In the first installment of this series, I shared my own story of ministry burnout, and we learned that the root of ministry burnout is unbelief. In today’s article, we will discover what it means to rest in and be renewed by Christ.
A survey of 1,220 adults published in USA Today revealed that most people are looking for more rest in their lives. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed cited a need for more fun.[i] For most busy ministry professionals, additional fun time won’t happen without additional planning. The survey revealed that 67 percent said they needed a long vacation. 66 percent said they often feel stressed. 60 percent feel their time is crunched. 51 percent say they want less work and more play. 49 percent feel pressure to succeed. 48 percent feel overwhelmed.[ii]
Resting in and Being Renewed by Christ
Many ministry leaders today are struggling to be God’s children. One of the greatest dangers in ministry is that one thinks that “being all things to all people” means abandoning resting in Christ. The problems with this are many, but they all find their root in a lack of resting in and being renewed by Christ.
The invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 is instructive for us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Coming to Jesus means believing in Him. Such faith is knowledge, assent, and confidence all in one. Moreover, faith, being the gift of the Holy Spirit, produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22); John 14:15); 15:1-17; 1 John 2:3). It also brings forth the works of gratitude, performed in spontaneous obedience to Christ.
The invitation of Jesus is extended to those who are weary and burdened. It is they, all of them, who are urged to come to Jesus. Man can only be saved by grace through faith in Christ alone.
The Relevancy of Christ’s Call to Come to Him Today
Christ’s urgent invitation to those who are weary and burdened and how they should come to Him is relevant today as it was at the time when Jesus walked on earth. It applies to anyone who, for whatever reason tries wholly or partly to achieve salvation using his own exertion. And does not the heart of every sinner, including the man already reborn but still living on earth, not harbor a Pharisee, at least once in awhile?
The promise of Jesus is: “And I will give you rest.” Such rest is not only negatively absence from uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and despair; positively it is peace of mind and heart (Ps. 125:1; Isa. 26:3; 43:2; John 14:27; 16:33; Rom. 5:1). Also it is assurance of salvation (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Tim. 1:12; 4:7-8; 2 Peter 1:10-11).
Jesus continues in Matthew 11:28, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” The yoke that Jesus refers to here is the unwarranted legalism the religious leaders placed upon the people of God. It was a system of teaching that stressed salvation by means of strict obedience to a host of rules and regulations. Jesus is telling the people here to “Accept my teaching, namely, that a person is saved by means of simple trust in me.”
The one who is meek is one who finds refuge in the Lord, commits his way entirely to Him by leaving everything in the hand of Him who loves and cares. The meek person is peaceful and peace-loving.
Taking Christ’s yoke and becoming his disciple results in: “and you shall find rest for your souls.” Men can never obtain salvation until Christ gives it. They can never discover what He has not disclosed.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus is teaching simple trust in Him, and obedience to His commands out of gratitude for the salvation already imparted by Him is delightful and brings with it peace and joy. The person who lives this kind of life is no longer a slave. He has become free. He serves the Lord spontaneously, eagerly, enthusiastically. He is doing what (the “new man” in him) wants to do. On the contrary, the attempt to save oneself by means of scrupulous adherence to all the artificial rules and arbitrary regulations superimposed upon the law by scribes and Pharisees (23:4) spells slavery. It produces wretchedness and despair. Therefore, says the Lord, “Come to me.”
The authoritative advice Jesus gives here is not only good for the soul; when heeded it also greatly benefits the body. The rest- peace of heart and mind—which Jesus here provides is the very opposite of the aggravated mental stress that sends so many people to doctors, hospitals, and death. The absence of peace, whether in the form of anxiety or of rancor and vindictiveness (the lust to “get even”) may lead to ulcers, high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc. The teaching of Christ, if taken to heart, have a curative effective on the entire person, soul, and body. He is a complete Savior!
Eight Pieces of Practical Advice on Rest
As this article comes to a close, let me give you eight pieces of practical advice on how you can better rest in and be renewed by Christ that has helped me in my own life.
First, reflect often on the work of the gospel in your life. I do this by reflecting on the work of God’s grace in my life. I also make it a practice to regularly read books on the gospel to continue to grow in my understanding of the work of Christ.
Second, spend regular, unhurried and quality time reading or listening to audio to the Bible. Spending quality time in the Word of God outside of writing and or preparing to teach has helped me to continue to remain focused on growing in my own knowledge of the Word of God.
Third, spend time praying not only for yourself but also with your wife. My wife and I spend regular time discussing the work of the Word in our lives together and then praying together. This practice has helped significantly strengthen our marriage.
Fourth, listen to worship music while working. Often I become far too focused on tasks I need to accomplish throughout the day. Listening to good worship music helps me to refocus my attention on the work God has called me to do.
Fifth, guard your heart and your time with your wife and children. Being that I don’t have children for me this means guarding my time with my wife. To me guarding my time with my wife means shutting the door to my office, putting my phone on my nightstand in the bedroom and leaving it alone, along with any and all work I have to do for the next day. As a side note, this practice of being fully present with my wife has helped my marriage with my immensely not to mention providing me a time to unwind from work after the work day is done. On this point, I need to note that while I’ve made significant progress in this area of my life, I am still very much a work in progress in leaving my phone alone on the nightstand after my workday is done.
Sixth, prioritize quality over quantity. Focus on the most important tasks that you have to do each day. Each morning, I make a list of things I need to get done throughout that day. At the end of the day, I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get that list done. Instead, I put them on the list of things to do the next day, and do my best that by God’s grace to accomplish as much as I can..
Seventh, know your limitations. Being in ministry is a race, not a sprint.
Lastly, aim to do few things well to the glory of God. Do all of your work to the glory of God.
[i] Lori Joseph and Bob Laird, “Americans Working Too Hard,” USA Today Snapshots, Hilton Generational Time Survey, January 2001.