I used to live on a gerbil wheel. Packing my days from early mornings, (I naturally wake up somewhere around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.) until late bedtimes, I left little time for rest and quiet. Instead, I felt proud of how much I could accomplish in a day, a week, a month. Unfortunately, I’d get commitments and tasks spinning so fast, I couldn’t keep up with the pace of my own life, at which point I’d tumble off the wheel entirely.
Usually, my off times included colds, flues and other sicknesses that come when we run down our immune systems due to stress, lack of sleep, poor food choices and the like. I left people in the lurch consistently, scrambling to fill all the holes I left because of my sudden absence from everything.
I didn’t recognize this pattern in my life until God started confronting me about it one day during a long recovery from a surgery. Finally, I used this time to reflect on my life, my choices and the speed I insisted on maintaining. I noticed a repeating phrase in the gospels along the lines of “and he retreated to a quiet place alone,” referring to Jesus.
Hebrews 4, and its theme of “enter his rest,” became a plumb line. My life then, fell very short. I needed to learn how to live in a place of peace and rest while still doing the kingdom work God gave me to do, like Jesus. We know that Jesus stewarded all his resources perfectly, but how? How did Jesus balance rest and work?
In his book, “Sparkling Gems II,” Pastor Rick Renner states that if we add up all the events and passages of time mentioned in the gospels, we are only told what Jesus did for about 27 days of his three-year ministry. This is why the apostle John said, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25 NLT.
Jesus packed his days with ministry to people, yet he still found the time to be alone, rest and receive fresh anointing for the next thing. He shares his secret with us in John 5:19. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing.” In other words, Jesus worked where God made provision and prepared the way.
When we consider our energy use and what kind of accounting we want to give to the Lord, it’s easy to put ourselves on gerbil wheels. That’s not God’s way. A great perspective on how to find balance in energy stewardship is the business phrase, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.” For believers, “smarter,” means, do only what God gives you to do in the way He wants you to do it.
A story from Luke 5 shows us what that looks like in real time.
“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master, ‘Simon replied, we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.”
Did Simon and his crew work hard the night before? Yes. Did it produce anything valuable? No. Did they work hard again when they followed Jesus’ instructions? Yes. Did it produce anything valuable? Yes, and there’s the difference. We can always find things to do that need do be done and make us feel important and productive. The secret is discerning the difference between good things and God things. I can, potentially, burn up all my energy doing a lot of stuff that makes me and others happy, happy, happy and entirely miss my God-given destiny.
If I want to see a righteous harvest and please God with my energy, I must choose to spend it only on those things God leads me to do. There will still be lots of hard work, but instead of falling away in exhaustion with alarming regularity, I will work steadily. God knows my limits and resources, and although he may push me out of comfort zones, he will never call me to do unfruitful work. He will call me into rest throughout each day, if I listen. He will do this for any believer.
Some of us head into Sundays, vacations and sabbaticals in such a state of weariness, we collapse once we get there. That’s not God’s design. We need to stop making busyness a badge of honor, as if constant movement and overly full schedules make us more acceptable to God. Unfortunately, I think the reverse might be true.
I think it hurts God’s heart when I don’t take time to listen and discern his plans. He’s probably sad when I keep fishing on the wrong side of the boat and then sob because I can’t catch any fish. Additionally, I no longer possess the energy to do the stuff that matters to God. Peter and his crew could have probably hauled in that big load of fish if they hadn’t exhausted themselves the night before. It might have been somewhat humiliating for these tough, seasoned fishermen to call in extra help.
Thank God for grace and many second chances. If, if only we could keep a firm grasp on the truth that God is always running team meetings with the latest info about where to fish, what lures to use, what time to go and everything else we need to know. When we skip meetings and don’t take the time to listen quietly, we miss a lot of memos and changes.
How are you doing achieving the balance between God’s sabbath rest (which is not just for Sundays) and accomplishing the work he’s assigned to you? Maybe you need to shut down a gerbil wheel in your life and become an active listener to be able to better manage your energy resources. As Henry Blackaby says in his book Experiencing God, “Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t skip over the relationship to get to the activity.”