Relax From the Stresses of Life
"Young man! Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap!" These words were spoken to me by a seasoned man of God as I started out in Christian ministry, and were a complete shock to my system. I think this elderly minister could see my tendency towards being driven to go, go, go in the cause of Christ, and not take the time to give sufficient rest to my body. Over the years, I have learnt to appreciate the great wisdom found in this statement, though I must admit it has not come easily. I naturally want to just keep on going. The short reflection on this theme (below) comes from Rick Renner, who pastors the Good News Church in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. He has ministered a number of times at our church and has always been a blessing. Specifically, the article comes from his book "Sparkling Gems from the Greek." Perhaps it is a word in season for you. It really is O.K. to rest sometimes.
- Pastor John Samson
RELAX FROM THE STRESSES OF LIFE
by Rick Renner
And to you who are troubled rest with us. - 2 Thess. 1:7
If you have been under a lot of stress, pressure, and anxiety lately, I think Paulâ€™s words in 2 Thess. 1:7 are meant just for you! Read carefully, because youâ€™re going to find real encouragement and instruction today that will help you find peace in the midst of trouble.
When Paul wrote the book of 2 Thessalonians, the believers in the city of Thessalonica were undergoing horrifying persecution. The persecution in this city was worse than it was in other places because Christians were being hunted both by pagan idol worshipers and by unbelieving Jews who detested the Gospel message. As a result of these threatening conditions, members of the Thessalonian church were suffering, and some even paid the price of dying for the Gospel. However, in spite of these afflictions and pressures from outside forces, this congregation refused to surrender to defeat.
When Paul addressed these believers in 2 Thessalonians, they had already been under this stress and pressure for a long period of time. The assaults against them had been like a stream of unrelenting poundings from which they had no pause. Naturally, they were exhausted â€” extremely tired, worn out, and fatigued. It had been a very long time since they had put up their feet and taken a break! The idea of unwinding or lightening up almost seemed like a fantasy. But everyone needs to rest at some point!
If youâ€™ve been going through a prolonged period of hardship due to persecution, your business, your family, your relationships, your finances, or your children, you still must learn how to rest in the Lord, even in the middle of that difficult situation you are facing. If you donâ€™t, the battle will wear you out!
Thatâ€™s why Paul told the Thessalonians, â€œAnd to you who are troubled rest with us.â€ The word â€œtroubledâ€ tells us the extent of their hardships. It is the Greek word thlipsis, a word Paul often employs when he describes difficult events that he and his team have encountered. This word is so strong that it is impossible to misunderstand the intensity of these persecutions. It conveys the idea of a heavy- pressure situation. In fact, one scholar commented that the word thlipsis 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. As time progressed, this word came to describe any situation that was crushing or debilitating.
One example of this can be found in Second Corinthians 1:8, where Paul writes, â€œFor we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asiaâ€ The word â€œtroubleâ€ in this verse is also from the word thlipsis. It could be translated, â€œWe would not, brethren, have you ignorant of the horribly tight, life-threatening squeeze that came to us in Asia.â€ By using this word, Paul lets us know that his time in Asia was one of the most grueling nightmares he had ever undergone. In fact, when he was in the midst of the situation, he didnâ€™t even know if he would survive it!
Now this is exactly the word Paul uses when he writes to the Thessalonian believers and says, â€œTo those of you who are troubled.â€ The word â€œtroubledâ€ alerts us to the fact that they were not just mildly suffering; they were horrifically suffering - and as noted earlier, this suffering had gone on for a very long time. But because Paul had been in these types of adverse circumstances himself on different occasions and had victoriously survived, he knew that for the Thessalonians to outlast these difficulties, they needed to take a break from the pressure! That is why he told them, â€œ...rest with us.â€
The word â€œrestâ€ comes from the Greek word anesis, which means to let up, to relax, to stop being stressed, or to find relief. One scholar comments that the word anesis 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 and freedom to have a little recreation. By using this word, Paul urges the believers in the city of Thessalonica to find relief from the constant stress they are undergoing as a result of opposition to their faith. Paul exhorts them to let it go, shake it off, and learn how to relax, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
An interpretive translation of this verse could be: â€œTo you who are still going through difficulties right now, itâ€™s time for you to let up, take a breather, and relax. We know what itâ€™s like to be under 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.â€
I realize that when youâ€™re dealing with problems, a vacation is the last thing on your mind! You just want to survive the challenge and make a transition into the next phase of your life â€” and to do it as soon as possible! You may even feel that itâ€™s irresponsible for you to put up your feet and relax for a while. But even God rested on the seventh day!
Take Paulâ€™s counsel to heart, and allow yourself a little relaxation and time for recreation - time away from your problems. When itâ€™s time to come back and face those problems again, youâ€™ll be refreshed and recharged with renewed vision. Youâ€™ll see that challenge with new eyes, and youâ€™ll face it with new strength. Yes, I know itâ€™s hard to allow yourself the time to do what Iâ€™m suggesting. But, friend, your survival depends on it. If you donâ€™t take a break from that constant stress, it will keep wearing you down until you become easy prey for the devil.
So say goodbye to your problems today. Take a break, and allow yourself a little time to rest, relax, and recuperate!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY- Lord, I admit that Iâ€™ve been carrying the worries, stresses, and pressures of life for too long. Before I do anything else, I want to cast these burdens over onto You today. I am tempted to worry that the problems Iâ€™m facing wonâ€™t work out, but taking them into my own hands and worrying about them isnâ€™t going to make the situation any better. So I repent for letting myself become consumed with worry about things I cannot change, and I turn them all over to You today. Please help me stay free of anxiety as I learn to relax and enjoy life a little more than Iâ€™ve been enjoying it lately! I pray this in Jesusâ€™ name!