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Resting in ministry
Ministry is exhausting for the mind and spirit, as well as the body. How do you recharge effectively in ministry?
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6).
Ministry is difficult
Anyone who has been in ministry knows it is hard work. In 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul borrows imagery found in Numbers 28, in which the people of Israel are instructed to pour out a drink offering to the Lord.
Every morning and evening, a lamb was slaughtered at the temple as a sacrifice to God. Part of that sacrifice was a drink offering that was poured out. The idea was that it was like a meal to God, and the aroma would be pleasing to him.
That’s what Paul is alluding to as he writes to Timothy: when you pour yourself out in ministry, it’s pleasing to God. It is not merely a 9–5 job where you can simply check in and check out. Ministry is an exhausting work.
Rest is important
For many of us, the summer months are a good opportunity to take vacation and recharge our batteries for the upcoming busy fall season. Since ministry is so difficult, it’s important to rest properly. One thing to remember is that ministry is primarily emotional and spiritual work.
When you pour yourself out in ministry, it’s pleasing to God.
You’re making a big mistake if you try to replenish yourself with physical rest alone. Physical rest is important, but if you don’t rest emotionally and spiritually, you may come back from your time off worse than when you left. I’ve seen this over and over with lead pastors, whether they take off one day or six weeks.
Danger in a deficit
If you try to rest by physical rest alone, you’ll end up in an emotional deficit. That’s one of the worst places you can be in ministry. Feeling vulnerable or isolated is never good, because in that place people lean on chemicals to recover, become depressed, and are susceptible to suicidal thoughts. You may be resting physically, but you feel emotionally exhausted.
Ministry is primarily emotional and spiritual work.
What replenishes you will be different for every person. For me, it’s hanging out with my wife and daughters or spending time in solitude and silence. For some, it might be playing sports, going to the gym, or reading and writing.
When you figure out what’s best for you, try to engage in that every day, not just on vacations, even if it’s for a short amount of time.
Then, have someone hold you accountable. Resting emotionally and spiritually in the way that is most effective for you will help you to live a healthier life in ministry, fight the good fight, and finish the race well.