Saturday, 10 September 2016

Talk to Thomas: Give it a rest

We all come across problems and we all have different ways of dealing with them. I sometimes jot down the problems and as many different solutions as I can, whether practical or not (I once wrote "travel back in time" as a potential panacea). Some people use the guided reflection technique where you imagine yourself going up a mountain and you speak with a wise old person and they tell you the solution. Another technique I use is to imagine I'm giving the advice to someone else. So, I'm going to write a few posts where I am both the agony uncle and the concerned reader. If you would like to be the concerned reader and send in your own questions, please do! This will save me from constantly talking to myself.

Dear Thomas

In Matthew, Jesus says that those who are weary and burdened should come to him, for he will give them rest. I believe this; I really do. But I'm not sure this is outworked in the way we live and how the church operates. I feel like I'm struggling with all the things expected of me (attend things on Sundays and midweek; be involved with community events; pray everyday for everyone and everything (preferably in tongues of the Spirit); share my testimony at every opportunity; memorise the Bible off by heart; feed the poor, heal the sick, clothe the naked; be a good employee, colleague, friend and neighbour; be available to whomever needs you; share communion; share meals; share bank accounts; give regularly; sing songs; be nice to everyone (even- well you know who I'm thinking of); cast out demons; handle snakes and perform miracles). I feel like I'm cracking under the strain of it all.



To,, me,

Well, my inner psyche, this is called legalism. This is when your faith simply becomes a to-do list. And this is exactly what Jesus criticised the Pharisees for promoting. He wasn't happy that the religious leaders created lists of obligations and requirements without showing compassion for those that did not meet their impossibly high standards. Moreover, this attitude breeds unhealthy comparisons and a judgmental attitude. You end up condemning yourself and others because no-one can ever meet everyone's expectations.

But that is not an excuse not to do those things. The Bible tells you they are good things to do, therefore we should look to do it. If you don't show obedience to God's word then you are disobedient.

So, how are we meant to do these things without burning out or becoming a Pharisee? Well, we know what the answer always was back in Sunday School: Jesus. Jesus, funnily enough, is pretty central to how we should be living our lives.

First, our motivation starts with him. Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins. He gave this wonderful gift to you. He saved us from death, and, if that weren't already enough, he continues to bless us every day! It is our gratitude and joy that should compel us to do the things that the Bible tells us to. It's like when we get a brilliant present from someone, we can't help but be grateful and do things to show our appreciation.

Quite often, however, we forget the fantastic generosity we have been shown. When this happens, what we do just becomes a tick-box exercise, not a way to express the joy and wonder we feel. It is then that the cracks start to show.

So, make sure you take time to reflect on how amazing God is and what a privilege it is to serve him.

Second, we should look to Jesus' life to see how we should be living ours. Two things to note: he took breaks and also he didn't do everything. There are quite a few instances when Jesus moved on from a place because he either needed some time spent with God, or because simply he couldn't do it all. And he was Jesus. You need to remember that following Jesus wasn't a call into completing a to-do list but a call to get to know God. We need to say no to things that crowd out opportunities to spend time with God and also to spend time doing things that energise us and help us be the people Good intended. For some this may be walks in the countryside, others might want to go sky-diving. However, use these opportunities to connect with God, thanking him that he gives us these things to enjoy.

Think about what God-given priorities you have and do those! It can be hard, especially in a society where we are called to be goal orientated and achievers. But sometimes we just need to enjoy good things and enjoy getting to know or God.

I hope this helps,


You can help too!

  1. Do you sometimes find the pressure to be the perfect Christian too much? How do you deal with it?
  2. What are the dangers of doing too much? What are the dangers of doing too little?
  3. How do you make sure you get your priorities in order?
  4. What issues or topics do you want me to write about? If you want to send in an advice column style letter, please do!

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