Normally, I don’t recommend television commercials as a source of inspiration, but I saw one some years ago that conveyed a message worth sharing.
It was an advertisement for a pizza restaurant. It began by showing scenes—shot in black and white on an overcast day—from the business district of New York City. As the camera zoomed in on the great skyscrapers there, you could see carved on their capstones various inscriptions extolling the virtues of hard work, the relentless pursuit of success, and keeping one’s nose to the grindstone.
Amid those dreary images, a chairman-of-the-board type executive appeared repeating the words from the inscriptions. As he droned on in serious, emphatic tones, the camera zoomed back out and revealed, at the foot of the gray-toned skyscrapers, a colorful little Italian restaurant. “Work well done is its own reward,” the executive said. Then, with a pause and a slight, wry smile, he added:
“. . . however, once in a while, you need to stop and smell the pizza.”
I hope you won’t think I’m unspiritual for admitting I thoroughly enjoyed that commercial. It both amused me and reminded me of something God said to us in the Bible.
Something that has nothing to do with pizza but everything to do with His desire for us to stop now and then, take a spiritual break from the daily grind, and inhale the fragrance of heaven.
Although many believers don’t realize it, God very much wants us to do that! As our heavenly Father, He’s well aware of how wearisome this world can be and how much we sometimes need a vacation from it. So He encourages us often in the Scriptures to enjoy seasons of special blessing and supernatural rest.
He even promised to send us, as Acts 3:19 says, “times of refreshing . . . from the presence of the Lord.”
What exactly is a time of refreshing?
According to the original Greek definition, the word refreshing literally refers to the recovery of breath. It speaks of the lungs being refilled and the pace being slackened after some kind of strenuous effort. It describes times of peaceful enjoyment, bliss, and respite from trouble; of revival and spiritual strengthening.
It can also refer to a cool breeze reanimating something that’s been wilted by too much heat . . . which brings to my mind an entirely different metaphor, one not about fast food but about flowers—specifically a bunch of tulips I once bought as a surprise gift for my wife.
Fresh . . . to Flattened . . . to Revived Again
Though it was decades ago now, I’ll never forget what happened to those poor tulips. As I drove home with them from the florist’s shop I set them on the floor on the passenger side of the car and, because it was a chilly day, I turned on the heater, without noticing one of the vents was aimed directly at them. About five minutes into my journey, I looked over to discover my tulips—blossoms splayed and stems flattened—were dead meat!
Realizing my mistake, I hurriedly turned off the heater. Then I rolled down the windows to let in the cool breeze and, much to my surprise, the tulips speedily transformed themselves! They brightened up and I marched into the house with them to delight my wife.
That’s a good picture of what times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord can do for us as believers. They can revive us like the breeze revived those tulips. They can refresh us and transform us into a more delightful reflection of our marvelous God!
Especially when life gets hectic, we can all benefit from such reviving. We all need to slacken our pace on occasion and catch our breath—not just naturally but spiritually.
“But Pastor Jack,” you might say, “slowing down is easier said than done. Even in the summer when I try to take time off, it seems like I’m always rushing around.”
I understand. I’ve run into the same problem myself. But I’m happy to say that Acts 3:19 provides the solution. It says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
If you’re wondering why those instructions, originally preached by the Apostle Peter to Old Covenant Jews, apply to us as contemporary Christians, it’s because in some ways we have a lot in common with those Jews. Even though they didn’t yet believe in Jesus, in their own way they were endeavoring to please God. They were trying hard to do, by their own efforts, what they thought He required.
We as believers occasionally do the same thing. From time to time—despite the fact that we know we’re made right with God by simply having faith in Jesus—we live with an undue and unperceived dependence upon ourselves. We unintentionally start doing things our own way instead of God’s way.
In our daily lives, relationships, vocations, and finances, we start adding to what He has said and attributing to Him what are really just our own ideas. As a result, we wind up overwhelmed by our own sweaty enterprise, thinking all the while we’re just doing what God requires.
It’s a mistake we all make. But when we realize we’ve fallen prey to it, it’s simple to correct.
We can just repent and ask the Holy Spirit to help us straighten out our thinking. We can say, “Lord, it seems I have my own program going here. Instead of simply depending on You, I’ve started relying on myself and coming up with my own agenda. Please forgive me and help me sort out what You want me to do from what I’ve added.”
I can tell you from experience, that’s a prayer the Lord is sure to answer!
If you’ll spend some time with Him and give Him the opportunity, He’ll help you clean out your schedule as if it were a cluttered closet. He’ll show you what to keep and what to toss. He’ll help you dispose not only of that which is obviously negative and carnal, but also some things that may appear to be good—things that may have been initially God-inspired—but that you made bigger and more laborious than He had in mind.
Personally, I’ve been amazed over the years at how many extra and unnecessary works “Jack” can add to God’s plans. So I rejoice when He helps me identify works and repent of them.
Repentance is a wonderful concept! It involves not only turning away from that which is not of God but also turning toward Him with fresh zeal.
Right now, I sense that’s what God is calling us all to do in this season. He’s calling us to step away from our self-generated busy-ness and draw nearer to Him.
He’s saying to us, “Come to Me. Spend time with Me. I want to refresh you with My Presence. I want to give you seasons of divine visitation, delight, peaceful enjoyment, bliss, and respite from trouble; seasons of revival and spiritual strengthening that will enable you to live ‘not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.’” (Zech. 4:6)
Loved one, I pray that in the weeks ahead, you’ll make a special point of responding to His loving invitation. I hope you’ll stop—not to smell the pizza—but to inhale the fragrance of heaven and to let God’s refreshing breezes lift your heart.
As you do, I also hope that you’ll take advantage of this resource I’ve arranged to send as a thank you gift for your support this month — my two-part CD series, Time of Refreshing. It can help you step out of the daily grind and into a fresh awareness of the presence of the Lord. Because they’re filled with the life of the Word and the Spirit, they can help you enjoy some times of real, spiritual recreation!
All of us here at Jack Hayford Ministries pray for you often and continually thank God for your partnership in the Gospel. Please keep us in your heart and your prayers, too, during this summer season. And even when you’re on vacation, don’t forget to let us hear from you!
Rejoicing in His Presence,
P.S. In this hectic day and age, learning to wait on the Lord can be a tremendous challenge. So be sure you receive this month’s gift, Time of Refreshing. It’ll help prepare your heart to receive the blessings that can only come from times spent in God’s presence. They’ll help open the door to times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord.