I’ve been pretty busy lately – whether it be traveling and preaching, writing articles, finishing another book, recording and filming for our Arabic broadcast, planning for our upcoming Holy Ghost Forum, corresponding with partners, friends, pastors and churches, running errands, working on other projects, etc. that I recently started sensing an uneasiness in my spirit. One day I realized I was getting spiritually deficient. Rarely have I been in this position throughout the many years of ministry. For me, it’s a dangerous place, and the uneasiness served as a warning. I will not live and minister from a position of spiritual depletion. Neither should any minister.
Years ago I was looking at the traveling and preaching itinerary of a minister colleague. He was going everywhere – to cities, to nations, and doing conferences, while overseeing a large ministry. I knew his marriage needed help. His wife wasn’t happy. She was being neglected. But their ministry had become a machine that needed to be kept running. Gradually, as I’ve observed such ministries over the years, I notice a decrease in the true anointing of the Spirit, and a greater focus on money. Eventually I see the tail wagging the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail as ministry becomes the means for paying for all their projects, some of which the Lord never directed them to do. If men don’t keep their egos sanctified they push and push to maintain the machine they created. This is the reason ministers must stay in constant prayer and in a sanctified state.
“but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
One minister said he’d rather burn out than rust out. I don’t believe you need to do either one. You can either work hard or work smart. You can trust the Lord or trust in your own efforts. You can work with the wisdom of man or with the wisdom of God. I refuse to live on what some people call “the edge” – always looking to do more, build more, accomplish more, and run around half the time like a chicken with its head cut off. One day when you finally wake up, look around, and evaluate everything, you will realize the futility of it all and that you spent more time laboring in the works of man than in the works of God. I’m all for laboring in the Lord and getting the gospel out, but God has a plan, a way, and a time and season to do it. And His yoke and burden won’t kill you, for it is easy and light.
As a personal example, for years I’d raise funds to go on mission trips. And I still believe in going on mission trips. But often I’d come home spiritually drained, physically tired, mentally exhausted, with no offerings from my labors in these poorer countries. I told the Lord that I wasn’t going to beat the bushes any more to raise funds to do His work. If He didn’t move on hearts to give, then I wouldn’t go. We don’t oversee a local church where we can draw on funds to travel at any time and anywhere a door opens. From now on He’d have to pay for whatever He was authoring. I’ve been in a rest ever since making that decision. I’m glad to report that He’s been faithful to His own plan and purpose, not ours.
Two things are necessary when you’re feeling depleted spiritually, whether in ministry, or in business, or just life.
1. First, rest and relaxation is a necessary part of replenishing your soul and body. Your soul and your body need rest. I don’t get any rest when I spend excessive amounts of time on my phone, or computer, or with lots of people. To get proper rest, I need to go to the mountains, the woods, a river or lake, back in nature somewhere, away from the hustle and bustle of life. I don’t need to travel long distances to do this. I can go for long walks in nature and get that. Do whatever gives your soul rest.
2. Secondly, play. Play is any sort of recreation or fun activity that releases your mind from the rut and routine of the daily grind. For me, I like to watch ball games. Being from Boston I have opportunities to watch my sports teams compete. On the other hand, I have to be careful sports don’t become a distraction in my life, where my spiritual life suffers.
Ministers and parents that have young children are some of the most spiritually, physically, and emotionally depleted people I know of. Consider getting a baby sitter once in awhile and go out alone with your spouse. Let Grandma have the kids and go away for a whole weekend. If she or a good friend can take them for an entire week, go on vacation with your spouse without the kids.
3. Thirdly, and most importantly, waiting on the Lord through prayer and the Word replenishes your spirit. Feeding your spirit on the Word and drinking from the presence of God is of the highest priority. A strong spirit is what sustains your soul and body. More than rest and recreation for your soul and body, you need to learn to train your spirit to enter into the joy and inward leisure of the Lord. Be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18)! That is one of the greatest Biblical commands. Your soul and body respond to the life that fills your spirit.
Rest, play, pray are what you do to replenish your spirit, soul, and body.