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The eleven books in this series, Potentials: Guides for Productive Living, speak to your condition and mine in the life we have to live today. The books are designed to ferret out the potentials you have with which to rise above rampant social and psychological problems faced by large numbers of individuals and groups. The purpose of rising above the problems is portrayed as far more than merely your own survival, merely coping, and merely "succeeding" while others fail. These books with one voice encourage you to save your own life by living with commitment to Jesus Christ, and to be a creative servant of the common good as well as your own good.
In this sense, the books are handbooks of ministry with a new emphasis: coupling your own well-being with the well-being of your neighbor. You use the tools of comfort wherewith God comforts you to be a source of strength to those around you. A conscious effort has been made by each author to keep these two dimensions of the second great commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ in harmony with each other.
The two great commandments are given in Luke 10:25–28: "And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read?’ And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered right; do this, and you will live.’”
Underneath the two dimensions of neighbor and self there is also a persistent theme: The only way you can receive such harmony of thought and action is by the intentional recentering of your life on the sovereignty of God and the rapid rejection of all idols that would enslave you. The theme, then, of this series of books is that these words of Jesus are the master guides both to the realization of your own potentials and to productive living in the nitty-gritty of your day's work.
The books in this series are unique, and each claims your attention separately in several ways.
First, these books address great social issues of our day, but they do so in terms of your own personal involvement in and responses to the problems. For example, the general problem of the public school system, the waste in American consumerism, the health hazards in a lack of rest and vocational burnout, the crippling effects of a defective mental outlook, and the incursion of Eastern mystical traditions into Western Christian activism are all larger-than-life issues. Yet each author translates the problem into the terms of day-to-day living and gives concrete guidelines as to what you can do about the problem.
Second, these books address the undercurrent of helplessness that overwhelming epidemic problems produce in you. The authors visualize you throwing up your hands and saying. "There is nothing anyone can do about it." Then they show you that this is not so, and that there are things you can do about it.
Third, the authors have all disciplined themselves to stay off their own soapboxes anti to limit oratory about how awful the world is. They refuse to stop at gloomy diagnoses of incurable conditions. They go on to deal with your potentials for changing yourself and your world in very specific ways. They do not let you, the reader, off the hook with vague, global utterances and generalized sermons. They energize you with a sense of hope that is generated by basic information, clear decision-making, and new directions taken by you yourself.
Fourth, these books get their basic interpretations and recommendations from a careful plumbing of the depths of the power of faith in God through Jesus Christ. They are not books that leave you with the illusion that you can lift yourself and your world by pulling hard at your own bootstraps. They energize and inspire you through the hope and strength that God is Christ is making available to you through the wisdom of the Bible and the presence of the living Christ is your life. Not even this, though, is presented in a namby-pamby or trite way. You will be surprised with joy at the freshness of the applications of biblical truths which you have looked at so often that you no longer notice their meaning. You will do many "double takes" with reference to your Bible as you read these books. You will find that the Bread of Life is not too holy or, too good for human nature's daily food.
The world energy crisis hinges upon our use, misuse, and abuse of nonrenewable energy sources such as fossil fuels. The concern I express in this book is about the most personal, renewable resource of energy you and I have, our own physical strength, stamina, and health. Central to our personal energy crisis is our exercise of our right to rest. Rest, in the harum-scarum existence of your daily life and mine, is often a low rated function. Yet in God's creation of us and in the biblical script for the drama of a well-lived and well-ordered life, rest is something indispensable, a necessity.
This book develops the themes of living in harmony with the pre-established rhythms of the days of our years, the importance of breathing for the nourishment and enhancement of our health and energy, the role of fatigue in the complications of our personal and social lives, and the importance of sleep in the control of anxiety, indecisiveness, and pain, and for an accurate perception of the natural and spiritual world.
The later chapters of the book probe the relation of our spiritual values and behaviors to the ways in which we either rest, cannot rest, or will not rest. Restlessness and greed are corroding partners, and restfulness and freedom from greed are their opposites. Placelessness and homeless wandering, without community or calling, take away a sense of serene restfulness of spirit. Finding your place and purpose in life restores and sustains your spirit. The life of the spirit at its best in communion with God is portrayed by the Bible and known to Christian experience as the "prayer of rest." In this atmosphere of prayer, rest is the gift of God in Christ.
WAYNE E. OATES