Mr. Belton was an elderly gentleman who lived next door to my wife and I when we lived in the first house we purchased. It was a small fixer-upper. I was determined to breathe new life into this house and make it a fine little abode for us. Every day, for as many hours as my life schedule allowed, I was swinging hammers, chopping wood, stripping paint, and sanding trim. I did a lot of the work in the backyard, in full view of Mr. Belton. He quietly watched as I struggled through the seemingly never-ending project of fixing this old house. We would occasionally chat across the fence, but not for long because I wanted to get back to my task at hand. His presence was one of gentle encouragement to me. His life was slower and more simple. He was retired and had no house to fix up. He also had many years of life experience and thus, a deep wisdom about the world from which I was about to learn…
Once, after a long day of working with lumber in the backyard, I was visibly sweaty and exhausted. Mr. Belton looked straight at me from across the fence and said ten words to me that I will never forget:
“Jesse, the Lord didn’t make the world in one day.”
That’s all I needed to hear in that moment. I stopped what I was doing, went inside, and spent time with my wife.
I eventually finished the fix-up job, but likely at a slower pace after that advice from Mr. Belton. He helped me see the big picture in perspective. Life was a lot more than fixing up that house. I did not need to devote all seven days of the week to hard labor (in addition to my “day job” at the time). I was on the path to burnout, and Mr. Belton saved me.
There is a lie going around in ministry. The lie comes from Satan himself and the lie is this: “The more you work in your ministry, the bigger and better its going to get.” But I challenge you to find that anywhere in Scripture. What we do see in Scripture is that on the seventh day, the Lord himself rested:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Genesis 2:2-3, NIV
Ministers, students, volunteers, you need Sabbath rest (it’s one of the Ten Commandments!; Exodus 20:8-11). There is too much burn-out going around in ministry right now because too many people who feel called to ministry are sacrificing their own well-being and the well-being of those around them (family, friends, congregation, etc) on the altar of “ministry” (for example, working 80 hours a week at the church; see The Endurance Factor by Greg Surratt and Chip Judd, published by Avail in 2023, for more on that).
Take a day off each week – religiously. It probably won’t be Sunday if you’re in full-time pastoral ministry. So find another day of the week to be your Sabbath. On that day, refrain from any work-related tasks (including work-related emails, texts, phone calls, prep-work, etc.). Spend time with your family, with nature, with a hobby, in solitude, and overall, with the Lord. You’ll be surprised at how refreshing and freeing the discipline of Sabbath can be.
Quick quiz. There are only three questions:
1. Guess which fast food chain in America makes the most money per location? Bingo: it’s Chik-fil-a (source: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/slideshow/these-32-fast-food-chains-earn-most-restaurant/).
2. Guess how many days a week Chik-fil-a is open? Right again, only 6 (they’re closed Sundays).
3. Do you think they’re foolishly leaving money on the table by closing on Sundays? Or is the Sabbath more valuable than one more day of earnings? For a company that is already number one. Just think about that.
-Dr. Jesse Joyner, Dean of Children and Family Ministries, Ascent College