Disciplines of Sustaining Grace

John Ortberg | March 23, 2019

All it takes is one glance at your calendar as your team prepares for Easter to reveal how the daily demands of any church leader can be crushing.

When you mesh your calendar with our current chaotic climate and overwhelming culture, you will see why John Ortberg says, “A tribulation filled world will always tend to take our joy and liveliness away.”

So how can we sustain our souls and character in the midst of an atmosphere that seems to only want to drain us to our ends?

In this video, John Ortberg calls us to look at the life of Jesus to see how He engaged in certain practices that allowed God’s grace to replenish His spirit and provide His daily sustenance. 

Watch the video to see how you can implement practices that help you take on the easy yoke in the middle of a hard ministry. 

Prefer to read rather than watch? Here’s the transcript to John’s talk:

The next movement is what might be called sustenance or sustaining grace. Say a little bit about this. The idea here is that a tribulation filled world will always tend to take our joy and liveliness away. And again, I love the church, I love ministry, I love doing what I get to do, but our tasks, our challenges, the world in which we live, even the churches that we serve and love will always tend to take joy and liveliness away. So Jesus engaged in certain practices that allowed God's grace to keep replenishing his spirit. Okay, this is sustenance. He prayed. Go through the Gospels and look at this sometime. He had a circle of close friends, the twelve that went life through him. People tend to underestimate the role of friendship in Jesus' life and sustenance. He even said to them, "I no longer call you servants, I call you my friends."

He engaged in regular corporate worship in the Synagogue. The Bible says, "As was his custom." He went to the synagogue. He fed his mind on scripture, he enjoyed God's creation, a mountain and garden and sea, he took long walks, he welcomed little children and blessed them. Notice one you might not have thought about, he enjoyed partying with nonreligious types. This was so much the case that it gave rise to rumors about him. Matthew 11:19, "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and people say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of immoral people.'" Now, one of the great problems for a lot of us in ministry is we think of spiritual practices or disciplines as one more obligation, one more set of tasks that we're supposed to do or feel guilty about and we totally misunderstand. For Jesus, these were not things that he did to show his Father how spiritual he was, they were conduits of grace. They were the means by which joy and liveliness was sustained within him. And we need that so badly.

When I first moved to Chicago a long time ago and it was a real busy place, lot of challenges, I called Dallas up and described what life was like to him. And then asked, "What do I need to do to stay spiritually vital and healthy and alive?" And there was a long pause. I will never, ever forget this. And then Dallas said just one sentence, "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life." And there was another long pause and then I said, "Okay, I got that one. Now what else do you have? Because I don't have a lot of time and I need to get as much wisdom as I can." And he said, "No, there's nothing else." He said, "Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day." He said, "Now, there's a difference between being busy and being hurried." Being busy often happened to Jesus, it's an outer condition of the body, having many things to do. Being hurried is a condition of the soul, where I'm so preoccupied and stressed and burdened by myself that I can no longer be present with God or with you. And the easy yolk is never hurried. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Like just go be alone in a quiet place for awhile.

Or other kind of practices. Another time, many years later, I went to Dallas and I was talking about our church and wanting to make disciples and how do we make disciples? I asked him, "Dallas, when it comes to like spiritual formation, really helping people in my church to grow spiritually, I really want to do that, what's the number one thing that I should do to help make disciples at my church?" And I thought Dallas would say, "Have people read this book or do this program or follow this curriculum or something." I'll never forget this. Again, there was a long pause, always with Dallas there is a long pause. And then he said, "You must arrange your time so that you are living in deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday experience with God." You must arrange your time so that you are living with deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God. I said, "No, no, no, I'm talking about how to make them disciples." He said, "No, you will always produce who you are." You can never plow around that. The people closest to you will see and they will carry that and the people close to them will carry that.

Guys, I want to tell you, you must do this. You must arrange your time so that you are living with deep contentment and joy and confidence in your everyday experience of God. Now, that's the presence of the Kingdom. That's the easy yolk. That's not your elder's job. That's not your boss's job. That's not your spouse's job. That will not happen someday when your ministry gets more successful or more easy. You must do that. 

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