“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” – Matthew 11:28
“Don’t be selfish,” we hear, “being a Christian means putting God and others first.” The call to self-sacrifice seems ever-present in such comments, as we are reminded that Jesus poured out his life for us, and we should do the same for him. Clearly, the Christian life involves sacrifice, but is there no room for us to think of ourselves?
One of the best bits of advice I received as I entered ministry was to remember that, “the pastor who is always available, usually isn’t any good when he, or she, is available.” The life of pastoral ministry is marked by sacrifice. It is a calling that comes with significant demands, but faithfully living out that calling requires caring for yourself, so that you have something of substance to share with the people God calls you to serve.
It is no different for any Christian. All of us are responding to the call of God, and all of us must make good choices about caring for ourselves and our families, as we do. The Bible clearly says that we are to humbly consider the needs of others, and think of others as better than ourselves. This is a call to avoid selfishness and to remain humbles. It is not a demand to neglect our wellbeing, or miss out on the beauty of life.
I once had a church member come to my office to ask me to take on a task that she felt should be my top priority. When I explained that I did not believe God was asking me to do that, and that I would be willing to help equip her to accomplish her passion, she became somewhat indignant and said, “If you have time to get coffee with your friends in the afternoon, you have time to do what I am asking!”
Of course, she was right. I had time to do what she wanted, but did not believe God was asking me to do it, and I did not sense that it was the best choice for our shared ministry. I knew how full my schedule was, and I knew I needed time to decompress over some coffee with friends if I was going to be effective at all of the other things I was doing to pour myself out in service to Jesus.
We all experience this at times. It is easy to hear the words of others, or the words in our head, and believe we should neglect things that matter to us in order to do more for the kingdom. This leads to becoming what the Bible calls, “weary in well-doing.” We are not the Savior, that role belongs to Jesus alone. We cannot do everything, and we must choose what God calls us to do, and be at peace with that.
Thankfully, Jesus himself gives us some very good news. In the second half of John 10:10, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly!” Notice, Jesus does not say, “I have come so that they can have more to do, be exhausted, and grow weary.” He makes it clear that a core part of his mission was for us to have life, to experience life, to enjoy life. When we walk with Jesus, we are invited to participate in the wonder of what it means to truly live!
A vital part of a healthy Christian life is savoring the beauty of life, and we need to make time to experience it. It is difficult, if not impossible, to experience such life if we over-fill our schedules and wallow in guilt. We must make time to enjoy life. In fact, enjoying life is a form of praise and a statement of our faith in Jesus. We are declaring, along with God in the first chapter of Genesis, that God’s creation is good, and that Jesus gives us life!
So, here is permission to take a walk, take some pictures, listen to music, enjoy a little art, smell the flowers, spend time with friends and family, play in the sand, jump into piles of fall leaves, and a thousand other blessings that come with being alive in the wonder of Jesus! God excels in beauty and life, and liberally shares it with us. Live your life in a way that bears witness to that!
I would love to hear how you celebrate the abundant life Jesus gives. Next Monday, our focus will be on Making Time for Others. As for me, I am going to enjoy another cup of coffee, and then go photograph something beautiful! May you be blessed as well, today!