Lessons from the couch (2)

“Minister from who you are, not what you do.”

I can’t remember which of my mentors taught me this, but it has stuck with me. The Christian life is supposed to flow out of who we are in Christ, not what we do for Christ. Identity comes before activity, be-ing before do-ing.

But the truth is that very few of us actually live like that. Too often, activities trample right over identity when it comes to how we live. Planting a church is hard work, there’s an intentionality in everything we do. There’s vision to be formed and shared. There’s membership to be established and developed. There are people to be cared for, issues to be resolved. There are leaders to be trained and released. There’s the gospel to be shared, lost people to be found. There’s money to be raised and stewarded. There are sermons to be prepared and preached. There are community groups to be planned and led. There are websites and social media accounts to be built and kept up-to-date. There are books to be read and applied. The things is, that none of these activities are ever complete, they’re like painting the forth rail bridge, by the time you finish you its time to start again.

That level of busyness isn’t unique to church planters, lots of people are busier than me, that’s just what busyness looks like in my life. The problem we all have is that when there’s so much to do, when all of life is to be intentional, it’s so, so easy to let activity take priority over identity, for do-ing to become more important than be-ing.

But there’s nothing intentional about being stuck on the couch, I wouldn’t have chosen to have all of my activities taken away. But while I’ve been here, God’s been teaching me about being rather than doing.


In the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, Martha misses being with Jesus because she was “distracted by much serving”. Mary gets “the good portion” because she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. For Martha, activity took priority over identity, do-ing trumped be-ing. The good portion is just ‘to be’ with Jesus and according to Jesus that’s all that’s “necessary.”

Think about it, Jesus calls the disciples to be with Him. (Mark 3:14) Jesus, Himself so often disappears (often during the busiest times) to quiet places to be with His Father. Here’s the lesson God’s been teaching me. God wants us to be with Him more than He wants us to work for Him. Be-ing is with Jesus is more important that do-ing for Jesus.

What a challenge that is! So often I’m like Martha, with so much to do for Jesus that I miss being with Jesus. Sure, I read my Bible but I don’t meditate on it because I need to get out the door. Sure, I pray but I squeeze it in while I’m doing something else. Sometimes, I don’t do either because there’s just so much that I need to be doing.

Being on the couch has given me unhurried time with God, I’m not able to do stuff for Him so I just get to be with Him. I’ve received the same gentle rebuke as Martha. God has reminded me what’s truly important and necessary. He just wants me to be with Him. The goal of Bible reading isn’t to read the Bible but to know God more deeply. The goal of prayer isn’t to fulfil a duty but to express love for God. Jesus wants us to sit at His feet, to listen to His teaching and to love Him, like Mary.

What I’ve found is that He really is lovely. Spending time with Jesus is the most enjoyable thing in the world. Being with Him truly is the good portion. My heart has been refreshed,  I’m full of joy – I’m actually enjoying not being able to do anything. How strange is that?

God’s teaching me the lesson He taught Martha and I don’t want to forget it. When I’m able to do more for God, I don’t want to let do-ing take priority over be-ing. I want to intentionally make meaningful time with God, the highest priority. I want to minister from who I am, not what I do.

You should try it too.


Lessons from the couch (1)

Over the last few years, I (Pete) have had issues with tendons in my right leg. Normally, this means a couple of days of stiffness before it clears up. However, on December 31st, things flared up while I was walking and haven’t settled down. So far there hasn’t been one day in 2018 where I’ve been able to walk normally. Having seen a surgeon, I have now been signed off work for at least 6 weeks while I wait for scans and see a specialist in Aberdeen. On Monday, it will be 5 weeks since I was able to walk, stand or sit up, for any length of time. I’m pretty much stuck on the couch.

It has been, and looks like it will continue to be, a very frustrating time. Yet, I see God in it and wanted to share some of what I’m learning.


A couple of Sundays ago, I started to read Ezra (as you do) and was struck by the picture of God it paints. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon for 70 years, hopelessly unable to free themselves. Yet, Ezra is written after the Lord raised up Cyrus – the Persian king – to defeat the Babylonians. The story begins with God stirring Cyrus’ heart to send His people home. This fulfilled what Isaiah had predicted 150 years earlier. Ezra 1 reveals God to be the Lord of heaven and earth, He’s the ruler of kings and of kingdoms. The events of history are under His control, He’s got the whole world in His hands. Through Cyrus, God was working out His plans and purposes.

That vision of God brings me comfort. It reminds me that God is in charge of my circumstances. He’s the only person who knows my full diagnosis. He could have stopped my leg from getting injured. He could choose to heal me even as I type. But for now, I’m on the couch. Why? Because, for now, God wants me on the couch. He has got me exactly where He wants me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t seek healing, through medicine and prayer, but the truth of God’s control over my life, laces my frustration with purpose. This time is not wasted, God has purpose in it, and with that I am content.