Last Word: Hearing from God
Lessons on taking a rest from ministry.
In the midst of our hectic world and busy lives, we can feel pressed by all kinds of activities and increasingly distracted. We need to make time to listen, to call to God expecting him to speak to us. And, because God speaks in different ways, we need to be active in discerning what he is saying. We must listen to God through his Holy Spirit, through his words to us in Scripture and through the world around us.
David Bahena (IFES Regional Secretary for Latin America) has had a number of special encounters with the Lord over the past nine months as he began further studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, USA. I invited him to share with us.
IFES General Secretary
Rest, recreation, and renewal
“After many years of service in the ministry, it is very easy to become a ‘bureaucrat’ of the gospel, doing things routinely and forgetting why and for whom ministry is done. Due to the amount of work and the urgency of the mission, it is very common for us to neglect our health, family and relationship with the Lord. We end up exhausted and even burned out, with families destroyed, frustrated and sick. Sabbaticals come to play a very important role. It is a time of resting, re-creation and renewal and to listen to the voices of God, the family and oneself.
“I thank God that on this sabbatical we had many opportunities as a family to walk together, to reconnect and re-encounter ourselves, to cultivate meaningful conversations with each other. These were experiences that will accompany us as a family in the next stage of our obedience.
“We also deepened and re-discovered the richness of life in hospitality and community. This was undoubtedly one of the greatest highlights and lessons of this sabbatical. We enjoyed and learned from the academic community of Fuller, the ecclesiastical community of Eagle Rock, and the community of friends and neighbours at Providence Mission Homes.
Rhythms of life and ministry
“We learned to become aware of the rhythms of life and ministry. Our sabbatical consisted of three very clear stages: first, we went through sickness and fatigue, later, we began to rest and relax, and finally, we experienced a time of celebration and joy. With this, we learned that it is only possible to recover the joy, the health and contentment in life around good rhythms of life and ministry. Resting is undoubtedly the greatest challenge. It takes great humility, courage and good theology to be able to rest.
“Finally, we gained an awareness of the present reality of our world and let ourselves be affected by this context. We arrived in the USA amid the election campaign and the arrival of a new president. We saw the pain, injustice and uncertainty of immigrant families. There were painful conversations at the children’s school, at our church, and at the seminary. At the same time, we looked in hope as churches, schools and civil society organisations organised to defend the most vulnerable.
“I arrived for this sabbatical, after 20 years of ministry, with many fears and worries, for the future and for my physical, emotional, spiritual and financial health. The passage that accompanied us was 1 Peter 1:3–5:
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.’ (NIV)
“God assured us that we have what is necessary for our life and ministry in this new decade. He has given us an indestructible, uncontaminated and immutable inheritance so that the ministry continues to flourish even in the desert with its challenges and dangers. In this way, God renewed our confidence and invited us to join the work he is doing in this ministry.”