I am thankful for the latest resources and research about taking care of ourselves. The importance of maintaining good rhythms is incontrovertible. Scripture’s ancient wisdom of sabbath is now mainstream. It is a blessing to live at a time and place with the luxury of giving consideration to how we spend our time.
However, I wonder about the level of attention applied to rest and relaxation. A common mantra is to work smart, not hard. But does that line up with the teaching of Scripture and biblical examples? Is the goal of discipleship living a balanced life?
Scripture encourages us to take our efforts to the razor’s edge. Paul wrote, “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col 1:29) Other translations use the phrase “That’s why I work so hard!” In Corinthians 15:10 Paul wrote, “I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” In other places we read phrases like, “don’t grow weary in well doing” (Gal 6:9), “press on to take hold” (Phil 3:12), and “let us run with perseverance” (Heb 12:1). Scripture encourages fully expending our energies.
Paul practiced what he preached. When he had to defend his ministry, he outlined how hard he worked. He didn’t boast of “ministry balance” or working smart. “I have worked much harder…I have been constantly on the move…I have labored and toiled and have often been without sleep.” (2 Cor 11:23-27) J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “The world is run by tired men.” Anne Ortlund said, “Nowhere in the Bible are we told to slow down and take it easy.” I read that one time after a long day of ministry D.L. Moody’s bedtime prayer was simply, “Lord, I am tired. Amen.”
I think John’s account of Jesus’ with the woman at the well puts to rest (see what I did there?) any argument that being tired is sacrilegious (evidence of being out of God’s will or that something is wrong). You may know the word used in John 4:6 can mean dissolved from exhaustion. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on this passage, wrote, “Most souls are won by tired people! The best sermons are preached by tired men! The best camps are run by exhausted youth ministers! The Third World is being evangelized by tired missionaries! Christian organizations are being run by tired men! Show me a super VBS and I will show you some tired women!” The Son of God got tired. It should come as no surprise when we experience it.
Let’s encourage one another to work hard for Jesus. Let’s pray for food that others “know nothing about” (John 4:32) that will not only sustain us, but turbocharge our efforts. Don’t get tricked by the idea you shouldn’t get tired in the ministry. Our level of exhaustion may indicate we are on the right track. It is God’s gift to drive us to seek an energy that is not our own.