John Wesley is commonly credited with these words: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Great words! However, allow me to add a bit of perspective.
First of all, not all scholars agree that John Wesley actually said—or penned—those words.
Secondly, they can become a stumbling block to some of us. If I take that quote literally and do all the good I can at all the time I can, my ‘as long as ever I can’ isn’t going to last very long.
- Jesus rested.
- The Bible tells us that sleep is a gift.
- Resting on the Sabbath is a command.
How do we balance the challenge to do all that we can with what I see as a Scriptural mandate to maintain some sort of balance in our lives? The only answer that makes sense to me is the need to do what my Houston pastor advised: Lean in, listen and obey. (Thank you, Ty VanHorn.)
Hannah Smith put it this way: We have nothing to do today but mind.
And Jan Karon, in her lovely Mitford series, quotes Madame Guyon, writing, “Rest. Rest. Rest in God’s love. The only work you are required now to do is to give your most intense attention to His still, small voice within.”
And every day, minding the still small voice of our Lord is likely to be plenty. Sometimes it will lead us to a physical or mental challenge that will exhaust our resources. Most of the time, when that happens, I believe our Wise Ruler will soon nudge us into a season of rest and recuperation. Rest can require just as much trust, obedience and self-discipline as tackling a hearty to do list. Giving in to the need to rest can be quite a blow to an ego that has tied its worth to work.
Remember, though, that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Our good works were planned for us long ago, and the One who planned them equipped us for them. If you’re stretched to the limit, have forgotten to rest, rarely sleep enough or have convinced yourself that Sabbaths were merely meant for another time, I beg you to reconsider.
Perhaps the words of my opening quote should be tweaked a bit to read: “Do all the good God asks you to do, in all the ways he has equipped you to do it, whenever or wherever he provides the opportunity, to all the people he asks you to serve, but never ignore his call to rest.”