THE BIBLE CALLS THOSE THIRSTY FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS BLESSED. AJITH FERNANDO SHARES ABOUT THE POWER OF MODELS IN KEEPING OUR THIRST FOR GOD ALIVE
do not present my lifestyle as a model for anyone! My father left me with a model of working very hard and of trying to make use of every moment productively. He was a good Methodist who followed the advice of John Wesley who said, “Redeem the time. Catch the golden moments as they fly!” That’s the way I have tried to live. The Lord called me to be a minister of people and a preacher/teacher of the Word. Mixing personal work with study, preparation, public ministry and family responsibilities has not been easy. It has been very tiring; and even though I am as excited about ministry as when I began over thirty-eight years ago, I think I live with tiredness a lot of the time. I don’t take this as an ideal model. I don’t think God has called everyone to be so busy.
But I think there are many people today, not only in vocational ministry but also in so-called secular work, who struggle with tiredness because of trying to do their job well while also doing other necessary things. This has led me to the conclusion that, for many of us, our cross is the balanced life. Some give so much time for personal devotions and for the family that they can neglect their job and “Christian service.” Others serve well, do their job well but they don’t give adequate time for devotions and family. Both those models are unbalanced. The balanced life is often described as “doing everything in moderation.” I think rather that the balanced life is being fully obedient to God in all areas of life. That is difficult; and to many, it is their cross.
How can one go on working hard without burning out under such strain? I can think of a few essential things that have helped me.
Most importantly, I believe spending time with God in prayer and the Word recuperates our tired souls. However busy we are, we should not rush through this time. Therefore spending this unhurried time with God every day is like an oasis slowing down our rushed lives. Even more important is the security that comes from being in intimate touch with the sovereign and almighty God. Yes, there are pressures, but when we are with God we are with one who is bigger than all our challenges. This lingering with God attacks our insecurity. I believe the drivenness that insecurity produces, and not necessarily hard work, is the major cause for burnout. Lingering in God’s presence helps challenge our insecurity and the drivenness that derives from it. “…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa. 40:31).
I have also tried to take a weekly Sabbath day when I do not take on ministry responsibilities. I do this primarily as an act of obedience to God, whose Word commands us to take one day off every seven days. My Sabbath day is not Sunday as I preach almost every Sunday. But lay persons may find that Sunday is the best day for their Sabbath rest. On that day they can find refreshment by doing things that are different to their usual strenuous responsibilities.
I have had friends all my life who have been my “shock absorbers”! Foremost among these is my dear wife, who mediates God’s grace to my life more than anyone else. But I also have male friends to whom I can share about my disappointments, challenges and temptations. They help release the pressure of my challenges, and help me respond to them wisely. Their comfort also helps me overcome the temptation to bitterness which kills joy and handicaps so many hardworking people.
I have tried to walk for exercise regularly. I find this very refreshing, and it is a good time to clear the mind and to think (that is, to theologise). Many of the little articles I write are born during these walks.
I will stop with that, though I can list more things (listening to music, watching TV—especially news, cricket and mystery programmes). But today I want to highlight one other thing. Even doing all of the above things we can lose our thirst for God—that aching yearning for more of God. I think this thirst is a thrilling thing. It makes us aware of our immeasurable riches in Christ and that we are not experiencing those in their fullness. This thirst is one of those things that keep us fresh and our love for Christ burning. But this thirst must be cultivated.
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