As moms we grow weary in the day to day running of a home and taking care of children. As employees we can become tired and overworked. As human beings our bodies have limits and need rest to refuel and recover. As Christians we can become weary from struggles and trials and need God's Word to refresh our spirit.
But as Christians do we need vacations? And by "vacation", I mean an extended period of recreation spent away from daily work or routine for leisure and pleasure.
When I know about poverty and starvation and lack of clean drinking water and lack of medical care and human trafficking and orphans and child slavery, is it right for me to spend God's money on an extended period of recreation for my own leisure and pleasure? That question has really been gnawing at me for a long time. So I decided to go to God's Word and see if I could find some answers.
As you may already know, the word "vacation" does not appear in the Bible. Well, except for one passage in The Message when Elijah is taunting the prophets of Baal about why their god is not responding to them. Elijah says "maybe he's on vacation".
So I began digging deeper looking for some synonyms for "vacation". I pulled up an online dictionary and here is the list it gave me: ease, idleness, leisure, recreation, relaxation, repose, rest.
So ease means "freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort". God's Word says we will have hardships and enduring those hardships builds character. James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 2 Timothy 2:3 says "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier for Christ." 2 Corinthians 12:10 says "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Being a Christian means we will have hardships and God calls us to endure them, delight in them and persevere through them so that He can complete His perfect work in us. If we seek a life free from difficulty or hardship then we're seeking a life apart from God.
So what about idleness? Idleness means having no substance or value. When we spend our time on worldly pleasures we're focusing on things that have no substance or value. As Christians we're commanded to Go, make disciples. We're commanded to take care of the poor, the orphans & the widow. We're commanded to give up worldly comforts to spread the gospel to those who need the hope of Jesus. When we grow weary in serving we're commanded to go to God for strength and refreshment.
The next three words are all closely connected. Leisure means time available for ease, relaxation and recreation. Basically taking time to relax and do nothing. But as Christians with an urgent commission from God should we be sitting around doing nothing? When there are thousands of people dying each day who have never heard the name of Jesus, do we really have time to sit around and do nothing?
Think about this. On average about 55 million people die every year. That breaks down to about 151,000 people dying everyday. How many of those are Christians? Well based on Global Christianity numbers about 28% of the population claim to be Christians. That includes Catholics, all Protestant groups, Orthodox Christians, Mormons & Jehovah's Witness. So let's say that 15% of those who claim to be Christians are actual followers of Christ. That would mean that 128,350 people are dying everyday without Jesus and will spend eternity in hell. That's 898,450 people going to hell every week!! Where is our urgency in proclaiming Jesus to the nations?
So going back to our list of synonyms, we come to repose and rest. As I looked up the definitions, I find that they both mean the same thing....freedom from activity. With the busyness of life, I think we can all use some freedom from activity, especially activity that keeps us from spending daily time in God's Word. But when we look at rest from a Biblical perspective it's more about refreshment and less about "freedom from activity". The rest of God includes the crucial element of refreshment. Jeremiah 31:25 says "I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Proverbs 3:7-8 says "Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing
to your body and refreshment to your bones."
John MacArthur writes: "God’s rest is not essentially physical at all. Certainly, resting in God and trusting in His promises can relieve us of nervousness, tenseness, and other physical problems. But these are by-products of His rest. The rest God promises is spiritual, not physical. Whatever physical or earthly benefits the Lord may give us, His basic promise is to give us spiritual rest, spiritual blessing. Some of God’s most faithful believers are the busiest, the hardest working, and sometimes even the most afflicted people imaginable. Yet they are in God’s salvation rest."
Even though Jesus was only on earth for a short time, He also took time for rest and refreshment. During these times he would go off to a quiet place to pray and he instructed the disciples to do the same. Are we following His example? Do we take time each day to be still and talk to God? Do we feel we need a "vacation" because our spirit is dry and parched and in need of refreshing?
We can take vacation after vacation and come back feeling exhausted, weary and worn out if we misunderstand how our creator designed for us to be refreshed and strengthened. We don't get spiritual rest and refreshment from recreation or leisure time or inactivity. Our souls are refreshed, reenergized and satisfied when we daily enter His rest by spending time communing with the One who is source of rest....Jesus.
I just started the Beth Moore study on the book of James called "Mercy Triumphs". I was reading some commentaries the other day on chapter one and so many things were jumping off of the page at me. I read this one on Bible Gateway:
" In this first chapter of the biblical text we have found the thrust of James's entire letter: calling upon Christians to live with moral urgency, serious holiness and unconditional obedience to the word of God. By putting the two halves of the chapter together we also establish the context for the moral earnestness of the entire letter: complete confidence in and reliance upon the grace of God. James is so earnest for moral purity in 1:19-27 because of the theology he has taught in 1:1-18. It is the thorough purity of God (never tempted, never tempting, never changing) that calls us to holiness; it is the generous giving of God (giving wisdom without finding fault, giving the crown of life, giving every good and perfect gift, giving us birth) that moves us to holiness. Furthermore, going back to the very beginning of James's message, this pursuit of holiness is not an oppressive burden but a task of joy, because of the great worth of the goal that God's grace has made possible. God has called Christians to become mature and complete, as firstfruits of all he created. This is so high a calling and so valuable an attainment that we may consider even trials along the way pure joy!"