LISTEN TO EP.79
Escape Anxiety and Performance Through the Spiritual Rhythm of Rest
How can you find true rest in a culture of working more, experiencing more, and achieving more? Escape the anxiety and pressure of the times with Scott Young, co-host of The Influencers Podcast and lead pastor of Church of Hope in Sarasota, FL, as he shares why it is important to take time to be at the feet of Jesus to let your spiritual soul be healed and restored. Learn how a time of rest before you rise to work can make you more productive and powerful, change your perspective, and equip you to better manage life’s challenges.
Welcome to the Influencers Podcast. I’m Scott Young. And I just want to take a few moments together to share just an insight that has really strengthened my life. And I really believe it could strengthen your life. In this season of holiday, the Easter season, a Holy day, it can become very stress filled. And actually in holidays, there can be more anxiety. There can be extra meetings. There are people that come by to visit you. There’s extra rehearsals. I know we’ve had a lot of extra meetings around my office, just getting ready for Easter, but there’s a story that is connected to Easter. It’s kind of just outside the Easter story, and it just has such a powerful truth.
The Holy week begins with Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry. And then there’s the turning over of the tables there, the Passover, and the institution of the Lord’s supper. There’s the time in the Garden of Gethsemane, the judgment, the whipping of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus. And then of course the glorious resurrection, the greatest story ever told.
But just before, and I think connected to the Easter story, Jesus stops by Bethany, placed just outside of Jerusalem, just across the Kidron valley. And He spends time in the home of his friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus just a few weeks before Lazarus had died. And he was really dead. They said, “He’s starting to actually decay”. And Jesus stops by the tomb of Lazarus. And He says, “Lazarus come forth”. He raises Lazarus from the dead.
When we open up the story in John chapter 12, Lazarus is with Jesus at the table. Martha is working, she’s serving. Mary is at the feet of Jesus. Martha, is one of the sisters serving, and Mary, the other sister, is sitting. And Luke tells us that in that scenario, Martha complained to Jesus and said, “Jesus, can’t you see? I’m doing all the work. Tell my sister Mary to get up and start serving with me,” and Jesus answers and says these words, “There is one thing that is necessary. There’s one thing that is most important. And Mary has discovered that one thing”. That’s the one thing I want to talk to you about – reducing your anxiety in this Easter season or any season. What’s the one thing that Mary had discovered that Martha was missing? She had found that being at the feet of Jesus changed everything. In fact, here’s what I’d like to say in this busy, busy season. “Sit before you serve; worship before you work.” You’ll find the one thing that Jesus was talking about, and that is being with Jesus, changes everything.
Changing the “Norm”
It’s amazing that Jesus would allow Mary to sit at his feet. Jesus changed cultural norms when He allowed women to be His disciples. And there was Mary being a disciple, listening, learning, and her heart was overflowing. She was resting before rising. Now you have to have both in life. If you spend all your time at the feet of Jesus and don’t do anything, well, the Kingdom of God grinds to a halt. We need Mary and we need Martha. We need the resting and we need the rising. We need the sitting and we need the serving, but here’s the order: take time in this busy season to find yourself at Jesus feet, for prayer, for meditation, for singing, for reading God’s Word, to let your spiritual soul be healed and be restored.
There’s a rhythm that’s found even in the way the Jewish people celebrated and started their days. And even to this day, if you go back to the book of Genesis, you find that God creates darkness – night. He actually places light into darkness and creates night and day. And then It says, “…and there was night and there was day, there was evening and there was morning. And that was the first day”. So in the Hebraic frame of reference, the day begins in the evening. Even today, when Jewish people begin the Sabbath, it begins at sundown. Now, just think about that for a moment. When you begin your day with sundown, what’s one of the first things you do? You rest before you get up and work – you rest. And there’s a truth there that if we will take time to find our rest, I think our work will be much more productive and much more powerful.
I think that just more will happen. And that’s why Jesus says, “I want you to know, there’s one thing that really matters. And that thing is to be at My feet”. So during this season of Easter, with the extra services and the extra food and the extra shopping and the extra, extra, extra – take time to sit before you serve, take time to worship before you work. Because what happens is you will change the atmosphere.
Choosing What Matters
The stories tells us that when Mary was with Jesus, just before He had his triumphal entry, just before He enters into what we call Holy week, she took a pint or a pound of expensive perfume, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet. She was at Jesus’ feet and she pours it on Jesus’ feet. It was very expensive. The story tells us, you can read it in John chapter 12, that it was a year’s worth of income.
So just put that in your own context. You’re going to fill out your taxes and you’re going to put down what you made in a year, not just the net, the gross. There’s a number, and then take that number and bring it to church and give it in one day. That is the extravagant love that Mary pours out to Jesus. So it’s so important to understand that discipleship – sitting at the feet of Jesus – is not just a “head thing”. It’s a heart thing to sit at the feet of Jesus and experience His Spirit. His grace. His love causes your heart to explode with joy. That’s what was happening in Mary’s heart. That one thing was that she was spending time with Jesus and her heart was being filled with a love for Him. That’s how you tell if your devotion is right – that it’s not just learning a verse and learning a fact about Jesus, but that the love of Jesus fills your heart.
Changing the Atmosphere
She pours out this expensive perfume. When you read this story, it says that the “whole atmosphere of the house was changed by her outpouring”. That if you were anywhere in that house, you would sense, you would smell the aroma. The atmosphere changed. When’s the last time that your devotion, your spending time with Jesus, was so impactful that it changed the atmosphere of where you were? And during this Easter season, you’re going to go to church, but it’s not just a matter of hearing. Again, the story of Jesus entry, His crucifixion, His resurrection, is it going to impact your heart? Is the one thing that Jesus talked about going to happen in your soul? That your heart is so filled with the love of God, people around you will sense the difference? It will change the atmosphere. And the whole house knew that Mary was doing something.
Let me ask this question. When’s the last time that your devotion, that flowed from sitting at the feet of Jesus, was so extravagant that it caused people to complain? That’s what happened to Mary. In fact, it was Judas, who criticized her. He says, “Well, why did she give such an extravagant outpouring of love?” “We could have taken that money and we could have used it for the poor”. And Jesus says, “You’ll have the poor always, but what she has done, she’s done in preparation for the Easter story”. She’s engaged in the one thing that really matters. She’s at the feet of Jesus. She’s being captivated by Jesus and her heart is being filled with Jesus – to reduce stress, to reduce anxiety in this season, and really in all seasons. Sit before you serve, worship before you work, and you’ll find the one thing that Jesus talked about. I think that really flows into the Easter story.
What Jesus did with Stress and Anxiety
If you just follow the story, Jesus is going to share a meal called “Passover” and He’s going to institute Holy Communion. And then where is He going to go? He’s going to go to the garden of Gethsemane and there He prays. What’s He doing? He’s spending time before He goes into the most difficult season of His life. He’s spending time in prayer. Now He was greatly distressed. The Bible says that He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. He sweat great drops of blood, and they say there’s a medical condition that occurs when you’re under so much stress that the blood vessels will break. And Jesus is under great stress, but what’s He doing in that moment of stress? What’s He doing in that moment of anxiety? He is connecting the Spirit of His Father. He is spending time in prayer preparation.
He’s teaching us that before we enter stressful days, we need to sit before we serve. He’s just teaching us that on the worst day of your life, when you feel overwhelmed, follow the example of Mary, find your place at Jesus’ feet. And it will change the atmosphere of the room that you’re in. I really pray that during this season, you would change the rooms that you’re in. Maybe your family’s together, but because you spent time with Jesus, the atmosphere will be different. You’ll go to church. And because you have spent time with Jesus, the atmosphere of your church will be different because you’ll have spent time with Him. You’ll go to the store, the grocery store, and the atmosphere will be different. Why? Because because you’ve spent time with Jesus and you’ve done that one thing that Jesus says is so important and you’ve connected with Jesus this Easter so that you would understand that in the 12th chapter of John, when he says, “I have to be lifted up, I have to be suspended between heaven and earth. I have go to the cross so that I can draw everyone to myself”… Do you know that Jesus is drawing you right now? He wants you to sit with Him. He wants you to draw in. If you want to see why, how much He loves you, think about what He did on the cross. And as you are drawn into His presence, you will be changed – not just in your head, but in your heart. As a disciple, you will grow. Anxiety will decrease and love, which overcomes anxiety, will increase. So think about that as you go through this Easter time.
Many of our friends that are part of the Influencers Family have sent in some questions just about this topic. They knew that we were going to talk about anxiety, stress. And here are some very interesting questions and I want to thank you for just sending them in. Let’s discuss them just for a few moments before you sign off.
Should you allow yourself to be overworked in a ministry based job or tolerate a toxic atmosphere?
Here someone writes, “When you’re in a ministry or a nonprofit-based job position, should you allow yourself to be overworked?” Good question. Another person writes about their work having to be a sacrifice to the Lord. Well, I think every everyone’s job, whether you’re in a church, nonprofit, for-profit, whatever you’re doing, I think there will be days that you are overworked and days where there’s just more to do. And we’re in one of those seasons right now because we’re getting ready for Easter – us in the church world. We have more meetings. We’re preparing for more people. We’re putting more chairs out. We have community out, reaching, and thousands of people coming. We are getting ready. So it raises the workload, but here’s the internal balance – and this is really in your own soul -we have a tendency, when we’ve got so much to do, so much to serve, that we limit the time of sitting. “I’m going to miss that time in the morning with Jesus because I just got too much to do”. And here’s the lesson: when you feel overworked – and you will, nonprofit or for-profit – there’ll be days that just are heavy, heavy days. In those days, make sure that you are spending time to recharge your soul, that you set time aside. And if there’s no time to do that, something is desperately wrong.
Someone asks a question about tolerating, a toxic work environment. And I think no one should endure a toxic work environment. And if there’s no time to recharge your soul, all you’re going to do is go down down. The anxiety will grow. The depression will grow. I really feel finding time for Jesus feeds our soul. And if you are in a toxic work environment, like what this person asks about, though, there’s a couple of things. One is, can you change? Can you bring the atmosphere and make the atmosphere different? Can you change the way you work? What can you do to lower the toxicity? That’s a good question. And then the organization has some responsibility as well. And if you find it cannot be changed, then you really should be looking for another place. Life is too short to spend time in a constant toxic environment. You will have stress. You will have overwhelming days, but don’t get caught in a downward spiral.
If you can’t lift it while you’re working, kind of like Tarzan, when he swings to the jungle, he’s looking for the next vine. Well, be looking for the next vine, what God has for you. Here’s a question. How do you set boundaries while still fulfilling God’s calling in full-time ministry, when ministry isn’t nine to five – and I would just say ministry isn’t nine to five – it’s it’s not even 40 hours. It’s in Jesus day. People work more than 40 hours. So I’m not against work. I think we need to have that in Jesus day. You are either a fisherman a farmer or craftsman. Jesus’ dad was a craftsman, an artisan, and Jesus was an apprentice as an artisan or a craftsman. But in farming and fishing, and even being a craftsman, you worked from early morning to late at night from sunrise to sunset. That’s when you did your work. So that was a sixties, 70 hour a week work. And I’m not for that either, but I think while you’re doing your work, couple of the boundaries I ask my team to keep in ministry is that they can be out some nights, but not more than two or three a week. I just say, “Hey, if you’re out every night, you can’t sustain a healthy family life.” If you’re out too many nights, especially if you’ve got children. I’ll ask my team, “How many nights were you out last week?” And if it’s like 4 or 5, we have to do something. We’ve have to change that. So, yeah, you’re not going to just work nine to five, not in ministry anyway, but you are going to find yourself. And then again, you have to find the balance and it’s internal to you. Are you taking time to sit before you serve?
Passion vs. Obligation: How to Avoid Anxiety in the Midst of Them
One last question before we we let you go. How do you avoid anxiety with passion versus obligation? I think I’ll just refer to the first things I talked about. I really feel anxiety is diminished through prayer, meditation, Scripture, worship, and then not everything we do is filled with passion. I was talking to one of my team members this week. There’s just a lot of obligation, a lot of just things you have to do every day. And you have moments of passion, but you have days of obligation, checklists that have to be done, not everything is fun that we do, but everything has to get done. So if you’re overstressed, if you’re anxious, understand where that anxiety’s coming from, check your time with Jesus, your time in prayer, meditation, because what prayer and meditation does, it changes your focus. It takes your focus off of the overwhelming things you have to do. And it places your attention on a God who is greater than your list of things to do by sitting at the feet of Jesus and the anxiety of your soul will decrease. Sit before you serve, worship before you work. I’m Scott Young for the Influencers Podcast.