“An off day isn’t quite the same as a day off!” ‑‑W.W. Wiersbe
We all have had “off days” in ministry, kind of like, “off days” in golf! The driver is just a little off, the pitching wedge just not working right, the sand wedge just not getting under, the putter, well, it just “ain’t puttin’!” At the end of the game we fling our clubs in the trunk of the car and quip, “Sure a good thing I got a two-for-one discount today ‑ I sure wouldn’t have wanted to pay full price for that game!”
I would surmise that in ministry, sometimes “off days” are due to not having “days off.” It is amazing what just a day away from the office can do to refresh the soul and help you to think “ministry” in a more effective way. Have you ever heard someone say, “I would rather burnout for God than rust out!” Or maybe this, “The devil doesn’t take a vacation, neither shall I!” Can you believe that I actually remember saying such statements in my early days in ministry? But then again, that was kind of the “ministry mindset” a couple of generations ago! I have not always practiced what I am preaching to you today, but I do see the merit of it. It is not good for us, or our ministries, or our families, to want to be like the devil or desire to burnout. Somewhere along the way we must find the balance.
The ministry is considered a helping profession, of which someone has said, “It is difficult to help people. Add to that low pay, impossible workloads, miles of red tape, inadequate training, low prestige and ungrateful clients!” Well, these may not always be the case, but if we are having an “on day,” we must admit that being involved in a “helping profession” is often demanding, as well as draining! In Deuteronomy 28:67 we read, “In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.” Dear friends in ministry, if we do not regularly incorporate “days off” into our busy schedules, there will come “off days” simply because we are not fresh enough, strong enough, mentally sharp enough, to meet the demands of ministry. We will not be the spiritual guides we must be to those in need. When we “wear down” in ministry we are not at our best in helping and guiding. Too much time with “our nose to the grindstone (one of my dad’s favorite expressions),” will fatigue us for the battles. We must be refreshed from time to time or our “call to serve” and all its demands will exhaust our energy and consume our spirit.
“If you have run with footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5
Let me remind you of that which you already know you should do! Take your vacations! T. Harwood Pattison once said, “An annual vacation of at least four weeks should be given every minister. No minister can do twelve months work in twelve months, though he can in eleven!” Pattison, a noted professor of pastoral theology made that statement in 1907 because of the increasing pressures of that day for those in ministry! If living today he probably would say that we should take eleven months off and work one! I know that many of you do not get anywhere near a month’s vacation, but do take what you get! Take your days off! Get out of town, take your wife shopping, browse through a bookstore, take your children on a special outing, play a game of golf or go fishing. Take time to attend a Bible conference, association meeting, another pastor’s ordination, a minister’s breakfast fellowship/prayer meeting, or just a relaxing day of fellowship with a fellow pastor without “talking ministry!” Regarding an adequate time away, Spurgeon once said, “It would sweep the cobwebs out of the brains of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.” A day away from the office and phone, can assist in “sweeping away some of the cobwebs out of the brain.”
Recently a newly appointed president of a large mission agency gave his first Family Letter to all of the missionaries serving around the world. He closed this epistle with these words: “Please take care of yourselves. We, God’s servants, can be so careful about taking care of those to whom we minister and then forget to care for ourselves. Take a day off. Take care of yourselves!”
If we take more “days off,” we just may have fewer “off days.” Wiersbe is right, “An off day is not quite the same as a day off!”
“And He (Christ) said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart unto a desert place, and rest awhile; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Mark 6:31‑32