A friend of mine yesterday asked about the devotional where I talk about carrying out the good works prepared beforehand for us and he asked how I could always stay so engaged in everything that I do (one of my pet phrases is, “Sleep is for mere mortals.”). We debated about how much is too much and whether leisure is factored in to the equation. He thought I meant you had to be going all the time. In a way yes, for it’s captured in Paul’s words here:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. – Philippians 1:21-22, NASB
Paul talks about living for Christ. While he drew breath, that was his focus. And that conveys a sense of always being on. I know what that’s like. Being a freshman at the Citadel means being on most of the time. You never knew when an upperclassman was going to come crashing through the door. And when you were outside of your room, you were fair game. Being always on is exhausting, more so mentally than physically. None of us can do it. Rest is important. This is a lesson I really had to learn the hard way a few years back. However, if there’s any doubt that we all need down time, read Jesus’ own words:
Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27, NASB
The Sabbath was made because we need it. It’s commanded to be a day of rest on purpose. The message God is trying to get through our thick skulls is that we all need time away, time to recuperate. Sometimes it’s because we’ve been going at it hard and we’re worn out. And sometimes it’s because life overwhelms us. Life can overwhelm the best of us. If we don’t take time away, we won’t make it. God understands this.
And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. – 1 Kings 19:3-8, NASB
This is a passage from the life of Elijah. He had just watched God doing a mighty thing on Mount Carmel. The people of Israel had been shown the truth about Ahab, Jezebel, and their false gods. The drought over Israel had now ended. But Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life and he couldn’t take any more, so he ran. Notice that God didn’t rebuke Elijah. Rather, as Elijah experienced some down time, God provided for Elijah. He sent an angel twice to keep Elijah from giving up and also to replenish Elijah’s strength. God made us. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. So He knows that while we’re to be on all the time, there is still a need for rest. There is still a need to recuperate, to get away, to heal and restrengthen, and to do those things that make us effective for the good works He has prepared beforehand for us to accomplish. So while we are to be working diligently, we still need to make sure we take time to rest enough to be effective.