God gives us work (Gen. 1:26), and it is important, dignified, good, and holy. From the beginning, God created a cycle of work and rest for our good.
When Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator’s will (Gen. 3), the joyful work and rest pattern was distorted. The ground was cursed—not work—but work became more difficult, and rest became even more necessary than before.
As we serve the Lord, it’s important to remember that whatever controls our time, controls our life.
We all face different time challenges, but if we want to be efficient servants of the Lord, we need to learn wisdom and practice good time management as we consider God’s priorities for our lives.
God wants us to love Him, seek Him, and become like Him (Matt. 6:33, 22:37; 1 John 3:1–3). As we make His kingdom a priority, He will help us care for other things on our schedule. We need to plan time to listen to Him.
God also wants us to care for those He put in our charge, first our families and then those we lead. A man who doesn’t care for his family is “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8), and a woman of God should look to the needs of her household (Prov. 31:27). We need to plan time for our families and chores to wisely steward our homes.
God created us to work in unity with the Body of Christ, leaning on their support and practicing accountability. We need to plan time for friends and co-laborers.
We need to plan time for our work, health (proper sleep, diet, and exercise), mental stimulation, and rest.
Face it: You can’t do everything! There’s just not enough time. But you can plan to do everything God calls you to do—everything that is truly important.
How Do We Work Efficiently?
To plan means to use our heads to access tasks and then use God-focused motivation to persist toward priorities and goals. Life is short and precious, and there are many distractions. God wants us to redeem the time with diligence (Eph. 5:15–16).
How do we maximize our time and become more efficient?
- We need to know what we want—better yet, what God wants.
The world says “work for self-fulfillment” and store up wealth, but our work is meant to glorify God as we pursue eternal treasures and do the works He has prepared for us (Col. 3:23; Matt. 6:19–20; Eph. 2:10).
Productivity matters to God. Jesus requires a wise return (Matt. 25:14–30), and we must not be slothful (Prov. 6:6–8). With firm priorities and goals, we can say “no” to lesser tasks and projects and say “yes” to worthwhile, productive activities.
Ask yourself, “Are these activities moving me toward my priorities and goals? How can I keep these priorities and goals clearly in the front of my mind today?” Pray for a renewed mind to understand God’s will for your work (Rom. 12:2).
- We need to do what we do better and more creatively.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Identify what is critical, long-term and short-term. Design small “milestone” goals for encouragement along the way.
Who is on your support team, coming alongside to help? Who is the person you can trust and delegate some tasks to? Is there anything you can outsource?
- We need to take care of home issues so they don’t bleed over into ministry.
Create fresh strategies for the stressors at home—not the people but “issues.”
What activities or tasks can you streamline, change, or even eliminate to make home life run smoothly? Are there gentle conversations that need to take place for greater understanding about responsibilities? Have you clearly stated your needs, giving expectations to the Lord but requesting help?
- We need to actually take our vacation time.
The harder we work, the more we need down time. In 2014, unused vacation days in the United States were at a forty-year high. That’s foolish. We all need time to unwind before we explode.
Plan your vacation time, whether it’s a day trip, a week away, or a long cruise. Put it on the calendar and commit to taking this “re” time—refreshing, refueling, renewing.
How Can We Rest?
God set the pattern for us, working six days and then taking time to rest from His labor (Gen. 2:2–3).
We are encouraged to rest (Heb. 9–11), because we live in a broken world and need to refuel regularly to survive. More than recuperating, it’s an affirmation of the special relationship we have with our generous God. He wants us to delight in the refreshment and renewal He provides, creating opportunities within the unique pattern of our lives.
Balance between work and rest is never a 50/50 proposition. Sometimes work requires more time; sometimes personal life and recuperation are crucial now!
Why is rest so hard for us? What can we do to get sufficient rest?
- We can unplug from technology once in awhile!
With current technology, people can work constantly and anywhere. In 2014, The Economist reported that sixty percent of people who use smartphones are connected to their offices thirteen-and-a-half or more hours a day. Add social media, and it can feel like we’re always connected to something electronic.
We need connection to the Lord to rest our souls, and we need face-to-face contact with people. A lack of intimacy will eventually deplete us.
- We can evaluate our work level and make adjustments.
Some people are workaholics; they don’t know how to stop. Maybe they feel guilty when not working, that they might lose their job, or that people will think they’re lazy.
There’s nothing wrong with hard work, even for long hours if that is what God has called us to do. But overworking can be a spiritual problem.
Other people lack motivation to work, have no habits for effective work, or don’t know how to engage productively. They may not feel valued or appreciated, making it difficult to “own” their tasks.
We have to ask whether our pattern of work and rest reflects God’s plans and priorities as well as His generosity and provision for us. There is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1–8), including times for work and rest, and we need to pause and pray to determine the best “time” for each.
- We can make sure we’re taking a Sabbath rest.
Christians aren’t under Jewish Sabbath laws; they are free to choose when and how to rest (Rom. 14:5–6). But it is still wise to commit to a regular time to pause, worship, praise, and thank God.
Jesus took time to rest alone in God’s presence, but He also engaged in Jewish communal worship (Matt. 14:13; Luke 4:16–21). At times, He called His disciples to reduce their workload (Mark 6:31), and He encourages us to release our burdens and stresses and come to Him for rest, too (Matt. 11:28–30).
Lack of rest can lead to cascading consequences. We might see physical consequences, like insomnia or a weakened immune system or illness, compromising the quality of our work. Exhaustion can lead to mental fuzziness and emotional stress, anxiety, or anger. Relationships become strained when we are tired, and we’re more likely to misread social signals. And when we lack rest, our connection to God can suffer most.
I experienced firsthand the foolishness of insufficient rest and how it hindered my work. Long hours and an “I can do it all” mentality added up to a subtraction of ministry. Overworked, I lost my health, and as a result, I had to stop ministering in some outreaches I loved. I had to learn to embrace the words of Christ: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), as well as the wisdom about priorities and rest in Scripture. I learned to schedule breaks, get sufficient rest, and plan personal retreats to refuel. God restored my health and ability to serve as He changed my perspective on work and rest.
God wants us to balance our lives with efficient work and sufficient rest, and He will give us wisdom for this balance if we will ask (James 1:5). Then it’s simply a matter of trust and obedience.
Father God, I know You don’t want me to miss out on Your best because of inefficient work or insufficient rest. I ask for Your wisdom today and for the strength and courage to obey what You are speaking to my heart. Amen.
What’s your biggest struggle today—efficiency as you work and minister to others or difficulty with creating opportunities to rest? What can you do to make some adjustments?