a couple months ago, i got away from everything for a week and did a personal retreat at a benedictine monastary in nowhere, missouri. (and by nowhere, missouri i actually mean just 20 minutes away from my house).
the goal of my retreat was to simply keep from burning out. i was on the verge. i’ll share the warning signs of burnout to watch for in another post, but suffice it to say that i was close. too close.
on my retreat i did three things:
- i slept. a lot.
- i read my Bible and not much else.
- i prayed. sometimes alone and sometimes with the monks.
and while this doesn’t sound like much, it was very hard work. it’s incredible to me the work God longs to do in us if we’ll simply give Him the space and time.
and so i came out of that week having learned two major lessons that have shaped my last four months in campus ministry.
the first lesson is this: we must not be distracted from our great work.
i wear lots of hats. i am a director, preacher, counselor, visionary, office manager, public relations guy, and landlord. some of these roles i enjoy performing more than others. and some times i can get bogged down in the minutiae of the smaller roles. and this is unhealthy.
as i was reading nehemiah on my retreat, i noticed (again) that he would not be distracted from his task. he was leading the charge on a building project and some mean nasties came and tried to convince nehemiah to take a break from his work and meet with them. in actuality, they were aspiring to kill him. and i love nehemiah’s response:
“i am doing a great work and i cannot come down.” (nehemiah 6:3)
here are a few observations:
1. nehemiah knew what his work was.
he knew the task before him. he knew what was required of him. he knew what God had placed before him to accomplish.
during my retreat i wrote down all of my roles and then prayerfully asked God what work He had placed before me. i landed on two things: preaching/teaching and discipleship. this was where He wanted me to spend my time. this was the work He had given me to accomplish.
2. nehemiah knew his work was great.
whatever God has called us to is sacred. it’s not second-class work or stuff reserved for the B team. whether it’s building a wall, preaching a sermon, investing in your children, getting a degree, or managing your home, the work God has placed before you in a great work. nehemiah knew this. we must, too.
3. nehemiah absolutely would not be distracted from his great work.
once i determined that my great work is to preach/teach and disciple, i had to make a holy resolution to radically re-orient my days around these tasks. i now spend 80-85% of my time on these two things. that means other important (and even good) things will be put on the backburner. i will not apologize or feel guilty about this. nehemiah didn’t.
and so…do you know what your great work is? are you giving yourself whole-heartedly to that great work? or are you distracted? what changed need to be made?