Summer is here! Woohoo!!!
We all need vacations and a break in our normal routines. God instituted the Sabbath for that very reason—to provide rest from the normal pressures and work we engage in the rest of the week. Often summertime provides a type of “sabbath rest” for many of us when our regular church events like Bible studies, small groups, home groups, etc. take a hiatus. Yet a perpetual holiday/vacation can cause us to lose spiritual ground we may have gained during the year. As we enjoy different routines and changes in our schedules, we slow down. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The downside of slowing down and taking a rest is that it becomes so easy to just roll to a stop and take a nap at the wheel. Without realizing it, we quit doing the very things we know help us grow in the Lord.
Because I know my own predilection for summer slump slothfulness, I wanted to see how I could strengthen my own heart against spiritually napping the summer away. We just finished studying the book of Deuteronomy with our ladies this year. As we wrapped up the year and discussed all we had learned, I noticed helpful principles for surviving summer well.
Now, I realize not everyone has studied the book of Deuteronomy or has an intimate knowledge of the book, so let me provide a teensy bit of context here. Deuteronomy is one of my favorite Old Testament books—for a variety of reasons, but primarily because we get to know God so well in this book. His character is put on display from His acts of deliverance, the laws He desires Israel to obey, and the sustaining of the nation. Another reason I love Deuteronomy is because it lays out so clearly God’s “family rules.” Israel had already been welcomed into the family, so to speak, when God made His unilateral covenant with Abraham. That covenant eventually extended to the Israelites preparing to enter the long-awaited Promised Land. They had promised at Mt. Sinai that they would follow the Lord and be His obedient children, so God lovingly provides them with His guidelines for maintaining a harmonious and happy relationship with Him.
Principles for Surviving Summer Well
1. We learn from Deuteronomy that we are to first and foremost, love the Lord. Spiritual health always begins with this. We’re told in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” God provides a concrete picture of what loving the Lord looks like when we read in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Let summertime be a time where you grow even more in your love for the Lord through your obedience to His Word.
2. We also learn throughout the book of Deuteronomy of God’s desires that we know Him better. He explains this in Deuteronomy 4:33-35, “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? ‘To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.’” Over and over again we see those who love the Lord desiring to know Him and love Him better. Let summertime be a special time for you to draw even nearer to the Lord.
3. Enjoy the reset that summer gives us. Know that it’s okay to switch things up and do things differently. God took the people of Israel into the land to give them rest from their labors. Summer is meant to be a time where we do things differently. It’s a reset time. So, enjoy it. Deuteronomy chapter 8 warns, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord.” As I was talking with our son, Nate, about this subject, he said, “Rest is to make us more effective, not less effective.” What a good reminder! Use the reset and the rest of summertime as a means of being more effective when things start back up again.
What are some ideas you have for a summer reset? Here are a few to get you started if you’re stumped.
Read through a Bible book in a month.
Do another Bible study just on your own.
Move your time with the Lord to a different time of the day—just for fun.
Make a date with the Lord every week and do something different with Him each week (12 dates with the Lord through the summer).
Meet with a friend to discuss what you’re reading; meet with a friend via FaceTime while your kiddos are napping, if need be.
Read that good for you book you’ve meant to read for the last 2 years. Find someone to read it with. It’s less painful if you do that.
4. The dangers of too much rest and relaxation. The problem with rest and reset times is that we tend to interpret them as the time to do “fun” things or to quit doing “not fun” things. Yet, there’s danger when we quit doing the things that are good for us because we’re on vacation. In Deuteronomy 8:7-14, God warns, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land [that is, a place of rest and bounty, like summer], a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you [When summer begins we’re often thankful for the rest, but with the bounty also comes a warning as we read next.]. Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today [In the blessings of summer, we need to guard against forgetting the Lord.]; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery [Not remembering the Lord can lead to pride and spiritual slothfulness.].”
What are some dangers of too much rest and relaxation?
Growing inward, feeling selfish, feeling disconnected from the body—we withdraw (this is a huge no-no!), feeling spiritually sluggish, falling out of good habits, (how many of us have started eating healthy, continued for a time, and fallen out of the habit? All of us have! This is all the more true in our walks with the Lord!)
John Owen warns, “Where the slothful person was one day, there he is the next; yea, where he was one year, there he is the next!”
Samuel Annesley, a Puritan pastor, warns that there are 5 ways we can fall into a spiritual slump.
Self-love—“When men honor themselves with self-applause, this is an error of prime importance. Flee from it or you can never be spiritually healthy.”
Love of the world—If we love the world, we don’t love the Father (1 John 2:15).
Spiritual sloth and carelessness of spirit—He says that “Spiritual sloth does more mischief than scandalous relapses.” I can personally attest to this. He says, “Spiritual sloth runs through the whole course of our life, marring every duty, strengthening every sin and weakening every grace.” He urges us to shake off this spiritual slothfulness that makes us sleep along the way.
The love of any sin whatsoever—“The love of God and sin do not mix.”
Inordinate love of lawful things—“In some respect this is our greatest danger. It is not easy to discern what is lawful and the first step into what is sinful.” “This is our sin—the replacing of the end with the means, when we enjoy our delights, but do not love God!” What are some “delights” that could we could grow to love more than we love God—or that could distract us from Him?
5. Don’t quit making progress. Consider, what your overall goals are for yourself this year. And also consider if you have some specific goals for the summer, whether it’s for you personally or for your kiddos or your home. You might have very simple, lovely goals, like “hang out and laugh with my kids as much as possible” or it might be very detailed about the things you want to do during the weeks of summer, like “paint baseboards while learning Italian and read 10 books.” No matter what your goals are for the summer, they must include time with the Lord in some way, in some form, with this goal in mind—to love Him better, to know Him better, to enjoy Him more. Deuteronomy 4:9, “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.”
At one point in John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian finds himself toiling up a steep mountain as he presses on toward the celestial city. About halfway up the mountain, the Lord of that land built an arbor to give rest to weary pilgrims. Ken Pulse comments on the arbor, saying, “The purpose of the Arbor is for the refreshment of weary travelers. It is a place to find strength and encouragement along the Way. But the Arbor is not designed for lodging. It is not meant to distract travelers from continuing on their journey. It is a place to rest for a moment, for pilgrims to catch their breath and then press on. The Arbor becomes a hindrance when Christian settles in, satisfied with where he is in the journey. He fails to keep looking up the Hill and beyond to his final destination. He falls into a sinful slumber of pride and self-satisfaction in his present state of grace.” Ah, what insights we find there for sustaining spiritual vitality during summer break! Summer is meant to provide refreshment, yet our flesh can desire rest and relaxation to the point that we forget the Lord.
Ken Pulse goes on to write, “We must be careful, this side of glory, to maintain a balance in our walk, cheered as we consider how much God has already given us and how far we have come, but impelled as we consider how much God has yet promised us and how far we have yet to go. We rejoice that we are not now what we once were, but we press on, for we are not now what we shall be. Hear Paul's testimony: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).”
6. Consider Moses’ example. When Moses died, it says in Deuteronomy 34:7, “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” How was that possible? Part of his vigor stemmed from his daily meeting with God all the days of his life. Psalm 92:14 speaks of those in old age who still bear fruit because the Lord is their rock. He is their refuge and strength.
What’s interesting about looking at Moses’ life and the older folks mentioned in Psalm 92 is what’s not happening in their lives. They haven’t quit. They aren’t “retired” from life. They are still serving. If that’s true for those who are older, then certainly there are lessons here for us when it comes to bearing fruit for the summer.
What are some lessons we can learn for the summer from the fruit-bearing older folks? Those who know the Lord and walk with Him know—and live out—Deuteronomy 32:46-47, which says, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.”
May you and I both come to the end of the summer rested and revitalized, with our hearts bolstered by time spent with Him. May the time of summer rest make us more effective when the busyness of fall and regular routines start up again. And may the encouragements and warnings of Deuteronomy be on our hearts throughout the summer.
John Owen, Richard Rushing, editor, Voices from the Past, Volume 2(Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 118.
Samuel Annesley, Richard Rushing, editor, Voices from the Past, Volume 2(Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 51.
Ken Pulse, A Guide to Pilgrim’s Progressby John Bunyan, Chapter 36: http://kenpulsmusic.com/pilgrimsprogress36.html