Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. (Luke 4:42, NLT)
Jesus active ministry on earth was only three years. Yet, he accomplished more in those three years than anyone else has ever accomplished in a lifetime. He preached some of the greatest sermons ever preached. He performed miracles of healing and provision. He started a movement that is still going strong 2000 years later. Most importantly, he accomplished the salvation of humankind. Not too bad for three years of work!
But for all that Jesus accomplished, he made it a regular practice to withdraw and to retreat from his work. Sometimes it meant getting away in the early morning hours to pray to his Father. Other times, it seems that he went on more extended retreat. Jesus shows us that times of retreat are important.
God established a rhythm of work and rest. He created the daytime to be awake and the nighttime to sleep. He created seasons for the fields of the earth to grow and seasons for the fields to lay fallow. He did not create you to go, go, go, go, and go. He created you to work and to rest. You are not a human doing but a human being. And there are times when you just need to stop doing and just “be”.
We often think about resting from our work, but God created us to also work from our rest. What comes first? Work or Rest? The answer is neither! We work from our rest and rest from our work. We will be more productive when we function according to God’s design. I find that I will get so much more done in the early morning after a good night’s sleep than I will ever get done when I am tired. The key is often not to keep working and keep pushing through when you hit a wall. The best thing to do at that moment is to rest and then come back to that work. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is take a nap.
Rest is an exercise of letting go of control. It takes faith. The devil is going to make us think that everything is dependent upon our work and our ability to get it all done. He wants you to think you can’t stop. Unfortunately, too many of us allow our “work” to consume us for this reason. But there comes a time to leave unfinished tasks to God and trust him to finish what you are unable. Overwork will rob you of your joy, your health, and your productivity.
I’m Taking a Vacation
With all that said, I will be taking some time to rest the next couple of weeks. I will be taking an extended vacation where I will be gone most of August. It will be the longest vacation I have ever taken since I have been in ministry as a pastor. At first, I was more than reluctant to be away for an extended time like that. I feared that it would be too long to take off.
Some of that is a matter of pride. I felt that the church needed me. But Good Shepherd Lutheran Church got along before I arrived and it will continue to get along after the day I leave. The church is dependent upon Jesus and not upon me. And if the church is dependent upon me, there is a real problem. I am not as important as I like to think I am.
I Need This
I need this! I will admit that over the course of the last year I have felt run down. This has been one of the most trying years in ministry and my life. I have been strained mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically because of certain challenges that were faced. It has taken a toll on my family and me.
With that said, I have been blessed to experience times of refreshing and renewal. I absolutely love to be in ministry. It is a joy to have the privilege to serve the Lord in the way I do. It’s hard to take a break because I love what I do. But I need a break. I need to rest. I believe that this time away will bring even more joy to my ministry and make me more effective as a pastor.
Connecting with God and Family
I am looking forward to this time to connect with my God. I am guilty that my Bible reading and devotion time can often become more about preparing for my next sermon than it is about simply being with God. I am looking forward to opening the Bible without thinking about the next sermon to prepare.
I am also looking forward to this time to connect with my family. Work can rob us of precious moments together with those we love. I have attended too many evening meetings and gone too many conferences that took me away from my family. But I am not going to let anything steal my time away from them for the next month.
I will be setting aside the cell phone. I am deleting all my social media apps. I don’t think you need to see pictures of my vacation posted on Facebook. My laptop is being left at my church office as I do not plan to open a single email during this time. I will be “fasting” from the internet as I focus on being present with the people closest to me. It makes me nervous to take such a radical break from being “connected,” but it will be healthy to have a detox from distraction.
So I am signing off for now. I will be back in September. See you then.
- Do you agree that often the most productive thing you can do is rest? Why or why not?
- How does pride keep you from letting go of control and put your work into God’s hands?
- What are the things that distract you from connecting with God and your family?