contest Spells the End for Student,”
The Indianapolis Star (2-22-07)

11 Nancy Gibbs, “And on the Seventh Day We Rested?” Time magazine (8-2-04);