June 01, 2011 | President's Slice
By Joe Hale
I’m a big fan of the University of Memphis Tigers basketball team and have been since my junior high days. There’s nothing much more thrilling than being in the FedEx Forum with 19,000 other fans, yelling and screaming as the team pulls out another victory. In college basketball, as well as other sports, one of the things that I’ve learned is the strategic nature of the coach calling a “time-out.” Time-outs are called when the game has strayed away from the game plan or strategy, and the coach needs the team to focus or re-focus; time outs allow the team to rest for a moment, so they’ll be at full-strength when they return to the game; time-outs are called when a team is in need of encouragement or reinforcement; and sometimes a time-out is called to get the most playing time out of the game clock.
A time-out is also a wise principle in everyday living. We all can benefit greatly from strategic time-outs in life. We need to take time out and slow down from our busy lives; we need to take time out to listen to advice from Coach Jesus; we need to hear our Coach’s encouragement and support when it seems our opponents – the devil, the world, and our own selfish desires are getting the upper hand. We need to take time-outs to reassess where we are going, what we have done right (and wrong), and how we can do things a different way. We know all this but more often than not we struggle on, and we don’t make time for a respite or if we do make time, we feel guilty.
Jesus Himself didn't feel guilty about taking time out, and He didn't make his disciples feel guilty either. They were human, and so was he (physically). They had hectic lives, and there was a sense of urgency to get as much done as possible in the short time that Jesus had in the world. Jesus had no qualms about having a little bit of time away from the pressures that had been placed on him by others. He had a concern also for his disciples after they had just come back from a strenuous mission. And so he says, ‘Let’s get away for a while to a quiet spot and rest.’
All of us have days where we need that kind of invitation. Just as Jesus needed to get away for a while, so do we. We cannot keep up the pace under constant pressure from all directions. Jesus knew that His disciples needed to be alone. They needed to retreat so that they might be refreshed and renewed to continue to do what had to be done. The Scriptures say in Mark 6:30-32: The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
In March of this year, I began a six month long “time-out”--a sabbatical. When I told people I was taking a sabbatical, I began to hear some horror stories about ministers who went on sabbatical. I learned that “sabbatical” is often a code word for:
• This guy’s in BIG trouble (“There’s some sort of scandal going on …”)
• This guys on his way OUT (“We’re firing him … the slow way …”)
• This guy’s already had a nervous breakdown (“It’s way too late for a sabbatical to do
I’d like to thank the NICS board for giving me a REAL, legitimate sabbatical! (At least I hope that’s what it will be!) During my sabbatical, I want to read some books, do some dreaming about the future, rejoice in recent victories, maybe take some naps… and spend a lot of time in my garden! I also really want to work on my physical condition to help my diabetes.
During my sabbatical, I desire to be Loosened Up, Rested Up, and Prayed Up:
1. Loosened up
In the book of Job, Job experienced a “forced” sabbatical. We know from reading the first 2 chapters of Job that the affliction he suffered was from Satan --- but it was allowed by God. The events that put Job “on the bench” so to speak were something like an extreme mid-life crisis. He was suddenly freed from all his possessions, his career, and all his loved-ones except his wife. As a result, Job was given some time off that he had not asked for.
Job used the picture of a bow and arrow to refer to his view of himself before catastrophe struck him in Job 29:20: “My honour is fresh with me, And my bow in my hand is renewed.” Later, in Job 30:11, he uses the same word picture to speak of his affliction when he says: “Now God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me …”
At the point when Job was terribly weakened and afflicted, he said God had unstrung his bow. I see the loosened bowstring as an appropriate image for a time of sabbatical, but with a warning attached. We can either loosen our own bowstring, or it is possible that God may have to do the job for us. Sometimes it seems that “time off” works that way. We lose a job or we get sick or disabled, and our bow seems to lie useless in our hands.
I’m not a bow-and-arrow kind of guy, but it makes sense to me that it is not smart to keep a bow tightly strung all the time. Keeping the bowstring at maximum tension can wear out the bow or stretch out the string. If that’s the case, it seems equally true that it’s a problem for a human to be tightly strung all the time. All of us need some time to “loosen up.”
2. Rested up
I think taking a sabbatical type break can also help me to Rest Up. I desire a fresh perspective --- partly just a change of scenery.
Jesus called his men to take time off for rest, and He spent regular time alone with his Father for prayer and fellowship. This time with his Father energized Jesus, and he showed his concern for his own apostles by instructing them to take time away also. We would all do well to follow His example. We need to learn to “come apart”… or we may actually “come apart.” Not all of us will get the chance to take a formal sabbatical, but we can find ways to “observe the Sabbath.”
The idea of Sabbath Rest is a God-Breathed idea … given for our benefit. I believe that in our productivity-centric society, we have forgotten how to “clock out” so to speak. If you are one who finds it almost impossible to actually sit down and do nothing for a while without getting a case of the fidgets then maybe this is for you.
3. Prayed up
The last benefit I desire from the sabbatical is a chance to get Prayed Up. Of course, there is always time for prayer, but I do want to hear from God. I (somewhat) jokingly tell people I love to paint because, when I paint, God speaks to me. I know it sounds silly, but there is something about the state of mind I get when I paint that God really does speak to my heart. While I’m not planning a lot of painting, I do hope my mind will be clear enough to hear His voice more clearly. James 4:8 gives this promise: “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” It is important to take time away from the hustle and bustle of life and spend time with God.
I love the feeling when one of my grandkids sees me and their face lights up with excitement. They come running toward me with their little arms held out so I can scoop them up. Imagine how I’d feel if I held my arms out and they just looked indifferent … or ran the other way. We should know enough to realize we have a great and wonderful God, a God who wants to be our Heavenly Father. God is passionate about His relationship with us, and He loves for us to spend time with Him in prayer.
Thank all of you for your prayers for me during this time, which ends September 1st. And may I encourage you also to take some time to rest and be refreshed, so that you can be even more effective in your life and service to the King!