One weakness some pastors have is the inability to rest. The opposite may be true in other cases, with pastors being lazy and neglectful in their ministry responsibilities, but consider the minister who cannot slow down or sit down or lay down for periodic rest. Such a man is in a dangerous work pattern and needs to remember three truths.
First, only God does not grow weary. The book of Isaiah is full of great questions, such as “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28). Pastors are not God and therefore shouldn’t maintain work schedules that suggest otherwise. Jobs other than pastoral ministry can also be emotionally and physically draining, but ministry is a continual pouring-out of oneself, investing and preaching and teaching and leading. There is an on-call element to ministry that other jobs may not have. Ministry warfare is not an 8 to 5 occupation with a one-hour lunch break. Pastors will grow tired and weary, and this is by God’s design. So we must be people who rest, who understand the value of good sleep, decompression, solitary prayer and study, and vacationing with our families.
Second, only God is sovereign. No matter how much they want to, pastors can’t change the hearts of their people. Only God is sovereign over sinners, and our ministries should reflect the implications of that conviction. One implication will be pastors seeking rest and recuperation. Rest is not to be avoided but embraced. God “gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isa. 40:29). Our sovereign God is the pastor’s source of strength. He has given us his Word, which proclaims a sufficient and saving gospel, and pastors must trust the power of God rather than their own ingenuity and cleverness. We need to plan to rest and then follow through. Don’t confuse busyness with faithfulness. Embracing rest, we will be able to say with the psalmist, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me” (Ps. 3:5).
Third, only God defines success in ministry. Some pastors may avoid rest and vacation because their desire to be “successful” is paramount. They may view their desired results to be attainable only through endless output and striving, and stints of rest simply inhibit the momentum of their ministry. But Paul’s words to the Corinthians are instructive on this point. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5-7). Wherever ministers are, there they should be faithful. The growth, the success, comes according to God’s perfect providence and wisdom. The pastor’s goal must be faithfulness, to shepherd the souls in our care as we exhort our flock with God’s Word. Some ministers plant while others water, but only God grants the growth that matters—and the One who gives the growth deserves the glory. God’s glory and the pastor’s rest are not at odds.
Dear pastor, your heart needs to rest. Glorify God in your dependence on him as you minister to the flock, and as you take time to get away by yourself and with your family. Be faithful, and trust God with the results. The head of the church is not you but the risen and ascended Christ.
Mitch Chase is the pastor of Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, where he also earned a PhD in biblical theology from Southern Seminary. He is the author of Behold Our Sovereign God. He blogs at Unto Him, and he tweets at @mitchellchase.
Also published on Medium.