On Wellness and Weariness
A year ago, while vacationing with my family, a railing collapsed and caused me to fall from a 20-foot height, resulting in several significant injuries and broken bones. I was told that a fall similar to this would typically lead to paralysis or death. But, by the grace of God, I’m still here and still continuing to heal. I exercise regularly and have even started to jog on the treadmill again. Being physically fit helped me to not only survive the fall, but also recover from it.
Now that you know what happened, it’s important to tell you what else was going on in my life in the days leading up to the fall. I was ready to leave ministry. In complete transparency, at the time I hated ministry, though I loved Jesus. The demands of ministry, as well as some challenges outside of my work, were leaving me tired, worn, and burned out. Many reading this article may feel the same way. Research shows around 42% of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. Ministry can be really hard; however, we must continue to press on because of the importance and power of the gospel!
Holistic Fitness in Ministry
Philippians 3:12-14 states, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul knew all about challenges, yet he pressed on. I believe, like Paul, that to press on for the glory of God as pastors, we need to make sure we are fit for ministry, and more importantly, fit for the King. In the same way that physical fitness helped me survive my fall, striving to be fit holistically—body, mind, and soul—can help us through times of spiritual trials.
Here are four daily “exercises” that I have found to be crucial when it comes to staying holistically fit.
The first exercise deals with time. We must spend meaningful time with God daily. It took me falling and suffering from serious injuries to realize that God was not getting a lot of my time. Pastors should be spending significant time in the Word, reading and studying in preparation for weekly sermons, yes. But what I am referring to here is more about personal time with Him. My own time with the Lord—being in the Word and seeking Him in prayer—had been lacking due to the “busyness” of ministry. The fall forced me to slow down and seek Jesus more.
Also, regarding time, we must make sure we are spending quality time with our spouse and children. Other than God, they are our next priority, and they should be getting our time and attention. Another aspect of time is taking time every day for some type of physical activity. Walking, lifting, and other forms of exercise are so important. In regard to physical training, we should be training for the worst day of our life. You never know what may happen.
The second area of exercise is commitment. As pastors, we have been called by God to lead, preach, teach, equip, and shepherd. We know this isn’t always easy. In fact, Scripture doesn’t tell us that anything about following Jesus will be easy or comfortable; however, we are not alone, God is with us, and His Spirit empowers and equips us to press on.
In relation to being physically fit, there are often days when we do not feel like working out. If we stay committed, though, we will continue to stay fit. We have to stay committed to both spiritual training (related to our spiritual disciplines) and physical training.
Sacrifice is the third exercise. Luke 9:23 says, “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'” Daily, we must sacrifice and surrender our agendas, desires, and wills in order to fully submit to Jesus. That means pressing on in the good, the bad, and everything in between, recognizing that Jesus modeled what it means to truly sacrifice everything for the will of the Father.
Similarly, physical exercise also takes sacrifice. You are not going to improve your physical fitness if you don’t put in the blood, sweat, and tears that is required. After my fall, it took a lot of sacrifice to get back to being physically fit, but it has been so worth it.
Consistency comes fourth. In ministry, we must strive each day to give God and others our best. 1 Corinthians 15:58 declares, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
The same can be said about being physically fit in that we must be consistent. We can’t walk once a week or rarely take part in exercise and also be physically fit. In the same way, if we rarely open our Bibles or are content with only nodding in God’s direction, we can’t be spiritually fit.
Pressing On for the King
It takes time, commitment, sacrifice, and consistency to be spiritually and physically fit.
As pastors, we must strive to be holistically fit. If you feel like you’re not where you could be in these areas of your life, start today! But most of all, strive to be fit for the King. I have heard it said before, “It would be a shame to be fit for this world, but not fit for the King.” May we all strive to press on, being not only fit for ministry, but most of all, for King Jesus!
Published October 30, 2023