"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." [Jesus; Matthew 11:28-30]
"Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. [Acts 3:19-21]
For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, To whom He said, "This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest," And, "This is the refreshing"; Yet they would not hear. [Isaiah 28:11-12]
You may have heard the term, Times of Refreshing. It comes from Acts 3:19 and is an incredibly important concept. As I am sure you know, life is filled with difficulty and stressful times and it is nice to know that God understands this and makes provisions for us so we can relax from time to time. However, these times do not come automatically and are not something you can typically demand.
This month I am providing you some insight about God’s expectations for us; this insight is also criteria to allow God to provide us with Times of Refreshing. I will start out with prayer which of course is the two-way communication between God and us.
Talking to God (prayer)
When I ask someone how often they pray, frequently the response is a stunned silence; generally, because they pray so seldomly, they cannot answer. Occasionally I am surprised when they respond with answers such as “frequently,” “all the time,” or even “unceasingly.” It is wonderful when people answer like this and I hope in all cases the answer is true.
If I ask you, “when you pray, are you always doing the speaking (audibly or silently) or do you stop and listen?” Can you honestly say both? A very important aspect of praying is listening.
Let me put it this way, how can God answer a prayer if you won’t stay quiet long enough to hear Him? That may seem harsh but so often when we pray, we speak and don’t listen. Prayer is two-way communications between God and us. There are many times God wants to do something in us, for us, or through us but we miss it because we don’t listen.
Many years ago, while engaged in altar ministry, God taught me this important lesson. Each week a man came to the altar for prayer and each week I prayed with him. Unfortunately, each week he went home unchanged. One week, I felt led to tell him to quit praying and be still, then God would respond; he looked at me kind of funny and as usual, began to pray. I repeated myself, and this time he got the message. He did not utter another word and shortly thereafter God started to minister to him. He ended up staying at the altar for over an hour as God did a marvelous life changing work in him. We both learned an important lesson that night.
“I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” [Psalm 62:5-8; NLT]
Do you truly want to have times of refreshing? If the answer is yes, then teach yourself to sit still and be quiet and allow God to talk. God is not limited by much but if He can’t get a word in edgewise, well hopefully you get the idea.
Next time you are looking for an answer, try this; prayerfully state your need and then wait. Try not to be distracted by other thoughts and things that need to be done. Sometimes the wait seems useless and is taking to long but do not stop-continue to wait until He answers your need. Successful prayer may take time and should never be rushed no matter what else needs to be done – speak to God and then stop and listen. If after a while you feel this did not work, stop and the next day try again and then again and again. Keep presenting yourself to God until he speaks to you and provides you with answers.
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus explains the effectiveness of this:
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?””
With all that said, I know that sometimes it may seem that God is not listening, but this is never the case. When it seems that He is not listening, maybe we should reconsider our request and recognize that the solution He is giving may not seem to relate to the problems we are experiencing. If in our lives we are demonstrating self-centeredness, a lack of forgiveness, or some other non-Christian characteristic, He may need to change these things in us first in order to resolve our other issues.
Many people have shared their testimony of how God changed one thing and then another went away. For example, a lady with whom we used to attend church was very faithful. She was active in many areas of the church as was her family and she truly loved Jesus. Unfortunately, several members of her family were having serious health problems. One day our pastor asked her if she tithed. She said she gave often but never really considered tithing. He suggested that she study tithing and see what God revealed to her.
After studying it, she and her husband began to tithe and very soon after all the seemingly unrelated health problems went away. God did not cause the health problems but there was a gap in this area of this lady’s life and when the gap was closed Satan lost his foothold in the lives of this lady and her family.
There are times when what God does for us is not what we expect from Him because our expectations differ from His. He has something better, richer, higher, fuller, and more complete. Trust Him... just trust Him.
God sends us messages, but too often we miss them because we are so focused on events, circumstances, or some other distractions. How disappointing it must be for God when He speaks to us and we completely miss His message. Don’t forget the sheep learn the voice of the shepherd so they can follow him; God says we need to do the same thing with Him – learn to recognize His voice so we can follow Him. John 10:3-4 says,
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice.” [NLT]
Now this is a bit harsh, but consider this, if you listen to God, you are saved while failing to do so shows you are not. John 8:47 teaches us this lesson: “Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you don't, it proves you aren't God's children." [NLT] Long before Verizon made it popular, God was asking, “can you hear me now.” He is speaking but when we do not hear Him or recognize His voice, how can we serve Him?
One last thing on listening for and to God. There is a lot of stuff that can interfere with our ability to hear God not the least of which is Satan himself. But he is not the only thing and the list is probably extremely long. It certainly includes work, family, church, and friendships, finances… So suffice it to say that we should not allow anything to come between us and God. When it really comes down to it, if we miss God it is because we either chose not to listen or allowed something to distract us from Him. In either case, it is our decision.
We know that God wants to communicate with us; Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” This verse is frequently misinterpreted as a lesson for non-Christians when in reality it is spoken to Christians. God says he is there knocking and He wants to fellowship with us. We make the decision whether we will listen or not – He is there, and He is speaking, so the question is, are you listening?
Praise and Worship
Praise and worship are integral parts of what is needed to invite times of refreshing. Not only is this necessary in out church services but every other aspect of our lives. Glorify God in all you do and praise Him through difficult times and while enjoying the better times.
Praise and worship are a combination of heartfelt words, songs, thoughts, and prayers but they are different.
Praise is the joyful and thankful description of what God has done for us. It is closely intertwined with thanksgiving because we offer back to God appreciation for who He is and His mighty works on our behalf.
Praise is universal and can be applied to other relationships as well. We can praise anyone including family, co-workers, those that help us or help others, anyone. Praise requires nothing of us and is merely the honest acknowledgment of the positive actions of another or others.
On the other hand, worship is reserved for God alone. In Luke 4:8, Jesus says, “8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”” When you worship God, you become lost in the adoration of Him.
While you praise God as a part of worship, worship itself is so much more. With a little practice, praise is fairly easy while worship requires a level of sincerity that is not so easy. To truly worship God, we must let go of ourselves – those who worship so others can see or hear them have not accomplished this mission. They are too self-focused to worship God and He knows your heart so will not receive this level of worship.
To worship God, we must be willing to humble ourselves before Him, submit every facet of our being and life to His control, and focus our worship on who He is more than what He has done. Jesus said the Father is seeking those who will worship Him "in spirit and in truth" [John 4:23].
Have you ever been in church when an overwhelming need to smile, laugh, or even jump comes over you? I certainly hope so because where God is sadness wanes and joy manifests itself in many different ways. I am not talking about Pentecostal services, but a move of God’s Holy Spirit that draws a person closer to God.
In His presence we will certainly feel release, new life, and joy. God is love, pure love, and unchanging constant love. This love is so powerful in a very short time it can and will peel away layers of pain, anxiety, discomfort, disease, anger, frustration, depression, and so much more and leave the person surrounded by this love and what other response can there be – joy! God’s mercy is just one reflection of His desire to see us completely set free.
Just as tears generally reflect sadness, laughter usually reflects joy. I cannot help but wonder why is it acceptable to cry in church but not to laugh? When God breaks through and touches someone’s heart we encourage the tears, especially at the altar because this reflects brokenness. However, let someone laugh celebrating the same positive change, even for just a few seconds, and people can get very upset. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” [KJV; John 7:38] When people are laughing out of control, the laughter comes up from deep inside them and we should allow it.
Whenever we experience a positive event we express joy – this is very important to God. As a matter of fact, the word joy is used approximately 140 times in the New King James Version of the Bible. The whole idea of JOY is very important to God. The closer we draw to God, the greater the joy experience. The more of the joy we experience, the happier we become. The happier we become, the better the witness, and the better the witness, the more effective our ministry of leading others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I am not going to discuss pessimism except to say it is one of the worst characteristics Christians can exhibit. It does not just inhibit growth, but like cancer, it has the ability to destroy an entire congregation; it will permeate the very soul of any group. On the other hand, optimism is an excellent quality for Christians to exhibit.
The foundation of optimism is hope and hope is a great gift from God. Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” [NKJ] Along with joy and peace, the Holy Spirit imparts us with hope. How incredible is this that no matter how difficult things can get, the Holy Spirit will provide hope to us; hope encourages us to continue and eventually finish the race.
We should pray for optimism in the church and in our families. We should desire it and pray with hope and expectation. Our desire for optimism should be contagious and we should learn to be optimistic about what God is doing in the church and outside the church via his people. Others will be more inclined to listen and learn from optimistic Christians than they will from stogy, stoic, unhappy, or pessimistic Christians. They will want to hang around, befriend, and even seek solutions from optimistic people.
Oh, and in case you did not pick up on it, optimism and faith go hand in hand. So, what is it that prevents optimism from flourishing in the church? While there are many possibilities, one that seems very likely is when God’s people have allowed the world to have too much influence on their lives. When we allow the world to have this type of influence on us, the world may seem so large and unconquerable; however, when we allow Jesus to lift this burden, suddenly the world seems small or at least manageable.
I should point out that I am speaking from experience; like so many who will read this, I have on many occasions allowed job, family, and other issues to interfere in my relationship with God. Though many will not want to admit it, it is a conscious decision to focus on the issues rather than the solution. We may want to blame this on the devil or even our circumstances; however, if we are honest with ourselves, we considered and then made the decision where we would spend our time and effort – certainly circumstances and events influence this, but the final decision is completely up to us.
The solution here is of course to redirect our attention towards Jesus and allow Him to sort through the mire in our lives and provide us with a solution. Search the scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to drive us towards a well-balanced, successful, and pleasant life.
Burnout is a slang term used to describe someone who has lost motivation, is lethargic, and seemingly uncaring about a list of different things that can include work, friendships, family, church and even God. It is not simple fatigue that someone might experience after a tough day or a few rough days in a row.
There are a few key things that will help someone avoid burnout.
First, stay in touch with God. Talk to Him and listen to Him – He will not let you fail and will slow you down when it is necessary; if you listen.
Second, recognize you cannot do it all and saying no is OK.
Third, when you find yourself getting more tired than usual, do something fun – get away for a while or take a walk.
Fourth, if you do not have a positive distraction, you cannot perform at your best (positive distractions include things like golf, hobbies, amusement parks or other things that shift your efforts from work to relaxation).
Fifth, when going through stressful situations, avoid additional stressful situations. Stress compounds quickly and though some stress may be healthy, excessive stress is very unhealthy.
Most burnout occurs as a result of untenable work situations; however, problems at home, church, in the community can all contribute to or lead to burnout. When it seems that things are getting too tough, we should focus on the good things. Galatians 6:9 says, “So don't get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” And 2 Thessalonians 13 says, “And I say to the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.” While you focus on the good things in your life the negatives will start to slip away.
Times of Refreshing
Finally, the topic at hand. We have discussed a great deal about things you can and should do to encourage times of refreshing. So, now let’s look at what the Bible says about these times, so we can better understand them. In Acts 3:19-21 Peter says, “19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. “
When he said this, Peter was addressing a crowd that represented a privileged people, a land where the Messiah had lived with them. While explaining how a lame man had been healed through the power of Jesus Christ, Peter told the people they had rejected and murdered Jesus who was responsible for this miracle. He also pointed out that this was done out of ignorance.
Peter was carefully educating his audience that the Messiah had come just as the prophets had prophesied. He urged them to repent so God could send “times of refreshing.”
What did Peter mean by “times of refreshing?” According to Barnes, Notes on the Bible, the Greek word for “refreshing” means “any kind of refreshment, as rest, or deliverance from evils of any kind.”
When I go inside while doing yard work, on a hot Florida summer day, the first thing I do is get something cold to drink – I do this because it is refreshing. While this refreshing is not rescuing me from anything evil, it is very enjoyable. The times of refreshing that God has for us are more refreshing than this, probably more than anything we can imagine. Greater because it involves both physical and spiritual refreshing.
I cannot define what those times will look like because only God knows. What I can tell you, is that if you do not do the things God says, those times will be few and far between for you. Others may be basking in God’s glory and you will sit there confused as to what in the world is going on. Just remember, believers can and do experience times of refreshing but not until they learn to quiet their hearts often and press into the realm God has created for us; a realm separate from the world and one that is full of peace and joy. As we spend time alone with the Lord, we can experience this place. Then later when we are in a congregation setting, we can still enjoy the times as we worship God and we can now share the joy of these times with the others around us—as they share the same with us.
It is difficult if not impossible to force times of refreshing because they only come when a person or persons are fully surrendered to God. But we can continuously express our desire for them to God, and thereby encourage Him to provide them.
Now, it is incumbent on you to surrender yourself to God so you can learn and enjoy those times of refreshing.
Taking Pun-itive Action - A Shrinking Story
They say that as a result of classical conditioning, Pavlov had very soft hair. You may not agree on that but does the name Pavlov ring a bell. I am convinced that many psychologists work in the dark due to their misguided belief that the burned-out bulb must first want to change. Then again, they say a narcissist just stands there holding the bulb while expecting the world to turn around him.
Personally, I’m afreud of psychoanalytic theory. However, I did make a Freudian slip the other day when I said one thing but meant amother. Didn’t Freud say an egotist is someone me deep in conversation? Maybe not, but I am convinced ministers, while humble in secular matters, still exhibit an altar ego.
I went to a behavioral psychologist who helped me understand that after all those years of suffering from an inferiority complex, it wasn’t a complex after all. Then again, I avoided years of therapy to help me overcome my fear of monsters under my bed by simply putting my mattress on the floor - problem solved.
I worked in a mental health facility for several years and was chastised by my boss for telling a patient, “it’s a madhouse.” One Christmas the staff Psychiatrist game me a shrink-wrapped fruit basket. I thought he wrapped it himself but later realized he didn’t have the patients. During this stint, I became acutely aware that neurotics build castles in the sky, psychotics live in them and psychiatrists collect the rent. I also found out that there aren’t any mental health facilities in the Sahara Desert because there are nomad people living there.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one most traveled by while my friend George took the psycho path and there in lies the difference. Later while on a hike, George fell into a deep depression. I wanted to take the blame but he gets-alt that himself.
A psychiatrist and gastroenterologist went into business together naming their business Odds and Ends.
While working on a term paper on muscle movement, my friend Archie asked the professor, “kin-is-thesis be turned in late?” The professor responded that no one will hire-Archie in this field, “maybe you are better suited for farming” to which Archie responded at least I would end up a man outstanding in his field.