It doesn’t matter how hard you are working if God is not motivating your labor.
The psalmist declared: “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies” (Ps. 119:59). Seems like a simple enough verse, yet it has profound implications.
First, the psalmist did a simple exercise that was life changing: he thought about his ways. It seems simple enough, but it is not so easy for many people to do.
The last six weeks has been a period in which I have been doing some serious thinking about my “ways.” I also began to take a major inventory of other areas of my life as well.
For those of you who know me, I am a very driven person. Most of my friends have grown weary of encouraging me to slow down. I am the typical “task-oriented” person. I fully intend to relax, as soon as I get all of my work caught up! My problem is that my schedule and ministry opportunities have only increased in volume over time, not subsided. Life has become the proverbial treadmill from which I felt I could not get off.
This summer, the Lord got my attention. My schedule had grown so full that I did not even have 24 hours in between travel commitments. This on top of moving to a new state, having a child get married, and having two books to write caused my schedule, and life, to become unmanageable. I decided to cancel several commitments I had made and to actually take some time to rest and to re-evaluate where and how I was investing my time and energy. I am still on that journey, but God has been gracious to teach me much over the last few weeks.
For one, it doesn’t matter how hard you are working if God is not the one motivating your labor. Scripture says: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). It is possible to work hard for God, and yet for God to not be the author of what you are doing. Busyness can easily take the place of abiding in Christ.
God also taught me that my labor is in vain if it causes my family to suffer. The psalmist also notes that when we fear the Lord and walk in His ways (Ps. 128:1-2),then it goes well with our family. At times I was working hard, but had neglected to ensure I was walking in God’s ways. Hard work will not harm your family if you are doing it God’s way! But hard, or excessive labor, my way, can bring great stress on those I love.
I have also learned that I neglect my walk with God at my peril. I, like many ministers, face the constant pressure of giving out to others so much and so often that I seemingly have limited time to “take in” from God for myself. I often found myself rushing from one airport to the next, frantically writing up the next sermon in my hotel room before an upcoming meeting. It seemed like it was difficult to enjoy unhurried time with God. What I have learned is that when I am struggling to find adequate time with God, then I have allowed myself to get too busy. The last six weeks have been wonderful as I have granted myself plenty of time to soak in God’s word. It has been refreshing to have time to meditate upon God’s word! What I have also realized is that, if you get a “home run” each time you get up to bat, then you don’t have to be up to bat all the time! Better to be filled with the Spirit and to speak occasionally, than to be speaking all the time and doing it in my own strength.
The second part of Psalm 119:59 says, “And turned my feet to Your testimonies.” Once the psalmist had thought about his ways, he made the necessary course corrections. He set his feet to walk in the direction he needed to go. Too many times we think about where we are going wrong, but we ultimately never do anything about it.
God has led me to take a number of practical steps to live a more healthy, productive, and God-honoring life. I am intentionally going to “do less.” I am aggressively protecting my schedule, and saying “no” more often. I will value spending quality time with God more than getting my next sermon written. I will demonstrate my love for my family with my calendar. And I will take much better care of myself so I am fresh and energized and joyful whenever I serve and represent my God. There is a lot more I am beginning to do, but this is a blog, not a book, so I will quit!
I, like many ministers, found it easier to diagnose other people’s problems than to carefully consider my own. But God has been gracious to allow me the time to “think about” my ways and to make the necessary adjustments. If it has been a while since you pulled back and evaluated how you are living and leading, I’d encourage you to do so, soon.
Written by Dr. Richard Blackaby, President of Blackaby Ministries International