April 20, 2015

Five Reasons NOT to Overwork

Written By Cary Schmidt

Are you prone to working too much? Many are.

Let’s face it—our present culture REWARDS overwork! And many ministry cultures reward overwork.

Our identities crave significance and importance—so overworking temporarily salves our longing for meaning and the feeling of importance.

Our bank accounts scream for more—so overworking provides additional living and operating funds.

Our employers demand more—so overworking keeps our job secure and the paycheck stable.

Our hearts often enjoy our work—so it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that doing too much of something you enjoy could become self-destructive.

This past week, a godly man, who is a member of our church, challenged me in a private moment. He pointedly asked me about my schedule. When I talked through my typical weekly schedule with him and asked his advice, he encouraged me to rethink it a bit and to consider it in light of long-term sustainability. When we actually did the math together, we discovered I was working more hours than I really thought. In some ways, I was deceiving myself.

It was a welcomed challenge. I’ve spent a lot of time considering it since, and we’ve also begun a dialogue as a pastoral team. Frankly, I don’t want, nor do I want our team regularly working 60+ hour weeks. Why? For several reasons.

Five Reasons NOT to Overwork…

1. It’s not biblical—God is for hard work. He is also for rest. He is for family, for marriage, for health, for ministry, and for balance. He warns against overwork. He warns against laziness. The point—He built us with limits and expects us to live within those boundaries, and He gave us multiple responsibilities and expects us to steward them well. He created us to need one day of rest, plus about 8 hours of sleep each night.

It’s healthy to accept His given limitations and honor them. It’s unhealthy to defy His design and think I can somehow come out ahead.

2. It’s not faith—Resting is trusting. Appropriate rest is an expression of obedient faith. It’s the admission that God can handle things well in my absence! HE “holds it all together”, not me. It’s like saying, “God, I know you are  handling my life, work, and ministry well, so I’m going to TRUST you by resting in the ways you have designed and commanded.

3. It’s not healthy—Resting is restorative physiologically. Literally, sleepless brains are AGED brains. Your body doesn’t create new brain cells. But it does maintain the ones you have—while you sleep. So, not sleeping means that your brain cells can’t  be maintained, which leads to their death. In addition to this, the health of your entire immune and lymph system is dependent upon your sleep and rest patterns. Insufficient sleep is incredibly unhealthy. (Take it from a guy whose lymph system tried to kill him.) To state it simply, not resting well and sleeping adequately will shorten your life and your mental ability.

4. It’s not sustainable—Resting is restorative emotionally and spiritually. Sleep puts you back in your “right mind” quite literally—for which your family and friends will THANK YOU! Tired people are frustrated, despairing, depressed, anxious, and sick of soul. (Read Eccelsiastes, you’ll see if for yourself.) Tired people can look at a bunch of blessings and see them only as burdens. Tired people have despairing hearts. They don’t need medication as much as they need REST!

You can accrue sleep debt for a while, but eventually you will hit a wall, and life will become something you hate—even the good things. Sustainable pace involves resting intentionally, appropriately, and consistently.

5. It’s not a good example—Whether you are a leader in a secular workplace, a ministry environment, or in your home—your pace becomes your example. This has been part of our our pastoral discussion. On one hand, I want to set a pace that displays a solid work ethic. On the other, I don’t want to set a pace that others feel they have to try to keep up with!

What I learned this week was this. As the leader, whether I want it to or not, my pace becomes my example—others will emulate it (if even subconsciously) simply by virtue of the fact that they are observing my example and perceive it as “what is good.” WOW! This is a huge accountability before God!

The point is this—I may not only be responsible for my own “unsustainable pace” and poor health (physically, emotionally, spiritually.) I may also be responsible for leading others down a bad road. I could share some blame for the self-destructing pace of those I influence or lead.

That’s a forceful, sobering thought.

I’m learning it’s not “what I expect” that becomes others’ standard. It’s “what I do.” In other words, I can say to my staff, “I don’t expect you to do this.” That falls dead to the ground if they see me doing otherwise. They will forget what I “state as my expectations” and then inadvertently attempt to run at the pace I set. That’s a really bad thing if my pace is unsustainable and unhealthy!

An unhealthy pace will lead both ME and OTHERS over a cliff! We all go over the cliff of bad practice together!

Not good.

Working hard is biblical. Working too much is not. Resting well is biblical. Laziness is not. Balance is the quest of our lives, right? But there are some STRONG reasons NOT to overdo it… biblical values, physical health, emotional health, sustainability, and personal example.

Let’s not lead ourselves over a cliff of self-destruction, in some quest for personal value or identity. Let’s not lead others over that cliff!

TRUST in faith that God can do MORE with less of your time! He surely can! He will bless your work, and bless your rest! And then, you will look back, not to say, “Look how hard I worked.” You will KNOW of certainty is wasn’t you.

You will honestly look back and say, “WOW! Look what God did!”