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Mike Novotny - Self-Care

Mike Novotny - Self-Care
TOPICS: Trends vs. Truth

Did any of you know that four out of the five pastors of our church, almost didn't make it? I recently asked some pretty personal questions to our pastoral team, and got their permission to share with you. And they confessed to me that four out of five of us, 80% of us almost burnt out before making it to today. I actually wrote down some of the things that the guys sent me. They said things like this, "I was working at least 70-plus hours per week, sometimes a lot more. My wife would drive when we were on, 'vacation,' so I could work in the passenger seat. I actually became less productive because I was tired, stressed and constantly distracted". Another confessed this, "I've come close to burnout several times. I was overly committed, I had unrealistic expectations of church. I was putting in 60 to 70 plus hours a week. My body was getting anxious, fatigued, I had high blood pressure, I turned to alcohol to relax. I was apathetic about Sundays, and church, and God's people, I was not optimistic". A third said, "My wife and a group of close friends had an intervention. That's actually the reason by God's grace that I'm probably still in ministry today".

These pastors were giving, and giving, and giving. And they were serving, and serving, and serving. And they were loving, and loving, and loving. They were working and sweating, and working and sweating to care for you, and they weren't taking care of themselves and almost fell apart. And they were doing all these things for Jesus and his name and his people, but if you would have asked them behind the scenes, if you would have talked to their children or their spouses, they would have admitted they weren't so much like Jesus at home. When the tank was empty, and they were exhausted, and stressed, and tired. Drinking too much, always distracted, always thinking of something else to do. How about you? You don't have to be a pastor or work in here on a Sunday to know what it's like to push, and push, and push at work, and work, and work, and never have a second for yourself. Have you been there before?

I think of the college kid who's taken like, crazy credits and doesn't want to graduate with crazy debts. So, he gets up and he studies, and he studies, and he takes notes, and he studies, and he takes a break so he can go to work, and work, and work, and work. And then, after work, he's at his homework until he finally crashes, and his eyes fall asleep over his biology textbook. I think that some of you who are new at your jobs and you want to make a great first impression, or maybe some of you who just got promoted to that position of leadership, and you want to prove that you deserve it, and so, you're first to the office and you're the last to leave. You're the first person on that thread of copied emails to respond because you don't want to make anyone wait for your response and you work, and you work. And in fact, when you finally sit down on the sofa, what happens? Gone.

If you've drooled on the open pages of a book or fallen asleep before that episode of "The Office," is over, they're not that long, you know what it's like to push. Or maybe you just had a baby and no... Maybe you just had a baby, period and you're up early, and you're up late, and the sleep schedule is upside down and you never have a second for yourself. Do you know what it's like to push to the point of exhaustion? To cheat the hours of sleep? To not have much left in the tank? So, practice self-care, don't think life is a 5K, when it's actually a marathon. You have to be smart about this, so you don't burn out and hurt people in the process. And so, we preach again and again, and again, and again, think about you, take time for yourself. Mental health days, me time, that's a good thing for you, right. Right?

Well, in this series, you know, we've been talking about these trending phrases, and we've tried to just not give one of these or one of these. We've tried to slow down enough to really think deeply about it. What are the dangers? What's the nuance? What's the asterisk? What are the terms and conditions to things like science is real, or love is love, or who am I to judge? And today I want to do the same thing with you and this phrase, "Self-care". Because if you know anything about the Bible, you know that it's very dangerous to think too much of self. In fact, an early theologian said that, "The essence of sin is a person who has turned in on themselves". Instead of being turned out towards God, honoring him and people to love them selflessly, they turn in and think about, "My thoughts, my feelings. How am I doing? What do I want"?

Wasn't it pretty dangerous for us to think about self-care? Don't by nature we all care about ourselves a little bit too much? And if you're a follower of Jesus, isn't he the same savior who did not come into this world to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many? You think Jesus ever googled self-care? And are any of you seeing what I'm seeing these days? I have a bunch of friends who are in like, management and leadership positions, small business owners, and they would tell you that they are burning out because people don't know how to work, right. When it gets stressful, they quit. When it's hard, they bail. When you tell them what to do, they bolt. They don't, like the law of the farm where you are up before the sun to milk a cow, and you came home after school. Like that kind of work ethic is out the window and now we're oh, so worried about how we're feeling. That people just don't know how to sweat, how to work, what work looks like in the real world.

And businesses are struggling. And the people who do work hard have to work even harder to cover the gaps. So, what is the real problem today? Is it that people work too much, or they don't work enough? Well, that's the question I want to answer with you today. I going to grab the Bible, I'm going to I open it, I want to see, does Jesus and the scriptures have anything to say about this balance between us and them? Does God have any guidance for his children as we talk about work and rest? And how to do that in a way that is holy, and good, and sustainable. So, let's talk about self-care, as we open the scriptures and listen to the voice of pour heavenly father.

Oh, let me give you the outline, I'm going to talk about two big things. If you just listen to one and you miss the other, you're going to get this wrong. But if you can hold both of these things in a biblical tension, you're going to be right in that middle spot where your heavenly father wants you to be. So, here's the first thing, grab a pen, write this down, if you have a program. The first thing that God wants you to do is sweat. Your father in heaven wants you to work to the point that it hurts. I'm going to prove it to you. Went back in the beginning of the Bible, you can see how thin the pages are. I'm on the second page of my Bible, Genesis 2:15. Before sin comes into the world, this is what the scripture says, "The Lord God took the man," his name was Adam, if you know the story, "And he put Adam in the Garden of Eden," to do two things, "To work it, and to take care of it".

Alright, even in paradise, God did not create Adam and Eve, the first human beings to just rest and chill, sleep in a hammock between two perfect trees as they chill and you know, with Jesus. He didn't say, "Oh, no, the garden's just going to produce fruit and an angel is going to bring a little thing of grapes to care for you". No, even in paradise it says, "I'm making you human beings to work and to take care of something else". And unfortunately, if you know the story, a page later, the work then changed, but in a way the work really changed. Adam and Eve, took the forbidden fruit, sin came into the world then everything got messed up. Their bodies, their schedules and the difficulty of work. Here's what it says in Genesis 3:19, God promised Adam, "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, for dust you are and to dust you will return".

Now, there are times when things are dysfunctional, when it's okay to leave. God doesn't command, "Just work one job until the day that you die". But I need some of you, especially if you're younger, to hear this clear word from God, "By the sweat of your brow you will earn your bread". So, my charge to you today is don't quit, you got to learn how to work. You have to learn how to put in 40, and then 50, and sometimes 60 to 70 hours a week. You need to learn how to get through a long shift without touching your phone because it's that busy. If you haven't experienced a week or maybe a month where you haven't even seen Netflix because life is crazy, that's life. There are times in life when God needs you to grind it, he needs you to work it. It's not time to rest, it's time to reap, to harvest, to sow. You can't get that season back.

And so, God says, "Work, don't quit. Don't bail. Don't think about you. No spa days. Get back to work. Don't show up late. Don't bail on your company. Be the kind of Christian who is faithful, and persevering, and hardworking enough not to leave everyone else hanging as you think about you". The fact is, if it hasn't come, a time is coming in your life where you will need to have that skill. And if you're a pastor, if it's Christmas or if it's Easter, we work. And we can't get to Good Friday and say, "Whew, it's been a long week. See you guys on Monday". You got to grind it. If you're in accounting and it's like tax season, and the end of the year, you're going to have to grind it. If you just had a new baby. You're going to have to learn how to work hard if you're starting a new business. If it's final exams, grad school. Like, there will be seasons of life where there is no way to do something well, unless you know how to work.

So, here's my challenge for some of you, if you think you're so busy and so stressed, I need you to see if you can pass the eyebrow test. So, your job this week is to find someone who is 50 years old or older, and I want you to explain your schedule to them, like, how much time are you doing with work or taking care of kids, or you know, something that's for other people. And I want you to put a number of hours on what you're doing and then you're going to watch their eyebrows. And if they go you're working a lot. And if they go... That's life. And maybe you don't know it yet, but if you're going to quit at the end of a hard week, you're always going to be weak. If you want to run a marathon, you have to learn how to take another step when you're sweating and exhausted at the end of your first run.

If you're going to be good and strong like Jesus wants you to, you need to work, you need to sweat, and you need to learn that there are busy seasons where God wants you not to think about you, but to think about them. But did any of you notice the word I used about eight times in the last two minutes? I intentionally use the word, "Seasons". Now, if you're watching at home on TV, I live in Wisconsin, most of us in this church do. And in Wisconsin, we have technically, four seasons. Now, winter always feels like the long season, and spring is like two days in March, sometime. But we have these four seasons and we know that seasons don't last forever. Seasons last a couple of months, and the next season comes, and that's what I'm saying about your busyness too. Kind of reminds me of this.

I picked up a package of tomato seeds. And if you ever had a garden before, you might know on the back, they give directions on how to grow the best produce, how to grow the best tomatoes. What was pretty fascinating is on the back of this passage, the number one theme, the thing that the growers talk about the most is not how many days it takes to grow a tomato, but instead how much space it takes to grow a tomato. You know that? Around the back here it says, "Seed spacing". So, you can't just like, you got to put one here, and then one there. And then, if you want a ton of tomatoes, you don't put the next row an inch away from it, you actually put, it says, "3 feet," away from it, you have space. And then, once they start to grow, it says, "When they're just 3 inches high, you thin them out".

So, there's even more space. And you know why that works with tomatoes, right? It's like, put a billion seeds in a little patch of soil, there's not going to be enough dirt, moisture, nutrients, sun, water. If you want to grow actual, one of these, you need space. And guess who is a lot like a tomato? You. If you think serving, serving, serving, serving, giving, say yes, say yes, say yes, is going to make you a very fruitful Christian, God says, "No, no, no, no, no, I didn't design tomatoes like that, and I didn't design you like that either". So, write this down, the second big thing that you need to know today is not just to sweat, the answer is to rest. To clear a space in your schedule. To have time that's not about the company, not about the business, not about the kids, not about the family. The Bible says there is good biblical precedent for you taking care of you. It can't be wrong if Jesus did it.

Look at this quote from Mark 6, it says, "Then because so many people were coming and going that the disciples did not even have a chance to rest, Jesus said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" Before you could Google it, the Son of God taught it, self-care. It's not selfish, it's not self-centered, it's not egotistical, it comes from the heart of Emmanuel himself. Now, I need to say this to some of you. Some of you are actually so caring and you are so selfless that you will say, "Yes," to a million things when you shouldn't. Alright, there's this little Pharaoh that lives in some of your hearts, it just says, "You're sitting down and you're lazy... Get back to work". Some of you are sitting next to a person like that. It's like, "Oh, you're already so busy, why are you saying yes to another thing"? It's 'cause you love people and you care about people. I need to say this to you really, really directly, you are not a bad person if you sit down. The sofa, was not invented by Satan. God's okay with naps.

In fact, in the beginning when everything was perfect, 1/7 of his people's schedules was just that, rest. And it's okay for you to rest too. It's not just good for you for the long-term, it's good to make you a lot more like Jesus. You weren't made to be a slave, you weren't made to work forever, so rest. Are you curious how our pastors do it? "Four to five," I said, "Almost burnt out until these life-changing moments". Well, I asked them some really specific questions like, "How much do you work? How much do you sleep? How often do you work out? Do you take a day off"? Here's what they said, how much do you work? "40 to 50 hours. 50 hours a week, 52 and a half a week, 50 a week, and 50 a week". How much do you sleep? "7 1/2 a night, 6 to 8 a night, 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 a night, 7 a night, 8 hours a night". How much do you work out? "4 to 5 times a week, 4 to 6 times a week, 5 times a week, 5 to 6 times a week," and I try to get to the gym once a week. No, and I run a little bit too. Do you have an intentional day off? "Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes".

Are you close to burning out right now? "No, no, no, no, and no". So, if you want to know how we as followers of Jesus are trying to shepherd you, if you want to know the example that we're trying to set, it's this. Work, rest, serve, stop, you, us. And we believe there's no sin in that because the Bible offers it, commands it, and blesses us with it. But a few of you are thinking, "But pastor, if I do that people won't like it. I mean, if I say to my boss, 'Hey, I have to cut back a little bit.' If I don't return the email and like, 'Why didn't you respond to that?' They're not going to like me. If I'm volunteering at church in the neighborhood, and on the team, and selling the candy bars, and being the coach, I say, 'Sorry, this is my last year,' they're not going to like that. And if I say to my family, 'Hey, I can't make it to the birthday party. And I know it's the graduation, but we've just been busy.' They're not going to like me. What am I supposed to do"?

That's fair objection. I don't think the people in our lives want to be like Pharaoh, they just end up like him. Everyone wants just one thing, just one thing, just one thing, just one thing and you put it all together and it's slavery by a thousand one things. It's very true, that if you say to someone's one thing, "Sorry, I can't," they might not like it. Which is why I want to leave you today with something that Jesus once said. Jesus said in Matthew 11, these epic words, he said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest... rest for your souls". Jesus says, "I know it is so much work to get everyone to like you". We have to take the picture, and filter the picture, and post the picture, and respond to nice comments. "You look so beautiful". And you have to go to work, and serve, and serve, and serve, and serve to make everyone... that just burdens you after a while and Jesus says, "Alright, come to me. It's an invitation for all of you, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest".

Do you know what Jesus meant by that? He meant that he would give you the one relationship in the world that wouldn't be based on work. He said, "I can't make your friends like you. I can't make your family adore you. Here's what I can do, I can do the work, so that you never have to work to get God to like you". Some of you don't know this, that the really unique gift of the Christian faith is not a command to pray, or to work hard, or to be a decent person, any religion can offer you that. What Christianity offers is this, that Jesus Christ did all of the work so that God likes us all of the time. He didn't come down to earth 2,000 years ago, set up a ladder and said, "Good luck".

That's what world religion does, not Jesus. Instead, he came down the ladder and he worked so hard that he finished the work for us. Do you know the story? The night before Jesus dies, It's a Thursday night, and I don't think he sleeps at all. While his friends are crashing in the garden of Gethsemane, while they're dosing off, Jesus is sweating. And it's so intense that "His sweat," the Bible says, "Is like drops of blood". He's working and working, and not for a second is he thinking of himself, 'cause he was thinking of us. And he worked, and he pushed, and he loved, and he forgave, and he did all the work that his father wanted him to do. He lived this perfect, flawless life so that in one of his last breaths on the cross, Jesus says, "It's finished".

Do you want God to like you? "Come to me, it's finished". Do you want to know that there's a place for you at God's table? A place for you in heaven? The world will say, "You got to work for that. Fix your karma, be a good person, balance of the scales". You said, "No, it's never going to work". "But I'll do the work. Come to me, and I will give you rest. I will give rest for your soul". So, even if the people are disappointed that you don't say "yes" to their one thing, at the end of the day, you can go home and say, "But God's face is shining upon me and it's gracious to me, and in Jesus I have rest". So, let me pass on the best advice I've ever received. "Sweat, rest, repeat". Let's pray:

God, it's so easy for us to pick one or the other. To work so hard that we become workaholics and idolize the approval of people. It's so easy to think about ourselves and our own mental state, and how we feel, that we leave people disappointed and hanging. So, we need you God to help us not to be too selfish, and not to be too selfless, but to be honest, that we are not the creator we are created beings, we have limits and limitations. So, God give us the wisdom that we need today. Help us to be humble enough to reach out to others to get their reaction, and not to dismiss it. But instead to hear you speaking through the experiences and lives of your people. More than anything, Jesus, we thank you for the gift of rest that we have spiritually and eternally because of your work. We are so grateful that you didn't chart the path and make us follow you. Instead, you did everything, so that salvation would be our gift. A seat at the table would just be a free gift from you. We're so grateful for grace, it takes the burden and the pressure off, and let us know at the end of every day, whether we did it right or we fell on our face, that there is God smiling upon us and who is so gracious to us. So, please help us as we move forward God. We want to love you, not just today, but in all the days to come until we see you face-to-face. So, bless us with sweat and rest as we repeat. We pray this all in Jesus' name. And all of Jesus' people say: amen.

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