Though Phoenix can get too hot, my family and I enjoy the summer months for several reasons. My wife Toni takes June and July off of piano teaching to spend some extra time with her husband (me) and our sons. During those two months I take the bulk of my vacation time so we can have some special times together. All of us are “crazy busy” during the majority of the school year. My sons are also involved in school, church, sports, music, etc. So when the end of school comes around, they are as needy of a break as Toni and I are.
Often on our trips, I get to preach at a sister church, and the rest of the family play instruments or sing. Then we try to enjoy some sights and fun times as a family. Because we live in the desert, we love the beach—especially when the temperature is around 60 and the ocean is cold. We’re the weird family picking up sea shells, making sand castles and sticking our feet in the Pacific when nobody—and I mean nobody—is on the sand.
Though traveling together can sometimes be stressful, these family times are a break and a blessing to me personally. I love these times. I’m trying to hold onto the memories. Before long the boys will be off making their own way. Second to my salvation and my wife, my sons will always be the most special gift God has granted to me. Before our marriage, my heart’s desire was three sons. Amazingly, God gave us three sons.
In addition the time off with my family, I take an two weeks up in the AZ White Mountains to be with our church kids up at camp—one week with the teens and another with the juniors. Grand View Camp is presently using a beautiful property in Alpine. At 7,000 feet it’s cool, quiet and almost heavenly! The mountains here are majestic.
These weeks always afford ample time for quiet prayer, Bible-reading, reflection and writing. Every year I experience a spiritual and an emotional “repair and tune-up” in the midst of the aspen and pine. Ministry is exhilarating, but a leader can take a beating both physically and emotionally in the “ebb and flow” of God’s work. Plus, I drive myself pretty hard over the course of the ministry calendar, and so these summer months that allow a lull in the pace are important. Humanly speaking, these seasons of rest may add years to my earthly ministry in addition to the strengthening of my relationship with my wife and children. The Scriptures are fairly clear about the importance of allowing ourselves “rest.” The problem with most of us in ministry is that we work on Sunday, and we too often don’t make up for the residual need for rest.
It never fails. God speaks to me through His Word during these quiet times. The message is not audible but it is clear. Here’s what I’m learning (or re-learning) this summer.
1. Jesus wants me to be real in my private and public walk (Luke 12:1-3)
This summer I’m continuing my sermon series through Luke. At he end of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12, Jesus speaks to the issues of hypocrisy and fear. On this first point God is reminding me of the importance of being real and genuine in my walk. What will hypocrisy do to those that live with me and serve with me? What will hypocrisy do in my own spirit if I allow it to be unchecked? Too often I come to the summer months and I’ve been trying to make “this work” or “that work” in ministry of life. Instead of asking God to empower, I pull up my sleeves and do it myself. This always eventually results in hypocrisy and burn-out at some level. It becomes a result of “flesh” instead of “God’s Spirit.” Faithfulness in prayer goes a long way in helping here!
2. Jesus wants me to trust and fear God, not man (Luke 12:4-6)
Too many times I come to the summer months tired because of illegitimate fears toward life challenges, ministry conflict or personal finances. God has promised to take care of us. We are His children. Why would He abandon His children? He will not let leave us un-cared for. A central part of this trust in God is a certain view of this life. Luke records the words of Jesus in verse 4 when he asks, to paraphrase, “Why worry about people that can only take your life?” It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t hold on too tight to this life. The life to come is the one that has ultimate significance.” He builds on that in the next verse and clearly teaches that the issue to be concerned with is not the loss of physical life but eternal life. Lord willing, in a few months I’ll be visiting believers in Asia. These dear saints live with this reality on a regular basis. We should too!
3. Jesus wants me to trust that His time table is better than mine! (James 5:7-8, 11)
I’ve been using a popular personal calendar system since the early 90’s. Often God surprises me by upsetting the personal or ministry plans and schedules I had in mind. This passage in James speaks so well to that. Over the span of just a few verses, James reminds us that we need to be patient, not only for the coming of the Lord, but also for God’s will as He works that will out in our lives. God’s timing is different from ours usually for one of at least four reasons: (1) His predetermined plan is ultimately better for His kingdom than what we have in our day planners (Eph. 1:11). (2) Sometimes God allows Satan and his evil helpers to fight against us (Eph. 6:12; Dan. 10). (3) Sometimes God delays providing what we need until the last second to teach us a lesson about His character (Gen. 22:6-19). (4) Sometimes God wants to provide a better alternative than the options we know about (Gen. 24:12-27).
4. Jesus wants me to enjoy the blessings that God has already given me by way of work, life, marriage, children and ministry (Ecc. 3:12-13)
How many times have I missed the miracle of the moment or the blessing of the hour because I’m too busy wanting and pushing for more? How many gifts of God have I snubbed because I’m not content to simply say, “Thank you.” As I reflect on all that I have spiritually, in ministry, in fellowship and in family, God is reminding me to enjoy these good gifts. They all come from our Father’s hand. The result remembering this is contentment. When I’m grateful, I’m content!
So, as I sit in the lawn-4000 (what I call my lawn chair) up at a cool 7,000 feet and reflect on what God is teaching me this summer, I’m grateful once again for His mercy. Praise God for His mercy! I pray that you too will find some time this summer to quietly step aside, enjoy God’s gifts and blessings (we all have them), and come apart—before you come apart!
Joel Tetreau earned his BA and MA degrees at International Baptist College (Tempe, AZ), an MDiv at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (Allen Park, MI) and DMin at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is Senior Pastor of Southeast Valley Baptist Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is husband to Toni and father to Jonathan, Jeremy and Joshua.