Work Hard at Resting Well

The last time I took up running, I ended up injured. I did really well until the last stretch of a long run when something went wrong with my knee. I hobbled home and traded my running shoes for medical visits and a cane. That was the end of my running for a few years.

I’m running again now, and so far I’m doing a lot better. One of the keys is what I’m not doing. I’m not overtraining. John Stanton writes:

Overtraining is doing too much too soon…Training is the result of the body adapting to stress. The stress must be regular enough and strong enough to stimulate adaptation, but if it is too strong or too frequent, you will break down — you are overtraining. Rest is the phrase during which adaptation takes place, and you become stronger. It is just as important as your workout…If you do not rest voluntarily, your body will force you to rest — by fatigue, illness, injury, staleness or burnout. (Running: The Complete Guide to Building Your Running Program)

Talk about counterintuitive: rest is when you get stronger, and it’s as important as working out. Ignore rest, and your body will make sure you get rest. I discovered this myself as I limped around like an old man with a cane.

Our problem is that we hate rest. We fill every nook of our lives with things to do, skimp on our vacations, and refuse to take days for rest. Sometimes we even struggle to sleep. It’s another form of overtraining. We fail to realize that we become stronger as we rest, and that if we don’t rest, our body will force us to rest.

It’s ultimately a spiritual issue. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel write:

Sleep is an excellent litmus test of our posture toward time. Often, we view sleep as superfluous— wasted space that can be used if we determine more time is needed to accomplish a certain task. Every night millions of people around the world stare blankly at their TVs to avoid the reality that sleep is next on the day’s docket. Embracing our call to be creatures entails embracing sleep as a fundamental aspect of our vocation. We are called to rest and respect our bodies. In this sense, for many believers, sleep is a profound, spiritual practice reminding us on a daily basis of the truth of our identity as creatures. In sleep we are laying down our bodies as living sacrifices before the Lord (Rom. 12:1). This, too, can be an aspect of our worship of God. (Beloved Dust)

One of the best things I do to run well is to stop running some days. And one of the best things I do as a follower of Jesus Christ is to sometimes stop working, and to receive His sabbath not as an obligation, but a gift. Rest is sometimes as important as work.

So rest well. Acknowledge your finitude. I’ve seen the consequences in my own life when I haven’t done this, and I’ve also seen it in others. Sleep and sabbath are part of our vocations; put just as much energy into doing those well as anything else that you do.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

The Missionary Life: No Shortcuts

What would you say to a budding missionary candidate? There has been a surge of young adults in recent years who have landed on the field, enthusiastic to redeem the city and bring justice to the oppressed. But they do not stay longer than two years due to exhaustion, dejection, and even loss of faith.

12 Keys for Successfully Starting Something New

Are you starting a new organization? A Church Planter? Entrepreneur? Involved in a small organization just getting started?

Here are some tips for getting started.

7 Attributes for a Pastor Wanting to do Church Revitalization

I’ve learned there are some commonalities among pastors who can successfully revitalize an established church.

Here are 7 attributes of pastors who do church revitalization...

Testing Leadership Ambition

I want to suggest three ways that we can test our ambition and two ways that we can be presently faithful while ambitiously pursuing future possibilities.

On Stewarding Technology Well

Below are some considerations and conclusions based on my own personal examination. This is slanted towards pastoral ministry but not limited to it.

The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church

Despite all the fear driven presentations you’ve heard, not every young person is walking out of the church the moment they finish high school and never coming back.

Here’s what you need to know. The young adults who do drop out of church often lack a first-hand faith—a faith of their own—and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parent’s pressure.

Themelios 39.3

The Gospel Coalition just released the latest issue of Themelios, which has 221 pages of articles and book reviews. It is freely available in three different formats.

Four Books That Deserve to Be Classics

It seems that books come and go as fast as periodicals. Some books, however, have staying power.

It’s hard to predict which books from the past forty or so years will become classics, but if I had a say, I’d nominate these ones:

Knowing God by J.I. Packer (1973) — “As clowns yearn to play Hamlet,” this book begins, “so I have wanted to write a treatise on God.” Not only is this one of the best opening lines of a book since Calvin’s Institutes, but it sets the scene for a quality book that deserves a regular reading. It’s practical, too. It’s the kind of book I like the most: rich, theological truth brought to life.

No Little People by Francis Schaeffer (1974) — Most of us are aware of our limitations, and conclude that God can’t use us. Schaeffer begs to differ. “With God there are no little people,” he writes. If you read only the fourth chapter of the book, “The Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way,” you will have gotten your money’s worth from this book.

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald (1984) — The issues in this book are ones I continue to wrestle with today. MacDonald deals with the importance of the inner world, not just the outer one, and issues such as drivenness, busyness, use of time, and rest. This one doesn’t have the gravitas of a classic, but I find its lessons just as helpful today as when I first read it.

The Heart of a Servant Leader by C. John Miller (2004) — While this book was published in 2004, it was written before as a series of letters. I came across this book a few years ago when I was wrestling with what it looks like to apply the gospel to all of life. Miller, more than anyone, has a knack for working the gospel into every crevice of my heart. If you want to see the difference that a radical encounter with grace makes in a person’s heart, you’ll want to read this book.

What would you add to the list?

More About Weakness

“I would have liked to have heard more about weakness.” Rose Marie Miller said these words at the end of a conference with the theme of “Faith, Power, and Weakness.” Miller recalls enjoying parts of the conference, while also not feeling well, and missing her late husband. “At one point I wanted to get up and shout, ‘Is no one here weak?’” she writes.

I can relate. One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended took place two years ago when I was feeling particularly weak. The theme of that conference was Sifted. Instead of speaking about their successes, speakers shared about their struggles and their weaknesses. You would think a conference like this would be depressing. Instead, I found it hopeful. As a weak person, I can relate.

“I would have liked to have heard more about weakness.” I wonder how often these words could be said at the end of a Sunday worship service? I’ve attended a lot of services. I’ve been weak at all of them. I’ve felt weak at some of them — the ones in which I’ve been accurate in my self-assessment. I have a feeling that a lot of people come to church weary, beat up, and weak, and are asking the same question Miller did: “Is no one here weak?”

The great thing about our weakness is that it is a great match for God’s strength. In their profound book Beloved Dust, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel write, “Our great mistake is to see our brokenness, our finitude, and our sin as things that keep us from God rather than as opportunities to throw ourselves at the foot of the cross and grasp his grace.” Also:

Our fragility should lead us to trust in the One who is infinite. Our brokenness and weakness should lead us to glory in the fact that God listens to his dust and calls us beloved. Our weakness should lead us to proclaim God’s praise. It should harness reverence and delight in our hearts rather than frustration and discouragement.

We are weak, but we are beloved in our weakness. We were made to be weak from the start, and we’re even weaker as a result of sin. But God meets us in our weakness, and he calls us his own.

We’ve tried strong churches and strong pastors speaking at strong conferences. Maybe we need to try weak pastors preaching at weak churches about God’s grace that meets us not in the middle of our strength, but in our weakness. And how that grace really is better than any strength we could ever muster, and is readily available to any weak person who needs it.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Needed: Pastor-Mentors for Emerging Ministers

Of all vocations, surely the gospel ministry is the one whose paradigm is most radically formed by the dynamics of godly mentorship.

The Dangerous Task of Expository Preaching

The demands and benefits of expository preaching far outweigh our reluctance. Therefore, give yourself to the dangerous task of expository preaching.

3 Reasons to Plant in Highly-Churched Areas

There is room in every context for multiple churches, using several models, all proclaiming the unmatched name of Christ.

The gain of pain: Suffering as preparation for ministry

As I trace the biblical narratives – over and over again – it is the tools of pain and suffering that God primarily uses, to prepare His truly great ministers for truly great tasks of ministry.

Write More Better: a new eBook on writing well

If you’re in the same boat I was a few years ago, or are just looking for some advice on how to write well, this book is for you.