“He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3
A pastor friend of mine was telling another pastor about the long-awaited vacation that he and his family were preparing for. The other pastor immediately replied, “Vacation? I never take a vacation. Satan doesn’t take a vacation and neither do I!”
To which my friend wisely retorted, “Well, that’s all right. Satan has never been my example!”
In the summer when school is out and the sun is shining, our thoughts turn toward vacation. And that’s a good thing! We were wired with an innate need to take a break from our usual pace and spend some time being refreshed and recharged.
But for some reason, we sometimes seem apologetic about taking time off or needing a change of pace for a little while. It may be that our internal understanding of a real “work ethic” demands that we feel a little guilty about time that we’re not being “productive” or “efficient.” Or maybe we are concerned that those projects and clients we have been carefully nurturing along will fall to pieces if we put them on hold for a week or two. Maybe we are distorting Paul’s words to the Ephesians, resisting vacations and working nonstop so that we can “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
If that’s your brain strain, then let me put a biblical stop to that train of thought and provide you with three solid, straight-from-Scripture reasons to enjoy a guilt-free, refreshing time away from your usual pace of work this summer.
Reason number one: it’s commanded in Scripture. The fourth commandment tells us to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). That means more than just going to church on Sunday. The principle of “Sabbath”—rooted in God’s example through creation of resting on the seventh day—intertwines with the Old Testament law code.
There were not only to be days of Sabbath, but week-long festivals scattered throughout the Jewish seasons. In fact, there were Sabbath yearsin their calendar! God’s loving command was intended to pull His people aside for rest so they would be reminded that all good things come from Him . . . not from their frantic efforts at work.
A second reason why it’s a good idea to take a well-deserved break is that your body and spirit need it. I love the picture that David paints for us in Psalm 23:1-6 of a shepherd leading his sheep to a place of refreshment and rest. We are finite, fallible, limited creatures, and without rest we’ll find that burnout and exhaustion eventually take their toll. Our ability to be gracious, loving, and patient will be a casualty of our compulsive work habits. Fatigue and weariness will leave us vulnerable to temptation. And most disturbingly, our intimacy with the Lord will suffer as our time with Him becomes perfunctory at best, and nonexistent at worst. All that can be avoided if we allow our Good Shepherd to restore our soul with times of rest in green pastures and with seasons of refreshment beside quiet waters.
And just in case we need another reason to put our feet up and relax now and then, remember that Jesus did it! He often withdrew from the crush of the crowds to seasons of prayer and rest. During a storm on the Sea of Galilee He was sound asleep in the boat (Mark 4:38). And we are told that while on a trip from Judea to Galilee “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well” (John 4:6). There were always more people to heal, more messages to preach, and more places to go, but Jesus displayed the importance of rest.
So, whether it’s a weekend of camping, a day at the pool, or a week away with close friends or family members, turn off the cell-phone, close the computer, and get away! There’s no good reason not to!
By: Joe Stowell, Get More Strength
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” Psalm 51:1
Any Star Wars fans out there? Remember the opening scenes of Episode IV? After a laser battle between a little spaceship (the good guys) and the ominous Imperial Star Destroyer (the bad guys), we see Princess Leia and her loyal fighters quickly overpowered by Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. The situation is dire and our heroine has time only to pass a message on to her faithful robot R2D2, who is then jettisoned to safety on a nearby planet, into the hands of Luke Skywalker who discovers Leia’s message: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope!” The message is repeated over and over: “Help me . . . you’re my only hope!”
That simple little phrase encapsulates David’s plea in the first verse of Psalm 51. After fighting a year-long battle against the forces of darkness in his own heart, he had reached a point of desperation. Finally, he admitted that he could not overcome the guilt of his sin by his own cleverness, charm, or position. Nor could his inner turmoil be quieted by a clever spin from a PR department. In the face of the mess he had made of his life—adultery, deception, murder—he was left with only one hope: a plea for mercy from God who held all the cards regarding David’s cleansing.
I have to tell you, whether it’s the overwhelming force of life’s struggles or the guilt of our sin, our only hope is that God in His mercy will forgive and deliver us. As David writes in Psalm 42:11, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? . . . Put your hope in God!”
The good news for David—and for those of us who need to come to this same tipping point in our walk with Christ—is that our hope is never misplaced when we place it entirely and completely in God. And our confidence in His willingness to bestow delivering mercy is grounded, as David said, in the fact that God is a God of unfailing love and great compassion. We don’t need more meds or self-help positive spins on life when we are beyond ourselves. We need God! David said it best when he penned the words of Psalm 25:3, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.”
In the midst of the turmoil of life and in the mire of our own sin, one simple prayer offers us the promise of rescue and deliverance. “Help me, Lord Jesus. You’re my only hope!”
Streams In the Desert
By: L.B. Cowman
God… calleth those things which be not as though they were (Romans 4:17).
What does that mean? Why Abraham did this thing: he dared to believe God. It seemed an impossibility at his age that Abraham should become the father of a child; it looked incredible; and yet God called him a “father of many nations” before there was a sign of a child; and so Abraham called himself “father” because God called him so. That is faith; it is to believe and assert what God says. “Faith steps on seeming void, and finds the rock beneath.”
Only say you have what God says you have, and He will make good to you all you believe. Only it must be real faith, all there is in you must go over in that act of faith to God.
Be willing to live by believing and neither think nor desire to live in any other way. Be willing to see every outward light extinguished, to see the eclipse of every star in the blue heavens, leaving nothing but darkness and perils around, if God will only leave in thy soul the inner radiance, the pure bright lamp which faith has kindled.
–Thomas C. Upham
The moment has come when you must get off the perch of distrust, out of the nest of seeming safety, and onto the wings of faith; just such a time as comes to the bird when it must begin to try the air. It may seem as though you must drop to the earth; so it may seem to the fledgling. It, too, may feel very like falling; but it does not fall — it’s pinions give it support, or, if they fail, the parent birds sweeps under and bears it upon its wings.
Even so will God bear you. Only trust Him; “thou shalt be holden up.” “Well, but,” you say, “am I to cast myself upon nothing?” That is what the bird seems to have to do; but we know the air is there, and the air is not so unsubstantial as it seems. And you know the promises of God are there, and they are not unsubstantial at all. “But it seems an unlikely thing to come about that my poor weak soul should be girded with such strength.” Has God said it shall? “That my tempted, yielding nature shall be victor in the strife.” Has God said it shall? “That my timorous, trembling heart shall find peace?” Has God said it shall?
For, if He has, you surely do not mean to give Him the lie! Hath he spoken, and shall He not do it? If you have gotten a word — “a sure word” of promise — take it implicitly, trust it absolutely. And this sure word you have; nay, you have more — you have Him who speaks the word confidently.
“Yea, I say unto you,” trust Him.
–J. B. Figgis, M. A.