Monday, May 29, 2017

Using Leisure Time Well

Most people never have enough leisure time. They view work as a necessary evil to earn enough money to do what they want to do in their free time. They live for their evenings, weekends, and vacations. The recreation and entertainment industries love these people. Then there are others who feel guilty when they are not working. After all, God’s Word says we are to “labour” six days and redeem every moment (Ex. 20:9; Eph. 5:16). Where are you in the spectrum between these poles? Neither of these extremes is biblical. Work is not a necessary evil but a God-given calling (Gen. 2:15); leisure time is not from the evil one, but a God-given gift (Eccl. 3:13; 5:18–19; 9:9).
One purpose for leisure time is to be refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually. That is why God gave us a weekly day of rest, to begin to know Him. While on earth, the Lord Jesus knew He and His disciples needed additional times of rest. After becoming wearied by ministry and receiving the disturbing news of John the Baptist’s death, He said to His disciples, “come ye yourselves apart … and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Times of rest better equip us to work. As the Puritans said, the one who doesn’t take time to rest is like the harvester who doesn’t pause to sharpen his scythe and ends up being less productive.
Another purpose for leisure time is to strengthen bonds with others. God pronounced His blessing on the God-fearing people who took time to speak “often one to another” (Mal. 3:16). Bonds of family, friends, and church can be strengthened and others blessed in our free time.
Another purpose is the enjoyment of God’s gifts (1 Tim. 6:17b). God shows His glory in the wonderful variety and exquisite beauty of His creation. He gives food, marriage, and other things for us to enjoy in thankfulness to Him (1 Tim. 4:4–5).
These purposes ought to govern our activities. Guard against things that conflict with them. Selfishness is one danger. Free time is often considered “my time” in which I am free to do whatever I want (Luke 12:16–21), as if God’s call to love Him above all and my neighbor as myself doesn’t apply during those hours. So use your free time to benefit others.
Another danger is letting time-wasters consume time without profit. Recreation and sports give exercise and teach teamwork, but when they become an obsession they rob time as our idols. Social media, internet surfing, computer games, and online entertainment easily devour spare minutes and even hours. Take spare moments to seek the things above in the midst of a busy day, maybe with the help of an app on your device or book beside your chair.
What we do when we do not “have to do” anything often betrays the priorities and preferences of our hearts. Haven’t you found that your greatest problem in your use of time is your heart? What reason we have to confess to God our sin! How we need the cleansing blood of Christ and the righteous covering of the Savior, who always redeemed the time He received to work and rest. Let us seek His enlivening grace to lead us to set our affections on the things above and to give us true love to others.
God’s grace enables us to enjoy His gifts with thankfulness to Him, redeem leisure time, and delight in the greatest recreation of all. The Puritan Isaac Ambrose wrote, “Contemplation is soul-recreation.” He then proceeded to write a large volume (recommended reading!) entitled Looking Unto Jesus. As important as other uses of leisure time are, the most blessed activity involves seeking and delighting in the Lord. That is why God gave a weekly day of rest. Though we may not consider the Sabbath “leisure time,” it is “time when one is not working.” Guard that day, devote it to spiritual exercises, treasure the means of grace God gives on it, and seek rest in Christ. His grace makes this weekly day of rest the highlight of “leisure time” and will affect how you spend your spare moments and free days.