Did you have a vacation planned for this summer? With the country mostly locked down, most people have either postponed their vacation plans or canceled them completely. But, there’s still the option of having a Stay-cation. Personally, I hope the weather is nice tomorrow for my trip to Puerto Backyardia, I’m getting tired of living in Los Livingroom.

It’s possible that even though you have been staying home more, you’ve been actually working more. For some people, this summer is actually busier than ever, especially if you haven’t scheduled time off from work.

It’s important for us to stop right now and consider how to leverage the rest of this summer for our growth.

God has some things He wants to do in your life. Stop and think about that for a minute, The God of the Universe wants to work in and through your normal, ordinary life this summer! I want us to look at three specific steps you can take this week and for the rest of the summer to really experience some refreshment, a break from the ordinary and to defeat the stress in your life.

And these three areas won’t happen by accident. You’re going to have to choose to build them into your schedule and your life. But if you will choose to make these three areas a part of your life, then they have the power to transform your life. They are super simple, but they are super powerful.

Rest It!

Why should we do that? The first and best reason is found way back in the Old Testament. In fact, it’s so important, God put it in the Big Ten, the Ten Commandments! In Exodus 20, verse 8:

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God… For in six days, the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day, He rested. Exodus 20:8-11

Rest is so important that it’s right up there in the big ten, along with “Don’t commit adultery” and “Don’t kill anybody.” God says, every seven days, once a week, you take a day off.  We celebrate the Sabbath on Sunday every week. The reason we do that is also because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday morning, so every Sunday is a celebration of Easter.

The reason God made the rule to worship and rest every seven days is for you. Even God rested, and we aren’t God. But, we were made in His image. He knows how we work best. And if we didn’t have this rule, most of us aren’t smart enough to take time off on our own.

If you’re too busy to take a Stay-cation, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy. And if you’re too busy to rest, you’re too busy. Life doesn’t stop, until it’s over, But if you don’t rest, it may be over sooner rather than later. There’s a cycle that God used in creation: 6 days to work, 1 day to rest.

This lockdown has thrown off my sleep in so many ways. There’s added stress. I’m not getting up and going to the gym. But, the most important choice you make every night is when you go to bed. You are choosing what your next day will be like.  Some important things that happen when you sleep. First, sleep is when your mind processes all the information you’ve gathered from the day. So, it’s important for your mental health. Sleep is when your muscles build. If you’re exercising, but not sleeping, you’re spinning your wheels.

Sleep is Worship! You’re trusting God by saying, God, “you’re God and I’m not.” You’re still on the throne. I am trusting you tonight that as I sleep, you are still working for my good. I am trusting you that when I wake up in the morning, the world will still be spinning. 

In Psalm 4:8, David said, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”  God is bigger than whatever you’re afraid of.  As you lay your head on your pillow, lay your fears at God’s feet.  You can sleep because God never sleeps. That will change your life!

Psalm 127:2 says, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”  Rest is a gift from God. Sometimes, working non-stop is counter-productive. You get less and less done and you get more and more worn out. But also, God loves giving you rest. When you work too much, you may be getting the most out of your day, but you’re cutting years off of your life.

Have you ever said, “I’m going to catch up on my sleep,” after not sleeping for a while? You can’t really do that. It’s a daily decision. And it pays off in your health, which you need right now. It pays off in your relationships, because you’re nicer to people. It pays off in your work and every area of your life.

You might have trouble shutting down. Turning off your mind. Well, you prepare. Turn off your electronics, like your phone and tablet at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep. And parents, please make sure your kids do not have their phones through the night! Trust me on that! Make sure you are planning for 8 hours of sleep. If your phone is a distraction for you through the night, put it in another room. You can read from the Bible, an actual book form, or a devotional. And then, some people say one trick to go to sleep is counting sheep. I say, why count sheep when you can talk with the Shepherd!

Getting enough rest is a simple action that will change your life!

Renew It!

God wants you to be renewed! How can you be renewed? Wait on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord is trusting in God’s timing.

Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

God wants to refill and recharge you. Do you know how He does that? It happens when you connect with God. This is one of the main ways you can refuel and reduce stress in your life. When you connect with God, you release your worries and your stress. 

Look at how many times Jesus just took time to go off alone and talk with God.

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16.

Jesus did that regularly. It was a habit in his life to get alone with God to refill and recharge. If Jesus needed to pray and be with God, how much more do we?  He would refill and then he would get back to what he needed to do.  

If you’re feeling drained, maybe physically, and especially spiritually drained, but you aren’t taking time every day to refill, then you’re running on fumes.  We get distracted by the notifications, and we put God to the side.

Instead of checking your phone in the morning first thing, check in with God and the Bible first thing. That first thought of the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.   Bad news can lead to a bad day. Good news sets you up for a good day.  

You want to be the person that when you wake up, the devil says, “Oh no! He’s awake!”

And right now, during this season, we can, and we have to make spending time alone with God a priority and a habit. And not just for you, but for your family and your kids. But it starts with you and me.

You need to Wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds to get your hands clean and get rid of those germs. I use SOAP to clean my hands. Not only does the Bible say, “Give us clean hands,” but Ephesians 5:26 says, “to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” God’s Word is like spiritual soap that you use to clean your life. I want to show you how you can use soap to have a time with God.

Using the S.O.A.P. Devotional Plan

How can you do it? Choose a time and a place where you can to be still and quiet. You need a Bible, maybe a journal, and a plan. We actually have a daily Bible reading on our Connection Church app you can use.

Starting in the morning, or maybe even this evening. Head out to your backyard or somewhere quiet, by yourself, get a cup of coffee or a sweet tea, and get still and pray, and ask God, “Open my heart and mind to the truth of your Word today.”

And then, open up your Bible and read a SCRIPTURE. That’s the S in Soap. Scripture. And then you maybe even write that scripture down, or you could even paraphrase it in your own words so that you understand it better.

Then the O is for OBSERVE. You think about those verse and you ask, what does this say to me about God, and about how I should live.

Then there’s the A for APPLY. You write down, what God wants you to do about it today. Something practical and specific.

Then the P is for PRAY.  You close it out with some specific prayer for you and for others.

You will be so surprised at how much closer you’ll feel connected to God. Just doing that every day.

How many of you believe everything you read on Facebook? No way! I hope not! Do you believe everything you see on Youtube? No! Do you believe everything God says in the Bible? Yes! You do! We are people of the Book! But we spend a lot more time listening and watching all of these other things than we do in God’s Word. That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Outwardly, our bodies are going one direction. Is your body looking as good this year as it did last year? Maybe not. But you renew your mind each and every day with what you put in your mind. To be able to face whatever problems the day is going to throw at you.

Re-create It!

Did you ever think about the word recreation? What does it mean? Think about what God did at Creation. He created everything there is. Then eventually, He created you. Re-creation is restoring and recharging your battery.

So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

What is Solomon saying? Eating and drinking and having fun isn’t all there is to life. But it is a part of life. Not to have crazy parties, but to have fun and enjoy life and even enjoy your work. God made the world and made us to have some fun and enjoy life. That’s not sinful or wrong. That’s godly and biblical. If you’re going to reduce the stress in your life, take time to Re-Create.

Make time to have fun. Find something that you enjoy doing and do that. As a family, and as couples. Even now, during this time, we’re not doing all the running around for sports and the normal stuff, so now you can do those things that you enjoy doing. Whether it’s exercise, or music, or you’re crafty, or reading, in fact, let me know what you enjoy doing. And do that.

Even Jesus did this. His job was the most important one in history, to literally save the world. But you can still see him going to parties and weddings.

Who would have ever thought we would be living our lives this way in 2020? Is it possible that life had gotten so crazy, that now, we have to stop for a moment. If you don’t take time off, God will make you take time off because He loves you.  In the most famous Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 23, David says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures… by still waters.” Has God ever made you lie down? because you wouldn’t do it on your own.

Our culture and world is becoming more stressful. And to stay healthy, we need to be intentional about reducing our stress. You are too blessed to live your life in stress!

Finding Soul Rest

If you want to overcome your stress, you give it all to Jesus.

Jesus said in Matthew 11, Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29

Jesus says if you’re tired and stressed out, don’t give up, look up to God.  Because the single greatest source of stress is trying to live your life disconnected from Jesus Christ.  It’s like being unplugged from the power source. There’s no power in your life if you’re disconnected from God.

Jesus says come to me. Come to Jesus today, give Him your stress.  He knows the load you’re carrying, and He will help you when you give it all to Jesus!