January 24, 2016
Pastor Joe Wittwer
#4—Rest and Recharge


ILL: In the summer of 2014, I took a sabbatical and spent the first two months riding my motorcycle around the perimeter of the US. Here’s coming into Florida…and here is coming into New Hampshire. It was epic—the ride of a lifetime! And I wrote a short daily blog with pictures that you can find on joewittwer.com.

I learned a lot, but maybe the biggest thing I learned was “don’t hurry.” You never want to be in a hurry on a bike; you make mistakes when you hurry, and mistakes on a bike can be fatal.

I was coming into Perry, Florida and needed gas. As I came around the corner, there was a gas station on my left, so I hurriedly put on my turn signal and initiated a lane change to turn left. At that moment, a pickup roared by me on my left from behind. In my hurry, I hadn’t checked my mirrors. The pickup missed me by a foot. My heart was pounding as I gassed up, and I drove off telling myself, “Don’t hurry. Never be in a hurry on your bike.”

That became the theme on my ride. Don’t hurry. Slow down. When I got home, I applied that to the rest of my life—I’ll say more about that later. Don’t hurry—it applies to everything: relationships with people, God, work, even my golf swing! I’m still working on it, because I’ve had hurry sickness for a long time.

Can anybody else relate to that? Anyone else suffer from hurry sickness?

Today is the fourth and final talk in this series, “Re—”. It’s all about renewing our love for God, returning to God when we wander, and being revived by the Holy Spirit when we get dry. As I was putting this series together, I thought that one thing that sucks the life out of me is busyness or hurry. I can get so busy, so hurried that God gets squeezed out, pushed to the margins of my life. If this describes you, then to reconnect with God, you don’t need to do more; you need to do less!

The Big Idea: If busyness or hurry sickness is draining you and keeping you from God, it’s time to come to Jesus and rest. He will recharge you!

On your outline, you’ll see that we’re going to diagnose the problem and them prescribe a solution.

Here’s the problem: 

  1. The problem: we are hurried, weary and burdened.

I could quote statistics on how busy we are, how much less discretionary time we have, how stressed and tired everyone is. But let’s make it easier than that. How many of you feel hurried, weary, or burdened? How many of you struggle to find time in your busy lives for things you know are important: time with God, time to enjoy friends and family, time to rest? This is so widespread that even our kids understand this.

ILL: A photographer was snapping pictures of first graders at an elementary school, making small talk to put his subjects at ease. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked one little girl.

Her answer: “Tired.”

Ask people, “How are you doing?” and they’re likely to answer, “I’m busy.”

We have created thousands of time-saving devices—cars, computers, smart phones—but we seem to have less time than ever. One of my favorite sayings from Africa is, “You Americans have all the watches; we Africans have all the time.” We suffer from hurry sickness.

ILL: Hurry sickness was first diagnosed in 1959, when San Francisco cardiologists, Drs. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman saw in many of their patients a “chronic sense of time urgency.” They first noticed it because of the way the upholstery on their waiting room chairs wore out. Only the front edge of the seats and the first few inches of the armrests were worn out. “People don’t wear out chairs this way,” the upholsterer told them. The patients sat on the edge of their seats, nervously fidgeting at the arms of the chairs as they watched time tick by.

The doctors also noticed their patients showed irritability at being made to wait in line, had difficulty relaxing, and were anxious over delays. Obsessed with not wasting a moment, they spoke quickly, interrupted often, hurried those around them, and were forever rushing.

The cardiologists called the new disease “hurry sickness.” According to Friedman, hurry sickness “arises from an insatiable desire to accomplish too much or take part in too many events in the amount of time available.” The hurry-sick person is unable to acknowledge that he can do only a finite number of things. “As a consequence, he never ceases trying to stuff more and more events in his constantly shrinking reserves of time.”

Sound familiar? I’ve suffered from hurry sickness for years. Stuff more in. Go faster. Do more. As a result, I catch myself skimming—not really being present in the moment, but already thinking about what’s next in my jam-packed schedule.  

Jesus had something to say about this. Here’s our text.

Matthew 11:28–30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Are you weary? Carrying a heavy load? Jesus was speaking to a first century Jewish audience that was burdened with religious obligations. Every detail of life was controlled by religious law. The rabbis counted over 600 specific commands to be kept in the Old Testament. Imagine having over 600 rules to keep track of all the time. But even worse, the rabbis broke those down into thousands of regulations.

For example, one law was to keep the Sabbath: rest, don’t work. To make sure this happened, they defined work, breaking it down into 39 broad categories, and then defining each category with thousands of tiny regulations. So carrying a burden was one category. What constituted a burden?

William Barclay writes: So the Scribal Law lays it down that a burden is “food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, enough milk for one swallow, enough honey to put upon a wound, enough oil to anoint a small member, enough water to moisten an eye-salve, enough paper to write a customs house notice upon, enough ink to write two letters of the alphabet, enough reed to make a pen”—and so on endlessly.

They argued whether a tailor committed a sin if he went out on the Sabbath with a needle in his robe; whether a woman could wear jewelry or a wig, or a man wear false teeth or pick up his child on the Sabbath. Can anyone else see how this could become a burden? In another place, Jesus rebuked these religious legalists:

Luke 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

So to people who were loaded down with religious obligations, Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” And if you feel burdened by religion, in a moment we’ll talk about the solution.

Most of us these days, though, don’t feel weary and burdened by religion, but just by the pace of life—what I’m calling world-weariness. Our lives are just so full and so fast that we have very little time for deep relationships with either God or people. Our hurry sickness keeps us shallow, lonely, and disconnected—far from God and apart from each other.

ILL: John Ortburg, in his book Soul Keeping, writes:

I had moved to Chicago (and was) entering into a very busy season of ministry. I called Dallas (Willard) to ask him what I needed to do to stay spiritually healthy. I pictured him sitting in that room as we talked. There was a long pause — with Dallas there was nearly always a long pause — and then he said slowly, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

I quickly wrote that down. Most people take notes with Dallas; I have even seen his wife take notes, which my wife rarely does with me.

“Okay, Dallas,” I responded. “I’ve got that one. Now what other spiritual nuggets do you have for me? I don’t have a lot of time, and I want to get all the spiritual wisdom from you that I can.”

“There is nothing else,” he said, generously acting as if he did not notice my impatience. “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” [1]

I believe that Dallas Willard is right. If you want to go deeper with God, you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. If you want to go deeper with the people that mean the most to you—your family and friends—you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Hurry will keep us far from God and each other—that’s our problem. Here’s the solution.

  1. The solution: come to Jesus to rest and recharge.

Let’s read our text again and notice what Jesus says.

Matthew 11:28–30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Come to me…and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

If you find yourself burdened by religious obligations, if God feels like a taskmaster, cracking a whip and demanding more, it’s time to come to Jesus. The gospel is not DO but DONE. The good news isn’t what you do for God, but what He’s done for you in Christ. Jesus has done everything to reconcile you to the Father. There is nothing you can add to it. When Jesus died on the cross, He shouted, “It is finished.” It is paid in full.

ILL: Just curious, when you get a notice that a bill has been paid in full—let’s say it’s a doctor’s bill—do you go down to the doctor’s office and insist on paying more?   That’s crazy!

When something is paid in full, you can’t add anymore to it. It’s done. And Jesus has done everything to reconcile you to God. It is finished! The gospel isn’t about what you do for God, but what He’s done for you in Christ.

The Jews referred to the yoke of the Law, meaning living in submission to God’s law. But as we’ve seen, that yoke was a burden people couldn’t bear. Instead, Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy to bear.” The Greek word for “easy” is chrestos, and it can mean “well-fitting.” My yoke is easy—it will fit you well. Jesus was a carpenter, and there is a legend that says He made the best ox yokes in all Galilee. A yoke was carved out of wood and custom fit for the ox, the legend says that Jesus’ yokes fit especially well, and people came from miles around to buy his yokes. “My yoke is easy.” Submission to the Law as a means of salvation was a burden, a yoke that wore people out. But submission to Jesus is “easy to bear” and brings rest to your soul.

If you’re worn out by religion, tired of trying to do it on your own, Jesus says, “Come to me, and I’ll give you rest.”

And if you’re just worn out by life—hurried and weary—come to Jesus and He will give you rest. Here’s our next text:

Mark 6:30–32 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

Let me give you the back story here. In Mark 6, Jesus has gone to His hometown of Nazareth and is rejected—that had to hurt. Then He sends His 12 disciples on a preaching and healing tour of Israel. While they are gone, Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist is beheaded by King Herod—grief on top of pain. Then the disciples return from their tour, exhilarated and exhausted. There were so many people coming and going that they didn’t even have a chance to eat! So we have a swirl of emotions—hurt, disappointment, grief, exhileration and exhaustion—and no time to process. It’s not just busy—it’s crazy busy! They can’t even eat. And Jesus says:

Mark 6:31 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

It’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible! To those wearied by religion, Jesus says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” To those wearied by life, Jesus says, “Come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest.” Jesus cares about your weariness and wants to give you rest.

Jesus came to save the lost, heal the sick, feed the hungry. Here’s a huge crowd of needy people—just what He came for—and Jesus leaves them and gets away to a quiet place to rest. Do you ever feel guilty when you rest? Do you ever feel like you can’t get away because there is just too much to do? People are counting on you? God is counting on you? You need to come to Jesus and learn to rest. Jesus is the only truly indispensible person, and He walked away from the very people He came to save—and took time off to rest. And He invites us to do the same.

Mark 6:31 “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

What does that look like? Here are five practical suggestions.

First, get more sleep. Lots of research has been done on this. Americans are sleep deprived. We need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night; but 40% of us get less than 7 hours a night.[2] Consequently, we are running on fumes. People suffering from sleep deprivation (even as little as getting 1.5 hours less sleep than you need) suffer from:

  • reduced cognitive abilities (you’re stupider!),
  • decreased performance and alertness (you’re not as good or alert as you could be),
  • stressed relationships (you’re grouchier and harder to live with),
  • and increased accidents at work and in the car (you’re dangerous to yourself and others).

For years, I felt guilty about sleeping. That’s just stupid and wrong. You need sleep! So stop feeling guilty about it!

ILL: About ten years ago I listened to Dr. Archibald Hart talk about this—he’s an expert on the subject—and it set me free. I was always tired. I often embarrassed myself by nodding off in meetings. Dr. Hart suggested that you turn off your alarm and wake up naturally—let your body tell you when you’ve had enough sleep. I tried it and it changed my life! I became more alert, happier—I’m a better Christian!

Someone said, “70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep.” It might be more true than we realize!

Psalm 127:2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Stop knocking yourself out and wearing yourself down! Trust God and get some sleep. You’ll be better and happier—and so will everyone around you!

Second, keep a Sabbath. God gave the Sabbath as a gift. Work six days, and then every seventh day, stop. Stop working and rest and worship God. God told the Israelites they were to do this even in their busiest seasons.

Exodus 34:21 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.

This speaks to me because sometimes I don’t take a day off and I say, “Oh, it’s just a busy season. I’ll get a day off in a few weeks.” But God said, “Even during the seasons of plowing and harvest—your busy seasons—stop working and take a day off.”   It’s a reminder that God is taking care of us, and that not everything rests entirely on my shoulders. God’s got this! Take a day off and rest!

And God told them that it was for everyone: Israelite, foreigner, slave, free, even their animals!

Exodus 23:12 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.

God wants everyone to be refreshed—even you.

When was the last time you took a day and did…nothing? Or you stopped doing all your work and just did things that refresh you, things that recharge your batteries?   That leads to my third suggestion:

Third, have some fun! Recreate! What do you do that recharges you and fills you up?

  • I love riding my motorcycle—I putt along and sing and pray and think, and come home happy and refreshed. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “It’s better to be on your bike thinking about God, than in sitting in church thinking about your bike.”
  • I love to play golf with friends—I come home rejuvenated.
  • I love to play racketball;
  • I love to go backpacking;
  • I love jogging, but I can’t do it anymore because of bad knees, so now I love walking.
  • I love going to a movie with my buddies and big tub of popcorn!

All these things are fun—and fun refills you emotionally, recharges your battery. My brother-in-law once said to me, “You have more hobbies than anybody I know.” I said, “Thank you.” I took that as a compliment because I know so many pastors who burn out because all they do is work. I don’t want to be one of those. And I don’t want you to burn out either, so figure out what recharges you and go have some fun! 

Play was built into us by our Creator. Children play naturally; it’s their full time job! And Jesus said that we’re to become more like children! The healthiest and happiest adults are the childlike—those who know how to play and have fun. There’s a reason we call it “recreation”, because play re-creates you. It keeps you young and recharges you. Get some sleep, keep a Sabbath, have some fun, and…

Fourth, get alone with God. Spend some quiet time each day with God and let Him fill you up. Just like the Sabbath is a weekly rhythm, the quiet time (or PBJ as we call it—prayer, Bible, journal) is a daily rhythm. We step out of our busyness and we quiet our hearts before God. We spend time with Him and let Him speak to us.

ILL: On Friday, during my PBJ time, I read Exodus 3-5. It’s where we were in our Bible reading plan. I was struck again by one simple thing. Moses turned aside. He was tending his sheep, doing his job as he had every day for the last 40 years, when he saw a bush on fire. But this bush was burning and not being consumed—kind of like my gas fireplace: it burns and those logs never change! Moses thought, “I’m going to turn aside and take a closer look at this.” And then it says:

Exodus 3:4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Here is what I wrote in my journal and posted on my blog.

God spoke when Moses “turned aside”.

Moses was tending the sheep, doing what he had done every day for the last 40 years. He saw something unusual: a bush on fire, but it wasn’t burning up. He decided to turn aside and see what was going on. Rather than going on with his daily routine, he turned aside. He stepped away from what he was doing and stopped to consider this burning bush.

We have to turn aside too–turn aside from our busy lives, our hectic schedules, our cherished routines. We need to turn aside and wonder, reflect, consider. God is at work all around us–burning bushes are everywhere! But we trudge on by with the sheep and rarely turn aside to see what’s up.

In Mark 6, when the disciples were exhausted and the crowds were so demanding that they didn’t even have time to eat, Jesus said, “Come away with me to a quiet place and get some rest.” Turn aside. Come away with Jesus and rest and reflect and be recharged.

It’s hard to turn aside when there is so much to be done–but Jesus left the needy crowd crying for help and turned aside to a quiet place. It’s hard for me to turn aside when I’ve got so many things screaming for attention–and God doesn’t scream. A burning bush is as loud as he gets. He asks for our attention, He calls us to turn aside; but the sheep need tending, work needs to get done, people need attention. What will it be? The sheep or the bush? Most of the time we choose the sheep. If Moses had done that, he would have missed God’s call. How many times do we miss God’s best because we’re too busy to turn aside and see?

Today, I will turn aside and take time to reflect on what God is doing and let Him speak to me.

(By the way, my blog is on our website and the Life Center app, and you can subscribe and have it sent to your email or RSS feed.)

Are you weary? I encourage you to try this daily rhythm of turning aside, stepping out of your busyness and being attentive to God. We have Life Journals that you can get at the Info Center that will help you with this. Get some sleep, keep a Sabbath, have some fun, get alone with God, and finally…

Fifth, ruthlessly eliminate hurry. Every time you catch yourself hurrying, intentionally slow down. I do it all the time.

  • I catch myself brushing my teeth fast…and I slow down.
  • I catch myself eating fast…and I slow down.
  • I catch myself driving fast…and I see flashing lights. I slow down.
  • I catch myself walking fast through the office…and I slow down.
  • Sometimes I pick the longest line at the store…just to slow me down.
  • Lately, our new dog, Mazy, has been slowing me down. Puppy training, especially with a dog that has PTSD, can’t be hurried. You have to go slow. So I’ve had lots of time standing outside waiting while she goes potty. And lots of time just sitting with her and giving her love.

Did you know that petting a dog lowers your blood pressure? It slows you down. I need that.

ILL: The American devotional writer Lettie Cowman wrote about a traveler visiting Africa and engaging a group of carriers and guides. She was in harry and was pleased with the many miles they covered that first day. On the second day, though, all the carriers remained seated and refused to move. She was frustrated and asked the leader why they refused to move. He told her that on the first day they had traveled too far too fast, and now they were waiting for their souls to catch up to their bodies.

I’ve hurried too long. Now I’m waiting for my soul to catch up to my body.

You can’t build a close relationship with God in a hurry. You can’t build a great marriage or a great friendship in a hurry.

Are you weary? Need to recharge? Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

I’ll finish with our text again, this time from the Message translation.

Matthew 11:28–30 (The Message)

28 “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. 29 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. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

“Come to Me,” Jesus said, “and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to live freely and lightly” Let’s come to Jesus!

[1] Ortberg, John (2014-04-22). Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You (p. 20). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[2] (http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx).