Posts Tagged ‘Rest’

By Andy Constable

Life in schemes can be tough at the best of times. It is, sometimes, an extremely face paced, intense ministry. I know today as I woke up that I felt tired and distracted. The business of the next couple of weeks clouded my mind. Now at this point I could (a) get on with the day and get as much as done as possible but keep stressing. Or (b) I can commit these things to the Lord and refresh my soul for the day ahead. Now a lot of people will tend to do the former, get their heads down and batter through life’s problems. However, that’s not healthy at all. If we keep doing this we will burn out very quickly. We need to find a spiritual oasis in the middle of this stress. Here are some things I was reminded of as I spent time with the Lord.

Be Disciplined

We need to be disciplined in making time to spend time with the Lord. Some days we won’t feel like getting up early and reading our Bibles, but it’s so necessary. Paul, in his qualifications for deacons, says this in Titus 1:8: “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” Discipline is key when you’re feeling stressed because it’s so easy to be lazy or to get distracted by business. Make that time to read your Bible and keep it regular.

Meditate on scripture

Christians in general are bad at spending time taking the Word of God from their quiet times into the rest of their days. We tend to read some verses and then forget about them as soon as we walk out the door. The Psalmist however said that he “meditated on God’s word day and night” This means that he spent time studying the scriptures, processing them and reflecting on them. The psalmist actually spent time taking God’s Word to heart and applying it to his life. This is something that is important for refreshing our souls in ministry. We need to fill our minds with as much scripture as possible in order to find peace, contentment and renewal of mind in the middle of stress.

Leave your worries with God

We need to spend concerted time committing our cares to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:7 says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God cares for us and we need to know this in the midst of ministry difficulties. However, what we need to watch out for is that we don’t commit our worries to God and then take them back again. It is important to commit them to the Lord and make sure they stay there. There can also be a tendency to think that God doesn’t want to hear about our silly stresses. We think “oh I’ll sort that out by myself because God has more important things to think about.” This is not the case as 1 Peter reminds us. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you!

Remind yourself that you are not God

One of the things that every Christian is tempted to do is play God. In our pride we think we can do things in our own strength. Yet, it is wonderfully liberating in ministry to remind ourselves that God is in control of all things. He saves people, not us. He transforms people’s lives, not us. He works everything out for the good of those who love him, not us. The question is do we believe this? Or are we functionally playing God and trying to sort out all the mess by ourselves. This is both foolish and dangerous.

Remember there is an outside world

I think lastly its good to remember that this is a big, old world we live in. Often when we are stressed we focus on ourselves and think that we are the only ones grafting in ministry. It’s important to get our heads up and pray for those who are struggling all over the world to bring the gospel to their people. This gives us perspective. This reminds us that we have a great and powerful God who is Lord over ALL creation and ALL people!

It’s important if we want to survive in this ministry to put these things into practice. I could have ignored my time with the Lord this morning, battered on with the days activities and ignored Him.  But, instead, I took 30 minutes to be disciplined, meditate on scripture, cast my worries on the Lord, remembered that God sits on His throne, and prayed for some outside gospel ministries. This refreshed my soul and I found a little oasis in the middle of stress.

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By Andy Constable

The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough and tiring in Niddrie. One of our “pre-interns” who was getting his life together in Christ made a very unwise decision to leave the structure of our tailored discipleship programme/life to go back to his home town. The decision was not prayerfully considered, biblically based or with the Lord in mind. The young man in question simply got bored with following God’s will. This was heartbreaking to watch as we had heavily invested the last 6 months into his life. We had prayed with him, walked with him, and taught him the gospel as faithfully as we could. We had him stay in our house and he had become part of the family. The whole process was demoralising and spiritually draining. It felt like we had been punched in the stomach and left winded on the ground. How do we pick up the pieces when this happens?

Firstly, we need to rest in God. The week after the person had left to go back to his sinful lifestyle, I was absolutely shattered. I walked around like a zombie and found it difficult to engage with people. There was a need for sleep on one level but also my soul needed to find rest in God. Investing in any person is a tiring experience and I needed God’s grace to strengthen me.

Secondly, we need to root out any idols. After the person left, I felt like my hopes and dreams had been robbed and that there was no way forward. You see I had put my trust in the wrong things. This time of unrest brought forward the idols of my heart. I had trusted in the ramifications on my ministry of this person getting their life together. I had wanted recognition, respect and glory for the part that I had played in investing in this person’s life. A day after the person had left I read Psalm 62 and verse 6 challenged my heart attitudes. It says this: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” This just wasn’t true in my life at this time and I needed to repent. God was not my rock and my salvation. When difficult things happen we see where our hopes and dreams really are. And if it’s not on God then we need to repent and put our trust in him and him alone.

Thirdly, we need to remember that God is in control. When the person left I was left wondering what God was up to. This was of course an arrogant thought but one that crossed my mind. How could he let this person go? How could all that hard work come to absolutely nothing? Does God know what he is doing? My very wise wife reminded me of this verse from Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” The Lord always knows what he is doing and is always in control. His ways are not our ways and we need to always trust that he is working out his good and perfect will. When people walk away from the Lord we need to trust that God is sovereign and that his plan is perfect. He is just and gracious and far above our understanding.

Finally, we need to continue to invest in others. As Mez said to me several times during that week: “you need to get back on the horse, and get back on quickly.” Even though 5 new people professed faith the same week he walked away, I still wanted to remove myself from investing in anybody else because I was tired and honestly couldn’t be bothered. However, when someone walks away we need to invest our attention elsewhere. Jesus was clear through the Parable of the Sower that many seeds will be planted but only the ones who remain are saved. This is how we need to view ministry. We need to keep spreading the seeds of gospel, discipling people and pray that some seed will fall on the good soil because God will produce a great crop through them.

Ministry in schemes is tiring. We invest our lives in people and when they walk away from God it’s heartbreaking. But we need to keep putting our hope in Christ, remind ourselves constantly of God’s sovereign hand and keep sharing the gospel with people! Please pray as we continue to work in this area.

Yesterday we looked at the issue of stress and burnout. We looked at some of the ways in which over tiredness can affect us and those around us. Today, I would like to offer some practical tips to help us.

Rest is such a hard thing to achieve in our frenetic culture. Finding things to do for the sheer pleasure of doing them is difficult. I read a report recently that suggests 10% of our working time should be spent on ‘self-care‘. Doing things that recharge the batteries. So, if we work a 60 hour week then 6 hours of them should be doing ‘recharging’ activities whether that is a sporting or something more sedate like reading. As leaders we should be modelling this stuff for our churches but, sadly, too many of us are modelling the so-called Protestant ‘work ethic‘ as the supreme example of a Christian service. Or, at least, a very twisted and sinful version of it. Many of my friends are tired because they are working in environments that celebrates long working hours and any sign of stress is frowned upon as somehow unspiritual and weak. The mere thought of ‘recharging your batteries’ is anathema at worst and frivolous time wasting at best.

Yet, how many people are we losing to attrition in the ministry. Yes, many people work just as long and as hard as we do in other jobs but that does not make it right, does it? All of us, whatever our profession, need to look at what our attitude toward ‘work’ is doing to our lives.  Isn’t this one area we should be seeking to (a) redeem and/or (b) be ‘counter cultural’. I am impressed by the growing number of young men who are taking a stand in their workplace by not ‘going the extra mile’ for the boss in terms of overtime and weekends. Instead, they place a premium on quality time with their wives and families and if that comes at the cost of a promotion or career advancement then they are happy to pay the price.

Church planters in areas like ours need to intentionally build ‘rest’ periods and ‘recharging’ times into their working week as individuals and as a team (vitally important) or face meltdown. We wonder why so many are burning out so quickly or why so few want to enter the ministry and it is because men (like me) make it seem almost heroic to work ourselves to death – ‘in the name of Jesus brother’ – when, in reality, it is sinful, pride filled fear of man that is driving us and not a desire to honour Christ.

Here are some tips to help us if we are struggling in some of these areas. Can I stress that these are not in any particular order of importance!

1. Tell somebody how you feel quickly before things really spiral out of control. Please do it with a mature believer who will help you out in a biblical, prayerful and practical way rather than with your ‘pal’ who will agree with you that ‘everything and everybody in that church suck’.

2. Earnestly seek God in prayer and lay it out before Him. Many times we don’t have because we don’t ask. Wisdom is a great thing to ask for because it can stop us from making foolish decisions that could wreck our ministries and our lives (James 1:5). Incredible though it sounds, many of us struggle because we have not really asked God for His help. ‘You do not have because you do not ask’ (James 4:2). Because many leaders are natural ‘problem solvers’ or ‘problem ignorers’ we think that our problems can be ‘sorted out somehow’ or even magically ‘disappear’. How many times have I told myself, ‘it will be OK if I just get through this week/month/year?’ Too many. Meditate on the promises of Matthew 7:7-11.

3. Look at your weekly diary/programme. What immediate changes can you make? Maybe you have to hand things over to others? Maybe you have t stop doing some things.

4. Use Skype if you haven’t got someone close to help you and counsel you.

5. Make sure you build regular days off/weekends off/weeks off into your routine. Be as single minded in taking them as you are in your working life.

6. Make your private devotional life a priority. We need to keep ‘filling the tank’ on a regular basis. We can’t work on fumes forever. it will damage us in the long run.

7. Find a hobby that relaxes the mind and brings you some peace. Make sure that you physically leave the place/area/scheme where you work.

For leaders specifically – repent of your pride and arrogance that says we can do all things. That’s God’s job.

a.  Repent of your hypocrisy – be as watchful for your own soul as for those in your care.

b. If you are in a team keep an eye on your people. Send them home if they look like they need some time out. A few days off now is better than a few months off later. Have fun together as well as work.

c. Have fun (if you have a team). How much of your life together do you relax with one another? Life is stressful enough without everything being super professional and super serious.

c.  Remember our acceptance by God rests in what Christ has already done and not on what we are achieving right now. He cannot possibly love us any more than he does. That should be freeing.

d. James 3:1 should be a bigger motivation for us than what our members think of us and about what we are ‘doing with our time’. We will give account to one person only, so we work for His glory and not our own reputations.

That’s it. There’s loads more I am sure. I realise that I have written for those working in teams and not the many who work on their own. I still think the principles can be contextualised. If that is you then I would suggest you cultivate a good relationship with at least 6 people outside of your context and get them to support you in prayer and through accountability. Regular personal contact with at least one person outside of your context WHO WILL ACTIVELY, BIBLICALLY ADVISE YOU, not just listen to your gripes, can make a massive difference.

Feel free to contribute any and all I have missed. This article is meant as a help and not in any way self righteous. I struggle and it all comes in ebbs and flows. Community is the key and a complete reliance on the Lord Jesus. He loves us more than we say we know. Press on.