It’s summertime in South Asia. Even with the ceiling fans on high blast, the heat saps my energy. As I look out the window, I see the rickshaw driver coming down the street. He’s skinny – barely weighing 130 pounds. Drenched in sweat, he has a bandana wrapped around his head to shade him from the noon sun. It's half way through the day, but he’s totally exhausted. He heaves all of his weight on the left pedal to get half a rotation of the pedals and then leans right and heaves his weight on the right side for another half rotation. He needs a break – a long drink of water, a spot of shade where he can rest, some breeze to cool him off….
I could invite him in – give him a large glass of lemonade, a plate full of rice and curry, and a spot to stretch out under the ceiling fan. He’d be refreshed, but he really needs more. Hard work is destroying him. It’s not just the work itself; it’s the fact that he never gets a break and that he’s trying to do too much work with too little food. He ate a meager meal before he left home. He may buy some cheap food when he’s out working.
Tonight when he gets home, he’ll eat cooked rice, but he can’t afford vegetables and meat. He won’t sleep well tonight – noise and heat in the slums leave little room for rest. Tomorrow morning he’ll be tired, starting another day of intense manual labor with too little food and limited energy. If he becomes sick, he has nothing in reserve so that he can bounce back. There is no margin, just bare survival one day at a time.
Many of you are facing similar situations. You’re in a setting that’s exhausting. Your work is demanding. There’s no margin. You roll out of bed and you feel the pressure of life bearing down on you. You’re facing another day and wonder how you’ll make it through. You mechanically make your way out to your rickshaw, feeling hungry and worn out. You throw all of your weight on one side for half a rotation. You groan. You throw your weight on the other side. Inching down the street, there’s no hope of real progress. People in your life need you to be there, to listen to them, to care. You try, but their words are drowned out by the exhaustion and hunger in your own heart. It’s hard to hear the cries around us when we’ve had to block out the cries within.
It’s not that work is a problem. Kingdom work is often hard. Hard work can be a good thing. However, if you want hard work to strengthen you, rather than destroy you, there are at least two things that you’ll need – you need rest and you need food.
God has built rest into the rhythm of the universe. He worked six days and then He rested. He calls us to rest. We work hard and then we disengage. We receive His weekly Sabbath and are refreshed. We receive His daily rest – learning to lay aside responsibilities in the evening, spending time with loved ones, receiving His gift of sleep. We’ve also found that it includes longer times of rest where we step away from work for a week or two at a time and spend time with each other, with God, in nature, and are refreshed. We need rest.
We also need food. We weren’t meant to starve ourselves. There is food that will nourish our souls and water that will quench our thirst.
And yet so often we struggle through life hungry, never sitting down to the feast that God has prepared for us. The harder the work that we face, the more desperately we need to eat regularly and eat well. Let the Father feed you. Sit at His table and receive the Word that gives you life.
One of the biggest lies is “I have to keep going.” When you feel the most trapped, don’t push through on your own strength. Stop and rest. Stop and eat. He is our food, He is our rest, He is our life.
Verses for Reflection
Rest: Ps 4:8, Ps 62, 127:1-2, Is 40:28-31, Matt 11:28-30, Mk 6:31
Nourishment: Jn 4:13-14, 6:55-59, 7:37-39, 15:1-11, Rev 22:1-2, 22:17
Written by: E.M.
The disciples had an important question for Jesus. They were anticipating an earthly kingdom, freedom from the Romans, victory for the Jews. Jesus was going to be the hero and they were going to be his special inner group. Thus the important question that weighed heavily on their minds: “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Instead of giving an up-front, logical answer, Jesus decided to use an object lesson and a few stories. Matthew 18 is His response, which, in my opinion, is one of Jesus’ most powerful discourses on interpersonal relationships.
Be like a child
He starts out with the object lesson. He calls a little child to Himself and says, if you’re going to be in My kingdom, you have to be like this little one. You must be a child at heart. You must be humble. You must get down to this level. Then you’ll be great.
In the world, you climb to the top of the ladder to be great. But Jesus says, you descend the ladder to become great. Serving is better than being served. Giving is better than receiving. Others are more important than oneself.
Humility is the first ingredient to healthy interpersonal relationships.
Hate your own sin
Jesus takes the object lesson further yet and says, it would be better to lose a limb than to intentionally harm one of the least of these. Within the kingdom of God, hurting the person at the bottom of the ladder is serious business. In fact, it may incur the wrath of God (vs. 10).
Looking at our own shortcomings, judging ourselves before anyone else, hating our sins against our fellow teammates, seeing the log in our own eye before pointing out the speck…that is the next ingredient to healthy interpersonal relationships.
Jesus recognizes that all relationships will have their rough spots. Put two sinful people together long enough and they’ll sin against each other. Sin is not to be taken lightly. It is not to be ignored. It must be dealt with.
First, we are called to deal with our own sin and to treat it as serious. But it doesn’t stop there. We are responsible to share with our brothers and sisters when we see clear sin in their lives. I don’t take this to mean that one must point out every shortcoming and flaw in the lives of others. Jesus is talking about sin issues.
If the individual does not heed input, eventually it becomes necessary to involve others in the situation. This sequence is important. Go to the person first before pulling others into the issue.
Jesus continues with a story. He tells of a king who calls his debtors to account. They owe him lots of money—money they don’t have—and he forgives all the debts, both big and small.
Then he finds out that one of his ex-debtors, one who had owed him LOTS of money, goes and throws someone in jail for a small debt they owed. The king is furious and calls this man to account. He reminds him of the HUGE debt he owed and could not pay. He reminds him of the forgiveness he received, yet would not extend to another fellow debtor. Then he calls him to full account, which results in a lifelong prison sentence.
Jesus ends the story with “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matt. 18:35, NKJV).
For any organization, any church, any team, any relationship to be healthy, there must be forgiveness. Again, this does not downplay the seriousness of sin. It simply means we recognize how much God has forgiven us and extend the same grace to others.
In summary, Jesus calls us to:
--Written by I.M.