If you are tired of the
mind-numbing pace of contemporary life, you can do something about
it. With God's help you can take control of your life.
Despite what you may
have been conditioned to believe, "rest" isnt a
four-letter word. Its not in the same category as "lazy"
or "idle," nor is it a synonym for "sloth."
Rest is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving and enjoyed
Most of us will have
to overcome at least two hindrances in order to enjoy Gods
gift of rest. The first is psychological and the second is lifestyle.
Psychologically, at least on a subconscious level, many of us feel
guilty when we rest. Thats a big hurdle to get over in a society
that emphasizes physical prowess and the bottom line. No one wants
to be seen as a nonproductive malingerer.
If the truth were known,
most of us are too busy because we have chosen to be, our protests
to the contrary not-withstanding. While there are certain responsibilities
that we cannot leave unattended without serious consequences, these
required activities jobs, marriage, child rearing and worship
are seldom the source of our frantic busyness. It is usually
the "extracurricular" events that push us over the edge.
Consider the analogy
of finances. It is usually not the "necessities" that
break our budgets, but the extras. Most of us can afford to provide
adequate housing, reliable transportation, nourishing food and warm
clothes for our families without overextending ourselves. The trouble
comes when we add the extras a second car, a bigger house,
a big screen TV, a new computer, a cell phone, a boat, a motorcycle,
etc. These are not necessarily bad things, but they can create serious
financial problems. When they do, adjustments have to be made and
Now apply this same principle
to your busy life. Almost without realizing it you have been adding
to your schedule.
You have enrolled your
children in a host of activities designed to make them productive,
well-rounded people. Being a conscientious parent, you spend significant
time taking them to and from their various activities, not to mention
your commitment to attend every game, concert, recital, etc.
Being a committed Christian
you sing in the choir, teach a Sunday school class, serve on the
Womens Ministries board and lead a weekly Bible study. In
addition to your busy life your husband has also added to his responsibilities
by volunteering to coach your daughters soccer team and to
help coach your sons football team. Did I mention that he
serves as an usher at church and helps lead a home fellowship group?
How, you may be wondering,
did you allow yourself to become so over-committed? You can be sure
it did not happen all at once. Most likely it is the result of a
combination of factors a sincere desire to make a difference
in the lives of others combined with a need to feel important. Most
of us equate busyness with importance. The busier we are the more
important we feel, hence our tendency to live beyond our means physically
and emotionally. Given our limited resources, it is only a matter
of time until something has to give. It may be our health, or our
marriage or even our relationship with God, but be assured some
part of our life will come unraveled if we continue to overextend
Thankfully more and more
of us are coming to grips with our compulsive busyness. With Gods
help we are breaking through the psychological barrier, the mindset
that considers rest a weakness or, worse yet, a waste. Out of necessity
we are rediscovering the Sabbath principle, and as we do we are
making the appropriate adjustments in both our thinking and our
The courage to cut
While serving as a senior pastor I had a brush with burnout. As
a result, I was motivated to make some tough decisions about how
I was going to manage my life. I had to admit that I wasnt
superman, that I couldnt do it all. Then I had to decide what
to do, what to delegate and what to let go undone.
Step one: realizing
All my life I had been taught that I could "
through him [Christ] who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13,
NIV). Now I was being forced to acknowledge my limitations. How
could I reconcile this apparent contradiction? Then it hit me. I
can do everything God calls me to do because He will give me the
strength to do it, but if I add to my God-given responsibilities
then I am on my own.
Step two: deciding
what to do
I had to discern what my divine assignments were those non-negotiable
responsibilities. Some of them were readily obvious. Of utmost importance
was my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If I did not maintain
a vibrant spiritual walk, nothing else would work, not my ministry
or my marriage. Being the husband and father God had called me to
be was also mandatory. No one else could fill that role. As a senior
pastor there were certain God-given responsibilities that no one
else could do. I could not delegate the preaching or teaching responsibilities.
I could share them, but as long as I served as senior pastor I would
be the primary person through whom God spoke to our body. Neither
could I abdicate my responsibility as the pastoral intercessor.
God had given me a charge to pray for His people and I would answer
to Him. Everything else on my plate, however, was negotiable.
Step three: deciding
what to delegate
After careful consideration I decided to delegate the day-to-day
administration of the church to my senior associate. Next we called
a minister of pastoral care and gave her the primary responsibility
for pastoral care and the counseling center. Trained volunteers
were brought in to help with the preparation and editing of tapes
for the daily radio broadcasts. Finally each elder was given an
area of responsibility with a written portfolio. Although the ultimate
responsibility for the administration of the church and its ministries
rested with me as senior pastor, I now had a capable group to help
me do the work of the ministry.
Step four: deciding
what to let go undone
While almost everyone applauded my attempt to establish rhythm in
my life, no one thought it should be at his or her expense. I will
never forget the board meeting where the elders unanimously agreed
that I needed to restructure my workload, especially where it involved
counseling and other time-consuming one-on-one ministry situations.
Following the meeting one of the elders pulled me aside. With no
little urgency he said, "I need to meet with you as soon as
possible to discuss a pressing family matter."
No sooner had he gone
than a second elder shared a similar request. Neither man saw anything
incongruous about requesting personal ministry only minutes after
urging me to cut back in that very area. To their way of thinking
the boundaries they urged for others did not apply to them. Unfortunately
they were not alone in their thinking. Almost everyone thought I
should guard my time, but no one thought I should do so at his or
her inconvenience. In order to maintain the rhythm of rest in my
life I had to resist the temptation to allow the expectations of
others to structure my life and ministry.
Like Jesus said, you
have to lose your life in order to find it (Matthew 10:39). You
have to have the courage to cut out many good things in order to
experience the abundant life He promised.