As a runner I have learned to stay off the treadmill. I love to run outdoors, especially on those cold, crisp mornings of winter. It’s so invigorating! Maybe it’s because I’m actually running for my life just to stay warm, but I think mostly it’s because of the beautiful outdoors. You never know what beauty you’re going to see. Yet for me the treadmill is totally the opposite. It is so monotonous. It feels like I’m not making any progress even though I actually am. It can actually make me want to quit running altogether.
It occurred to me that’s exactly how it is with other areas of my life. I can easily get on the treadmill of ministry, family, pastoring, or whatever and lose my focus in the process. When that happens, I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing and I no longer see my progress.
As we begin another year, I have a piece of advice: Stay off the treadmill!
How can we make sure of this? First, we have to reassess. To reassess means to measure the value of something, to try and determine its actual worth. When I’m on the treadmill, I forget how important the people whom God has put into my life are. The treadmill causes me to underestimate how valuable my ministry is and, most importantly, how important my relationship with God is. The holidays are a gift, given so we can step back from the treadmill of life and reassess our relationships, our gifts and calling, and, most of all, our walk with God. The New Year’s song “Auld Lang Syne” comes from a Scottish poem and means “old times fondly remembered; old friendships tenderly rekindled.” When we reassess, we begin to rekindle the value of the life God has so generously given us.
Second, we have to repent. The most important part of the reassessing process is telling ourselves the truth about the condition of our lives. If we have fallen into a mindset of drudgery, if we’re on the treadmill and have devalued some of what God has entrusted to us, it’s time to repent. We may need to repent to our family for robbing them of our best effort. We may need to repent to God for treating His gifts casually. The church of Ephesus was on the ministry treadmill. They were still doing all the right things; they were working hard; but they had lost something very precious. They no longer valued God or people the way they once had. Jesus said to them,
I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works. (Revelation 2:2–5 NKJV)
Finally, we have to rest. There is a rest that transcends physical sleep. There is a rest we enter into by faith. This is a deep rest that strengthens the soul for the long journey. Jesus invited people to come unto Him and find rest for their souls. He said His yoke is easy and His burdens are light (Matthew 11:28–30). If life for you has become difficult and heavy, you may be on the treadmill. God promises a heaven-sent rest for your soul. I pray you find it!
Ron Bontrager is Lead Pastor at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information about Lakeview, please visit www.lakeviewchurch.org