Burnout and Sedition

“Compare burnout and sedition.”  “Acts 8:9, 10-11.” (framed by a rectangular copper plate)

Here is the text of Acts 8:9-11 from the ESV:

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.

These three verses introduce the Biblical figure known as Simon the Sorcerer.  Now, this man, who once was quite popular, believed Philip when he preached about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.  Simon was baptized, and as a beautiful side-effect, he lost his demonic power.

But one thing he didn’t lose was his pride.  You see, he was amazed at the miracles that Philip did and even more amazed when Peter and John gave the Holy Spirit to him by the laying on of their hands.  So what did Simon do?  He offered the Apostles money for their God-given gift.  Bad idea.  This act served to reveal what was in his heart: the “gall of bitterness” and the “bond of iniquity.”

What is burnout?  The typical psychological term means simply this: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. [Side note: is burnout ever a holy state of being?  On one hand, blessed are the poor in spirit.  But joy and peace are fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Seems to me that the outcome of Christian work should be joy, not exhaustion.  What do you think?]  There is another definition which I find very interesting: a person showing the effects of drug abuse.  This one reminds me of drunkenness with the cares of this world.

Sedition is this: incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.  It’s many times subversive but always active.  It’s intent is to overthrow authority. [Another side note: in this new covenant, is sedition ever Godly?  I am not led to believe so.]

So, how do these two concepts connect?  The first thing I thought of was that burnout may be an unintentional form of sedition.  As a Christian, allowing yourself to get burned out or disillusioned (and staying there) literally subverts the authority of God in your sphere of influence.  The only way I believe God would allow burnout would be to lead us to repentance, and ultimately to the joy, peace, and comfort found in Him.

Where I think these two really connect, though, is in this aforementioned sin of pride.  Look at the example of Simon.  In the eyes of the world, he looked washed up and burned out, and I’m sure he felt that.  He’d lost his power, because he couldn’t deny that Jesus was much better than anything he had experienced before.  The wonders he saw and love he felt were very real to him, but in his heart, he still longed for greatness.  Now, the longing for greatness isn’t a bad thing, but Simon pridefully wanted it on his own terms, not God’s.  Simon remembered the amazement in the eyes of the people he used to impress, and he wanted to see it again.

What was Simon’s answer to his longing?  Buy some power.  On first glance, his request seems quite innocent.  What could be wrong with a more wide-spread filling of the Holy Spirit, right?  But his heart was not right before God.  The Apostles were the most powerful human beings on the planet, and Simon desperately wanted to be as powerful as they, exalting himself to a place of global honor.

Sadly, Simon the Sorcerer’s name is now known worldwide, but not because he was honorable.  He’s an example of what not to do.  Jesus told us to be humble.  When we humbly serve the ones around us, God promises to exalt us in due time.  We must continue to guard our hearts with His righteousness or risk burning out, always exalting our Heavenly Father to His proper place of complete authority in our lives.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:7


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