Life is hard (no great revelation there…). None of us escapes life’s challenges, stresses, workloads, and unrelenting pace. In the 21st century life comes at us faster than it ever has, and we in turn work longer, harder, and faster to try and keep up.
And we get tired… We call it burnout, overwhelm, or just that fatigue that we feel down into our bones. We just can’t get it all done, and we wonder if it’s just us, or are other people struggling also? My belief is that at least some of the time we all experience those feelings. Is there some secret to developing more stamina? Perhaps there is.
When doing research for a new series called “Heroes of the Faith” I was reading about the life of Charles Spurgeon. Living in London in the mid-1800’s and known as the “Prince of Preachers”, Spurgeon was a productivity dynamo in an age where technology was unknown- all he used was pen and paper. And yet he produced:
- His collected sermons fill 63 volumes, and rival in size the 27 volume ninth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. It is said that the works of Spurgeon form the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.
- As he described it: “No one living knows the toil and care I have to bear.… I have to look after the Orphanage, have charge of a church with four thousand members, sometimes there are marriages and burials to be undertaken, there is the weekly sermon to be revised, The Sword and the Trowel to be edited, and besides all that, a weekly average of five hundred letters to be answered. This, however, is only half my duty, for there are innumerable churches established by friends, with the affairs of which I am closely connected, to say nothing of the cases of difficulty which are constantly being referred to me.”
- Spurgeon also founded and continued to supervise 66 organizations.
- He would typically read six substantial books a week with near total recall and found the time to author more than 140 books.
He managed all this by often working 18-hour days.
When pressed about his incredible work schedule Spurgeon responded: “If by excessive labour, we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Master’s service, then glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of Heaven! It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed.” Additional thoughts from him regarding work ethic include: “We can only produce life in others by the wear and tear of our own being. This is a natural and spiritual law, – that fruit can only come to the seed by its spending and be spent even to self-exhaustion.” And again: “In every minister’s life there should be traces of stern labour. Brethren, do something; do something; DO SOMETHING. While Committees waste their time over resolutions, do something. While Societies and Unions are making constitutions, let us win souls. Too often we discuss, and discuss, and discuss, while Satan only laughs in his sleeve.… Get to work and quit yourselves like men.” And finally: “Satisfaction with results will be the [death] knell of progress. No man is good who thinks that he cannot be better. He has no holiness who thinks that he is holy enough.”
While precious few of us have the stamina to work 18-hour days (nor should we want to), I try to find the spark of inspiration when I read Spurgeon’s words. I think the kernel is found in his words: “It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus.” His passion for preaching the Gospel carried him through his often brutal schedule. Coupled with that is his plea for us to “do something.” Spurgeon had a bias for action.
Charles Spurgeon was able to live such a prolific life because he found his work to be not only a duty, but a privilege. Put another way, he kept his vision of saving souls alive and in front of him at all times. He always knew why and for whom he was working tirelessly. Perhaps it was this certainty that supplied the strength, energy, and drive to serve God’s Kingdom so faithfully and productively. What would I give to be able to tap into some of that?
So on those days when I get tired, I pray that I also am reminded that my work is not only a duty, but that it is a privilege to do the Master’s work. May I too keep my eyes on the ultimate prize. Perhaps The Lord will see fit to infuse me with some Spurgeon energy…