Focus verses:  Psalm 46:10   Be still and know that I am God.
Mark 6:31 Then Jesus suggested, "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest."

A quick review:  In order to allow the power of God to freely reign in our lives and flow through us, spilling out in effective ministry, we must cultivate spiritual habits. We are in the process of examining habits that will enable us to experience true success, God's idea of success, in daily life and in ministry.  We have previously explored the simple but life changing truths that our immeasurable value rests solely in the fact that God created us, that His stubborn love sets us apart and that He designed and empowers a unique plan for each one of us. 

The third habit of a highly successful woman in ministry is recognizing the value of rest.  Stop laughing! I know exactly what you are thinking, "Rest - never heard of it.  What is it and where do I go to find it?" Women in ministry constantly amaze me as they juggle the relentless demands of their calling, family, marriage, church, relationships, health, time, energy, finances, and just plain life!  Life is so....daily!  For many years I evaluated my personal worth on the basis of how successful I was in ministry.  And how successful I was in ministry was determined by how busy I stayed - ministering! 

When my son was 10 years old absolutely everyone in Jered's life knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas - a remote control car.  After months of calculated but prudently dropped hints, we found the coveted car, bought it, wrapped it and placed it under the Christmas tree. I even remembered to install batteries so that it would be ready to go on Christmas morning.  I will never forget the look on Jered's face as he tore through the wrapping paper and saw "the car".  Leaping to his feet, Jered threw his thankful arms around us and headed outside to play.  For a few moments, Dan and I basked in the warmth of a parenting job well done, and then headed outside to join the fun.  There in the middle of the driveway stood Jered, watching his brand new car sputtering slowly in circles.  I - could - not - believe - it!  Upset at the prospect of having to return the car and more importantly, anticipating my son's disappointment, I spewed anger and sputtered frustration like an erupting volcano. "This is ridiculous!  It took weeks to find this car!  It is hardly out of the box and already broken!"  My wise and patient son stopped me in mid-sputter, "Mom, don't worry. The instructions say that when the batteries are low, the car will sputter and go in circles.  We just need new batteries."
                                       
And so it is with life.  When our spiritual batteries are low, life dissolves into frustration, burnout and wasted effort. 

Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.

While this verse implies that we cannot know God on the run it also implies that when we are still we will know Him!  God Himself demonstrates this truth that rest is not an option but a necessity.

Exodus 31:17, For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.

Mark 6:31, Then Jesus suggested, "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest.

Did God need to rest? No! But did God choose to rest?  Yes - and deemed those personal times of regular solitude and rest important enough to record in His Word.  Why?  I believe He wanted to emphasize and model the importance of rest.  We live in jars of clay, bound by physical laws. The reality is that there are consequences when we break those laws. We have bought the "smells - like - smoke" lie that because we are in ministry, we have the option of giving our heart to Jesus but keeping our body for ourselves. The rules for sleep, exercise, diet and rest simply do not apply to those of us serving God.  We are above all that!  Hmmm!  Chalk one up for the enemy!  Because if he can keep us busy doing good things, we will not only miss the highest plan God intended for us but we will eventually collapse under the burden of humanistic expectations and unfulfilled dreams. Operating in our limited human strength always results in spiritual bankruptcy and powerless ministry.  

1Corinthians 6:19-20, You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you.  You have received the Holy Spirit from God.  So you do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought by God for a price.  So honor God with your bodies.

I tend to view the need for rest as a weakness! In fact, I often feel guilty when trying to relax!  I keep thinking of all the important, spiritual things I could be doing!  God does not agree! In fact, rest and sleep are designed to be times when He can give to us!

Psalm 127:2, For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

I wonder what eternal truths and blessings we miss when we refuse to rest! We don't rest because our work is done!  We rest because God commanded it and created us with the need for rest!  The best time to rest is when you don't have time to rest!  Taking time to rest is spiritual obedience. A busy life is not necessarily a productive life and fatigue is not one of the spiritual gifts!  Even Jesus did not do it all! When Jesus died, there were still sick and blind people, those in great need and many who did not yet believe in Him.  But on the cross He said, "It is finished!"  He did what He was supposed to do.

In the deep jungles of Africa a tourist on safari hired local natives to carry his supplies.  On the first day they walked rapidly and covered a great distance because the tourist wanted to reach his destination as quickly as possible.  On the second morning, the natives refused to move, and simply sat quietly, resting.  The tourist was furious!  Upon demanding an explanation, one of the natives explained that they had gone too fast and too far the day before.  Now they must rest, allowing their souls to catch up.
                   
Have you lost the joy of ministry?
Are you easily angered and often frustrated?
Is your life ordered around right priorities or urgent circumstances?
Are you physically exhausted?
When was the last time you just sat at His feet in silence and rested?

God is more interested in who we are than what we do!  To experience Godly success in ministry, we must learn the value of rest!


Next:  How to Practice the Attitude of Gratitude in Ministry


A personal note from Mary:  Thank you for your encouraging emails - from South Africa to South Florida!  I am in the process of compiling email addresses in order to create an online support group specifically for women in ministry.  Want to join?  Let me hear from you!  Know that I love you and am praying for you this week as you minister.

Father God, we rest in the promise that You are enough - for every need, every valley and every storm.  Lord, many women are ready to quit!  Some are exhausted, discouraged and wounded while still others are absolutely desperate for You.  Help each one of us to understand that the darkness we feel is simply the shadow of Your wing.  And remind us to rest there. Amen!


Other articles in this series:
For Women in Ministry: Nobody Loves You Like He Does
For Women in Ministry: What's the Plan?


Mary is married to Dan Southerland, is a pastor's wife, mother of two, speaker and author.  Mary has a deep burden for the Pastor's Wife and is a frequent speaker for Pastor's Wives retreats and conferences. Mary has spoken to thousands of women all over the United States as well as Latin America, South Africa, Costa Rica, England and New Zealand. She is also the author of "Coming Out of the Dark", the story of her personal struggle with clinical depression, as well as "Sandpaper People" due to be released July 1, 2005 by Harvest House Publishers.  Mary writes a weekly column for Rick Warren's Tool Box on pastors.com and has an extensive tape ministry that speaks to the heart of women in every season of life. Mary and her family live in Waxhaw, NC. Email: journeyfriends@cs.com or visit her website at www.marysoutherland.com