After calling his disciples to leave all and follow him, Jesus sent them out to preach a message of repentance in the surrounding villages. They were to take no money or provisions, but to trust God fully for all things. Upon their return, all flushed with the excitement of great success, Jesus determined that they all needed rest. Mark 7:30-32 reads: The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in a boat to a desolate place by themselves.
If you are engaged in church ministry you know how they felt.
But as exhilarating as life-draining, Spirit-empowered ministry for Christ can be, it was never meant to be the uninterrupted activity of our lives. We must recognize the ease with which we become addicted to our own adrenaline, so to speak. Pouring every last ounce of energy into something that God then uses to radically rescue and reform lives leaves us craving for more. But never think for a minute that God intends his servants to burn up and burn out regardless of how great the process may serve to stroke our egos. The Lord who tells us to run the race before us with diligence and excellence also calls us away into a desolate place to rest a while. Why? Because he knows that no one can minister effectively when their physical, and spiritual, and emotional gauges are on empty.
We certainly need a “theology of vacation” or maybe simply a “theology of rest.” And so, until something better comes along, here are my thoughts.
1. Those engaged in church ministry have a fiduciary responsibility to use their vacations to refuel, and return to their task rejuvenated.
2. Rest happens, not merely when activity ceases, but when the body, mind, and soul engage in activities that make rejuvenating deposits into their accounts.
3. Rest happens, not by accident, but as a result of careful reflection on what is needed, and specific planning meant to meet those needs.
4. Rest happens when you experience a “change of pace” from those things that fill your everyday life.
5. Rest happens when you take time to enjoy relational time with those you love the most.
6. Rest happens when the body is taxed physically, and forced to recuperate. Take a hike, run on the beach, chop some wood, hook into a King salmon, but by all means, break a sweat more than once on your vacation.
7. Rest happens when the mind is provoked by new and exciting ideas and possibilities. Read a book, attend a play, engage in a set of stimulating conversations without a time limit, but by all means set you mind to walking some different paths than those that usually occupy your time.
8. Rest happens when you intentionally pursue some beauty and incorporate it into your life. Grab that musical instrument and start playing, go to a concert, learn to paint, but by all means infuse some beauty into your life.
9. Rest happens when, as the Psalmist recommends, we reflect deeply on the goodness of our God: “ Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you” (Ps. 116:7). Meditate on God’s Word. Drink deeply at the springs of his grace and glory. Fill your heart with long prayers of thankfulness and adoration.
10. Lastly, rest happens when you realize that the life you are returning to is God’s gift to you. To spend and be spent for the mission of Christ is the best of all ways to spend your life. Set you mind and heart to re-enter you daily life with joy and diligence, as befits your service to the King.