I just heard a fantastic quote from the football coaching great, Vince Lombardi. In the event that you’re not an avid football enthusiast (and don’t let me fool you into thinking that I am one–I know nothing about football), Vince Lombardi is one of the greatest NFL coaches in history. During his time as coach of the Green Bay Packers, his team won five national championships.
In addition to his amazing coaching record, Lombardi is also known for his words of wisdom and insights. It’s not unusual to hear someone quote one of the inspirational quips that he used to motivate his players. And as I mentioned, I happened upon one of these quotes the other day. It went as follows:
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
This statement has a great deal more wisdom to it than first meets the eye. I began to plumb its depths after pondering why he linked fatigue with cowardice. Of all the things that I would blame for cowardice, fatigue would not be one of them.
Well the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When Lombardi spoke of fatigue, he was not simply talking about feeling sleepy or sluggish. Instead, he was talking about complete and total fatigue–not only are you physically tired, but you are mentally and emotionally drained as well. As a result of this fatigue, you have fewer resources from which to draw, and life suddenly seems more overwhelming. Activities that used to excite you now seem like drudgery, and you can’t motivate yourself to do anything with any degree of enthusiasm because you are simply too exhausted by life.
What’s more, if you’re not even that excited to do the things you enjoy, then you certainly aren’t going to be bold, risky, or adventurous. When it comes to pushing yourself, you will take the path of least resistance, the coward’s way, because that’s all you can really muster.
I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way, but I certainly have from time to time. When I get to that point, even the idea of doing ministry, which I am passionate about, seems like more than I can handle. And suddenly, the only activity that looks appealing is sitting on my couch all day doing nothing. Or for another example, how about the times when we know we should share the Gospel with the person sitting next to us on the plane, or the person behind us in the checkout line, but we’re just too tired. We don’t feel like it, so we do nothing.
In this way, fatigue makes cowards of us all. We can’t even stand to face the normal challenges of the day, let alone the big ones.
This perspective has great implications for our understanding of the Sabbath, and why God has commanded us to rest. All along, I knew this command had something to do with taking care of yourself, but I had assumed that it was for our own sake. I had guessed that God wanted us to care for our bodies rather than burn them out because our bodies are temples. That’s about how far my thought process went.
But there’s more to it than that. The Sabbath’s importance has little to do with getting our Sunday afternoon nap. On the contrary, the Sabbath is crucial because it guards us against experiencing the kind of fatigue Lombardi described. If we are emotionally and spiritually exhausted, then it is very unlikely we will do great things for God, because we’ll barely even be able to do little things. Rather than go out into the world and evangelize with boldness and zeal, we will back down like cowards. We simply won’t have the emotional reserves to go out and preach the Gospel the way God intended.
In this way, resting on the Sabbath is not merely about getting enough sleep–it’s about protecting ourselves from a fatigue that cripples us, a fatigue that makes cowards of us all. So if you are not getting enough rest, and if you’re not taking good care of yourself, then there is more at risk than you think. Most likely, the more tired you get, the less you can pour into ministry, so you are not the only one who is affected by your tiredness. In the same way that a tired player may not adequately protect his teammates, or he may back down during crucial plays, fatigued Christians will do the same, and their fellow saints will suffer for it.
Maintaining the Sabbath is therefore an important part of your role in the Body of Christ–when one of us is fatigued to the point of cowardice, then we are all impacted by it. For this reason we must obey God’s command to honor the Sabbath, because the Church herself is affected when we don’t. So get some sleep, eat healthy, and make time for yourself. The more rested you are, the mightier you will fight, whether on a football field or on the spiritual battlefield.
Vince knew what he was talking about.