[ HOME ][ TSS Magazine Index ]

November - December 2000 The Sabbath Sentinel

The Vice-President's Message

by Tom Justus

As I sat down before my computer to write this article, I closed my eyes, and in my mind went back some forty-five years ago. At that time, I was a much younger man with four small children. My wife, Thelma and I were active in the Church of Christ. As a young preacher in this church in Southern California, I firmly believed God's laws were no longer needed. In fact I taught that they were a burden.

At this point in my life my goal was to become wealthy. I worked from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on my regular job. There was also a second job, where I worked from 6:00 p.m. until midnight, running a press for an in-house plant. To add to this, I worked on some weekends. Soon enough, I was able to have a new house built, as well as start my own small printing plant.

Then, disaster struck. Thelma became quite ill with rheumatic fever. She was unable to get out of bed for several months. With four children, one of them being under one year old, we had to pay to have someone take care of our family. Since there was no health insurance at that time, it became necessary for me to file for bankruptcy-and, in what seemed like a flash, I lost everything that I had worked so hard to acquire.

The year was 1955, and it was at this particularly difficult time in my life that first I heard the preaching of Herbert Armstrong on the World Tomorrow radio broadcast. Not long after that, I learned that the Sabbath was still Holy, and that we should cease from our regular work on that day. ... There were many things that I did not yet understand, but it seemed clear that I could no longer work on the Sabbath: It was Holy to God. God's Sabbath rest was a great joy-for which there were no feelings of guilt associated with ceasing from work.

Now, after forty-five years of keeping the Sabbath (and being a Minister many of those years), I have remained thankful for this wonderful, blessed Holy Day. Throughout this time, I have made it a habit to think about what can be done that is pleasing to God on this Day. ... Such is simple and easy to develop, yet oddly enough, you can ask a hundred Sabbathkeepers how to observe the Sabbath, and you will likely be told-a hundred different dogmatic ways-of what you must do to observe this day.

Thankfully, I learned early that how I observed the Sabbath was just between me, myself, and God: It was not to be legislated by man. This was the problem with the Jewish traditions in Christ's time (Matthew 12)-and sadly, it is still a problem in the Sabbath keeping Churches. The fact is that the Bible does not define each detail of Sabbath observance.

We must always remember that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). God knew that mankind would not only need physical rest, but that there would also be required a means to perpetually remember that God was the Great Creator of all things and that He was Holy. In His infinite wisdom, God's solution was to set aside the seventh day.

The word Sabbath appears in our Bible 116 times, and the plural (Sabbaths) is there 33 times. Of the verses that include these, very few set forth the way to observe the Sabbath. Certain Scriptures are explicit about not doing your regular work on this day, but other Scriptures are not so clear on what we should do on the Sabbath.

What are we as individuals to do then? I feel this falls into the same category as what Paul states in Philippians 2:12, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This Scriptural direction becomes an attitude of mind-a desire to draw close to God and please Him. Through the Scriptures and the guidance of His Holy Spirit, God has brought (and continues to bring) us to His Truth-including the Sabbath-yet, He allows us the freedom to make the decision as to how we shall keep it.

When our children were young, Friday night became family night. We all came together in the living room. Each child had their opportunity to talk. We had prayer together, we talked about God and Jesus, and Bible stories were read. As a family, we all really looked forward to the beginning of the Sabbath.

Thelma packed lunches on Friday for the Sabbath. Early Sabbath morning, we headed out for Pasadena (125 miles one way), to make it for services that afternoon. Along the way, we would stop at a park and have lunch together. For many years we did this, making it a happy trip for the children, and it was always an enjoyable day for all of us. Right up until today, the Sabbath day is one of the things that has helped us remain a very close family.

Remember, the Sabbath day is a day of rest and refreshing, not just for the body, but for the mind also. It is a period of putting out of your mind the past weeks work or the work that needs to be done the following week. It is not only a time of drawing closer to God, but also a time when the family can come together.

If the Sabbath seems to be a burden, we need to find out why-since it should be a happy time. We need to think of how great God is, and of all the blessings that He grants us. For me, Sabbath is a time when I tell God how grateful I am for my family, and how grateful I am for a day away from the hassle of this society.

When I observe the Sabbath each week, I think about what God said in Exodus 31:13 "... Verily my Sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the Lord that does sanctify you." These words help me to be more thankful for this day.

Each person and family needs to plan for the Sabbath; don't "ust let it happen." Since it is a Holy time, we need to view it as such. We should always approach it in a positive way, realizing that God knows what is best for us. Too many Sabbathkeepers approach this as a negative day-thinking of what they cannot do-rather than utilizing this wonderful positive opportunity inherent in coming under God's sign.

Many years ago, in Southern California, our Worldwide Church of God (Santa Barbara) had a three day outing-camping in a beautiful mounting setting. This was for all the families in the church. We ate together, played games, and on the Sabbath, had services and a sing-along.

During Sabbath, after services, we let the children play along the stream that flowed through the campground. There was one man who would not let his seven year old son play. He made the boy sit on a stump all afternoon and read the Bible. He felt this was teaching his son "not to do his own pleasure on the Sabbath day." (Isaiah 58:13). ... What do you think this young boy thought of God's Sabbath?

Today, many Christian Sabbathkeepers have their own set of "rules" about how to observe the Sabbath. This would be fine, if they would only not try to force others to keep it "their way." Interestingly enough, many of these same people also think that the way some Orthodox Jews observe Shabbat is non-Scriptural. You see, in the New York high-rise buildings where many Orthodox Jews live, all Sabbath day long, the elevators (having been pre-wired) continually stop and open on each floor, so that no elevator buttons will have to be pushed. (This is not criticizing Orthodox Jews, it is just one example of the extreme tenets that are taught.)

We must be careful of the dogma that we try to impose on each other. Let no man (or church) judge you in the observing of the Sabbath day (Colossians l 2:16). This is a Spiritual matter between you and God! We should be happy and rejoice in this day.


November - December 2000 The Sabbath Sentinel