Relax Every Once in a While!January 8, 2019
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:7
Whether we like it or not, there are moments when we run into troubling times in our lives. The trouble may arise in our job, our marriage, our children, our finances, or some other area of our lives. It can feel like there is no let-up from the constant, never-ending grind of what is happening to us. Although we can take this kind of nonstop pressure for a while, eventually it becomes too much if there is no let-up from it, and we begin to feel like we’re going to collapse from the burden we’re carrying.
If we walk in the Spirit, we can avoid many pitfalls that the devil and life try to throw our way. But the truth is, as long as we are in the world — where the devil actively seeks to kill, steal, and destroy — there will be troubles from time to time in our lives. Therefore, we need to know how to respond when we feel like we are being assaulted by nonstop problems and there seems to be no let-up or relief from the stress we’re experiencing.
I remember a time in Moscow when I was battling enemies on every front. Because our church was rapidly growing, we were in perpetual need of more finances. In addition, we had been kicked out of several auditoriums by local authorities and were about to be kicked out again. I felt like we were spending our lives searching high and low for an auditorium that would accommodate our growing church, but to no avail. We couldn’t seem to find another auditorium for our church meetings, and time was running out. I felt like I was at the end of my rope!
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
I lay in my bed night after night, asking God to help us find a solution to these problems. Finally, Denise said to me, “Rick, you need to get away and take a break from all this!”
I asked her, “How can I take a break when we are in such a tight jam? How can I get away right now when we’re facing so many challenges?”
She answered, “If you’ll get away and rest a little — if you’ll step back from these all-consuming problems — your thoughts will clear up. It will be easier to see the situation from God’s perspective so you can receive the wisdom you need from Him.”
I remember thinking how irresponsible it would be for me to get away during such a time of difficulty. But I was studying my Bible at that moment, and just then I saw something in Second Thessalonians 1:7 I had never seen before. Paul told the Thessalonians, “And to you who are troubled rest with us.…” When I saw that word “rest,” I reached for my Greek New Testament to look it up — and was I ever blessed when I saw what it meant!
Before I tell you what I discovered that day, let me first give you a little bit of background about what was happening to the Thessalonian church at the time the apostle Paul wrote this verse to them.
Paul and his apostolic team first preached the Gospel in Thessalonica and subsequently established the church there (see Acts 17:1-9). It was during this time that he and his team laid the first foundations for a church that would eventually challenge the forces of paganism and the hatred of the Jews. The opposition from the Jews became so intense and violent that they were driven from the city and fled to Berea (see Acts 17:10).
Because of the spiritual, religious, and political environment in Thessalonica, the intensity of persecution there was terrific — among the most outrageous demonstrations of persecution that occurred while the New Testament Church was being established. Although these believers were submitted to pounding pressures from outside forces, they refused to surrender to defeat. Day after day, they lived, breathed, and functioned without relief within this climate of extreme persecution and pressure. That is why Paul told them, “And to you who are troubled rest with us….”
The word “troubled” in this verse was a favorite word with Paul when he described the difficult events he and his team encountered in ministry. It is the Greek word thlipsis — a word so strong that it leaves no room for the intensity of these persecutions to be misunderstood. It conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation. One scholar says it was first used to describe the specific act of tying a victim with a rope, laying him on his back, and then placing a huge boulder on top of him until his body was crushed. Paul used this word to alert us to moments when he or others went through grueling, crushing situations that would have been unbearable, intolerable, and impossible to survive if it had not been for the help of the Holy Spirit.
Then Paul went on to say, “To those of you who are troubled rest with us….” The word “rest” is the Greek word anesis, which means to let up, to relax, to stop being stressed, or to find relief. One scholar notes that it was used in the secular Greek world to denote the release of a bowstring that has been under great pressure. It was also used figuratively to mean relaxation from the stresses of life or freedom to have a little recreation. In this case, Paul was urging the Thessalonians to find relief from the constant stress they were undergoing as a result of opposition to their faith. Paul exhorted them to let it go, shake it off, and learn how to find relief, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
An interpretive translation of Second Thessalonians 1:7 could read:
“To you who are going through difficulties right now, it’s time for you to let up, take a breather, and relax. We know what it’s like to be under constant pressure, but no one can stay under that kind of stress continuously. So join us in learning how to loosen up a bit. Shake off your troubles, and allow yourself a little relaxation and time for recreation.”
When I saw these Greek words in this verse, I told my wife, “You’re right! I need a break from all these troubles — and here’s a scripture that confirms it! It tells me I need to loosen up and allow myself a little time for relaxation and recreation.”
So I took time away from the office, refused to talk about work, and simply allowed myself to enjoy a few days with no pressure. And when I returned to work, I found that I could clearly see the answer I had been struggling to find.
If you feel depleted and fatigued, is it possible that you need to get away for a little while? Could it be that the Lord is urging you to take a breather from the constant pace you’re maintaining so you can shake off the problems and relax a little bit? Don’t you agree that when you’re under constant pressure, it affects your ability to think right and see things clearly? Now you have a scripture to back you up when you need to get alone with the Lord to pray and worship Him — or simply allow yourself some time for recreation. And don’t feel guilty about it — it’s the recommendation of the apostle Paul himself !
We live in a world that is spinning faster and faster, so we have to learn how to keep our lives in balance so we can keep our focus clear. So why don’t you start putting a little time aside for yourself so you can shake off the problems that are trying to steal your joy today!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I ask for wisdom to know how to balance my life and work with times of relaxation and recreation. I am tempted to work nonstop and never take a break, and as a result, I get tired and worn out. Forgive me for not taking better care of myself. I yield to Your peace, and I resist the feelings of guilt that try to overwhelm me when I am away from my work and responsibilities. I now know that You want me to take a break from this constant pace and learn to relax a little. Holy Spirit, I thank You for helping me make this change in my life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I live my life in balance! I work hard, but I also set aside time for my mind and my body to be refreshed. God’s Word declares that I need to take a breather from time to time, so I do it obediently and joyfully with no feelings of guilt or condemnation. God expects me to work hard, but He also expects me to be recharged and refilled! I am making a change in my life so I can include time to be revitalized and refreshed!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you give yourself a little time for rest and relaxation, or do you feel guilty when you are not always working?
- Can you think of a time when you worked so hard that you nearly depleted yourself of strength, and when you took a little time off and rested, you came back to work refreshed, refilled, and recharged?
- When you are tired and need a break from your regular schedule, what do you do for that scheduled time of rest? What are some things you could do to make sure you have your needed time of refreshment?