It’s nasty outside today. I hear hail or freezing rain bouncing off my window. It’s cold, damp and dreary. My heart, however, doesn’t have to be that way.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.”
The first warm days of spring mark the passing of the wintry season. The sun fights off the chill of winter. The earth is slowly warmed and begins to show new life. Trees bud; daffodils bloom. Robins sing. The ground issues fresh green sprouts, which form a luxurious, verdant carpet covering the land. The scene is peaceful even tranquil.
In contrast to this idyllic scene, picture a weary warrior. His days have been filled with turmoil, conflict, and confusion. Battle weary, this combatant desperately needs rest and refreshment. Feeling isolated and alone, he has fought fatigue. Exhaustion, physical, emotional and spiritual, remains a ruthless, relentless, yet unseen, enemy. Nevertheless, unaware of his weakened condition, he soldiers on. This slogan, “the enemy never takes a day off, so why should you?”, motivates him to press on.
I wonder if you have ever felt this way? At some time or another, almost every one has. I know that I have. As a church planter in a foreign culture, I have experienced firsthand the pressure of ministry difficulties, limited resources, high expectations and the restraints of time. The urgent demands and responsibilities not only included evangelism, discipleship, training, organizing and planning for transition which seemed endless, but also team obligations. Attempting to make every moment count, time off appeared unwise, out of the question even frivolous.
Then, one day in the midst of a very challenging week, I came down with the flu. Contagious to others and too sick to work, I was remanded to the couch for several days. This provided some extended time for reading and reflecting. I suddenly realized that my sickness was actually beneficial – a blessing. As I was recovering from my physical ailment, I recognized that I was being refreshed. I especially recall recognizing that the flu was a gift from God, providing the opportunity for rest, restoration. What I had been “too busy” to do out of obedience, my Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, had gently forced upon me.
Reflecting upon the twenty-third Psalm, it became apparent that the Lord Jesus had made me lie down in green pastures and was leading me beside the quiet waters. Although I initially resisted, I finally learned this life lesson. I humbled myself and repented.
God knows his creatures better than we know ourselves. Even busy church planters and pastors require a day off. Did he not say, “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.” (Exodus 20:9–10, ESV)
Following God’s command, even example in creation, I began to take a regular, scheduled day off for rest, refreshment and restoration. This especially meant avoiding ministry related tasks, but often included accomplishing necessary responsibilities and chores in my home. I still maintained the Lord’s Day as set apart for worship and refrained from unnecessary tasks or activities. I was further instructed by these verses: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13–14, ESV)
Following God’s wise instruction, I began to learn to delight in the Lord’s day by not going my way, but following the Lord’s way. I was surprised that I had more energy and accomplish more in six days that I had previously done in seven. Surprise! God knows best!
So, friend caught up in the rush of Christmas, let me pose a question. In the midst of your busy schedule, which often resembles a pressure cooker, do you take time – at least one day a week – to delight in the Lord?
The Lord God has spoken in his Word. His blessing will follow your obedience. Delight in him, not yourself! Obey his command to rest in him and you will be refreshed by him.