I have heard pastors say, “I would rather wear out than rust out!” The man who first popularized his statement was evangelist George Whitefield, who went on topreach himself to death a few weeks later. When confronted about his failing health and brutal schedule, Whitefield replied that he would rest once he got to heaven. When confronted further about the pace he kept, he said,“I would rather wear out than rust out!”
Although Whitefield was only in his mid-fifties, he had aged rapidlyand died prematurely. He was white-haired and corpulent, suffering from angina, which gave his face a certain puffiness, making him look a lot older than he really was. Sometimes, his infirmities made him irritable.
Whitefield rejected this reproof from a fellow minister, William Tennent, just days before he preached his last sermon.
One evening after preaching in church, Whitefield went to the manse of the pastor, who had gathered the other area pastors together for dinner after the sermon. As they ate, Whitefield talked joyfully of soon dying and rhapsodized at the thought of heaven. “Do you not share my joy at our hope of dying soon in our full assurance, through Christ’s blood, of entering heaven?”
They all assented—except pastor William Tennent. He remained silent.
“Brother Tennent,” exclaimed George. “You are the oldest man among us. Do you not rejoice that your being called home is so near at hand?”
“I have no wish about it!”
“What, sir, no joy at the near prospect of heaven?” asked George.
“No, sir, it is no pleasure to me at all. And if you knew your duty, it would be none to you, Brother Whitefield. I have nothing to do with death. My business is to live as longas I can, and as wellas I can.”
“But,” pressed Whitefield, “would you not choose death, and the gates of heaven, and to see the face of the Lord Jesus welcoming you, if the choice were left to you?”
“Sir,” said Tennent solemnly, “I have no choice about it. I am God’s servant and have engaged to do His business as long as He pleases. Let me ask you a question, Brother Whitefield. What do you think I would say if I sent my man Tom into the field to plough, and at noon I found him lounging under a tree and he complained, ‘Master, the sun is hot, and the ploughing hard and I am weary. Master, please let me go home!’ Why, I would answer he was a lazy fellow and he should do the work I had given him until I pleased to call him home.”
There is no record as to how that meal ended or how quickly the party broke up. We do know that George struggled at various times with illness and the physical effects of an overly full preaching itinerary that resulted in his death a short time after this meetings.
Whitefield’s famous response about not rusting out has been repeated through the years by many in ministry, and even by those in the entertainment business, who have been confronted about their tendency to overextend themselves. While it has become one of his well-known quotes, the context in which it was given was his being reproved by his fellow ministers who felt he was prematurely ending his much-valued ministry. Only a few days after having made his famous statement, George lay dying. Barely audible because of a sever asthmatic attack, his words were, “I am almost suffocated. I can scarcely breathe.”26He got out of bed and stumbled to the open window. There, he stood for a few minutes, gasping for his last breath as a new day dawned over his beloved New England. Soon scores of people would gather together in church only to learn the sad news that George Whitefield would not be preaching that morning as had been expected.
NEW BOOK RELEASE
Few concepts have added as much life to my life as the practice of taking a Sabbath, which I discovered during my first year as a pastor. To this day, I am grateful to the Lord of the Sabbath, who led me into this revelation. I don’t think I would have found it otherwise, in part because I hadn’t come across the concept in any of the books I was reading at the time and I hadn’t met a pastor who was practicing it. Sure, some pastors took days off as needed, and others practiced a Sabbath’s rest in a legalistic way. It would be a long time, however, before I met anyone who observed a Sabbath in a wholesome and balanced way.
These study notes were intended to inspire us all to come aside to seek the Lord so that He can pastor us again and again. After encountering Him, we can more effectivelymanage the stress that so easily besets us. Learning to stop to rest and reflect is the primary way God, as our Pastor, restores our souls. I trust this study guide will challenge you in your pursuit of Him and your labor to enter His rest.
I have been working on this book, on and off for years, and now am make it available to you.
RESISITING A REST
What if one of the highest rewards in life is something we are avoiding, depriving ourselves of, or postponing, until we are too tired to enjoy it.
It is often said, “They rested with their fathers” or “He gave them rest on every side” as if it were a reward, not for the lazy, but for those who were doing His will. Nor is it a false sense of retirement, but it is as real rest – something worth striving for, so we can enter into what God Himself experienced when He rested from his labors.
As you go from one end of the Bible to the other, there is one reward that stands out more than others, such as riches, honor, or life. It seems that it is one of the highest reward and it is reserved for those who are highly favored.
Ask yourself why you resist the concept of rest. Why do you withhold from yourself the very thing God offered as a gift?