fishing-boatMy dad is a commercial fisherman. He makes most of his living as a shrimp boat captain on and around the Atlantic Ocean. Working on the water is a hard life. It is more a calling than a career.

Dealing with bad weather is one of the most uncertain challenges associated with life on the sea. One nine-letter weather word can wipe out everything a shrimp boat captain owns: Hurricane! A few years back, a hurricane named Emily was bearing down on Harkers Island, North Carolina, where my dad lives and harbors his shrimp boat. A newspaper reporter from Columbia, South Carolina, photographed my dad readying his vessel for the storm. When the photo came out in the newspaper, there was Dad swimming with ropes in the harbor, securing his boat as best he could. The boat was separated from the dock at four points. One anchor in each direction held the boat through the hurricane. The balancing hold of the anchors secured the boat against the storm.

Whenever I think about my dad preparing his shrimp boat for a hurricane, I think about the balance I want before, during, and after the life-threatening hurricanes bear down on me and my loved ones. My earthly father knows how to get a hurricane-balanced boat. My heavenly Father knows how to give a healthy-balanced life. So, I go to God for the four anchors that will give to me a balanced life and a balanced work ethic.

As I continuously seek my Abba Father for balance, the same four anchors keep offering me balance in all types of weather. If I desire the healthy-balanced life, I must give equal attention to all four ropes and the anchors they are tied to. I find health in my life and balance in my work ethic as I simultaneously look after adoration, occupation, recreation, and restoration. More simply, if I want health in my life, I must seek God to help me maintain balance between worship, work, play, and rest. The precious Holy Spirit, my life Counselor, will give me without interruption this healthy balance.

The Anchor of Adoration
If we are ever to be true spiritual leaders, we must be people after God’s own heart. We must be worshipers. Worship is more about knowing God than knowing about God. Worship is more about spending time with Him than spinning our wheels for Him. Worship matters to God. Worship is a priority on His agenda, and we will never know balanced lives or balanced work ethics until we embrace Him in worship. Worship is not something we just speed through. It is not a destination thing; worship is a journey thing. Worship is a 24/7 thing, an unending attitude of adoration of the Almighty.

My mentor in life, James Spruill, taught me not to compartmentalize life with secular and sacred labels. God is omnipresent, so whether we’re in the sandbox with the little kids, shooting hoops with the teens, or standing behind the pulpit on Sunday morning, all seasons of life are equally sacred. Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20); worship is an “all day, every day/all night, every night” way of life. Make sure the anchor of adoration is not dragging the bottom in your life or your balance will be out of whack. The anchor of adoration must be set deep in the Rock at all times.

The Anchor of Occupation
Adoration is worship, and occupation is worship, too. However, we need to practically incorporate both worship and work in our lives. Without worship, we become workaholics. Without work, we become “lazybones.” Neither alone offers the balance that helps us or pleases God. Work is what we do in obedience to God’s agenda for our lives. Worship is how we go about doing what we do in obedience to God’s agenda for our lives. Work is about action. Worship is about attitude. Work done in a worshipful way pleases God and balances us.

When I am looking for leaders to partner alongside me in ministry, I ask the question, “How many hours will your work each week?” It’s a loaded question. If their lips start moving quickly, I know we are in trouble. Some blurt out, “Seventy or eighty hours--that’s my style.” I pause and then reply, “Well, you won’t be working here with that style because you’ll cramp my style, and I’m not looking for more false guilt to carry.” When it comes to work, the words “realistic expectations” are very, very important. God wants us to work, but He’s not a one-anchor God. There are three other anchors that need tending so that our lives will be inwardly balanced and outwardly beautiful. All work and no worship, no play, and no rest make an unbalanced person and an unsuccessful leader.

The Anchor of Recreation
Worship and work are enhanced when we take time to play. Yes, adoration, occupation, and recreation really do go together. Talk about false guilt. Why is it that leaders feel guilty when they take time to play? I’m convinced the enemy spends more time cutting the anchor rope that leads to recreation in the life of the leader than any of the other four ropes. Why? Because playing, taking time for recreation, is the breeding ground for joy and lightheartedness in our lives. We all know that misery loves company. The devil doesn’t want us having what he doesn’t have. Fun! When we play and have fun, we become like little children, and you know what Jesus said about little children: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom” (Matt. 18:3).

Starting to make sense, isn’t it? If we don’t tend to the anchor of recreation, we will miss out on re-creation. Schedule some fun time, some playtime, into your life, and being driven will begin to make way for being balanced. I promise. If you will begin to schedule in recreation, eventually, it will become spontaneous, a holy habit you will refuse to live without. That’s a good thing and a God thing too. If you really want to upset the disciples in a good way, just be like Jesus. Take time to play with the children. And don’t let that little boy or little girl inside of you die. If that child already has, cheer up, because our God specializes in resurrections. Ask Him to resurrect recreation in your life. Let the child in you live and laugh again. Ask God to re-create childlike wonder in your life now.

The Anchor of Restoration
Finally, do not forget to set the anchor of rest on solid ground. Remember, we need all four anchors for healthy balance in our lives and our work ethics--adoration, occupation, recreation, and, finally, restoration. I’m convinced that many Christians, and especially Christian leaders, do not need another sermon. They just need to take a nap. Jesus wants us to rest. He offers it to us in Matthew 11:28: “Then Jesus said, ‘come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (NLT).

Is it possible that the four anchors we are talking about are simply and profoundly about giving gifts? Stick with me, now. Is it possible that worship and work are both gifts we give to God, play is a gift we give to ourselves, and rest is a gift Jesus gives to us? I think it’s possible, indeed. Perhaps the reason we have no rest in our lives is we don’t, or won’t, come to Jesus to receive His rest as our gift.

The anchor of resting is connected to the rope of trusting. In his journals, Oswald Chambers was once up against some seemingly impossible circumstances. He went to the Lord in prayer and sensed the Lord saying, “Trust me and do the next thing you can do.” After some contemplation, Oswald concluded that he would do just that. So he simply trusted God and did the next thing he could do. He took a nap!

Resting is a gift the Lord gives to us so we can learn to trust Him more. Talk about the healthy-balanced life. That’s the kind of life I want to live. That’s the kind of work ethic I embrace. A work ethic that is beautifully balanced with four faithful anchors—adoration, occupation, recreation, and restoration--will help keep the boat crew from being upset by bad weather reports and unruffled by God’s divine interruptions as well. Come hail, high water, or hurricane, these anchors will hold us steady and keep us strong because they are lodged into the Rock of Ages!

Kerry Willis is the senior pastor of Harrisonburg, VA, Church of the Nazarene


Adapted from Relational Leadership: What I Learned From a Fisherman about Leadership (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2009).