When I started walking with Christ in my early twenties, I listened to an elderly man explain why he was going on a dangerous missions trip. "I'd rather wear out than rust out," he said.
I loved that! And I still do. However, what that translated to in my funny little brain was that I had to expend myself beyond my endurance (how else was I going to wear out?). One of the Bible verses I quoted most often to keep myself going at a furious pace was Philippians 2:17 (NIV), where Paul talks about being poured out as a drink offering for others.
Perhaps my biggest fear has been that when I get to heaven instead of saying, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23), God will say, "What were you doing down there?" I want to know that my life counts for something here on earth. So doesn't it make sense to give, and give, and give until my last ounce of strength is gone? Isn't that being a good steward of what God gave me? After all, that's how I'd approach being a good steward of my finances, Creation, or my workplace, so why not use the same approach when I think about my body?
But is that the approach I'd take for finances, Creation, or workplace? No! I'd consider it irresponsible to use every dime rather than saving some for a rainy day or retirement. I'd never think that using up Creation was okay. I want to conserve it to my best ability. And if my workplace demanded every ounce of my strength at the expense of my family and ministry, I'd have a long talk with my boss.
Not My Job
Many years and much maturing later, I have some perspective on Philippians 2:7. I realize that Paul was saying that if God poured him out as a drink offering, he'd count it joy. He didn't pour himself out as a drink offering. That's just crazy, unnecessary, and even disobedient.
And about the "Well done" part? Who wants a servant who does other than what you tell him? What if you hired a maid to clean your house, and instead she washed all your neighbors' cars? She may even brag that she got five more washed this week than last. So what! You hired her to clean your house. A good servant does what she's asked to do, not whatever she can find to do. I'm sure the amount of dirty cars in any neighborhood is endless, but that's not her job.
A Physical Honoring
So what does it mean to be good stewards of our bodies? It means we value and conserve them by using them for the tasks God uniquely calls us to. How can we do that?
Watch what you eat. The busier we get, the less we pay attention to what we munch. During an especially busy time of my life, I was popping carbs like pain pills to keep up my energy. Yet I felt more tired with each bite. A blood test showed I was borderline diabetic. So now I closely monitor what I eat.
Exercise. The only exercise I truly enjoy is walking and riding my bike. And I only enjoy those when the weather is perfect. As I live in Illinois, that's about two weeks of the year. I have a sedentary job, so I have to find ways to exercise, or I feel lousy and don't sleep at night.
Sleep. The easiest thing to skimp on when you're overly busy is sleep. In my attempt to get exercise, I was getting up in the wee hours of the morning. And to get all my work done, I was staying up late at night. That meant that I was more and more sleep deprived. Something had to go.
Just say no. I found that the first three depended on this one. The busier I got, the more the first three went down the tubes. In fact, my doctor actually prescribed rest. He told me I had to say no to activities every other weekend so that I could rest (I'm trying—I really am!). And because I play mind games to keep pushing myself, he wants me to learn to listen to my body. When I'm tired, I'm to rest, not keep pushing. This sounds so reasonable, but I found it almost impossible until recently.
To say no, we have to know what to say no to. I had to take time to listen to God and to examine myself to understand what it means for me to be his servant. Now I wholeheartedly throw myself into that, and say no to everything else.
I still love the idea of wearing out instead of rusting out. I'm using the talents God has blessed me with instead of trying to do everything that comes my way. That way I'll be rested and refreshed to be the best possible tool in God's hands, and will look forward to hearing God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Let's celebrate together!"