Summer is here and I hope you are planning on taking a vacation. I have read several reports that claim Americans work more hours, take fewer vacations, and retire later, than those in any other industrialized country. And anecdotally I can see what the men and women in our church are doing. We are always working, and seldom resting. As a pastor I encourage the church to take vacation seriously, not because it is directly commanded in Scripture, but because it is a means by which we are prepared to do what God calls us to. To get the most out of your vacation three things must be known and embraced.
Our Work is Good
Contrary to how many of us feel, work is a gift and not a curse. Whether laying carpet, plowing a field, crunching numbers in a cubicle, making the sale, or building a house, work is something good for which God has made us.
When God created Adam and Eve (Gen. 1, 2), when all was right in the world, we were called to work. In fact part of why we work is because we have been made in God’s image. He is the Great Worker. As Creator he fashioned the heavens and the earth. As the God of Providence he actively governs all that happens in the cosmos, even the affairs of mankind. In God’s great work of redemption we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit collaborating in rescuing sinners. God’s works are mighty and glorious, and as those made by him and for him we follow God’s pattern of work.
It is true that after sin entered the world work became more toilsome, but for most people the real problem with work has little to do with the curse of God. The real reason we hate work is because we do not see how it relates to our calling, and how through it we can glorify and enjoy God. Your “line of work,”your job, is not simply what you do to pay the bills, it is what God has you doing at this time in order to function as he has designed you.
Our Rest is Good
If work is good because it is commanded and exemplified by God, than we can be certain that rest is good as well. God himself rested after creating the heavens and the earth. We are commanded to rest in the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8). Blessing is promised to Israel when they rest from their labors and seek the Lord’s will (Is. 58:13). Why is rest important? Without getting into the depths of the spiritual realities of Sabbath rest and what it means for the church (an extremely important topic) I would like to give you a very practical reason for rest, and by extension vacations.
God commands us to rest so that our bodies and minds can be refreshed, enabling us to get back to work. Don’t miss that. Rest is not the end. Rest is not the goal. Rest is a pit stop we enter and leave so we can get back on track to do what God has called us to do with our lives. We must rest so we can better work.
As we think about the need for vacation it is important to keep this in mind—rest fits us for service. This means our vacations should give our minds and bodies a break from our normal workload. It’s a shame that, for many, vacations are often too short, too busy, and too stressful. It defeats the whole point of vacation. If we work, we must rest. And if we rest, we are ready to work.
God’s Glory is the Goal
But don’t misunderstand me in this. We do not live to play, nor do we live to work. We play and work and live and die all for the glory of God. And he is glorified when we work and rest in faith. We work hard because we know we don’t work for men, but for the Lord Jesus Christ. And we rest because we need to take refuge in God’s promise to guard us, provide for us, and fit us for his purposes.
Joe Thorn is Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL and blogs at joethorn.net. His book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, was released through Crossway/ReLit. You can follow him on Twitter @joethorn.