Re:Vision - Week Five: "Health"
Are you at a point in your life where you need some direction or a new vision? Would you like to learn how to stop trying to figure all that on your own and discover how to align yourself with God's vision for your life? With God's direction and purpose?
That's at the heart of this sermon series, Re:Solve: Aligning Yourself with God's Vision. We've spent the past several weeks studying the Old Testament book of Nehemiah--the memoirs of a man who sought to be aligned to God's vision and pursued it with all his heart.
Today we'll be concluding our study and our conversation about what it means to align your life with God's will... and we're going to talk about what it means to consider the cost while you are pursuing God's vision---to find a sustainable, life-giving way to keep going in such a way that it doesn't exact a toll on you, your family or the people around you.
The fact of the matter is that we live in a culture of immediacy. We want what we want and we want what we want right now. We don't like to wait on things at all, and that includes spiritual maturity, growth, vision and finding the purpose and meaning of our lives.
Have you ever heard the following phrase before?
It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.
More often than not, I've had someone tell me that when I've been moving too quickly to get something done that I thought was saturated with urgency. Maybe you can relate.
Because for most of us, the idea of running a marathon as opposed to a sprint is all kind of connected to pace. If you are in a sprint, you want to give it all you've got--use all of your speed up at once because there's no tomorrow.
But if you do that when you are running a marathon, you'll be lying on the side of the road in a heap before too long. At least most of us would be... Now in my advanced years, I tend to only run if something is chasing me.
Unless you are Geoffrey Mutai who ran the fastest marathon ever... at the speed of a 4.41 minute mile. Then it's also a sprint and a marathon.
You see most of us try to get to our goals as fast as we can without thinking what it's doing to us, our families and others. We don't want to pace ourselves---especially when the thing that we're striving for is what we firmly believe is God's will for our lives.
When you've got a noble goal like that... it's challenging to slow down and consider the cost your pace might be exacting upon you, your loved ones, colleagues, friends... But if you don't, you may soon find that you will burn yourself out trying to do the right thing.
Here's what I want you to hold on to today as we dig into our text and apply the lessons we learn to our lives and our purpose:
If you want to build great things, you need to consider the cost.
Our conversation partner in this comes to us once again from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah--this time in chapter 5.
Nehemiah 5 begins with a serious problem. The workers who are furiously working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem are running out of food, and the money to buy more:
1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”Nehemiah is bent on pursuing God's vision, and God's will so much so that he presses the people to finish building the walls of the city as quickly as possible. He wants to get there--to see it achieved.
But he quickly realizes that there is a cost to his pursuing a good goal with the wrong kind of pace.
Because the people were working nonstop on rebuilding the walls of the city, they were not able to farm and produce enough grain to eat.
Which meant they had to buy grain with the money they had, which wasn't much. And when that money ran out, they had to mortgage their homes, property, and even place their sons and daughters into indentured servitude.
6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.So Nehemiah declared what was essentially a "Jubilee"--a time when all debts were canceled, all property that had been foreclosed was returned and all those who were in indentured servitude were set free. He also made the greedy officials pay back the interest they charged on the loans they guaranteed.
Then Nehemiah began to truly consider the cost of the wall-building on the people, and to ensure that he was acting with integrity, justice and love:
15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels[a] of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we[b] did not acquire any land.What we learn from Nehemiah here is this:
Nehemiah realized that there were unintended results from pursuing his goal, and he needed to consider the cost on the people.
If you want to sustain your pace when you are pursuing God’s will, you have to be mindful of these three things:
1. Consider the cost to yourself. It's implied here in the text that Nehemiah started to learn some stuff about himself, and about the kind of person he believed God wanted him to be. When we begin to consider the cost of our pursuit of God's will, we have to first consider it for ourselves.
I would call this the 30,000 foot rule. When you are on an airplane they always tell you that if the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, you need to make sure that you put yours on first before trying to put on your child's mask. Because if you try your child's mask first--which is your first instinct--you may both end up in danger.
Ask yourself, "What do I need to do in order to care for myself and tend my soul? To stay connected to God?
For me, I have to take time every single morning to read, reflect, write, pray and ponder. I have to find time for some solitude, but I also need to spend time with my wife praying and talking about what's happening in our lives.
I also regularly see a counselor. I do my best to get outside on a regular basis. I take classes. And trust me, I don't have the time on my schedule to do any of these things---but I make the time. The reason I do this is that I have been on the other end of it before trying to do it all, go fast and furious... and I've burned out.
2. Consider the cost to your family. I'm going to say this and it might be hard for some of you to hear. If your pursuit of the good is costing you your family, you're probably not pursuing God's vision for your life.
I've been there, too. You can be so passionate about something, so sure that it's the right thing to be doing... You can be on a mission to save the world... But if it costs you your family, how good can it be?
I can't tell you how many people I've had come to me for counseling who set out on the road to pursue what they believed was God's vision for their life---only to discover that when it consumed them, they ignored the needs of their family, let their marriage go down the tubes, lost their kids...
And maybe your family isn't really getting what you're doing. Maybe they aren't coming with you on the journey because they haven't captured your vision. At that point, you need to slow your pace to where they can catch up. It doesn't mean that you give up on it, but you consider the cost, and you recalibrate.
3. Consider the cost to others. Your friends, co-workers, staff, and colleagues need to know that they are more than just a supporting cast to prop you up in your pursuit of God's will. This is something that as a pastor I know something about... but this can easily apply to each of us.
Maybe in your zeal to do God's will you will find yourself way out in front of the people around you. You might even have a much clearer picture of what you all need to be doing together---either in your workplace, your business, your school... even your church.
Your desire to pursue God's vision doesn't have to come at the expense of those who you think couldn't keep up. It doesn't have to come at the expense of those who you felt you needed to roll over in order to keep moving.
Jesus showed us time and again what it looked like to do thing God's way--which is in community, together with others. Jesus had to slow his pace on numerous occasions, even when it frustrated him at times. He taught the same thing over and over again with patience and persistence.
This is a fine line because you can't let others keep you from pursuing God's will, but sometimes you need to slow down a bit so they can catch up.
And you also need to realize that there will be some people who never get it, and you might need to journey on without them in the end.
If you want to maintain a sustainable, life-giving pace on your path to pursuing God's vision for your life, you will definitely need to do what you can to take care of yourself, those you love and even the people around you.
Because if you want to build great things, you need to consider the cost.