During the month of July I spent time away on sabbatical with my family—resting and learning and enjoying time together. I am grateful to our church for the opportunity to be away from regular responsibilities, allowing extra time for rest and growth in the Lord. We certainly did both, though we also kept on the move. We visited five different churches in three different states. We spent time visiting family in California and in South Carolina, and our son Micah got to see all twelve of his first cousins. We had a great time I and learned a lot! I’d like to share some of what I learned here.
Godliness with Contentment
What stands out most is a truth God reminded me of repeatedly from his Word—that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). This verse came to my mind at the very beginning of July in light of some big decisions we were making as a family. I did not remember exactly where the verse was in Scripture, but searched and found it in 1 Timothy 6. I decided to spend time each day reading and meditating on that chapter. Here are three lessons I learned.
- Jesus is the greatest Treasure in the world, but love for money destroys (1 Tim 6:6-10). God has given me the most valuable thing in all the universe—himself: the “only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (v.15). I am far richer in Christ than the richest man in the whole world, and yet a craving for worldly riches can destroy my faith and contentment in Christ. God has provided me with every basic necessity for life, and I too can find much joy in godly contentment (v.8). Father, help me to grow in treasuring Christ, and finding contentment in your abundant provision.
- Godly contentment comes from an eternal perspective (1 Tim 6:7,12,19). What truly lasts and what is most valuable is what we can’t physically see or touch—our souls made in the image of God, and God himself who rewards all who trust his promises and walk in his ways. Paul told Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (v.7). Lord, may I also “Fight the good fight of the faith…” and “Take hold of the eternal life to which [I was] called” (v.12).
- Living passionately for Jesus is what I want my life to be about (1 Tim 6:11-16). It matters how I spend time, and what I prioritize each day. Paul says, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things [i.e. controversy, false doctrine, love for money, etc]. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (v.11). Lord, fill me with your Spirit, and help me to chase hard after what is good and right.
My Needs: Water, Air, Jesus
I also learned much from other believers during my sabbatical. I read four books—about corporate worship, preaching, prayer, and one on how my phone is changing me. I also learned much through spending time with believers at different churches we visited. Here are three lessons I learned from others—both at church and through reading books.
- I need water. At Hume Lake Christian Camp in California, we heard a message on Sunday from 2 Corinthians 3. The preacher, Dennis, used an illustration that impacted me. He said that a Christian is like a shammy (cloth used for cleaning cars). With a bucket of water and a shammy in hand he showed how the shammy soaks up water, then wrung it out and explained that as Christians we too get squeezed and wrung out. We must prioritize time to soak up the water of God’s Word, to behold the glory of the Lord and so be transformed (1 Cor. 3:18). We soak in the Scriptures so that we can be a blessing to others. Lord, may I behold you as you reveal yourself in your Word.
- I need air. As I began reading a little book entitled “Prayer”, I was struck by this statement: “prayer is breathing.” As individuals, but also as a church—without real and genuine prayer we suffocate. Lord, teach us to pray.
- I need Jesus (and his Church). During my time visiting other churches and spending time with family I recognized again and again my need for Christ—his mercy when I sin, his joy in my sorrow, and the fellowship of his Spirit and his people throughout my life. Father, give me godly joy and contentment that blesses others and glorifies you. Amen.