Posted by Pastoral Musings on June 14th, 2010
Elijah had just experienced an amazing victory in which God had demonstrated His power by raining fire from the sky in response to Elijah’s prayer. Baal, who was being worshiped by Israel at that time, had failed to do so. Though Elijah was in the minority, he was bold in his victory and in his faith, so he slew over eight hundred false prophets. It was one against many, and Elijah prevailed.
The next day Jezebel sends him word that, “By Baal, I’ll take your head off as you did the heads of my prophets!” Never mind the victory that he had just experienced. Never mind that he was one against almost a thousand, and won. Never mind that Baal had proven to be impotent. Elijah ran from one woman who was swearing by a non-living god that she would kill him. Why?
Elijah was experiencing what many preachers experience: the Monday morning blues. You see, after a great day with great success and great victories, men of God find that the next day is often among the most discouraging days of their life. Why? I believe it is because the human body and mind is not equipped for sustained periods of emotional intensity. Neither is humanity equipped for great emotional and physical intensity without it being followed by rest. Elijah’s issue was spiritual, but it was also physical. His faith was weak, but it greatly because his body and mind were tired from the prolonged battle that he faced. Add to the battle the elation and joy and you can see a man who was stretched to his limits.
What was necessary for Elijah? Rest. He slept for a long time. An angel woke him and fed him, and Elijah was not rebuked for his sleeping either. He was encouraged in it. Why? Because he needed it.
We, too, whether in full-time ministry, or working our jobs and tending our families, need rest. The Bible reader will recall that God made the Sabbath day holy (Genesis 2:7). Later, Jesus stated that this was not to imprison man, but to bless him (Mark 2:27). It was for man’s benefit and help. Even sleep is a gift from God (Psalm 127:2).
Sometimes people become workaholics. They find their identity in their work. They seek their joy in their work. They neglect their families and spiritual well-being for their work. They think it weak to rest much. Others think that it is not spiritual to rest. They think that spirituality is found in visiting the sick, the hospitals, the nursing homes, always being on the road, always telling others about Jesus. I’ve even encountered those who thought that if a person went on vacation that they should always be on the lookout for opportunity to aggressively evangelize. Somewhere, somehow, we MUST REST.
As we read Mark 6:30-32 we find that the disciples came and told Jesus about the execution of John the Baptist. What was Jesus’ response? Did He say, “Fellows, after we heal all of these people who are here with us, we will go rest”? Did He say, “Guys, you must understand that it will be highly un-spiritual if we leave this field of ministry with so many open doors”? No. Jesus took His disciples and left the scene of active and fruitful ministry. He took them aside to rest.
I’ve often heard people say that they would rather burn out than rust out. It’s very foolish to do either. We do not have to go to the extreme in either way. A person must rest. If we do not rest, our bodies will demand it of us at some time. The person who refuses to slow down and take a breather will find that he has no choice. Spirituality is not found in a person being always on the go. If a person is to spend time with God and have the joy of prayer and the joy of abiding in the Word, he must slow down to do so. We often forget that the Psalmist praised God for making him lie down in green pastures (See Psalm 23). He does the same for us. We can either joyfully accept it, or we can take it because we have no choice- our bodies, hearts, and minds will simply make it necessary. Failure to rest will take its toll on us. The person who refuses to rest is also an impatient person. He wonders why others don’t do as he. He is tired, and will often be hard to deal with. In his tired state he will eventually begin to make bad decisions because his judgment is clouded by a mind that won’t function well. His body, being tired, will cry out for rest in many ways. There is no joy in going, working, and never stopping.
We MUST REST! It is God’s gift to us for our health, our sanity, our spiritual growth, and for OUR JOY.