Pastor Neil Olcott's Sermon September 17, 2017 Part 1 of 3

Exodus 31:17 (NIV) It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”

I love the way God works. Here we have been discussing Sabbatical Rest and this Sunday my pastor, Pastor Neil Olcott preached on: “Hearing God Speak Through Sabbath Rest”  

I asked him if I could edit it and use it for you. It is a great follow up from the last blog by Dr. Jim O’Neill who wrote “God on Sabbath.”



This blog series by Pastor Neil will be in 3 parts

Part 1: Introduction

He started off reminding us, God speaks to us in many ways: through nature, other people, His Word, and the Scriptures. We are created in His image, to have a relationship with him and to live in community. Unfortunately, we find that we, too often isolate ourselves and shut ourselves off from others due to a fear that we don’t have time or they might overwhelm us with their personal problems and issues. The danger of this is we are unknowingly cutting off the very important way in which God speaks into our lives. We diminish this avenue of communication from God to us and to others.

Even though our tendency is to isolate and protect ourselves, in truth, the opposite is true as well. We often fail to truly stop from our busyness, and schedules, long enough to enjoy any form of a Sabbath rest.

Or may I (Sterling O’Neill) add, too, as workers for God’s Kingdom we often give to others at the expense of not taking time for ourselves. I cannot count on my hands how many times I hear God’s people, who are in ministry in response to my question “How are you?”.

Their answer “I am busy and tired but there is great joy. Or “I feel a little overwhelmed but God is good” and pass over how they are really feeling or doing. Are we really being honest with each other? Or giving ourselves permission to rest and allow our emotions or energy to catch up to where we are. or has busyness become so normal we feel if we aren’t busy or tired we aren’t really doing something for God? Eventually it will get the best of us one way or another.  

With all the changes and transitions that Mission/Ministry Workers experience along with Spiritual Warfare it can be exhausting and lonely. Busyness and isolation has almost become normal and we feel lazy if we aren’t doing something.  

I for one often feel guilty personally if I am resting. To be truthful I am guilty of not sharing how I really feel for fear of being judged, or not understood. Because maybe I shouldn’t be feeling this way, or something is wrong with my walk with God. Every entertain these thoughts?  

Taking a Sabbath rest is a great way to reconnect to God in the midst of these unsettled times and see our need for Him and others in our lives. A time to slow down and get eternal perspective.  

Neil continues to say, that the Sabbath rest, instituted and practiced by God Himself is supposed to be a part of every Christians life and yet we fail to practice a Sabbath rest. To be honest, we don’t really understand it or we simply ignore it.  

Where are you on the continuum?


What are we doing when we aren’t honest or don’t understand it or even ignore it? We are hurting ourselves and our relationship with God and our ability to hear Him speak into our lives as a result of our neglect to connect with Him through Sabbath Rest that He commanded of us.  

Most of us have a difficult time imagining a day devoted to rest. We admire people who work hard and play hard. We have weekend projects, maintaining home or yard or garden. We travel or watch television. We have ball games and family obligations and hobbies. There is too much to do and too little time, and anyway, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right?

Sure, sometimes we feel the stress of busyness. We know we need a break, and we say that we should stop and smell the roses so to speak. But there never seems to be enough time for rest. We make distinctions between regular time and “quality time.” We know the consequences of such stress: high blood pressure, heart attacks, broken relationships, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and so on. Yet even knowing these things we still push on and refuse to take a Sabbath rest.




How strange! A God who never sleeps, who is all-powerful and ever-present, decides to take the day of rest! And because God rested, God directs God’s people to rest

Exodus 31:17 (NIV) It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.”




The word sabbath actually comes from the Hebrew verb for “he rested.” God instructs his people to keep the sabbath holy as a perpetual sign of the covenant between God and Israel. In fact, God takes the day of rest so seriously that the community should put to death “everyone who profanes” the sabbath.  

Exodus 31:14 (NIV) “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. Rest is serious business! Serious enough that God rested.

The truth is we all die, regardless of how we spend our time. When we die we will leave behind unfolded laundry, unchecked items on our to-do lists, unkept appointments on our calendars. Our business will not be finished. Staring at our calendar we realize our entire schedules should be written in pencil, because it all depends on the second-by-second beating of our hearts, tentative, subject to change at a moment’s notice.

A sabbath rest gives us a chance to become conscious of the eternal in our time, to live mindful of the presence of God.

Our time here is too precious not to take a sabbath rest. If God took time to rest and commanded we rest too as a sign of His covenant with His people,, we should see it as serious business too.  For each person and family it will look different and may change with each season of life. 

What are you hearing from God for what He intended for the Sabbath rest?  

Next blog…. will continue Pastor Neil’s thoughts on, Hearing God Speak through Sabbath Rest” Part 2

Personal Reflection:  When you think of God taking a rest what are you hearing?  How serious is sabbath rest to you today? How can the Sabbath Rest give you a chance to become conscious of the eternal and to live mindful of God’s Presence in your life? We would all love to hear your thoughts in the comment section of “ Hearing God Speak Through Sabbath Rest”

From One Pilgrim to another together on the journey,

”Consider how you may spur one another on towards love and good deeds….. encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

“ Intentionally journaling alongside of mission minded women in order to encourage them to see God in their story, moving them closer to Jesus, and to discover their place in God’s Kingdom so God will be worshipped among the nations” 

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