One spring, I overworked to the point of exhaustion, and I caught bronchitis right before I had a teaching commitment. I remember the sleepless nights wheezing and coughing, wondering how I was going to be able to teach. I had crammed way too much work into a limited time period without taking care of my body, and I ended up imbalanced. In my desire to fulfill certain goals, I didn’t keep my regular day off, which meant my family time and my time with the Lord suffered. It was a wakeup call that taught me that I must maintain certain priorities in my life if I want to succeed over the long haul. Great leadership starts with life balance.
If leaders are going to be effective and fruitful, they must first take care of themselves. I’m convinced the most vital aid comes from spending quality time in God’s presence each day. I believe, in fact, the most important discipline of the Christian life is spending daily time in his presence.
Spending daily quiet time is not a meritorious act to make us worthy in God’s sight. We don’t do this to prove ourselves before God, to offer him another good work. Rather, our quiet time is a response to his love. Because Jesus loves us and has made us righteous by his blood, we desire to spend time with him and know him more intimately. We long to be with him—not because we have to, but because we want to.
A.W. Tozer, a spiritual leader of the twentieth century, says, “We pursue God because—and only because—he has first put an urge within us that spurs us to pursuit.” God’s grace births a desire in us to spend time with him. We simply respond to his love and desire to enter his presence.
Having a daily quiet time will help you know God, feed from his Word, and be empowered by his Spirit. In the quiet time, you will worship the King of kings, listen to his voice, and receive direction for each day. When you spend daily time in his presence, you will grow accustomed to his voice. That same voice will give you words of counsel while you are ministering to others. As you confess and surrender your weakness to him, he will work through you to minister to others.
Take a Day Off
I like to get things done. That’s the way God made me. Yet, several years ago when I was planning how I could do more, the Lord convicted me to stop “doing.” God reminded me that he set aside one day for rest, and he made the human body to run effectively for only six days out of the week—not seven. Genesis 2:2–3 declares, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
After six days, we naturally run out of gas. If we go against God’s norms, we will eventually pay a costly price. I don’t believe any of us are so indispensable we can neglect our own bodies and souls by not taking a day off.
I once talked to a leader who refused to take a day off. He insisted those he was counseling needed him too much, and he felt it would be sinful to neglect those who needed him. He couldn’t imagine selfishly thinking of himself and not being available 24/7 for those needing his counsel. “But you’re not going to help them,” I said, “if you’re frazzled and burned out.” Unfortunately, this particular leader didn’t change his ways, and he died two years later; he was in his early forties.