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JOHN 6:60-66 | BURNED OUT ON GOD?

BURNED OUT ON GOD?

JOHN 6:60-66

MARCH 5, 2017

 

 

 

“WHEN EARL WAS FACING HIS SECOND CANCER SURGERY, HE WAS NOT SURE HOW TO PREPARE.  HE WAS NOT A CHURCHGOER, HAVING BURNED OUT ON GOD DURING A PAINFUL CHILDHOOD IN PAROCHIAL SCHOOL.”

 

THIS IS HOW THE REVEREND BARBRA BROWN TAYLOR BEGINS A DESCRIPTION OF EARL’S JOURNEY INTO CANCER, AND HIS CHILDREN’S FAITH, THAT COMES, SOMETHING, TO HIS RESCUE.

 

BURNED OUT ON GOD.

 

SOME PEOPLE BURN OUT ON GOD EARLY – A BAD EXPERIENCE IN PAROCHIAL SCHOOL; THE VICTIM OF ABUSE, PERHAPS.

 

SOME BURNOUT IN HIGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE, OFTEN, ONLY, TO FIND THEIR FAITH REKINDLED AT THE TIME OF THEIR MARRIAGE, OR STARTING A FAMILY.

 

SOME BURN OUT ALONG THE WAY, LOSING THEIR WAY; OR FINDING IT; OR AS THE BAND, THE EAGLES MIGHT SAY: “OR DID THEY JUST GET LAZY?”

 

A STRIKING TRAGEDY, AN UNANSWERED PRAYER, AN UNEXPLAINED LOSS, YOU NAME IT, ANY OF THESE CAN BE THE CATALYST FOR BURNING OUT ON GOD.

 

EVEN THE WORLD AROUND US CAN CAUSE US TO BURN OUT ON GOD.  DESPITE ALL OUR BELIEVING, ALL OUR PRAYING, ALL OUR CHRISTIAN WORK, THE WORLD’S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER; MAYBE WORSE IN SOME WAYS, AND WE WONDER, “WHERE THE HECK IS GOD IN ALL THIS?”  AND SOME JUST STOP TRYING.

 

LIKE MANY BURNOUTS, BURNING OUT ON YOUR JOB, A RELATIONSHIP, CAREGIVING FOR ANOTHER; BURNING OUT ON GOD CAN COME FROM TRYING TO DO TOO MUCH.

 

ONE DAY, ONE MONTH, ONE YEAR, YOU JUST STOP BELIEVING; STOP TRYING; STOP COMING TO CHURCH; STOP PRAYING; STOP CARING ABOUT OTHERS;

 

OR, IF STILL CARING, DOING LITTLE IN THE WAY OF SHOWING IT IN ANY TANGIBLE WAY; IN ANY WAY, ANYONE WOULD NOTICE.

 

FLAMING OUT, RUSTING OUT, WEARING OUT, BURNING OUT ON GOD, CAN COME IN MANY SHAPES AND SIZES;

 

IT CAN BE INSTANTANEOUS; HAPPEN OVER TIME; OR MAYBE YOU JUST GROW APART FROM GOD.

 

WE SEE IT IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING, AND IN THE SURROUNDING PASSAGES FROM THE GOSPEL OF JOHN; THE RANGE OF RESPONSES TO JESUS AMONG HIS FOLLOWERS: COMPLAINING, DISBELIEF; REJECTION; BETRAYAL.

 

IN THE FACE OF JESUS’ MOST EXPLICIT OFFER OF HIMSELF TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE, EVEN MANY OF HIS FOLLOWERS TURN AWAY.

 

WHEN BURNING OUT ON GOD DOES HAPPEN, ALMOST INSTANTANEOUSLY, SOMETHING, OR NOTHING, WILL TAKE ITS PLACE.

 

A NEW HOBBY; A NEW RELATIONSHIP; A NEW LIFE’S PURSUIT; OR JUST LAZILY SITTING IN YOUR BARCALOUNGER, WASTING AWAY THE HOURS.

 

ONE COUPLE COMES TO MY MIND, FROM YEARS AGO, DURING MY MINISTRY IN THE FIRST CHURCH I SERVED.

 

THEY BURNED OUT ON GOD, AND REPLACED HIM WITH THEIR NEWFOUND HOBBY OF GOING TO GARAGE SALES ON SUNDAY MORNINGS.

 

IT WAS THEIR CHOICE, OF COURSE; BUT WHAT USED TO REALLY FROST ME WAS THE WAY THEY STILL WANTED THE CHURCH TO CARE FOR THEIR AGED MOTHER BY HAVING PEOPLE, INCLUDING ME, VISIT HER ON A REGULAR BASIS;

 

OR CALLING THE CHURCH EVERY TIME THEY, OR ONE OF THEIR GROWN CHILDREN, OR GRANDCHILDREN NEEDED SOMETHING; OR NEEDED PRAYING FOR, FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER.

 

THEY HAD BURNED OUT ON GOD, GIVEN UP ON CHURCH, BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT THE CHURCH, AND I SUPPOSE, GOD, TO BURN OUT ON THEM.

 

AND BACK TO THAT BARCALOUNGER – IN THAT SAME CHURCH – WE HAD A WOMAN, A PARISHIONER, A PATIENT, WHO HAD SURGERY, ONLY TO RECOVER WELL, BUT WHO MADE UP HER MIND THAT SHE WAS GOING TO BED, AND NEVER GETTING UP AGAIN.

 

SHE NEEDED REHAB – SHE NEEDED TO GET ON HER FEET AGAIN – NEEDED TO GET GOING AGAIN, AND COULD HAVE, BUT SIMPLY CHOSE NOT TO DO SO.

 

EVERYONE TOLD HER SO; THAT THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH HER PHYSICALLY THAT WAS PREVENTING HER FROM GETTING UP AND GETTING ON WITH HER LIFE;

 

FOR WHATEVER REASON, AND SHE NEVER REALLY COULD SAY WHY, THOUGH WE ALL MADE REPEATED ATTEMPTS TO GET HER TO EXPLAIN, SHE WENT TO BED, AND NEVER GOT UP AGAIN.  SHE LASTED THIS WAY FOR YEARS.

 

I DON’T KNOW WHAT ALL SHE BURNED OUT ON FOLLOWING THAT SURGERY, BUT IT SEEMED LIKE EVERYTHING, NOT THE LEAST OF WHICH WAS GOD.

 

SHE NO LONGER CARED ABOUT GOD; AND NO LONGER CARED IF GOD CARED ABOUT HER.

 

SHE DIDN’T CARE ABOUT THE CHURCH, THOUGH, GOD BLESS THEM, THE CHURCH CONTINUED TO CARE FOR HER.

 

FROM WHENCE THEY DREW THE PATIENCE, THE PERSEVERANCE, THE STRENGTH, A REASON TO CARE ABOUT HER, I DON’T KNOW, BUT THEY DID, AND IT WAS A TESTIMONY TO THEIR FAITH, AND GOD BLESSED THEM.

 

THERE ARE PLENTY OF BOOKS ON BURNOUT, OF COURSE, AND WHILE THEY TEND TO BE ABOUT BURNING OUT ON OUR JOBS, ON CAREGIVING, ON SOMETHING OTHER THAN GOD, AND OUR FAITH, AND THE CHURCH, MANY OF THE SAME PRINCIPLES APPLY.

 

THERE ARE PLENTY OF HELPFUL TIPS OUT THERE, INCLUDING, ON HOW NOT TO BURN OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE; SO, I WILL LEAVE IT TO YOU TO READ ONE OF THEM, IF YOU WISH, REGARDLESS OF THE OBJECT OF YOUR BURNOUT.

 

THAT BEING SAID, WHAT DO I HAVE TO OFFER YOU THIS MORNING ABOUT BURNING OUT ON GOD?

 

FIRST, IF YOU NEVER HAVE; IF YOU’VE NEVER BURNED OUT ON GOD, THANK GOD; CONSIDER YOURSELF BLESSED; AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

 

SECONDLY, SOME OF YOU MAY THINK ME BLASPHEMOUS FOR EVEN RAISING THE SUBJECT; BURNING OUT ON GOD, INDEED!

 

THAT BY SPEAKING IT, I’M GIVING IT CREDENCE.  THAT I SHOULD JUST TELL PEOPLE TO POWER THROUGH; TO “FAITH” THEIR WAY OUT OF BURNING OUT.

 

SOME MAY BELIEVE I SHOULD CONDEMN IT ON THE SPOT, AND POINT TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF A LACK OF FAITH IN GOD, INCLUDING THE POSSIBLE “ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES” PEOPLE MAY FACE;

 

BUT THAT SEEMS A BIT COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO DOING ANYTHING GOOD;

AND WOULD LIKELY CONFIRM THE REASON FOR SOME PEOPLE’S BURNOUT;

 

AND, BECAUSE THIS KIND OF BURNOUT CAN HAPPEN TO ANY OF US, AT TIMES;

PERHAPS, IT’S MORE HELPFUL TO OFFER SOME ADVICE;

 

AND SAID ADVICE DEPENDS, IN PART, ON WHEN AND HOW YOUR BURNOUT HAPPENED; AND WHETHER I’VE GOTTEN TO YOU IN TIME TO REVERSE IT.

 

IF YOU, OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW, WHO’S NOT HERE, BURNED OUT EARLY, THE RESULT OF ABUSE, BETRAYAL, OR DISAPPOINTMENT WITH THE CHURCH, OR A MINISTER, LEADER, MEMBER, OR CHURCH SQUABBLE;

 

I WOULD ASK THAT YOU GIVE GOD ANOTHER TRY.

 

I’D ALSO ASK YOU TO REMEMBER THAT GOD IS GOD, AND GOD’S PEOPLE ARE NOT; AND THE CHURCH IS NOT.  GOD IS GOD, HIS PEOPLE ARE NOT!  DON’T GIVE UP ON GOD, BECAUSE OF GOD’S PEOPLE.

 

ALLOW YOUR WOUNDS, WHILE DEEP, AND YOUR SCARS, WHILE PERMANENT, TO FIND SOME HEALING BALM IN GOD – WHO CARES – AND MAYBE EVEN IN A CHURCH, AGAIN, THAT CARES.

 

IF YOUR BURNOUT CAME IN HIGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE, COME BACK.

 

THE FAITH OF YOUR CHILDHOOD HAS MUCH TO SAY TO YOUR LIFE NOW; TO YOUR MARRIAGE, IF MARRIED; TO YOUR CHILDREN, IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN.

 

COME BACK; GIVE GOD, YOUR FAITH, AND THE CHURCH, ANOTHER TRY.

 

IF YOU ARE DISENCHANTED, DISENFRANCHISED, DISCOURAGED, TAKE TIME TO RECOVER.

 

IF YOU ARE BURNED OUT FROM OVER-DOING, THEN COME FOR THE RECEIVING; LEARN HOW TO SAY “NO” FOR A WHILE;

 

BUT REMEMBER TO APPRECIATE THOSE WHO ARE SAYING “YES” WHILE YOU ARE IN YOUR SEASON OF “NO;” ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO CARE FOR YOU, AND MINISTER TO YOU, IN THIS TIME.

 

TO THE REST OF THE CHURCH, HONOR THE SEASON OF “NO” IN OTHERS FOR AS LONG AS THEY NEED TO BE THERE.

 

IF YOU ARE OLDER – AND BURNED OUT – AND IN SOMETHING OF A SEMI-PERMANENT SEASON OF “NO;” FIND GOD’S “YES” BY RESTING IN THE ARMS OF GOD.

 

IF YOU’RE NOT THERE YET, BUT FEEL LIKE BURNING OUT ON GOD MIGHT BE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER: DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW, SO AS NOT TO GET TO THAT PLACE.

“AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE.”

 

IT’S EASIER TO PREVENT BURNOUT THAN TO RECOVER FROM IT;

 

SO, DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOURSELF; WITH GOD; TO KEEP FROM GETTING TO THAT PLACE.

 

INCLUDING, IF NECESSARY, TURNING OFF THE NEWS; TUNING OUT THE WORLD, FOR A WHILE.

 

LENT JUST MAY BE THE TIME TO DO THIS; TO FOCUS MORE ON GOD, AND SELF, AND FAITH, AND LESS ON WHAT THE WORLD IS UP TO.

 

A SORT OF SEASON OF “NO” TO THE WORLD, AND “YES” TO GOD.

 

DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOURSELF, AND YOUR FAITH:

 

REST; SAY “NO;” REINVENT YOURSELF; COME FOR THE RECEIVING; FIND NEW AND DIFFERENT WAYS TO SERVE; TRY USING DIFFERENT GIFTS FOR A CHANGE; FIND DIFFERENT RECIPIENTS FOR YOUR MINISTRY.

 

ENTREPRENEUR AND NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR GRANT CARDONE PUTS IN A LOT OF HOURS.

 

“THERE ARE 168 HOURS IN A WEEK.  YOU SHOULD BE WORKING MOST OF THEM,” THE SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRE SAYS.

 

“IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE YOUR CONDITION, YOU HAVE TO WORK.  IF YOU CAN OUTWORK THE REST OF THE POPULATION, YOU’RE GOING TO GET LUCKY.”

 

CARDONE, WHO WAS DEEP IN DEBT AND STUCK IN A JOB HE HATED BEFORE BUILDING HIS MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FORTUNE, LOGS AT LEAST 95 HOURS A WEEK.

 

“THE SECRET TO PREVENTING BURNOUT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TAKING A VACATION OR PERSONAL DAY,” HE SAYS.

 

“ANY TIME YOU’RE FEELING BURNED OUT – ANY TIME YOU ARE EXHAUSTED – LOOK FOR YOUR PURPOSE.

 

PEOPLE BURN OUT FOR ONE REASON: BECAUSE THEY ARE OFF PURPOSE.” CARDONE SAYS.

 

(AND I WOULD SAY THE SAME THING GOES FOR BURNING OUT ON GOD.)

 

HE CONTINUES, “THINK ABOUT WHAT IT IS YOU’RE HERE TO DO.”

“YOU’VE GOT TO FIND THAT RICH PART OF YOU, THE REASON YOU ARE HERE, AND GO OUT EVERY DAY AND CHASE IT DOWN, HUNT IT DOWN, AND BRING IT INTO FOCUS.”

 

“YOU DO NOT GET TIRED WHEN YOU’RE HAVING FUN,” HE CONTINUES.

 

SO MAYBE THAT IS PART OF THE EQUATION WHEN IT COMES TO BURNING OUT ON GOD, AS WELL, HAVING FUN.

 

ARE WE HAVING FUN, AS A BELIEVER IN GOD?  IF NOT, WE MAY BE DOING IT WRONG.

 

IN THE REFORMED TRADITION, IN WHAT’S KNOWN AS THE SHORTER CATECHISM OF THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH, THE FIRST QUESTION IS REALLY THE FIRST THING WE SHOULD BE DOING AS PEOPLE OF GOD.

 

THE QUESTION READS: “WHAT IS THE CHIEF END OF MAN?”  (OUR MAIN PURPOSE?)

 

THE ANSWER: “MAN’S CHIEF END (OUR MAIN PURPOSE) IS TO GLORIFY GOD, AND ENJOY GOD FOREVER.”

 

GLORIFY GOD.  ENJOY GOD!

 

PERHAPS THAT, AND THAT ALONE, IS THE ANSWER TO OUR NOT BURNING OUT ON GOD;

 

ENJOYING GOD… FOREVER!

 

 

 

 

 

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