Lessons From Our Vacation
Our need for rest is humbling. It demonstrates that we are not God. God never sleeps (Ps. 121:4) and Christ upholds the universe with the Word of his power (Heb. 1:3). God is not taxed and tired out by life. He is the source of life (Gen. 1; John 1:4). Knowing that we are dust (Ps. 103:14), created, not the Creator, is a biblical mandate for the need of rest, whether that is sleep, a day off or a vacation. Rest refreshes us for God’s work (Ex. 20:8). It is good to take a holiday.
A few days ago we returned from our time in the UK and Spain. The aim was to visit family and then spend some time on the beach. However, as much as it was good to see loved ones there were trials along the way and lessons that God wanted us to learn. I offer them for consideration.
God’s Sovereign Purposes Are Ultimate; Not Our Personal Pleasures
When we go on vacation we can lean towards a sense of entitlement. “I’ve worked hard, so I deserve a good time”. But we must remember that God is sovereign. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20) so our lives are not our own (Jer. 10:23). God’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9), and sometimes he confounds us in order to humble us and lead us to trust him when we can’t see why he does what he does.
When we set off Amanda was unwell with a virus and I began to feel the same as soon as we landed. The weather was terrible in London - wet and windy (well, okay that’s normal!). And as much as it was good to see family it was grieving for us to see them still resisting the gospel. We all know the tensions and trials this can bring. Tiredness, unmet expectations and familial pressures can even cause conflict between you and your spouse or you and your children on vacation.
The temptation is to fail to see God’s sovereignty in these times. We don’t deserve good health, weather or relational perfection. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t desire these things, but we must not turn a good desire into a demand. We deserved hell and got heaven, and God has been gracious to us beyond measure even at the expense of his own dear Son. Christians have more hope than present comforts. We have eternal hope and we know that in all things God works for our good (Ro. 8:28-29) - even on vacation.
Lesson one: On vacation keep the big picture in view. God is sovereign and his purposes are ultimate not our personal pleasures.
God’s Purpose is Our Sanctification
A vacation is a rest but not an escape from God. Where can we go where he is not (Ps. 139:7)? This ought to make us keenly aware of his watchful eye and his caring hand. It should make us fear God and run from sin, and it should make us live in reverent love for and awareness of him at all times and in all places.
The virus left me without much energy. But through this God graciously pressed home that my sin is why there is sickness in the first place. I wasn’t sick as a consequence of some sin the day before, however, sickness is part of living in a fallen world. The world is fallen because of sin and we all sinned in Adam (Ro.5:12), which makes us culprits, not just victims.
An unbelieving world (even family) set at odds with Christians is part of the effects of sin. But just in case we develop a self righteous, victim mentality we must remember that we are part of the problem and we have been shown grace upon grace by a sovereign God and Jesus Christ who stooped to save us from our sins. None is righteous except the Jesus who propitiates God’s wrath upon unrighteousness and imputes his own righteousness to those who receive it by faith (Ro. 3:9; 21-26).
Not only that but we are united to Christ and adopted (Eph. 1:5) as children by our heavenly Father who will spare nothing to make us like Jesus.
He uses sickness to sanctify by driving us to Christ, not health, for our hope and to Christ, not vacations for our ultimate rest (Matt. 11: 28).
He also reveals indwelling sin through our response to discomfort. Grumblings about the weather or relational difficulties, and impatient outbursts because of ill health reveal areas of sin that rise to the surface when we are under pressure. This is a blessing because we can then repent and reorient ourselves to the forgiveness of Christ and the favor of God our Father. So we “improve” our trials, as the Puritans would say, and grow more like Christ.
Lesson two: When we are on vacation, God is not; He sovereignly designs our vacation trials in order to work his purposes out in us - and his will is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3).
God’s Purpose is the Salvation of People From Every Nation
God’s purpose is our sanctification but it’s not all about us. Christ died to save people from every tribe and tongue (Rev. 5:9). So ask yourself: when you are on vacation are you on mission? People were praying for us as we went away because we told them of the evangelistic opportunity the holiday provided. Prayer caused God’s word to speed ahead (2 Thess. 3:1) and miraculously opened doors for the Word to go through (Col. 4:3). We didn’t have to force anything. We just had to be ready. It was remarkable.
I evangelized one of the cabin crew on the plane over to the UK. She had children by different men and was now living with her partner. I told her about sin and grace in Christ. Her adult son was going to church. My prayer is that she would engage with her son and the Lord would bring her to repentance and faith.
Amanda was wondering how she would ever approach her father with the gospel in two limited visits. But on our second visit with her family, out of the blue her uncle (not her dad) started asking questions about objective truth, biblical sexuality, and Christianity. An opportunity appeared and Amanda told the gospel to her dad, step mum, uncle and aunt - all in one hit!
On another occasion she witnessed to our brother-in-law who asked her the difference between Christianity and other religions. She began with the T of TULIP, our inability to save ourselves, and the unique grace of the true God in the incarnate Jesus Christ.
Finally, on our last night in Spain an older lady was sitting on her own at the restaurant where we were and we got talking. She said her father was a Jew and her mother a Catholic, but she didn’t like that some churches were against Jews. I hooked in on Romans 1:16 and proclaimed that Jesus is for Jews and Gentiles because all are sinners and need the gospel of salvation.
You have not evangelized someone until you have told them the whole gospel, but the key is to listen for the hooks that get you in. Is it suffering, relational hurt, objective truth, prejudice or injustice? All of these provide a springboard for the gospel. You speak and the rest is up to a sovereign God. Our evangelism wasn’t great, but God is, and in that we trust.
Lesson 3: God’s purpose is salvation from Canada to the UK to Spain. Pray before you go on vacation, be watchful for opportunity and find the gospel hook.
So did we have a good vacation? Yes, not as we planned, but as God planned, sovereignly achieving his purposes and teaching us great lessons. I even brought these lessons home in family devotions, so we were all taught of God (John 6:45). And that is a disciple’s task, to learn Christ and make new learners.
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