(Written to a Christian worker who had recently undertaken a major long-term project for the Lord)
Your service for the Lord is a very great responsibility. At times it can be a heavy burden, a big job, with a lot of hard work, tension, confusion, excitement, concerns, and physical and mental stress—all of which tend to be pretty hard on you. Even the Lord Himself could not bear the strain and drain of a continual ministry to the multitudes. He frequently had to get away from it all. Either alone or with His disciples, He would go up into the mountains or out to sea or on a private visit to friends for a spiritual retreat, a time of rest, recuperation, and inspiration.
No one can continue to keep pouring out to others without spending some time alone with the Lord getting refilled. I’ve been in the Lord’s work for half a century, and my mother for half a century before me, and my grandfather for half a century before her, so I know what I’m talking about. As A. B. Simpson (1843-1919), that grand old man of faith, once said, “You cannot do the Master’s work without the Master’s power!”—And to get that power, you must spend time with the Master!
We all need more quiet time alone with the Lord in rest and refilling, drinking at the living water of His Word and fellowshipping with Him in prayer. The following poem, which was written by my mother and was one of her favorites, is all about this:
I was longing to serve the Master,
But alas, I was laid aside
From the busy field of workers
In the harvest field so wide.
They were few, yes, few in number,
And I could not understand
Why I should be left inactive;
It was not as I had planned.
I was longing to serve the Master,
And the need indeed was great.
For me it was easy to labor,
But oh, it was hard to wait,
To lie quite still and be silent,
While the song was borne to my ear,
From the busy field of workers,
In the harvest field so dear!
I was longing to serve, just to serve the Master,
But He led to a desert place,
And there as we stopped and rested,
His eyes looked down in my face.
So full of tender reproaching,
They filled me with sad surprise!
Did He think I had grudged my service,
Or counted it sacrifice?
“Oh, Master, I long to serve, just to serve Thee!
There are so few at the best.
Let me off to the fields,” I pleaded.
“I care not to stay and rest!”
I knelt at His feet imploring,
I gazed in His face above.
“My child,” He said, “don’t you know
Your service is nothing without your love?”
I was longing to serve, to serve my Master,
Oh, this was my one fond thought.
For this I was ever pleading,
As His footstool in prayer I sought.
But there in that lonely desert,
Apart from the busy scene,
It dawned on me slowly and clearly
Where my great mistake had been.
My mind was so full of service, just service,
I had drifted from Him apart.
And He longed for that sweet communion,
The union of heart with heart!
Well, I sought and I found forgiveness,
While mine eyes with pain were dim.
And now, though His work is still precious,
The first place is kept for Him!
—Virginia Brandt Berg (1885-1968)
I’m also reminded of the story about a little girl who wanted so badly to give her father a nice present for his birthday, that each evening, instead of spending time with her daddy like she usually did, she worked alone in her room, secretly knitting him a pair of bedroom slippers—and she nearly broke his heart! God may appreciate the bedroom slippers you’re making for Him, but He’d rather have you. And the truth is, if you neglect your time with the Lord, you’ll probably make an awful mess out of the “bedroom slippers” you are trying to make Him.
None of us can stand the pressure of constant demands on our time, strength, body, soul, and spirit to that we are so often forced to submit by the press of time, necessity, the needs of others, and one emergency after another. But such a state of affairs is often prevalent in a fast-moving and rapidly expanding Christian ministry where the laborers are so few, the harvest so big, and there’s so much to be done to gather it in (Matthew 9:37-38).
Remember, the Lord Himself has said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). His Word also warns us that we must be “temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25) and let our “moderation be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5 KJV). If the yoke gets too hard and the burden too heavy, it’s probably not His yoke or His burden, but our own or someone else’s which we’ve unwisely undertaken or permitted to be placed upon us beyond the Lord’s knowledge of our strength and abilities. He Himself will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Sometimes we’re tempted to take too much upon ourselves, but certainly not by the Lord. Sometimes we allow our strength to be taxed beyond what we know we can endure. In so doing we often push ourselves beyond the measure of our own faith. When that happens, we may suffer the consequences in a physical, mental, nervous, or spiritual collapse—a breakdown. Please don’t let it happen to you! Your strength and nerves must be conserved and protected from too great a strain. Take time to be holy!—Wholly His, and whole in body, mind, and spirit!
You can go on to do a great work for the Lord—if you will take time out to be strengthened for it. “You [the Lord] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).