Always feels a bit voyeuristic but it’s still fascinating to see another preacher’s notes.
John Piper’s Successor
We’ve all read the press releases and the official blogs, but what’s Jason Meyer really like? Timmy Brister gives a friend’s perspective and I found it hugely encouraging and reassuring.
Escapism: avoidance of less pleasant responsibilities
Identity: defining oneself by one’s work
Unbelief: distrusting God’s provision
Another reason crossed my mind today: enjoyment. And I think that’s often what drives many workaholic pastors – our work is so enjoyable, It’s not that way all the time, of course, but often we can find so much satisfaction and happiness in what we do.
An easy problem
It’s hard to be a workaholic if we hate our work. But if we love it, if we bounce out of bed most mornings, if we can’t wait to get into the study and then into the pulpit to share what we have studied, if we enjoy being with the sheep God has blessed us with, if we see God’s Word converting sinners and edifying God’s people, then overwork is going to be a much more easy problem to fall into.
In fact, sometimes the ministry is so enjoyable that it hardly feels like work at all.
So that’s OK then. If you love your work, and it’s good work like the ministry, then it doesn’t matter how many hours a week you put into it, does it? Enjoyment makes everything just fine!
No, it doesn’t. God gives us many good things to enjoy in this life – friends, hobbies, sport, music, etc. – but we must exercise self-denial lest these good and legitimate things become too prominent and too important in our lives.
The same goes for our work, even for ministry work. At times self-denial will require us to clock off early and play football with the kids, or take a day off to help our wife paint the kitchen. It may not be so enjoyable as the books, but sometimes tidying the garage or washing the car is more pleasing to God than perfecting the next sermon.
If the main driver of our ministries is personal pleasure, to the detriment of our bodies, family relationships, and other responsibilities, are we that much different from the drug-addict?
Parenting tips from the Puritans “The fact that the Puritans saw the family as good for all of society and was a gift from God lies at the heart of their views on family. While they are reputed to be harsh and dictatorial, when we read what they actually said (as opposed to their critics) we can get very solid advice.”
In this week’s Connected Kingdom, I take on the challenge of speaking about workaholism. Download the podcast or stream the audio to hear Tim and I discussing the subject further. Download here (right click) or click to play below.
Hello, my name’s David, and I’m a recovering workaholic. And I say that with no sense of pride, even though workaholism is one of our society’s most “respected”, even admirable sins. In fact, perhaps one of the places it is most admired is in the church, and especially in the Christian ministry.
Few Christians put this sin in the same category as homosexuality or murder. Yet, workaholism has probably destroyed more souls, especially in Christian homes, and maybe especially in pastors’ and missionaries’ homes, than either of these sins. Many pastors spend their days denouncing this -ism, that –ism, and every other -ism, while seeking and accepting plaudits for their workaholism.
Diagnosis So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Workaholics Anonymous – yes, there is such an organization – provides 20 questions. They include:
Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
Does that sound like someone you know? Your pastor? You?
Causes Idolatry is at the root of a lot of workaholism. Many make “work” their functional god, and it can be a very satisfying one too. It doesn’t just take; it gives back too. It often rewards with money, position, power, prestige, and praise
Other workaholics are motivated by greed. The work may be unsatisfying but the money sure promises to make up for it.
For some it’s all about escaping less pleasant, less “glamorous” responsibilities. Far easier to be a frequent flier than change diapers; to speak at conferences than speak to your teenage son; to chair board meetings than comfort your lonely wife.
For some, work is a matter of identity; it’s what defines them. In the 18th century most obituaries focused on the character of the deceased and rarely mentioned occupation. 150 years later, most obituaries assess a person in connection with their occupation and achievements. Probably explains many early graves as well.
Many workaholics are unable to trust God with their jobs and finances, and end up relying on excessive hours rather than on their heavenly Father.
Effects Like all –isms, this addiction is a destroyer. It destroys marriages, relationships with children, friendships, and usefulness in the church. It destroys happiness, it destroys bodies, and it destroys souls.
And yet this destroyer is so deceptive, so plausible: “I’m doing it for my family…I’m trying to get my kid through college…I’m serving God…”
And pastors, I know, there are unending stories in Christian literature about how many hours famous ministers and missionaries worked. What many of the biographies don’t tell you is that many of them died young or suffered long seasons of disease and burnout.
Cure The cure begins with cold turkey; take a full week off work, yes a full week, in order to examine yourself in the light of God’s Word. Ask your family if they think you’ve got work in the right place. How is your relationship with God, your devotional time? Listen to your body; is it bearing up under the stress or is it beginning to break up as you wear out your machinery?
Confess workaholism to God, and He will forgive you. He forgives all addicts who repent and seek mercy in Christ. Trusting in the finished work of Christ will bring a new calm, peace, and perspective into your life.
Then, to prove that your repentance is genuine, plot a future containing these elements:
Take every Sunday off work. If you are a pastor, designate any other day and stick to it. “Six days you shall labor” applies to pastors as well.
Memorize Psalm 127v1-2, and believe it.
Set a reasonable number of working hours per week (recent research shows a huge loss of productivity after 40 hours of work in a week).
Do not answer email or make work-related phone calls on vacation.
Schedule daily exercise and family time.
Remember your created limits. So much of workaholism is a defiance of the physical limitations that God our creator has imposed upon us.
Remember that the Lord has also put a curse on work. Knowing that fallen man would seek ultimate satisfaction in his work, rather than in Him, God built in “thorns and thistles and sweat” to drive man from work to Himself.
Project yourself to your deathbed. A hospice nurse recently said that she has not yet cared for a man that did not regret how many hours he put into his work.
Conclusion As for the rest of us, let’s not encourage workaholics by praising their addiction. Would you praise a drug addict or an alcoholic? Do them a favor, call them to repentance.
If it’s a pastor, remind him that not only is he sinning against God by harming himself and his family, he’s also providing a damaging role model for other men in the congregation.
If you’d like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.
Study then sleep for best results
Almost 30 years too late to salvage my school years: “A good night’s sleep shortly following your studies has a significant impact on your ability to retain information.”
A new series from Tim Challies. Good reason to get your older kids to start reading Tim’s blog.
What Jason Russell’s breakdown shows us about ourselves “The church’s response to mental illness is typically silence—a silence that is tantamount to complicity in the world’s rejection of the most vulnerable among us, that speaks volumes about the weakness of our faith in the face of suffering. When the church is not silent, it often condemns, suggesting people need exorcism or simply more faith, and denying people’s need for legitimate medical intervention to ease their suffering and help them function as the people God made them to be.”
In last week’s “review” of Lit! by Tony Reinke I mentioned that I was preparing Study Questions for each chapter of the book to “encourage” my two teenage sons not only to read the book but to interact with it and apply it to their lives. We started yesterday and hope to complete it over the next few Sunday afternoons.
Here are the questions in both pdf and Word format. Feel free to take the questions and adapt them for your own personal, family, or congregational use (you’ll find a sample of the questions for the first few chapters below).
And while we are on the subject of literature, a young friend of mine has “a book review site for kids by kids.” You’ll find it here at There and Blog Again.
Sample Study Questions for Lit!
Most the questions are directly related to the content of the book.
The questions marked * are not answered in the book, but you should be able to answer them as you reflect on how to apply the book to your own life.
Some of the “questions” are partial quotes from the book that you should complete.
What does C J Mahaney say is one of the evidences of conversion?
Finish quote: “Thinking deeply about the Gospel is the only way to…
What are the three meanings of “Lit”?
What are the two main sections in the book?
Chapter 1: Paper Pulp and Etched Granite
What was the most important day in the history of book publishing?
What six characteristics make the Bible different from other books?
What’s the relationship between Scripture and every other book we read?
Name the two genres of literature.
Finish quote: “Before we step into a fully stocked bookstore we must…
*What proportion of time do you give to the Bible compared to other books?
Chapter 2: Wide-Eyed into the Son
What impact does sin have on our reading of the Bible?
What will transform the way we read the Bible and all books?
“Discernment is the ability to do three things.” What are they?
What does John Owen say is the difference between the knowledge of believers and unbelievers?
Finish quote: “Christian book reading is never a solitary experience but an invitation…
* Describe a time when your reading brought you into communion with God
Chapter 3: Reading is Believing
What modern trend is threatening book reading?
Why does God ban images in His worship?
What four ways make words better than images at communicating precise meaning?
What did the Reformation recover?
* What will you change in your life to make sure that words have priority over images?
Chapter 4: Reading from across the Canyon
What seven truths of Scripture provide the foundation for a Biblical worldview?
What is a touchstone and how does a Biblical worldview act as a touchstone?
What three rules help us decide which books to avoid?
* Can you think of any other principles to help you decide what not to read?
* Are there books you wish you’d never read? Why?
Download the remaining questions here (Word or pdf)