I wanted to write about the topic of rest because it is the season I just came out of and because I believe God has taught me many things through rest that I want to share with you. Although this post is written mainly for my fellow pastors, I believe Christians in general can take principles from this to help them.
I wish I could tell you that I came to the point where I realized I needed to rest on my own but I cannot. I am a pastor. I take pride in constant study and producing things useful for ministry. I am used to counseling people and feel a sense of accomplishment when I do. However, God, in His own perfect way, recently brought me to a place in my life that I have never been before. Through several different events I came to the place where I realized that I was not ok. I needed help. I needed to sit on the other side of the counseling desk. I needed rest. Just writing it is hard for me. I am young and in good health. I make sure to sleep and eat well so that I can endure the things I must endure to pastor. There was nothing I was doing “wrong” to bring me to this point. And that is the point. Let me explain.
The circumstances that led to my decision to take a few extra weeks off from the church were all outside of my control. I was controlling what I could and yet God brought me to this place to teach me, yet again, of His sovereignty. A person may be doing all of the right things and God still choose to bring low to make a point. The point is this. God is in control, not me. How many times must I learn and relearn this lesson before the knowledge of it becomes something I embrace? Learn it we must and learn it well if we are going to ever succeed in ministering to others to embrace God’s sovereignty. Please allow me to share 5 things God is teaching me through rest.
- When I rest, I am being like God. Remember, God instituted rest when He created everything. It has always been the practice of faithful Christians to step away for a season to recuperate. How often did Jesus withdraw to the mountain? God showed me that I was in error to labor continuously without rest. What was worse is that I was using God’s call on my life to pastor as the reason for not resting. Many of us unceasingly work and use God as the motivation when the real issue is our pride not God’s call on our lives. If you seek to be like God then rest once in a while.
- Resting reminds me of reality. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we kept on working without rest is fear of reality. The real reason I kept putting of rest is because God needs me, right? I mean, what would happen to the church if I just stepped away? In my church I am the only pastor. The church would just fall apart right? Wrong my friend. God does not need me to accomplish His work and He does not need you either. Let this sober reality wash over you like a hot shower. It will be healing to your soul brothers. God does not need you. He is big enough. It is pride to think otherwise. God is not impressed with our talents and work ethic. This is not merely lip service to a Biblical command to rest. It is fact. Read it again. God does not need you. You are easily replaceable. As hard as this was for me to accept, I came to accept this reality as the means by which God lifted the self-imposed burden on my pastoral shoulders.
- Resting reinforces your calling and reignites your fire. I never realized how tired I was until I took the time to rest! I also did not realize how my ministry could be blessed by doing nothing. Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students says,
“It is wise to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on forever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry “Halt!” and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.”
I remember desiring to have a wife long before God gave me one. I think part of the reason God made me wait was to make me appreciate a wife when He decided to give me one. Resting, likewise, has made me miss ministry. When was the last time you said that? Your people notice your zeal or lack thereof. Has your fire, which used to burn hot, been reduced to a spark? If so you may need to rest and remember why you fell in love with serving in Christ’s church to begin with.
- Resting provides others with an opportunity. If you are a fellow pastor I’m sure you thought at one point or another, “Boy if I could just get more volunteers in my church then I could actually concentrate on the things God has called me to do.” Do I need to keep writing on this point or do you know what I am about to say? Resting provides others with the opportunity to step up. When you step back and rest, I think you will be surprised just how the body steps in. However, many of us don’t for fear of just that. When people step up in your absence they may not only fill your shoes but fill them better. This would be a problem for the insecure pastor. However, if our motive is the overall health of the church then rest and leave the rest up to God.
- Resting gives others an appreciation for what you do. Now let me invert that argument in number 4. When you rest, your people will realize just how much they miss you and just how much you do for them. For instance, when other men in your church preach for you they realize just how hard it is and will appreciate the work you put into your sermons week in and week out. People are sometimes tempted to think they can do the pastors job and even do it better. By resting and allowing others to fill in, some will realize that this is simply not true and will communicate that to their friends. A business man in our congregation once said to me, “I cannot imagine doing your job. It is so much harder than mine.” While we need to guard against pride, it would not be a bad thing if churches were reminded that good pastors don’t just grow on trees. I hope this encourages my fellow pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless you with rest in due time.