24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life
It used to be that the stock response to “How are you?” was “Fine,” regardless of whether we were fine or not. Recently, I’ve noticed – even in my own self – that the trend has shifted. Now it’s more honest: “Tired.”
We live in a world that’s busier than ever before. A few hundred years ago, scientists and philosophers thought that technology would bring about an explosion of leisure time. Instead, technology has tethered us even more closely to our jobs and provided for us an unnumbered amount of ways to stay busy.
It even becomes a competition at times of who has had the least amount of rest, whose work is the hardest, and who deserves to be the most tired. And it’s into this type of culture that Dr. Matthew Sleeth reminds us of our Father’s command to rest.
24/6 isn’t about what that title says, but what it doesn’t say. We live in a 24/7 world, where there is always something to do or somewhere to go. But we weren’t created for that. We were created for rest. We were created with the intention of taking a day off.
In this four-session series—which can be divided into one, two, or four weeks of lessons—Sleeth talks through the biblical principle of rest, starting with the problem (our 24/7 world), continues with abstract questions to find a solution (why rest? how should we rest?) and concluding with some very specific applications drawn from his own Sabbath practices.
Session 1: Our 24/7 World
Sleeth begins by identifying the problem: we are a restless world. We live longer, have more things, and work more hours—but none of it has brought contentment. That’s because we’ve pursued contentment in more rather than less, in busyness rather than rest. We need a day to rest, to relax, to allow God to restore us.
He looks back to the past, when we were a slower society and notes that even those who were not religious still used Sundays as a day of rest and relaxation. But, as the world has grown faster, that day of rest has gone away. Work is up 15%; leisure is down 30%. It’s difficult to see the problem when the problem is the absence of something. Our problem is our lack of rest; our solution is to Sabbath.
Session 2: Why We Need 24/6
This session serves as Sleeth’s theological foundation for a day of rest. He goes back to the Old Testament and discusses how God set up the Sabbath as a day set apart. More words—over 1/3—are spent on this commandment than any other. He even meanders through the concepts of the Jubilee Year—a special Sabbath in Israel every seven years.
When he moves into the New Testament, he focuses on Jesus being the Lord of the Sabbath, the fulfillment of the Jubilee Year—not an individual who renders it unnecessary, but our Savior who frees us to rest, who frees from the burden of the law. Jesus calls us to holy rest—not just in the Sabbath, but from our attempts to work for our salvation.
Session 3: How We Do 24/6
Sessions three and four are thematically similar and really run into one another. This session turns from identifying the problem and the need for a solution to discovering what that solution is. It’s not difficult: it’s Sabbath. Take a day off. Purposefully and concretely set aside an entire day—what Sleeth calls a “Stop Day”—to rest.
Sleeth cautions against legalism, but instead to think of activities that are restorative and restful—read a book, garden, write—anything that fills you up rather than wearing you down. That’s what Sabbath is to be about.
Session 4: Your 24/6 Life
This session is really a continuation of the last, but it gets into even more specifics with Sleeth using examples from his own life and practices. I particularly like that he is clear that one’s Sabbath does not need to be a Sunday. The important thing is to be developing practices and habits that cultivate rest.
Sleet is also clear that restorative rest is God-centered rest. You can do enjoyable activities and cultivate hobbies, but look for God in those times. Do things that slow down the pace of life. Disconnect from the world; connect with your creator.
One of the best things about this series is that it is structured to be used as a one, two, or four week program. The study guide offers a basic outline for each of these structures. It recommends 90 minutes for the one-week program, 40 of which are the four lessons; 60 minutes for the two-week program, 20 of which are the lessons; or 60 minutes for the four-week program, 10 of which is the lesson.
Each session contains 9-12 recommended discussion questions and can be easily modified for your small group’s needs. Unless you have a fairly talkative group, the series might fit best as a two-week program. I would recommend keeping the videos in their sections and breaking the discussion time in two, structuring the lessons as Video–>Discussion–>Video–>Discussion. This helps keep everyone’s attention flowing and ensure that the discussion does not center around only the latter part of the video content.
Beyond this, the leader’s guide is pretty bare bones and basic. It does the job, but nothing fancy. Leaders will want to review the material beforehand and perhaps add in their own thoughts or discussion questions to help facilitate discussion. As a group, perhaps you could commit to some specific implementation of Sleeth’s teaching each week.
One improvement that could have been made was the inclusion of suggested Scripture readings that give a foundation for Sleeth’s teaching on Sabbath. Adding the biblical element is an important, and I would suggest that leaders include one relevant portion of Scripture to add into their discussion.
The cinematography of the series is well-done. The intro to each video shows Sleeth in the process of building something—one of his restful hobbies. The majority of each lesson is simply Sleeth speaking into the camera. Despite this, he manages not to look forced or unnatural, but comes across as simply having a good conversation with a friend. It’s well-done, but nothing spectacular or outstanding.
24/6 would be a good series for young professional or other adult small groups for whom their working life might be a priority. It is based off of Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6, which leaders may find helpful for further study. Sleeth’s teaching is solid, but not groundbreaking; the cinematography is professional but simple; the provided discussion questions are relevant, but basic. Leaders can use the provided materials for a good small group experience, or, I believe, really invest some time and effort into it and add supplemental material that really makes it stand out.