My wife and I recently attended the annual Caregivers Forum that was held this year at the YMCA of the Rockies. What a blessing it was to see the wild elk wandering the property against the backdrop of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains, and to fellowship with other caregivers from around the country in that breathtaking environment.
Everyone there was involved in a ministry to strengthen the Lord’s servants, namely pastors and ministry leaders. The attendees ran the gambit from a simple “mom and pop” homestead available to those in ministry needing rest, to counselors helping pastors who have suffered moral failure, all the way to highly sophisticated, multi-service ministries like Marble Retreat in Colorado.
The theme for the week would be “Rest.” Ironically, everyone one of us there would check the box saying we are convinced of the value of rest for the servants of God. It would be a common emphasis in all of our ministries, the need for rest, for margin, for self-care. We are all committed to helping pastors rest, and we all know it’s the lack of rest that often leads to burnout and worse. And yet, I was there desperately in need of rest myself.
I entered the conference having already established a firm day off on my calendar each week. It’s Friday for me, but my day off had evolved into something less than a true day of rest. I’ve known this for a while now, but like most problems in our lives, I had allowed a sort of creeping anxiety to rob me of my pursuit of peace and my centeredness in Jesus. I have a commitment to doing only those things which the Father intends for me, just as Jesus modeled, but the reality is I’m doing some things people intend for me that may not be of the Father at all. And that spirit had invaded my Fridays. God used the conference to help me recover my personal priority to this principle of rest. My first Friday back felt more refreshing than Fridays had in quite a while.
There were several highlights that stood out to me from the conference speakers. When a pastor was asked if he observed a weekly day off and answered no, the speaker asked why not? He said, “Because the devil doesn’t take a day off.” To which the speaker replied, “Don’t you think you need a new role model?” When another pastor was in a group participating in a guided time of silence and solitude, he objected to the request to turn off his cell phone. When asked the reason he said “I’m committed to being always available to my people.” The leader replied “Jesus wasn’t.”
Robyn Coffman of 10:10 Ministries spoke in a session addressing “The Fear of Rest.” She identified five fears related to rest and asked us to identify the two most problematic for each of us. I was able to relate to most all of those fears, not the least of which is related to appearance. How would I look to others if I take time to rest? Would I be seen as lazy or unproductive? Another fear is related to performance. What won’t get done if I rest? It’s tantamount to believing I’m indispensable, and that everything depends on me. Another fear is financial. If I rest I won’t earn as much, and can I afford that? All of these fears are rooted in unbelief and a lack of faith in God’s power to provide and bless what flows out of rest. God used that talk to bring me to repentance.
Perhaps the most sobering concept came out of another talk. I had never before considered the fact that the first full day Adam experienced after his creation on day six was a day of rest. His work tending the garden would then flow out of that day of rest. Often we view rest as the reward for hard labor, and we adopt the “as soon as” philosophy. This leads us to say: “I will rest as soon as I complete such and such a task.” The problem with this approach is that the enemy can always throw another “as soon as” in front of us the moment we complete the first task, so we never quite feel free to let go and relax.
While the original Sabbath was a Saturday, the New Testament church began observing Sunday as the day for rest and worship. Obviously, this was rooted in the day of Christ’s resurrection, the first day of the week. But it may also have been rooted in the idea that the finished work of Christ provides a basis out of which our entire work week flows. After all, God’s Word makes it clear that “there is a rest that remains for the people of God,” and that rest flows out of the finished work of Christ. This opposes the view of the culture that sees the weekend as the reward for work rather than the fuel for productivity in the work days that follow. What’s more, the Jewish Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. It makes the first part of the day the rest period and the remainder of the day the period for productivity.
All of this got my wheels turning. I’m hoping it will do the same for you. Pastors, more than anything we need to examine our hearts and our schedules to make sure we have adequate rest from which God can do His finest work through us. This is my prayer for all of us. May all of our work flow from a peaceful place of rest as we trust in the sufficiency of our Savior, Jesus Christ.