The Thistle

Covenant Seminary Alumni Devotional: Rest, Activity, and the Temptation of Self-Reliance

Last spring and summer I went through a less busy season of life, and it was very spiritually fruitful for me. God taught me things I could have learned in no other way. What is it Milton says? “They also serve who only stand and wait.” There is something about waiting, something about inactivity and reflection that can teach us things we cannot learn when we are constantly bouncing from one responsibility to the next.

Since last fall, however, I’ve been in a busy season again. And I am finding that it also can be very fruitful. Learning to live with incompleteness teaches me to walk by faith. There are so many things these days I don’t have time to do: people to spend time with, books and blogs to read, things on my desk to get uncluttered, details to check off my to do list. I am learning to view this as an opportunity, not a problem, because God has not called me to do more than can be done in the time that I have. If I can’t work hard and then leave the results to God, that shows I am ultimately trusting in myself, not Him.

Especially in my sermon preparation, I am learning that over-preparation can be a form of self-trust. The feeling that I need to have every word exactly planned out and every thought exactly filled often shows up because I don’t trust that God’s power is what really matters, and because I am not looking to him in the moment of preaching. God is helping me to work hard on my preaching without trusting in my hard work. Right before I stand up to preach or teach, in that moment of poignancy nd nervousness, I am learning to repent more deeply, to surrender more fully, to give myself away to God again. In my incompleteness, He has more room to show up with His power.

Gavin Ortlund (MDiv ’08), Covenant Theological Seminary Alumnus
Youth Pastor, Sierra Madre Congregational Church
Sierra Madre, CA