Exercising the Right to Rest
There are many distractions in everyday life. Our minds are filled with tasks and it becomes difficult to settle down enough to hear God. Enter the retreat. Fellowship and study are wonderful, but there is no substitute for seeking God’s presence and being present with God.
Just like going away for a weekend with your partner deepens intimacy and binds your hearts closer together, going away with God puts your relationship with God in the right perspective.
Dennis Bratcher’s article written for www.crivoice.com on holy living states, “One of John Wesley’s greatest contributions to the Christian faith was his recovery of ‘heart religion.’” Mr. Wesley believed an individual’s faith in God should have a transforming effect and he also believed growth was a vital part of one’s walk with Christ. Part of that growth is understanding that we, as Christians, are in a battle. Many can attest to seasons in life when the heat gets turned up so high that you are left feeling scorched.
The book of Ephesians holds many keys to holy living. That holiness means we are called to live sanctified, set apart lives. We should be different in noticeable, tangible ways. Watchman Nee, the early 20th century Chinese Indigenous
Ephesians 6:10-17 explains we are to wear the famous “armor of God” as we stand in the battle against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this world and the spiritual forces of evil. But even the most battle-tested armor can rust if it’s in the wind and rain too long. Being in the world wears down our defenses and our will to follow in God’s ways and it can be easier to go with the flow rather than swim upstream.
The commitment to maintain our desire to follow Christ means we need to take time to have our armor mended and our spirits restored to full strength.
The method of restoration lies in Scripture. Jesus often went away to solitary places to pray and spend quiet time with God. After the angel had visited Mary, she went for an extended stay at her cousin Elizabeth’s house, no doubt regrouping to face what was coming (Luke 1:40).
Jesus took three of the disciples up to a high, quiet place where they experienced his glory in full (Matthew 17:1). He took all of the disciples to Martha’s house for uninterrupted fellowship (Luke 9:10). We can reconnect with Christ when we go away to a quiet place with him.
Since we are to follow these examples, we need to occasionally excuse ourselves from the battle. As Americans, this is not something we do well. We are proud of our busy lives, but we must shift our focus away from how much we do, to obtaining the stamina necessary to sustain ourselves.
We have to practice decompression — just like every soldier in our military is given leave or any good exercise regimen includes rest. We need to exercise our right to that rest.
Retreats have multiple benefits:
- You can be refreshed through fellowship
- You get a break from a difficult situation
- You can receive further education in The Word
- You can experience the wonder and beauty of God’s creation
- You can be replenished with a new infusion from the Holy Spirit
- You can find new revelation about the next step God wants you to take in faith
- You can take a break from service and practice humility by being served by others
- You can be reminded of the joy of your salvation — who God is and what God has done for you.
The most important benefit to a retreat, however — and the one we should seek with intention — is meeting with God. In Psalm 46:10, God tells us to “Be still, and know that I am God!”
United Methodist Women on retreat
Part of the purpose of United Methodist Women is to provide ways for members to grow in holiness that leads to authentic lives. United Methodist Women of Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, took that opportunity April 16-18.
Fifty members and guests traveled a little more than an hour to Brenham, Texas, to fellowship and retreat with Shannon Perry, whose conference “If The Shoe
Fits” speaks directly to the heart of women. Ms. Perry helped us explore God’s purpose and direction for our lives; struggles we have over the words spoken to and by us; wounds we carry that keep us from experiencing God’s work to the fullest; and how to live holy lives in the real world.
The eternal results of this time away together are still to be fully revealed but for certain, lives were dramatically changed. Friday, we were able to share our fears and hurts in a safe place, as a large group and in breakout sessions.
We broke for the evening and found several pieces of agape and a “letter from God” on our beds — thanks to the loving hands of the retreat planning team. Many then participated in games and fellowship, while others sought much needed rest.
Saturday was a day of much revelation; we were able to come together as the body of Christ in discussing spiritual gifts and pledging to use them over the course of the year. We discussed the power of the tongue, both in our lives and in the lives of others. Then many got in some good retail therapy in the afternoon before the evening session.
The last session of the day was much like entering the Upper Room with Jesus himself administering the healing. Ms. Perry brought out the “holes” in our souls and quoting from John 5:6 she posed the same question Jesus asked the cripple by the Pool of Siloam: Did we want to be made well?
The most powerful part of Saturday evening was when we gathered in a circle for Ms. Perry to pray over each of us. She was led by the Holy Spirit to lift each heart concern and deep-seated pain up to God. It was an incredibly cathartic experience for the entire group. God used that encounter to inspire each of us to trust and believe in God even more.
Saturday night saw more agape letters and fellowship with a late night and a surprise birthday party for one of the United Methodist Women retreat leaders. Sunday morning dawned rainy but joy was in the air. At the end of the last session, eight women made the eternal decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior for the first time.
The retreat ended with another circle and our opportunity, in the tradition of 1 Peter 2:9, to be the priesthood of all believers to each other by serving each other Holy Communion. It was a wonderful way to complete the work God had done that weekend and give us renewed hope for our own futures, the future of our United Methodist Women unit and Bear Creek United Methodist Church. One final agape letter left a surety that God’s hand was indeed upon us.
There are more than 60 references in the Bible stating that when you seek God, you will find God. God wants you to come close and restore the joy of your salvation — get away with God and be empowered!
Amy Vogel is a member of United Methodist Women at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. She is the Houston Christian Living Examiner contributor and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.