How can we find the time?2
I was talking with a friend with a large ministry who has many opportunities and challenges. I asked him what he does to stay in shape. He told me he eats healthy, works hard, and sleeps well. Those are all good things, but I encouraged him to take time to get regular exercise as well. It is a struggle to find time to do our work and take good care of ourselves physically and spiritually whether our business or family is large or small.
When I started doing ministry in my early twenties, my dad warned me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, that job will kill you.” My dad wanted me to take care of myself so I would stay healthy. A healthy lifestyle is an issue of faith and discipline, because most of us are busy, distracted and lazy.
I honored my dad by making sure I took time to exercise several times a week. I would often stop studying and take a jog before our evening Bible studies, even when I felt pressure to keep studying. Since I had been an athlete all my life, staying in good shape felt natural to me. I had another problem however, which was harder for me to make time for than jogging or lifting weights. I loved my ministry and our family, and I didn’t like to take days off. Even though I took breaks to have fun, I didn’t take breaks to simply rest. I filled my days off with non-stop sports, appointments, and family events. Without constant activity, I felt like a junkie without a fix.
Speaking to a growing congregation each week, and being deeply involved in a spiritual community is exhilarating. As the years went on, I added radio, TV, writing, and traveling ministry to my routine. Every day I was busy doing things I loved. I thought Christians were immune from midlife crisis. As I got older my energy dropped, and I began to live on adrenaline. I didn’t understand God gives us adrenaline for emergencies, not for daily living.
I eventually experienced emergencies which required the adrenaline I had used up. Those situations, combined with my depleted state, pushed me over the edge. It took several years for me to recover. Since that time I have made it a priority to stay healthy. I have seen several friends experience breakdowns. People who are overstressed break down at their most vulnerable point, whether it is physical or emotional.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we all need exercise, healthy food, sound sleep, good work, and a rest day every week. I feel best when I take time to read, pray, exercise, and work. As a pastor, I can control my schedule most days, and yet I rarely have the time to do everything I would like to do in a single day. I often feel squeezed by appointments. If I miss what is good for me one day, I make it a bigger priority the next day.
The key to good health is not being driven by guilt, it is living by faith. It takes faith to rest on Sabbath days, or to exercise, because there is always more work to do. Faith assures us we will be more fruitful obeying God’s will than making sacrifices. It takes faith to take time for prayer and studying the bible when work is calling to us. Faith teaches us to believe God is good, and He rewards those who seek Him. Faith allows us to believe our time with the Lord will give us wisdom and insight, which will ultimately be more beneficial than more hours on the job.
If we are driven by our work or ministry to the detriment of our health, we are not living by faith. Driven people are either addicted to the adrenaline of their work, or stressed by their fear of failure. I had an unhealthy sense of how much I needed to do to keep our church going. I didn’t want our ministries to fall apart or things to go wrong if I wasn’t present. Looking back, I realize some sacrifices which I felt were essential for our success were more detrimental than helpful. If I had taken better care of myself, I would have had more joy and set a better example.
We preach that Christ came to save people. The Greek word for save is sozo. Sozo means health, or wholeness. Jesus can make us whole in body, soul and spirit. Since I preach sozo, I also want to live in a way that brings sozo to me, and sets an example for others. Jesus is the builder of His church and we get to share in His work. If we live our lives and build community His way, what we do will last, and we will receive a great reward.
Nobody is saved through exercise or work; we are saved by grace through faith. Neither are we saved because we read the Bible or have perfect theology. The early church had no New Testaments, they too saw through a glass darkly. They were saved by the power of God through their faith in Jesus, just like we are. My point is this: if we trust our Father in Heaven, we will take the time to care for our bodies and our souls. God is glorified by healthy loving, children, whose lives bear fruit. We bear fruit by abiding in Christ. God has made this world and given us life because of His love for us. If we trust Him and enjoy the journey, the results will take care of themselves.