By David Schooler
I have had the opportunity to earn several educational degrees as I have pursued my goal of being a life-long learner. As valuable as these studies were and are, I have to say that I have learned more on how to live and how to serve from two specific sources than all the others. Living and serving should merge together as one word in the vocabulary of the believer. (See Galatians 5:6 and countless other passages.)
Lessons Learned in Suffering
I would like to share these two wellsprings of learning. The first is suffering. A number of years ago Jayne and I were involved in a very serious auto accident. Thankfully, Jayne had only minor injuries. I was badly injured requiring many months of recovery and rehab. What I suffered those months taught me a lesson that I could not have otherwise learned—what people who suffer need and what they do not need. I learned people who are suffering do not need:
- An explanation or reason for suffering
- Long visits
- Someone talking about their own stuff
Those who came and spoke quietly, prayed with me, blessed me with words of encouragement and did not stay long is just what I needed. I became a much better pastor as I experientially knew what the sufferer needs and does not need.
Lessons Learned in Watching Jesus
The second great learning experience for me has happened as I simply follow Jesus through the Gospels and watch Him work. Since He is the Great Shepherd and we are under-shepherds it makes a lot of sense to me to just watch the Master do what He would have us do and do it the way He did it.
One of the journeys I took with Jesus was to watch how He took care of Himself in the context of His life and ministry. What and how He took care of Himself can be of great help to us as well. So, in the articles to follow we will be following Jesus observing how He took care of Himself.
Lesson One in Self Care
We begin with the most obvious one which is He spent time alone, in prayer, in solitude, in silence. He would do this even though there was always work to do, people to see and places to go. In most cases of burnout these all-important components are missing for a whole host of lie-based reasons. One lady years ago told me, “the devil does not take a day off and you pastors shouldn’t either.” She was serious and I questioned my commitment and felt the guilt. (I no longer do.)
Jesus would often say that He had come to do the will of the Father and that He only did what the Father said. Such instructions come not midst of commotion but in the context of quiet devotion. (I Kings 19:12.) Let us face it, much, if not most, if not all of our living and serving is done in the context of commotion. Even more troubling, it has been shown that chronic commotion, confusion and noise can actually become addictive. The brain actually produces a drug-like substance to which we can become addicted and therefore the absence of chaos is almost intolerable.
In the midst of all this turmoil, Jesus would simply go away a pray, listen, rest and receive as He remained in the presence of the Holy. A. W. Tozer once said,” The whole religious machine has become a noise maker.” In such environments, His still small voice is seldom if ever heard.
One of the verses that has served me so powerfully through the years is John 15:5.
YES, I AM THE VINE AND YOU ARE THE BRANCHES. THOSE WHO REMAIN IN ME AND I IN THEM WILL PRODUCE MUCH FRUIT. FOR APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.
May we live, walk and serve in this truth.