Burnout. If you're in ministry, or even just remotely connected to a pastor, you've heard about this dreaded killer. Men and women - more of them every day - falling victim to drowning in the sea of ministry, being consumed by all of the work and drive and vision that comes along with it. More and more pastors all the time are neglecting their family, their health, their spouse, even their sanity - forgetting that their "being" is more important than their "doing". Burnout. It's officially declared war on all of those called to "equip the saints". But as this epidemic has been exposed and called out over these last few years, I believe we are seeing symptoms of a new and contrasting disease: Laziness. That's right. As we're so accustomed to, I see that the natural "preventive" reaction for some to avoid the consequences and ramifications of Burnout has been to completely swing in the opposite direction. So while some are lying on the side of the road in the ditch - dying to get their life back and gain a handle on leading and loving their families (and even themselves) - there are others who wouldn't notice their counterparts lying over in the ditch even if they were dressed in a pink bunny suit, screaming for help. Apathy. Laziness. It's the new Burnout. Are you going to be it's next victim?
In Colossians 3:23, the Apostle Paul (in addressing slaves) reminds them to "Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Great exhortation for anyone. Work hard! Well...NEWSFLASH: If you're a pastor - or if you've been called by God to serve His church full-time - then there is no "as though" about it. You ARE working for God, not for people! Sure, we're called to train, equip, and serve others - this is part of being the church. But anyone who takes on the responsibility of surrendering to the calling of shepherding and pastoring the people of God - to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and taking it to a lost and dying world - best remember that you have agreed to an "honorable responsibility". And in surrendering to that calling, I don't think it's a bad thing - at least every once-in-awhile - to have someone accuse you of "working your butt off!" Is your butt still there? Is any of it gone?
I'll admit, I'm still fighting the battle of going home at the end of most Tuesdays and disconnecting - leaving "work" at work - and giving my family my full and undivided attention. It's hard for me to just pick up a book to enjoy or watch "The Closer" on DVR without feeling the urge to open my laptop and be productive. To make ourselves feel better, we call it multi-tasking. But I also have to admit that I have a tendency to live this way at times out of my own reaction to seeing and witnessing others who not only don't have much trouble leaving "work" at work, but appear to struggle even doing "work" at work. Laziness. Apathy. I refuse to allow them to be my excuse for Burnout or failing to put things in perspective and priority. But I also refuse to allow them to seduce me into thinking that I can just take it easy. It will all get done somehow. Sometime. Someday. By someone. Right? This reminds me of a story Jesus told.
While (once again) talking about the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells a parable about stewardship. And while the Parable of the Talents (or Loaned Money) is definitely a lesson about what we do with the material gifts the Lord has blessed us with, it goes WAY beyond that. Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 25:29: "To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away." If you've had any occasion or reason lately to think, "It sure doesn't seem like the Lord is blessing this the way I had hoped or planned", is it possible that you haven't done all you can with what He's given you? Could it be you're not really working "hard and cheerfully...for the Lord"? Is it possible that no one on the face of the planet would ever accuse you of "working your butt off"? Or worse yet - and forgive me ahead of time - is your butt getting bigger?
I know, I know. We're supposed to be relying on God, asking Him to do things that we could never accomplish on our own. Absolutely! But do you think He's going to come through on that promise because I choose to sit by and do a half-a$* job? No. Absolutely not! God blesses a cheerful giver. He blesses a hard worker! And to those who lay it ALL on the line for the sake of the Kingdom - to those who work their butt off for the Lord - He grants rest. And peace. And satisfaction.
I'm learning to disconnect and unplug and focus. I'm learning the difference between multi-tasking and misaligning my priorities. I'm discovering what it means to actually go and BE on vacation. But I believe the learning and the discovery will come with greater joy knowing that I "worked at it with all my heart for the Lord". How about you? Are you working your butt off?