The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Avoiding Burnout’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 6/14/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1TBnpUc
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a serious problem. It occurs when we can no longer muster the strength and energy to do what we once loved to do. It happens when we can’t put in the effort to do what we need to do to support our families. Very simply, burnout is defined as, “Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.”
As a pastor, I would extend that definition even further. Burnout can also result in spiritual collapse. We rarely sin because we have bad intentions; but we often sin because we’re tired. When we work long and hard for God, but don’t see any tangible reward, our faith can become exhausting. We start to lose sight of Jesus: our ultimate end goal. We start to lose hope in God’s promises for our lives. So how does burnout happen?
Girdano, Dusek & Everly (1996) noted that there are three stages of burnout in their book, “Controlling Stress & Tension.” First comes stress arousal, which involves persistent irritability & anxiety, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and headaches. Energy conservation comes second. Symptoms include lateness for work, procrastination & turning in work late, social withdrawal, cynicism, resentfulness and apathy. The third and final stave of burnout is exhaustion: chronic sadness, mental & physical fatigue, and the desire to move away from work, friends & family.
The most alarming characteristic of burnout is that most of us don’t even notice the symptoms until we’re at the exhaustion stage. Our bodies tell us that we’re moving too fast, but we push even harder. Our brains tell us we’re thinking too hard, but we chug a cup of coffee and get back to the grind. Our spouses, or even children, note that we’re always busy, but we brush it off as being a requirement of life.
So, take a long, hard look at your life as it stands, here and now. Are you experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout?
God calls us all to dream big. He has amazing plans and purposes for our lives. Yet sometimes, the weight of His call becomes overbearing. So, what do you do when God has called you to do something you can’t possibly do? What do you do when you’re faced with an impossible task, and you just don’t have the energy to get it done? What do you do when your heart just isn’t in it any more?
Ask God to transform your heart. The health of your life depends on the condition of your heart. If your heart is chasing after the things of this world – money, power, success – you will end up at the end of your rope. But when your heart is properly positioned towards God, He will leave you refreshed!
God never calls us to accomplish something great for His Kingdom without providing all the resources we could ever need. He will prepare our hearts for the task at hand ahead of time, so that when we face the biggest challenges life can throw at us, we are fully prepared.
Transform Your Heart
Saul was the first king chosen for the people of Israel. God desired that His people would live for Him, without a king; but the people wanted to be like the surrounding nations. They cried out for a king, so God gave them one.
In 1 Sam 10, Samuel anoints Saul to be king over Israel:
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance? – 1 Sam 10:1
Saul never asked to be king; God simply chose him. Over the course of my life, I have learned to be very suspicious of any leader who asks for power and promotion. God will exalt us in due time, but it is not our prerogative to advance that time if that haste is against God’s will.
God made Saul king; but Saul never really wanted to be the ruler over Israel. When the day of his coronation had arrived, Samuel called all of Israel together to anoint their new king. But while the crowds gathered, Saul was hiding:
And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.” – 1 Sam 10:20-23
Saul was afraid! He knew Israel wanted a king, but he also knew that he was not the man for the job. He distrusted his own qualifications, and had no desire for the limelight. And that was exactly why God chose him.
God prepared Saul, in advance, to be a great king. How did he do it? He transformed Saul’s heart:
So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. – 1 Sam 10:9
Long before his coronation, Saul had received a brand new heart from God. The only characteristic that made Saul fit to rule – and to carry out God’s destiny for his life – was that God had touched his heart! And God’s hand on your heart is all you need to walk out His will for your life.
Ask for Wisdom
Solomon never asked to be king: he was the son of David, and the throne was his inheritance. He was called to judge the people of Israel, who had grown to be more numerous than the sand on the seashore! This was a tall order, and Solomon knew he was unprepared.
Solomon was young and inexperienced. His father, David, had been an outstanding king, which made for a tough act to follow. How could he ever fill those shoes? He asked for a new heart.
God came to Solomon in a dream, and told him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 3:3) Solomon could have asked for anything in the world. But he had his request ready, and it was not what you might expect:
And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” – 1 Kings 3:6-9
Solomon knew he was unqualified to rule over Israel. He knew his own wit and intelligence wouldn’t do the trick when it came to managing God’s Kingdom. And that is exactly why God chose Solomon to be king.
Solomon asked for the one thing he needed to fulfill God’s call on his life. He asked for wisdom: an understanding heart. Solomon could have asked for anything! But he didn’t ask for money, power, or a long life. Because his request was tailor-made to satisfy God’s plans instead of his own, God gave Solomon everything he asked for, plus everything he didn’t ask for. Because Solomon did not ask for wealth, or power, or a long life, God gave all those things into his hands!
God transformed Solomon’s heart. The only characteristic that made Solomon fit to rule – and to carry out God’s destiny for his life – was that God had touched his heart! And God’s hand on your heart is all you need to walk out His will for your life.
Solomon’s young age, and lack of experience, did not matter. God doesn’t need our resume to know if we’re capable at succeeding at a job; He simply has to look at our hearts. Age and experience are not what matters when it comes to stewarding responsibility; maturity and the understanding of how to handle the weight of God’s calling is what counts!
Some of us need God to expand the capacity of our hearts so we can fulfill the desires He has put on them! We need to ask God for heart transformation, so that we can be up to the tasks He puts in front of us. Are you ready to let God touch your heart? The only thing that will make you fit to carry out God’s destiny for your life is God touching your heart!
Positioning Your Heart for Health
The way to avoid burnout is by asking God for help. We must ask Him to transform our hearts, and expand them to bear the weight of the calling He has for our lives. We must ask him to orient our hearts towards Him, because it is only in Him that our hearts will be satisfied!
Our hearts are made of flesh. In other words, they are naturally inclined to sin. Unless God intervenes, our hearts will stay wicked:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” – Jer 17:9
Our natural condition is to lust after the things of this world. So, what are you struggling for? What’s burning you out? Is it money? Power? The pursuit of a culturally defined emotion called happiness?
If our hearts desire the things of this world, we will waste our lives pursuing them. We will go through life like dogs chasing cars: always after moving targets, but unsure of what we would actually do if we ever got a hold of one!
But if our hearts genuinely desire God, He will give us eternal joy and everlasting life. The pursuit of worldly treasures is a Catch-22: as soon as we stop yearning for, and chasing after, the things of this world, God will give them into our hands!
We can never simply change ourselves. The Gospel – transformed life through Jesus Christ – is not about behavior modification. It is about heart transformation. If we want to be truly changed from the inside out, we have to ask God to do the heavy lifting. We can’t change ourselves; but God can certainly change us when we ask Him to!
Solomon knew God’s power to impact his heart. When he had finished building the temple at Jerusalem, he dedicated it with these words:
May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers. – 1 Kings 8:57-58
Solomon asked God to reposition the hearts of His people. We cannot incline our hearts to God on our own; God must incline our hearts to Him. The most we can do is ask for, and accept, the transformation He is willing to provide!
Jesus invites His disciples into a beautiful state of equilibrium. When we adopt and internalize God’s desires for us, and make them our desires for ourselves, then we will have the desire of our hearts.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. – Ps 37:4
Then, and only then, will our hearts be full. Then, and only then, will we be refreshed: ready to experience Resurrection Life.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.