Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31
After a busy Thanksgiving, taking relatives to the airport, and doing some holiday shopping, my husband, older daughter and I took a day off from all the busyness and played golf. I suppose you could call what I played “golf” even though it didn’t go so well! But it was nice to get out with them and enjoy a relaxing, beautiful day.
For a long time, I struggled with resting. With just doing something fun that had no goal. Before kids, my husband and I would spend Saturday running around doing errands. Come Sunday I would start stressing out about Monday’s workload! When my kids were younger, we always had sports on the weekends with tournaments lasting from Thursday until Sunday afternoon. These last couple of years I’ve finally taken to heart the idea of resting. Resting and enjoying all the blessings that God has gifted us.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2
Toiling and striving and anxiously lying awake thinking about how we can toil some more the next day! It’s not good for our health and it’s not the life God intended for us. It’s so sad that two major companies in the United States who made the choice to stay closed on Sundays have received so much grief for that decision. But the leaders of those companies are Christians who take the message and gift of the Sabbath to heart.
I still catch myself feeling guilty for resting. I have to remind myself that it’s not a luxury. It’s a requirement by God. Whether we are rich or poor, with children or not, retired or still working, God wants us to be rested, ready to do His good works when needed.
I’m so thankful for this gift of rest. It shows how much God loves us and wants the best for us. He wants us to be recharged and energized followers of Jesus. Not burned out, overworked, stressed and therefore unable to see how beautiful this world is He created. Unable to stop and help someone in need. So today on this Sabbath day take this gift of rest freely. Take time for yourself and enjoy.
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.Psalm 4:7
Have you ever ridden on a carousel where the operator, at some point, drops down a metal arm toward the riders and a brass ring drops toward its end? The riders on the outside stretch and strive to grasp that brass ring. The prize? A free ride to the one person who can attain that ring. I think that’s how I was looking at joy for many years. Not only from a grasping and striving point of view but from a scarcity mindset. There’s only one ring and lots of riders. You have to be on one of the outside animals to even have a chance. And once the ring is taken by a rider, your chance is gone. I searched in earnest many years for joy. How to attain it and how to hold on to it. And what I discovered is that joy, freely given in abundance by God, is right in front of me for the taking.
Praise God that His joy, unlike the joy the world offers, comes freely and is never ending. It is available to all. In the carousel world, as we spin around and around, we can choose the outer seat or even one of the animals constantly moving up and down, never finding rest. But how about instead we pick one of the colorful, stable sleds? And sitting there on the bench as we take our seat is a replenishing bucket full of shiny joy rings. Not just one free ride but endless opportunities for laughter and cooling breezes hitting our face as we go round and round.
God’s joy is available to everyone, not just the chosen few. It’s there for the taking when we sit nestled in the promises and gifts of His Holy Word. We pick up a ring from the bucket each time and hand it to the operator saying, “let’s ride!” All the while we watch the outer edge riders stretching for the measly gifts of the world.
The thing about riding a carousel is we carefully pick which animal or sleigh to ride when we jump up to the main stage. We are drawn to the exciting and the colorful, to the chance to grasp the ring. Isn’t that like the world? The bells and whistles of the flesh pull us to stretch for even more? To search for a bigger and better brass ring? But God says, “Come and rest and I will fill your bucket overflowing with joy.” All we need to do is choose Him.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.1 Corinthians 9:25
I’ve been a member of various gyms over the years. Each time, after that initial enthusiasm of “this time I’m going to become a flat stomached, toned armed, no jiggle mama” I fell into a boring workout routine. And then I found excuses to not go to the gym – I was tired, I worked late, I didn’t sleep well, my kids needed me for something, etc. Next thing I knew the gym was making money off a person that wasn’t even using their services.
For some of us, at one time or another, our faith life and studying and living out His Word fell into that same pattern. There were times when my on-line giving to my church showed up a heck of a lot more times than my physical body.
Running is a fitting pace for a believer. Jesus Christ deserves that we should run for him.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
How many of us got up this morning and thought, “I need to get in my God workout today so I can be ready to win that race!”? We may not see our studies of His Word like a workout but that’s what it really is. The “prize” is the ability to carry through the days of our lives as Christians who take full advantage of the fruits of His spirit.
Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
There are a few keys to successfully training for a big race or event and those same keys work for keeping our faith life active and effective.
Have a Plan
A plan is not, “I’m going to study the Bible” or “I’m going to be a good person today.” A plan IS something that is measurable and specific. For awhile I thought the Bible was something I just opened up to a random spot and expected to be told all the answers to a problem. And although God does set before us scripture we need we also need to be able to figure out the true meaning. A specific plan might be to pick one book of the Bible and find a five week study on it and do the study at a certain time each day. Another plan might be to commit to one God-directed behavioral change like smiling and saying “have a great day” to 10 people each day for the next month. Ask God to help you with your plan and He will surely answer!
Any devotee of fitness will tell you that consistency, consistency, consistency is what builds endurance. So even when you go on vacation you find a way to stick with your plan. Just last year I started packing my devotional book when I travelled. I brought my Bible study booklets on the plane to keep up with the chapters. Each time we want to make an excuse for falling off our plan we need to remind ourselves of the benefits. When I don’t want to go for a walk I remember the feeling I have when I am done – happy and satisfied that I cared for my body. When we don’t want to take the time with God we must remember how that centering time helps us throughout the rest of our day.
To run is to be diligent. We should hardly call that running in which a man starts and stops, and starts and stops again. In some Christian works we are painfully conscious that the persons undertaking them, if they ever run, run only for a very short time.
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Shake it Up
When I was training for the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day I walked five to seven miles a day five days a week. Occasionally, I would throw in a 14 mile walk. I set aside most of a day to accomplish that walk. And in our faith lives we need that same occasional change. It might be that we go to a different church that has different music. Maybe we move our morning devotional to the outside and watch the sunrise. Or we write out our prayers for the day on sticky notes and put them around the house.
Don’t Try to Do It All at Once
A good overall workout plan focuses on different parts of our body on different days. My daughter once was on a swim team. Some days were “land days.” On those days they ran. In the pool they practiced endurance on certain days and others it was technique. I have a lot of behavioral changes I need to make to align myself closer to Christ. And if I think about fixing them all at once it’s overwhelming. So, I ask God to help me with just one thing at a time.
There are always rest days in a workout routine. Time to let our muscles re-group. The same is true with studying the Word. You might think that’s Sunday – but that’s another day of study, isn’t it? Hearing the Word from our pastors, taking notes, and being challenged to go out into the world is part of our workout plan. For me, my rest from study is Saturday. I’ll read a devotional to get me focused for the day and that’s it. Yes, I put into practice the different lessons I’ve learned for the week. But I also just rest in the beauty of God.
So run that ye may obtain. So run that the great cloud of witnesses may applaud. So run that the King may say, “Ye did run well.”
Charles Spurgeon, The Unwearied Runner
Our days here are short. If we chose to lollygag and be distracted by the world we miss out on all the glorious wonders of God. If we strengthen our spiritual muscles through a consistent plan we can be God’s instruments for the day. He will look upon us as fit warriors, ready for any heavy burden, ready to stand firm, ready to be his standard bearer.