For us to live before God, we have to stop living before other people. George Mueller noted that two things had to happen in his life before he became effective in delighting in God and getting into the warfare of prayer. He said, “I had to die to what George Mueller thinks about George Mueller. You really can’t live for God’s glory or have fellowship with God if you are thinking about what you think of yourself. The day had to come when I had to die to what other people thought about me.” Sonship, World Harvest Mission, p. 87
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
If we want to live a life of doing ministry without burning out, killing ourselves, or sacrificing our marriages we have to let our Justification by God define us. If we work to win our own approval, or the approval of the world around us, we will never have done enough.
Others will disapprove of me. I live surrounded by perfectionists who derive their self-importance by the number of hours they work. When they see my car in the driveway as they drive to work, they disapprove of me. When they see me take my day off on a weekday, they disapprove of me. When they hear me talk of going on a two-day prayer retreat, they will smirk and disapprove. I cannot expect people who worship the god of achievement to understand that Jesus gives his worshippers rest.
I have to learn to live with their disapproval, and I must replace it with God’s approval. God looks at me and sees his beloved son in whom he is well pleased. If I focus on his approving voice, my soul finds a place to rest.
I also have to learn to live with my own disapproval. This one is harder for me. I will oftentimes have to lay aside my sermon notes, and honor my day off before I have written something that meets my standards. I will often have to trust someone else to do a job for the Church that I could have done better. And worst of all, I will not be everyone’s hero.
If I am taking my day off and someone goes to the hospital, what will happen if I am not there to comfort her? Well, they will be fine. Jesus was in charge of when they got sick, and he will comfort her. This may be the opportunity for her community group to truly begin to do ministry. Maybe this will be the day my assistants learn to point people to Jesus, and the day when this sick lady begins to trust Jesus more than she trusts me. Everyone will be fine but me.
When she tells her testimony, I won’t be part of the story. I won’t get to be the hero who makes everyone smile even on the worst days. For me to find rest, I must be okay with not being the hero. I will have to rest in what Jesus thinks of me, instead of being the rock star I always wanted to be.
Finding rest in the ministry is not a mysterious formula. It is simply a matter of discernment, delegation and scheduling. But before we can do any of those things we must determine whose approval we are seeking. If I am living for my own approval, I will never be good enough and I will never find rest. If I seek Jesus through my ministry, he promises that I will find rest.
If you are near burnout, take an hour or so to reflect on this question: Who has the authority to approve of your work? Only one taskmaster promised to give us rest.