We often treat people as if all they need is a simple 10 step process to do anything. In 10 steps you can loose 50 lbs, have a new career, or be a certified cat herder. We often function and live as if all we have to do is create a pathway for someone, give some clear steps and boom you’ll be a mature Christian ready for anything the devil throws at you.
If only it were so simple.
Ministry is hard and when you are leading or co-leading a ministry it’s even harder. It takes time, energy, preparation, and lots and lots of prayer. Over the past several months as I have evaluated my life and time, there’s no way around it . . . my life is busy.
I always have a lot on my plate and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We often condemn those who are busy. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have to fight to not be a workaholic and I can easily place too much value and identity in my work. But the act of being busy is not a sin. I want to labor hard and well and in a way that honors the Lord.
Being busy isn’t the problem; our problem is our inability to rest.
We don’t know how to rest. We are not trained, nor do we teach people how to create a healthy rhythm of rest. There’s also no easy formula to rest either. When we fail to rest we are pushing God aside and saying, “No, I got this.” When I don’t rest and keep going on with life I am acting as if I am lord of the universe. If we continue to go on in this manor, our man-made kingdoms will soon come crashing down with us in the center of it. Without rest our work will suffer, relationships with people will suffer, and ultimately our relationship with the Lord will suffer because we place ourselves on God’s throne.
We rest (Sabbath) because…
God the creator of the universe rested. (Genesis 2:1-3)
God commands that we rest. (Exodus 16:22-24)
The Lord’s presence is with us and it’s He that provides our rest. (Exodus 33:14)
We find our rest in the Lord. (Psalm 116: 7-9)
The Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
We enter rest, so that no one may fall into disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
How we rest…
Simply by doing it. If we only talk about rest and never actually practice it, you’ll never become disciplined to set time aside and really enjoy or learn how to be still and know the Lord. Rest doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve been burned out multiple times. I’ve been so emotionally exhausted that I would cry over the strangest things like a broken nail, I wasn’t mentally able to really engage with people or my work, and I physically was fatigued all the time.
I’ve experienced the end of my rope, no longer able to do all the tasks before me. I had lost the ability to continue on in the way I once had. As I began to really rest not just sleep but seek God through resting it’s then that I experienced a freedom to delight and enjoy God, creation, people, work, and food, because I was no longer in survival mode or pushing through on my own. I was faced with my sin of thinking I was in control and no matter what I had to press on. The lie, “if I didn’t do it who would?” quickly faded as my gaze shifted away from me and my capability to get things done, to a Lord who is rightly and actively ruling the world. I no longer rested to survive instead I rested because I wanted to be obedient.
What rest is to me may not be rest for you. I love to be outdoors and in nature. Some times it’s feasting with dear friends who give life with their words and actions and other times it’s being alone and reading. When I am actively resting, meaning I am scheduling a day to rest, I’m shifting my gaze to be on the Lord, delighting in Him. I am reminded of who I am in Christ when I rest. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her book Invitations from God: Accepting God's Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember, and More; describes the Sabbath as, "...away we honor our limits and notice our need for restoration and re-creation." Staying busy won't remind me of this, but when I pull back and step away to rest, it's then that I am reminded that the world will continue even though I'm not working or meeting with people.
There is great freedom and joy to be experienced when we rest. When we rest we are reminded and refocused on why we labor hard but yet reminded that we aren’t the One who is bringing order to the chaos in the world around us. It’s a discipline to rest.
How we develop a life of rest...
We must train ourselves to rest. Just like we train to develop any other discipline we have to plan for rest and actively do it. If you don't plan to have a day of rest it won't happen. This will mean that you will have to say no to demands and people on the time you decide to rest. The world around us is demanding. You can't meet every demand for every person. Saying no to those demands for one day so that you are able to rest will be far more impactful for your life and ministry than if you were to continue on in exhaustion serving out of your flesh.
We need to learn how to rest now in this life, not wait till the next. We have the responsibility of training and teaching the next generation how to be excellent in all things, including both work and rest . . . to work hard and rest hard so that we are ultimately able to bring honor to our Creator in His kingdom.