new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

1 in 7

I was down at my parent’s house last week and had a nosey through the Newsletter newspaper. Nestling at the bottom of the letters page was a brief letter signed by my two brothers and some of their friends. It read simply, “We wholeheartedly support the statement from 50+ evangelical Christians in the local game who are opposed to football on the Lord’s Day.” They added their names along with three others who play for the same club.

It was in response to the IFA’s decision to play football games on Sundays. Although commonplace in the UK and here in Ireland, this had been a no-no in the north. Why was that?

It’s because for years they’ve taken seriously God’s word which commands that one day of the week be given over to him. It’s one of the Ten Commandments.

“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.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

As with all of God’s commands it comes out of kindness and love, not an effort to make life miserable for us. He knows that we need to take a break. He knows that we need to be protected from those who would have us work all the hours available—often ourselves! He wants us to take a break from work, study, and even play.

But God is not simply concerned that we take a break and rest. When he calls us to set aside one day in seven as holy—it means devoted to him, not devoted to us, or our sport. Not a day of rest centred on us, but a day of rest centred on God.

He knows that we need to take our nose off the grindstone and look up, and that we need to do it on a regular basis for we are far too inclined to forget that we are made for eternity. And so he tells us to take a day in the week to focus on the upward dimension of our lives. And we need this, not just for ourselves, but for our children – they need to see that work and play aren’t the only things in life, but that there is a God worth giving a whole day to.

Yet we tend to think we have done a noble thing if we give him an hour on a Sunday, before doing what we want with the rest of the day. And in some cases we can do Sunday’s hour on Saturday evening so that we can have the whole day for ourselves. I’m not convinced that this is what God had in mind when he said to keep the Sabbath day—not hour—holy.

Of course, to enjoy setting aside a day for God, you need to have reason to be delighted with God. That can only be found when you have personally experienced the forgiveness Jesus offers.

And if the very thought of giving a whole day to God exasperates you at the sheer waste of a day, that perhaps indicates the need to take your nose off the grindstone and take time to reconsider what your priorities are and should be.

So this is not a call to some antiquated practice that has no place in the modern world, but something that is even more essential in the live-for-now, frenetic-paced world we live in.

Those five young men who penned the letter finished it with the promise God makes to those who delight in his day,

“If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable… then you will find your joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13-14).