The Psalmist David declares in Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” My delighting in the Lord should be the testimony and declaration of my ministry. I’m afraid that we get so busy in the ministry that we develop the mentality of Martha in Luke 10:40, 41: “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.”
It’s amazing how busy we can get in the ministry. A pastor has the responsibility of preparing sermons, counseling individuals, performing weddings and funerals, visiting the elderly, and comforting the sick. On top of that he holds various meetings with the staff, teachers, deacons, and financial committees. He is also out on visitation presenting the gospel to the unsaved. Then he must balance all of this with his family time regarding his wife, children, and the upkeep of his house and yard. I haven’t covered all of the things involved, but this is a good start. If we’re not careful, we will face the consequences of being too busy in the ministry.
I had a teacher in college who used a humorous illustration concerning those who are in full-time ministry. He said, “Have you ever seen a dog chasing a car? The dog is barking and trying to sink its teeth into the tire. Have you ever thought what would happen if that dog actually sunk its teeth into the tire and then held on? That dog would get beaten into the pavement and the dog would exclaim, ‘What have I gotten a hold of? I need some relief!’” The teacher then made an application to men going into the ministry; he warned that if they weren’t careful, they would find the ministry beating them into a pulp.
I’ve known men who were once excited about the ministry who later left it because of the pressures and heavy responsibilities. The ministry was no longer a delight but rather a drudgery. Many have broken their health with the stress and frustrations they constantly encounter. Others have become so consumed with their ministry that they neglected their families; this in turn led to bitterness in the hearts of their children, who now hate the ministry and want no part of it because of what it did to their fathers. Some children even hate their fathers because they were in love with their ministries instead of them. We knew a pastor with whom we held meetings whose wife left him because of the ministry. She couldn’t put up with the constant demands made upon her; needless to say, this man’s ministry and family were shattered.
By now you’re probably thinking, “I thought this article was about enjoying the ministry!” Yes, but I felt it necessary to tell you these real-life illustrations; perhaps someone reading this can be rescued from similar disasters. I would like to make a few suggestions regarding how we can enjoy the ministry.
First, anyone in the ministry must have times of rest and relaxation, In Mark 6:31 the Lord said to His disciples, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” It is not a sin to take time off—and you can quote me on that! Many sincere people in the ministry tell me that there’s so much to do that they feel they must keep going if they’re going to get everything done. Allow me to put on the spiritual brakes for you! You will never get everything done that you desire to do for the Lord on this earth—the only Person who ever did was Jesus Christ. We will never get everything done; therefore, we need to loosen up and recognize that we need to rest. Our bodies are like good music. Good music must have both tension and relaxation; if the music is all tension it will be harmful to you. The same is true with our bodies. If they are in a constant state of tension, all kinds of problems will occur—nervous breakdowns, high blood pressure, stress, and possibly even heart attacks. The body and mind need to be diverted from the grindstone of responsibility in ministry.
If the Lord saw it necessary for His disciples to come apart and rest, then so should we! And we must do this on a weekly basis; I’m afraid that many of us in the ministry don’t honor the Lord with a day of rest, and we should. I had a very godly friend, now in Heaven, who always rested one day a week. He was an evangelist and would not preach Monday nights. He explained this to the pastors he was with, and they never cancelled him for meetings; in fact, they respected him for it. We are not machines, and our bodies are not designed to go on forever without a break.
Several years ago when Dr. Bob Jr. was alive he took me on a tour of the University Press. He told me that the presses run twenty-four hours a day for six days, and they give them a day of rest on Sundays. How much more should we take a day of rest?
I trust that this will challenge you that, by the grace of God, you will enjoy the ministry by having a time of rest. In the next article I will cover other aspects of enjoying the ministry.
(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)