(By Angela Watson)
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out?
January is only one week in and despite our hopes that this year would be different, as we look around, nothing has changed. We are still in a world wide pandemic, our kids are back online for school, and we are facing lockdowns and restrictions with no light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s easy to understand the tiredness and weariness that we feel because of the pandemic, the loss we feel as activities, schools, businesses, and churches are at reduced capacity or closed altogether. Once again. For many in this society that equates busyness with success, the pandemic and forced restrictions haven’t resulted in rest, but rather more stress.
As Christians, we too, can prize busyness as a badge of honor. We can be misled to believe that busyness is a form of godliness.
Mark Buchannan, in his book Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus in Every Season of Your Soul, poses the question: “If doing many things is not a true measure of Christlikeness, what is?”
His answer is: fruit.
John 15:1-4 tells us that to bear fruit we must first abide in Christ:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
I am a person who likes to be busy. I’m a list maker, who prefers doing to stillness. I confess that I have a tendency to be a Martha, distracted by all the preparations that have to be made. Serving over sitting. Doing over abiding.
But I’m slowly learning that always doing doesn’t mean that I’m always producing.
Sometimes I need to prune tasks and activities from my life because they aren’t bearing fruit. I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy; I want to be busy with the work that God has for me to do — work that matters, work with eternal purpose that will bring glory to God. I want to bear fruit, but John is very clear that I can’t do it on my own: I must abide in Jesus to be fruitful.
How do we abide in Jesus?
This is where spiritual rhythms, sometimes referred to as spiritual disciplines or habits, find their place in our lives. Matthew 11:28-30 starts with the same question we’ve been reflecting on:
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.
God is not forcing us into a rigid, religious life; instead, He’s inviting us to develop a rhythm in our spiritual life that builds an interactive relationship with Him.
Jesus calls us to follow Him, walk with Him, work with Him, and watch how He does it. He wants to teach us the unforced rhythms of grace and He promises that He won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us but He will show us the way to live freely and lightly. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
When I follow Jesus' example and I learn from Him, I’m allowing God's grace to transform me and from this transformation the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control — will become more evident in my life. I know it's time to stop and evaluate my schedule when I notice that instead of producing the fruit of the Spirit, I’m producing the opposite.
These seasons call us to stop and evaluate. We’ve been looking at some of the spiritual rhythms in our recent Woman to Woman sessions and maybe you’ve been wondering what spiritual rhythms are, whether they matter for your spiritual growth, and if they are worthy of pursuit.
Much like salvation, it is not the spiritual rhythm that produces fruit but it is the grace that we receive when we turn our lives over to Jesus and let Him work on our hearts (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Spiritual rhythms require effort, but it is not the effort that produces results. Rather, the spiritual rhythms are the means by which we yield ourselves to God. He wants us to learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.
Romans 12:1-2 in The Message says,
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Pursuing the spiritual rhythms that Jesus exemplified while He lived here on earth helps us develop our relationship with the Holy God through the work of His Spirit. Paul calls us in 1 Timothy 4:8 to train ourselves for godliness: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Godliness comes when we abide in Him; it affects us from the inside first and then our service will flow naturally and bear much fruit. Jesus told Martha as she complained about all the work she had to do, that just one thing was necessary: sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to His teaching.
Let us be women who choose to first get away with Jesus, to walk with Him before we work with Him. Let us choose to first abide in Jesus and allow His grace to transform us as we experience the unforced rhythms of His grace.