Rest: 10 Ways to Make It Happen

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. 






The Value of Today's Choices

While the proverbial advice to “take each day as it comes” has some validity, it also masks the dangerous assumption that the choices we make today won’t have consequential carry-over tomorrow. In fact, while it is both harmful and a waste of time to worry about the unknowns of the future, it is always wise to consider what effect my decisions today will have on the options available to me later.

It is a common parenting tool to tell your kids as they are leaving the home to “make good choices.” We all understand that choices have consequences, and because we love our kids we hope and pray and teach and train for the purpose of raising children who can lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. But too often we don’t realize ourselves that each bad decision severely reduces the number of good decisions available to us.

Take, for example, the decision to lie. Once the lie leaves us, we only have two available options, and both of them are painful. First, we can continue down the path of intentional deceit that will most probably mean more lies, leading to even more lies. We will find ourselves trapped on the road of duplicity, forced to admit that we are liars, and consigned to keeping track of the minute, made-up details of our story.

The only other choice that follows a lie is to repent, admit we lied, and suffer the consequences. Either way, the choice to lie leaves us without any good choices left. And yet, we continue to use deceit intentionally, and watch as our national leaders turn lying into a daily business practice.  The reason? Our national ethical foundation that once conceived of honesty as a cardinal virtue now considers pragmatism acceptable, with all its ugliness, as long as the outcome feeds our selfishness.

But the consequences of our choices are not always immediately seen. In marriages it is often the case that incremental isolation and indifference, intentionally played out in miniscule choices every day, take the couple down the path of incivility and conflict further and faster than any one skirmish might suggest. Then, one day they wake to the fact that they hate each other, and now they only have hard choices in front of them. Usually they choose what appears to be the least painful and head for divorce. But, as study after study, and plain old common experience have shown, divorce is a solution that only exacerbates the problem. Divorce, like a brick thrown in a pond, extends and deepens the ripples of pain outward, affecting children, friends, family, businesses, and beyond. The only other choice is humility, repentance, forgiveness, and reformation of hearts that have become hardened through the deceitfulness of incremental selfishness. In this case, the best option is still very hard.

The ugly truth is this: every decision you and I make today will, in some way, determine the number of good decisions available to us tomorrow. Choosing an ethic today that values love, sacrificial service, honesty, self-control, humility and generosity will mean greater opportunities to love, serve, and be loved tomorrow. In my world, all that is just another way of denying my natural, self-serving tendencies, identifying as a follower of Jesus Christ, and then setting my mind and heart to follow him closely.

When we let the biblical ethos set our ethical foundation, and choose righteousness, regardless of the temporal consequences, we will find that today’s good choices open up more good opportunities to lead lives of significance and contentment. You can only take each day as it comes if you have a coherent ethical foundation able to cope well with every eventuality.

Pragmatism simply won’t work long term. As a nation, and as individuals, we must demand better than that. If we are to live lives that matter, that make a positive, lasting difference, we simply must believe and stand for what is right, all the time. What we choose today will determine tomorrow’s opportunities. Now, let’s go out make some good choices.