Today I was in a leadership seminar where church leaders were asked whether church leaders should work hard. Interestingly, some felt the answer was no – because in their minds working ‘hard’ meant becoming a workaholic. I disagreed. For me the Scriptures are clear that church leaders should work hard, otherwise why would St Paul, in the context of a passage about leaders, tell Christians in Thessalonica ‘to acknowledge those who work hard among you’ (1 Thess 5:12)?
Working hard is something church leaders are supposed to do. They’re meant to give their best. They’re called to give their time, energy and resources to the task of church leadership as they model themselves on Jesus, who came to serve and give his best, ultimately giving up his very life (John 15:12-15).
But working hard is not just for church leaders. It’s what we all should do, making the most of the time God has given us. After all, life is short and we only get one shot at it – so work hard at whatever you put your hand to. But don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not commending workaholism. If you try to work hard you can easily end up as a workaholic, just doing too much and neglecting not only your own well-being, but also that of your family and friends. I know from experience that it’s easy to over-work because you want things to go well but it actually backfires and in the end you become less productive and less effective – in every area of life.
So, how do those who seek to honour the biblical imperative to ‘work hard’ avoid workaholism and potential burn-out? The answer isn’t not working hard. The answer is resting hard.
Resting hard is making sure you rest well. It’s about creating space each day, normally early in the morning, for quality time resting with God in prayer and reading the bible. If you’re married it includes finding some space ideally each day to rest with your spouse.Resting hard involves having at least one day each week for rest rather than work. It’s also about making sure you spend quality time with loved ones each week. It includes planning and taking good holidays and ideally having an intentional season each year of slowing down (which could be during Lent or perhaps during August). This is resting hard.
It’s beautifully modelled for us in Genesis 1 and 2 when, after creating humans the very first thing God gets them to do is rest – with him – before they work. That tells us that humans are created to work from rest, as opposed to rest from work. It may seem like a subtle difference but it’s important as rest now becomes what we do before we work, rather than after.
For me, I always need to keep reassessing my working and resting. What helps is being accountable to both my wife and to others about these things. I am grateful that I have people around me who keep challenging me.
How about you? Do you need to make some readjustments to enable you to be both working hard and resting hard?