How to rest well.
I originally wrote this article for church planters. The truth, however, is relevant everyone.
In our first two-and-a-half years of planting, I averaged way too many hours, spent too many nights outside the home, gained 25 pounds, and worked weeks without a day off. I didn’t know how to get on top of all of the craziness.
Ministry is emotionally, and regardless of your experience, you are bound to come across some serious stress levels. Engaging in ministry and stressful situations will leave yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically sapped. You may even start wondering, “Why am I doing this again?”
I first knew that I was desperately in need of rest when I began to notice these trends in my life:
- I was eating more than I had in years,
- I would slip into the habit of pastoring everyone else over my family.
- I would make people feel like they were a burden when they needed my help.
Conquering these things is neither simple nor quick, but today I want to encourage you to rest in the finished work of Christ.
Rest in the finished work of Christ for your identity.
The more you understand who you are in Christ, the less pressure you will put on yourself to meet some artificial rubric of what a successful church plant looks like. The words of Paul resound clearly, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 ESV). For the church planter, pleasing man often means bowing to the whim of everyone around you (so that they stick around) or succumbing to your growing discontent that you aren’t as impressive with your 20-person congregation as the guy up the road with his 3000-person congregation. In both situations, we are prone to idolatries of success and approval, trusting in a demented American-dream version of Christianity for our self-worth.
Trusting in the finished work of Christ for your identity means that you can rest well, knowing that what Jesus desires is faithful obedience - not effectiveness. You have value because of Christ’s work on the cross. Your identity isn’t found in what you do, but in what Christ did. Rest in that Gospel truth.
Rest in the finished work of Christ for your peace.
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Jesus, clothed in the likeness of sinful flesh, rested. He withdrew from the crowds. He didn’t heal everyone, didn’t cast out every demon, and didn’t subject himself to the whim of every person. Jesus knew his task and knew that connectedness to the Father wasn’t a luxury but a necessity.
Finding peace in the midst of the mess is impossible if you live a life disconnected from God. The turning point for me was when I stopped prioritizing my schedule, and I started scheduling my priorities. This means that, on my calendar, I carve out long periods of devotional time with God, prayer, fasting, time with my family, and a full day off. I prioritize these things above all else, and then I make sure to have ample space for sermon preparation and leadership development. Everything else can wait. Everything else can be picked up by a helping hand. Everything else will somehow be figured out.
Rest in the finished work of Christ for your power.
Jesus is building his Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). You are not the last bastion of hope in the world. God is not biting his nails wondering if you have the capacity to save mankind.
You don’t have the ability to make your lungs pump, to ensure that your synapses fire or to control the most basic of human functions. Don’t, for one second, believe the lie that God is depending on you. You are depending on God.
All of life is overflow. The Holy Spirit working in us, revealing the glory of God with ever-increasing glory, is the same Spirit that illuminates others to the beauty of Christ. To carry the burden of the impossible - bringing the dead to life - on your shoulders isn’t just unwise, it’s stupid.
There is a reason that the apostles in Acts 6:4 committed to devoting more time to prayer and the Word than anything else. Rest in the finished work of Christ for your power because you are powerless, but he who lives in you is powerful.
The Christian life isn’t easy, but it is simple.
You need Jesus. You need time with him. You need to sit with him and reflect on the fact that your identity is now as an adopted co-heir with Christ. You need to laugh and weep with him as you experience his comfort and his peace. You need to march forward in confidence, knowing that the best thing you can give people is Jesus - not some brilliant ministry plan or new idea.
So stop making excuses. Let the chips fall where they may. Spend more time resting in the finished work of Christ, and find the comfort that your soul has been craving.