Note: Guest post author kept anonymous due to the sensitive nature of missions work in certain areas.
Faithful Christian men and women pay my family thousands of dollars to minister to the unreached in the Arab World. People who live paycheck to paycheck manage to write a $20 check to our account every month. That sweet grandmother gives a portion of her social security check with a diligence that would put the most successful CEO to shame. But when it comes down to it, we could sit down on the couch, kick back, and watch Netflix all day. Any of us could. We could avoid relationships that hold us accountable, show our face in the appropriate places, at the appropriate times, and just… coast.
And unfortunately, many Christian ministers do. Too many.
“We should be the hardest working people in the world.” It’s something I’ve often heard repeated by a mentor.
And not only in order to be good stewards of that grandmother’s faithful offerings, but also, and perhaps more importantly, because we have been entrusted with a task. As vocational ministers we are to grow the Church, to reach the world with the gospel of Christ, our Lord.
But sometimes it’s all we can do to survive.
We’re tired— exhausted even— just from the day-to-day life of overseas living. Our minds are exploding from learning one of the most difficult languages in the world. Our emotional energy is stretched by co-workers, local friends, and those we are mentoring. Our bodies are maxed out from carrying groceries home, walking upstairs, and trekking across the city via public transportation.
It’s all completely and utterly draining.
But… we press on.
We find that last ounce of energy to knock on our neighbor’s door to offer a plate of food in hopes of another gospel-centered conversation. We wake ourselves before the sun and before our children so that we can spend our first quiet moments of everyday seeking the Lord. We stay that extra hour after our painstakingly long Arabic lesson is over in order to get a head start on our studying. We have a job to do.
We wake in the morning with Him on our minds and in our hearts. “How can we grow His kingdom and glorify his name in our lives today?” As Americans, we generally approach life from a position of selfishness: “What can I get out of this?” “How can I make this situation easiest on me and my family?” “What is the best outcome for us?” —but Christ turned that upside down when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
There’s very little self-concern involved in those two responsibilities. In fact, the Scriptures command just the opposite. We are called to die to ourselves again and again. So we use 100% of our time, energy, and resources to the best of our ability in order to grow His kingdom— no excuses— for six days out of every week.
And the seventh? We rest. We rest hard. We replenish our souls so that we can glorify God faithfully and diligently in our consistent, repetitious work.
Too often in our culture, we exalt and even celebrate the one who “doesn’t have time for a sabbath” or the one who is “too busy for a vacation.” Surely they are more “holy” than the rest of us (as if our own personal strength is a sign of holiness.) At the most basic level though, it isn’t noble to work long and continuously without resting— it’s disobedient. The Creator of the universe rested one of the seven days in the formation of the cosmos and all that is found within, so with what standing do we approach the throne as if we are above the need of rest?
My family and I have been ministering to the unreached of the Middle East for over a decade, and I’m just beginning to deeply understand the sacredness of the sabbath. Each morning, we draw ourselves from our beds before the sun has peeked over the horizon.
We saturate ourselves in His word in the quiet pre-dawn hours. And then we hustle.
We teach English, study Arabic, minister to our neighbors, and share the gospel with those have never heard it. We shuffle our kids to and from school, attempt to decipher their homework—all in Arabic of course, and help them navigate their relationships with local friends. We mentor new workers like ourselves, lead and attend team meetings, and remain faithful in communication with our support base back in the U.S.
But every Friday, we roll out of bed late, create and play with our kids, order dinner in, read from our favorite thinkers, relax with friends, and replenish our souls. It’s not a luxury but rather a necessity.
If we as leaders are working to our fullest capacity and being faithful in all that we do— as we should be doing— then, in tandem, we must also faithfully rest well.
Is your sabbath a priority, or do you simply view it as a luxury, an extra, an “if we have time for that?” Do you clear your schedule and vigorously protect it, or is it an afterthought each week? If we are to see this good work to its completion, we must commit to be in it for the long haul. For as noble as our efforts out of our own strength may seem, what value do they have if we are snuffed out?
Friends, may we run our race well … and may we also see to it that we finish well.
The author has been serving as a missionary in the Middle East since 2006. She, along with her husband and three children, are currently forming a team in order to plant the Church among the unreached in a neighboring war-torn country. But in her times of rest, she thoroughly enjoys eating gourmet foods, traveling to new countries, staying up way too late playing cards with friends– and she can whip up a mean chocolate chip cookie.