Don’t Work Yourself to Death

By Bill Peel
(Note: This article is a repost from the Center for Faith and Work at LeTourneau University.) 
The accident occurred at 11:04 a.m. according to the police report.
A deafening crash and shower of glass and shrapnel had jolted me awake. I slammed on the brakes as a gooseneck trailer peeled away a good portion of the driver’s side of my car, barely missing me. My face stung and body ached when I climbed out of the wreckage. Thankfully, the driver of the pickup pulling the trailer was not hurt.
That day God used a few inches to keep me from becoming a real-time illustration of the expression, “He’s working himself to death.”
You see, I was mission-driven to change the way people think about work—something that still invigorates me every morning. But 30 years ago I was pursuing my calling at breakneck speed. I allowed my work to consume my heart and cloud my judgment. Falling asleep at the wheel was a frightening lesson on how a crammed schedule and minimal sleep can pave the way for disaster.
Jesus certainly didn’t pursue His work like that. We never see Him in a hurry, even when He was dealing with life-and-death situations. Although He was busy, He always took time to stop and interact with people. Yet He never let people’s nonstop needs crowd out time for personal rest and solitude.
In his blog at The Gospel Coalition, Joel Lindsey writes …
[Jesus] didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start his ministry till he was 30, and he didn’t kick it into high gear even when a little girl and a good friend would have avoided death had he picked up the pace a bit (Luke 8:40–56; John 11). Even when he used a form of transportation other than his feet, Jesus chose a colt not a thoroughbred (Mark 11:7).
Here are three things we can learn from Jesus about curtailing the kind of busyness that destroys our priorities and steals our joy.
Jesus accepted his limitations as a human being.
This meant that He couldn’t speak to every person, address every crisis, and heal every disease. And at the end of his life He told the Father,
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
God doesn’t expect or want us to take on every need and opportunity that comes our way. Paul tells us to …
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Jesus kept His mission front of mind.
Everything Jesus did pertained to His mission, which was based on what He knew the Father had sent Him to earth to do. Jesus gave them this answer:
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)
God wants us to discover His purpose for us and let it guide how we spend our time, energy and resources.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
When we know our purpose, we can say yes with conviction and no without guilt.
As Jesus did His work, He trusted the Father to be at work too.
Everything Jesus did—from crafting a table to healing the sick—He did so knowing that the Father was at work in Him, through Him, and around Him.
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (John 5:17).
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:10)
Paul reminds us that God joins us in every aspect of our work, as well.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
We’re never alone in our work. Know that God is at work in us, and alongside us, pursuing His purpose through us, frees us live our life and do our work at a sustainable, meaningful pace.
We all have periods when we need to move fast and work longer hours to meet deadlines. But these times need to be balanced with times when we slow down and rest—mindful that our welfare and success are always in God’s hands, not ours.
Be Still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Bill Peel is the Founding Executive Director of The Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University created to help Christians understand their work’s importance to God and experience Christ’s transforming presence and power in every workplace in every nation. For more than 25 years, Bill has coached thousands of men and women to discover their calling, grasp their significance to God’s kingdom, and become a spiritual influence in their workplace.