I want to thank Scottie for in a very humorous and yet powerful way showing many of us exactly where we are in life. Scottie shows us two important truths, the first is that our lives our full. Now they are full of some very good things like families, jobs, friends, activities and the church but are lives are full. The second thing Scottie helps make clear is that many of us are trying to live life at a pace that is unsustainable. We can’t hold on to everything we have in life and keep up the pace at which we are living.
Now before we dig into this app let me be clear that the answer to our problem isn’t to let go of the good things in life – the answer isn’t to let go of jobs, relationships, church, or supporting our children in their faith, school, sports and activities, the answer is to slow down the pace of life and make sure we are taking care of our physical needs so we can hang on to all those good things. Of all the life apps we are looking at during this series, this is the only one that specifically addresses our physical needs and it may be the one that can have the greatest impact on every other aspect of our lives because it helps us live at a more sustainable pace and the reality is that every part of our lives will move to a better place when we live at a sustainable pace.
So the app we are going to look at is rest and we learn what it is all about from the prophet Elijah. What many of us might remember about Elijah is that he was the prophet that took on and defeated all the priests of Baal. It’s an amazing story found in 1 Kings 18 and in a nut shell Elijah challenges all the priests of the god Baal to prove once and for all which god is truly God, Baal or the God of Elijah, the one true God – our God. So both Elijah and the priests prepare a bull as a sacrifice and they lay it on an altar and whichever one can call down fire from their god to consume the sacrifice will prove which god is God. Elijah lets the priests of Baal go first and they call out to their god and nothing happens. They cry louder and louder and louder, and nothing happens, they begin to dance around the altar and nothing happened. No matter what they do, no fire comes from heaven.
Now Elijah didn’t just watch this with amusement, he actually began to mock them. He told the priests that maybe their god was busy, maybe he had wandered away and gotten lost, or maybe they just needed to cry out louder so he could hear them. All day long the priests of Baal cried out to their god and nothing happened.
Then Elijah steps forward and before he does anything he has the sacrifice that he has prepared doused with water. In fact, he pours so much water on the altar that a trench that was dug around the altar filled with water and then Elijah calmly says… 1 Kings 18:36-37. No shouting, no pleading, no dancing around the altar, just simple words and once they are said, God acts. 1 Kings 18:38.
Not only are the priests shown up, but Elijah then has them captured and killed. Elijah then says that God will end a three year drought that has devastated the people and sure enough not long after that, the rains come and bring an end to the drought.
Now after all of this you would think that Elijah would be celebrated, but he is not, in fact Jezebel, the queen who has opposed Elijah this entire time, doubles down on her efforts to destroy him. Look at 1 Kings 19:1-2. Elijah is again being persecuted and attacked so he runs for his life and ends up alone and exhausted in the wilderness where he simply says to God, enough. I have had enough. 1 Kings 19:3-4a.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever gotten to that place where you just said, God, I have had enough. I can’t do this anymore, I’m just too tired. We have all been there; some of us are there right now. We are running that treadmill trying our best to hold on to everything and yet in our hearts we are saying, I have had enough. I can’t keep this pace up anymore and hold everything together. I just can’t do it. We all get to that place and what we need to know is that it is a dangerous place to be because it is a place of discouragement and depression – it was for Elijah. Look at 1 Kings 19:4b.
What’s amazing to think about is that Elijah has gone from an incredible victory to a place of complete despair and the reason he has sunk so low is because he is exhausted. The pace of his life has been unsustainable and God’s answer isn’t to scold him – it is to save him and God saves him by showing him a pattern for life that will help Elijah in the long run and the pattern is simple: rest, replenishment and recreation, look at 1 Kings 19:5-9a.
Do you see the pattern here? God has Elijah sleep, then eat, then sleep some more, then eat some more, then take a nice long walk (ok a 40 day journey – but still a nice long walk) and then sleep some more. The pattern is rest, replenishment and recreation or sleep, eat and then go take a walk. Today a lot of time and energy is focused on eating right and getting enough exercise so we aren’t going to talk about that, instead lets focus on rest. I’m not sure we take seriously the need we have physically, emotionally and spiritually for rest, but God takes this seriously. God takes rest so seriously that he built it into creation. God gives rest its own day, on the 7th day of creation God rested so rest is actually part of the creative order and process. But then God goes further and commands us to rest in the 10 commandments by telling us to remember and keep the Sabbath as a day of rest.
God takes rest seriously and we need to as well, but I’m not sure we do. Studies show that the average person needs 8 hours of sleep each night, but we get only 7. Think about it, every year we are losing 365 hours of rest which is the equivalent to 15 days. Think about what your life would be like if you stayed awake for 15 days in a row? How effective or ineffective you would be on your job if you were to stay awake for 15 days in a row. Think about what your relationships would be like. I don’t know about you but when I don’t sleep well just one night I am cranky, irritable and less able to deal with simple every day stress and that just gets worse as it goes along. In other words I can’t sustain a normal pace in life let alone the pace that I try to keep at times when I don’t get good rest.
So our lack of rest is having a negative impact on our lives, it effects our work but even more importantly it is having a negative effect on our relationships. There was a study done by Marcus Buckingham a number of years ago that asked 600 parents what they thought their children most wanted from them. What do you think they said? What do you think children most want from their parents? You might think it is money, the latest electronics, maybe even more time, but it wasn’t any of that, what children want most were parents who were less tired. Think about this parents, your children don’t want more time with you, they want a more rested you. They want someone who isn’t tired and stressed out but refreshed and ready to engage them in the fullness of life. Are you willing to give your children what they want? Are you willing to fight to give your children what they need?
So let’s get practical for a moment. I’m not going to tell you that you need 8 hours of sleep because the truth is everyone is different, and you probably know how many of hours of sleep your body needs – the question is are you getting it? Not only are you getting enough rest, but is the rest and sleep that you are getting good – is it truly restful. Here is one practice that can dramatically improve our sleep, don’t check email or social media before you go to bed at night and don’t make it a habit first thing in the morning. There are two reasons for this and the first is emotional. When we check email and see that note from work or a reminder about the appointment we have the next day, how well do we sleep? We don’t sleep well because our minds are suddenly engaged and we are planning or worrying about what we need to do the next day. Or if you check facebook and twitter at night and you see that post or tweet that gets your blood pressure going it’s hard to then calm down and rest.
So the first reason not to check email and social media right before you go bed is emotional, but the other one is physical. A study has just been done that shows how the light that comes from laptops, ipads, notebooks like kindle and cell phones is a blueish light that suppresses the production of melatonin in our brains and melatonin helps us fall asleep. What they think is happening is that the light from all our devices is tricking our brain into thinking that it is daylight and so our brains are telling us that we should stay awake. The problem is that because ipads and mobile phones are so small we can take them to bed with us where we hold them closer to our eyes as we check our email, social media and search the web which means that our brains are chemically being told to stay awake – which means that it takes us longer to fall asleep and our sleep is less restful. So if you check email or social media right before you go bed at night or if you are in the habit of spending time on the computer right before you go to bed – you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep. So here is one thing you can do to get a better night’s sleep – unplug to recharge. Unplug from social media, unplug from your ipads, notebooks and laptops, unplug first thing at night and first thing in the morning to fully recharge.
Another practice you might want to try would be to unplug from all electronic devices for a day. For one day don’t turn on your computer, stay away from facebook and twitter and allow your mind, spirit and eyes time to just rest. I’m pretty sure that the next day facebook will still be there and you will be able to see what everyone did. For many people today the addiction they struggle with isn’t drugs or alcohol it’s social media. If we constantly need to check email, facebook and twitter we are not getting the rest we need and we are not being present with those who are with us. So don’t just unplug before you go to bed at night, unplug for a day to recharge.
Not only do we need good rest every day and maybe unplug for a period of time every week, but we need some times of rest every season as well. To keep a sustainable pace in life we might need to take quarterly or seasonal days off. Plan a few days off or a few days away every season or after long periods of stress at work to allow yourself to rest and reflect. Jesus did this. After a busy and stressful period of ministry Jesus would get away, sometimes by himself and sometimes with his disciples. So we should build a day off or a day away into your schedules and then don’t allow anything to rob you of that day. Keeping these days of rest can be a fight, but the end result is worth it.
Let me also so that rest with your spouse or with your family is just as important, so take a few days every season to get away with your family and don’t make it a vacation where you fill every moment with activity, make times for rest, remember your children want a more rested you not a more active you and not just more time with you, so plan some time of rest and reflection with your family. Take a walk. This is the best season of the year to simply take a walk as a family and when you do, leave the cell phone at home.
So what Scottie showed us and what the story of Elijah teaches us is that our life will move to a better place when we move at a sustainable pace. What is your pace like? Is it sustainable or out of control? The truth is you may not be the best one to answer that question, so ask your spouse, ask a friend who knows you well and no matter what they say, don’t get defensive and don’t make excuses, apply what you need to do because application is…. Everything!
We need to fight to apply the pattern God has given us. Rest, replenish and recreation. Sleep, eat, take a walk and then… yes, you hear me right… then … take a nap.
Our life moves to a better place when we move at a sustainable pace.
Ask someone close to you if the pace of your life is sustainable. As they share, don’t defend or explain, just listen.
If the pace of your life is unsustainable, start a new pattern by
• Taking a nap.
• Taking a walk with family or friends.
• Scheduling a few days away to rest and reflect.
Unplug to Recharge
• For the next 7 days, don’t check email or social media before bed or first thing in the morning.
• Turn off all electronics for one day this month.
• Find someone to hold you accountable in these areas.
Pray. It’s ok to tell God you have had enough, but then ask God for help and support as you work to change the pace of your life.