Can you measure effective life and ministry by something other than planned results or the quality of prayer or compassion? Is there something that can indicate things are headed the wrong direction BEFORE the wheels fall off the wagon?
I think there is – at least in the culture I’m most accustomed to. And it’s something we talk about wanting but treat like it’s sin to take advantage of. Especially in the lives of vocational missionaries and church planters.
OK – maybe you don’t. But it’s common. And it’s this.
We all want more rest. We want other people to rest. But we don’t actually want rest more than the other things we want.
- We want results more than rest.
- We want experiences more than rest.
- We want security more than rest.
- We want to feel important more than rest.
To be sure, it’s a fine line to walk because our relationship with rest is nuanced. And I think it’s that way because it’s an indication of how we are trusting God and hearing from Him because we can’t just devise a system and go with it. It’s part of an ongoing conversation.
We can’t say “I must take EVERY Saturday off, unplug completely from any technology, sit in the house, and ignore the needs of my family, friends, and neighbors.”
Jesus didn’t do that. And we shouldn’t either.
But by the same token, if we’re getting to the end of our strength, stamina or ability, it’s impossible to know whether God wants us to extend beyond ourselves so He can supply it for us or whether we should rest and allow God to work without us. Unless we hear from God.
Which means we must have time to pray, to hear from God, to be in a relationship with God.
And what’s scary is that it’s so EASY to get too busy doing what God has called us to do that we forget that He wants to do it with us.
Sure, we my remember that. But in practice, we may not.
I know this sometimes gets me (and keeps me coming back to my relationship with Him). He’s faithful to keep His word and bring me back because He loves me.
But here’s the deal – I don’t think this only hurts you and me. I think that sometimes it can affect vocational missionaries or ministers even more because the eternal stakes are so clear and so high.
Not only do they have all the “normal” stress, but they also have people who have ministerial expectations on them. People who might not realize that resting in God might not mean that they don’t need to take a vacation. People who might not realize that a furlough is just a season with a different kind of work.
And that’s where we come in. We can support our brothers and sisters in this. We can pray for them. We can encourage them. We can educate people. We can remind ourselves and those around us that everyone is called to rest in Christ and if we expect missionaries to be different, then we are putting something on them that God didn’t call them.
How should we pray?
I have four suggestions.
- Pray that they would find rest in their work.
- Pray that they would find rest from their work
- Pray that they would find rhythms of rest in their days, weeks, and years.
- Pray that they would find or raise up partners to help carry the load
Oh…and then take prayer and turn it into action. Look at your life and ask God if there are places where you need to walk in rest as well.
Maybe this was for you, too. How are you (or how will you begin) walking in God's rest?