Last Thursday I had the opportunity to go to Huntsville to listen and learn from Elliot Grudem with about 40 other guys. Something that he said during our time together resonated with me and has challenged me to take a long contemplative pause. He asked the question, “If you had to describe Jesus in one word, what word would you choose?” That’s a good question…a really good question. The way you answer it exposes the default image of Jesus you keep in your mind.
Elliot went on to share about when Dallas Willard was asked that question. In typical Willard form, his answer was profound. Of all words to choose from he chose the word relaxed. Relaxed!...Is that how you would describe Jesus?! Is that how you picture him? I don’t. I picture Jesus as earnest. Driven. Compassionate, to be sure, but on the go. Certainly not relaxed. The Jesus I envision is urgent; he’s motivated. He has way too much to accomplish to relax, right?
I’m afraid that somewhere along the way we made intensity and a ferocious drive the highest of ministry virtues. The best leaders are the busiest ones, with massive vision…So much get to get done in so little time; it is one thing to the next. If you’re relaxed it means you’re lazy and apathetic.
Can I confess that I’ve taken the bait? It’s reflected in the way I live my life and do ministry. I have a hard time unplugging. Even on my day off, my mind naturally wanders to a ministry task or a problem I should be solving. I have anxiety about not doing enough. My life lacks boundaries where I can truly and completely take a break. I constantly feel inundated by urgency. I realize that this isn’t healthy for lots of reasons. I know that it will inevitably lead to burnout if I don't slow down.
But it's not simply that it's unhealthy, even more than that, it’s not Christ-like. Though Jesus worked hard and was full of ambition to do all the Father’s will, he was able to take breaks and rest. Once, during a massive storm, Jesus slept right through it in the stern of a boat. Luke highlights again and again in his Gospel how Jesus withdrew by himself to spend time praying to the Father. @@The tyranny of the urgent had no power over Jesus.@@ Not once in the gospels do we read about him getting flustered. Amidst all that he had to do, he was genuinely unstressed.
This is why Jesus could extend an offer to the weary and heavy-laden to come to him and take a break (Matthew 11:27-30). I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases these verses:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
@@Life in Christ should be producing peace in us. Are you finding rest and peace in Jesus?@@ If like me, you would characterize pastoral ministry as anything but relaxing, maybe the problem is how you imagine Jesus. He is not a stressed out task-master cracking the whip at you to get more done. He’s your loving Savior who bids you learn the unforced rhythms of grace by living step-by-step with him. Jesus is relaxed…so you can too.