“Our biggest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding in things that in the light of eternity don’t really matter.” (D. L. Moody)
The sharp eyed amongst you will notice that I’ve started and finished with the same quote and poem as last time. Sorry if that bores anyone, although it really shouldn’t in light of the content. I’ve been challenged recently by both. Interestingly, the poem was quoted at both the OAM Supporter’s Conference and the UBM Christian Answer weekend in London by different speakers.
It’s so easy to get distracted in a world full of enticements. There are the obvious vices that most Christians actively seek to avoid as excesses would be classed as sin. However, generally, it is not these that are taking up our time, consuming our thoughts, exhausting our emotional and physical strength and just distracting us from the work of evangelism.
We were reminded at a UBM mission in Llandudno about the need to avoid allowing things to become idols. An idol can be anything that becomes too much of a priority in our lives taking the place of God. Those listed included; money or the things money can buy, ambition, career, success, power, relationships, fame, sport, hobbies, (even knitting for the benefit of the many ladies enthusiastically making jumpers.) If we keep an eternal perspective, things will not become idols because they are passing away and only our souls will live on. We will remember that this life is short and eternity in either Heaven or Hell beckons, not just for us, but for those all around us.
Last weekend, I was on another UBM mission in London. During one session, a panel of men with decades of experience in both living the Christian life and, more specifically, in evangelism, were asked questions submitted by team members. Several questions related to the issue of burnout: how to balance service with rest, church commitments with leisure time etc. Like most, I was expecting a cautious, measured response…
One speaker said that the issue of burnout had more to do with the fact that people have effectively become lazy and expect to have more rest/leisure time. They are training their minds and bodies to become accustomed to playing computer games, watching movies and wasting time in ways that prevent them being ready for work. When the time comes, they feel exhausted quickly as they have not prepared adequately for the mission.
Another reminded us of the terrible fate that awaits those who may not even have heard the Gospel. He spoke about the spiritual battle and the need to remind ourselves constantly that we are in it! Materialism and consumerism were also touched on. The oldest panel member then quoted the poem mentioned already.
There was a deathly silence as the, mostly young, people listening absorbed what had been said. The challenge had been issued but what would be the response?
The interviewer then asked a follow up question about those who are so conscientious that they will make themselves ill by trying to do too much. They will then experience mental or physical burnout which prevents them from doing anything. The answer offered was that this might be God’s way of slowing them down for a period until they are ready for service again. Obviously, if they become ill then they cannot work so are forced to take a rest.
It was mentioned that we have been created for six days of labour and one of rest. A lot of people who burnout are not ensuring they have one day of rest set aside to worship God.
I was surprised to hear these answers but it was definitely an encouragement to press on. God has ways of slowing us down when necessary, and excessive concern about resting and/or experiencing burnout may hinder us in our service.
I have personally had times where I have been forced to rest due to ill health, and also times where I have decided to continue the work despite my health problems and just to do what I can. My health in recent months has recovered dramatically and I’m able to do a lot more. Should I be limiting myself in case I burnout or get ill again?
There are two important considerations. The first is that God knows our minds and bodies better than we do. He has work for us to do and He knows our limitations. Providing our motivation is to serve and glorify Him primarily rather than something else, we should give everything we have to this cause. Worrying about burnout doesn’t help avoid it and may even be a sin as it is failing to trust God with our lives. God has ways of stopping us if we aren’t being wise. We aren’t going to be rebuked for trying to do too much for Him, providing we are only labouring six days a week…
The second consideration refers back to the title of this post. Maintaining an eternal perspective is no easy task. We have to remind ourselves of this daily, or even hourly, as we are prone to forget and other things crowd in. It is the key to fighting idols and distractions of all kinds. We need to be asking ourselves whether the things we are involved in, and giving our time and energies to, are really important in the light of eternity.
Let’s remember that we are in a spiritual battle for souls and that the task of evangelism is a direct command from Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Let’s give everything we have to the task and if we burnout so be it!