Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Take a Vacation with God

Dear Friends,

What would be the one single thing for you to have that would most improve the quality of your life? Check one: ❑ More money? ❑ Better job? ❑ Nicer house? ❑ Healthier body? ❑ More God? While some of those may be difficult to obtain, if you picked “More God,” you can have that one right now. Guaranteed! Coming into the presence of God is to come into a place that we long for. Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT) But how do we do that? When our life is filled with worries, troubles and doubts – maybe even some doubts about God Himself – how do we go about living in God’s presence? 

The spiritual concept of living a life in the presence of God is rooted in the early church fathers and the monastic life, but there are also more Christian books, by modern authors, on that subject than any other. Formulas on how to pray, Bible reading plans, and instructions for regular and sustained fasting are thoroughly taught by the most respected Christian pastors and authors. Prayer, Bible study and fasting help me to grow in my faith as a Christian and follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but what brings me into God’s presence is not what I “do” but what I stop doing. If I want “More God,” instead of trying harder to do more, I often find that it’s more helpful to take a break and do less. Sometimes I need to stop striving for Christian perfection and take a vacation!

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..” We read that and hear that as meaning: Be quiet. Be at peace. But the original Hebrew used here means to “quit struggling.” An expanded translation might sound like this: “Let go of striving and just kick back for awhile. Let go of trying to make something happen and relax to see what God is doing. Forget the religious rules and take a break. If you’re striving to accomplish the spiritual disciplines and you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere, just stop and hang loose. Take a load off. Settle down. Quit struggling. Stop your fussing. Cut it out. Be still. Know that I am God. Relax. I will restore and refresh you, says the Lord. 

The Latin word for “Be Still” is the word “vacate” and it means the same in Latin and English. It means to vacate – to leave behind – the things we wrestle with and be free of those struggles. The word vacate is the root word for our word vacation. When we are taking a “vacation,” we have “vacated,” or left behind any worrisome work and home obligations and refocused our thoughts on a pleasurable getaway. We feel liberated from our day-to-day cares. Vacations are our free time and, in a sense, this Psalm is telling us to leave behind our striving and take a vacation with God. Empty out the clutter from your mind. When you can set aside your worries and troubles for a few minutes, you are free to relax before God and fully enjoy being in His presence. It’s as if God is saying: “Be still. Let’s you and Me take a vacation together.”

That’s what I need. When things get busy.. When the battle makes me weary.. When I’m discouraged.. When the scripture that tells me to “Rejoice always” is lost in a sea of stress.. When my feelings got hurt, or even worse, when I just realized that I hurt someone else’s feelings.. When my day gets tough.. That’s when I need a break. And God would say to me “Okay John. Cease your striving. You need a time-out. Let’s you and Me take a short five minute vacation right now.”

And a spiritual timeout with God doesn’t automatically mean it’s a time to become all religious and fervently pray. Prayer is appropriate at all times and in all circumstances, but we must be careful to not just simply exchange a frantic secular activity for a frantic spiritual activity. That’s not taking a vacation. It’s just substituting a different type of work at the same dysfunctional pace. That’s when God might say to you: “Be still. Quit striving. Stop fretting and fussing. Let’s you and Me take a break.” 

Sometimes we need to just be content to sit beside God and be with Him. No agenda. No non-stop prayer conversation. Just to sit a-spell with our Father and be still. The early church and the monastics called this “contemplation.” To just be there. Centering all your attention and desire on God and letting Him be the sole concern of your mind and heart. We desire to come into God’s presence not for what He can do for us but simply for who He is. And in His presence, we find His peace. Life can get tough and if you’re like me, you need a bunch of mini-vacations with God throughout your day. That’s when you’ll be walking alongside those deep Living Waters. You feel those stirrings of love in your heart for God. You feel His presence and His peace. He is restoring your soul. You are on a vacation with God. Amen?

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The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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