No one should ever take a break from God, his glory, and the mission he gives each of us. When we break for the summer — from Sunday school, small group, community outreach, or wherever you serve in your local church — God still calls us to seek him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The Bible constantly calls believers to an all-out, full-abandoned pursuit of wisdom. For example, Proverbs 2:2–5 exhorts, “[Make] your ear attentive to wisdom and [incline] your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
This is not a seasonal calling. The summer does not give us permission to pull up a lawn chair and watch the race instead of running the race. When we say we are taking the summer off, we mean something radically different than disengaging from seeking God. Instead, we suspend certain ministry activities or events and fill that time with softball leagues, board game nights, and music in the park.
We’re not breaking from God, but swinging, competing, and listening for more of him. Filling our week with these activities does not transport us from engaging in the significant part of the Christian life (Sunday school and service projects) to the insignificant (ice cream cones and Florida vacations). No, it simply moves us from formal to informal (of course never neglecting to meet together in weekly corporate worship).
God designed all of our summer activities so that we would know him more, love him better, and have more fuel to live for his glory.
We cannot afford to take a break from the Bible’s call to search for wisdom with all our hearts. So, how do we search as we devour ice cream cones, watch the Minnesota Twins win at home, and paddle out on the lake? God says that we can enjoy each of these with a Godward gaze (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Now, we won’t be able to engage in these summer activities in the same way that we drop to our knees to pray and study the Bible. Joe Rigney helpfully calls habits like studying the Bible direct godwardness. “Direct godwardness involves our conscious, intentional focus on God himself,” writes Rigney (The Things of Earth, 120). He compares that with what he calls indirect godwardness: “a subconscious focus on God while engaging with the world that God made” (121).
Direct and indirect godwardness serve one another. This idea doesn’t seem strange when we think of direct godwardness informing our indirect godwardness. This process happens when your Bible time informs how you go about your day. For example, Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
How indirect godwardness serves direct godwardness may not be as obvious, though. Once again, Rigney helps us by explaining, “Indirect godwardness and a robust enjoyment of God’s gifts serves and increases direct godwardness by creating new mental, emotional, and spiritual categories for our enjoyment of God. It keeps us from being vague and indistinct in our minds” (126).
New Categories, Deeper Joy
This summer, God plans to flood you with input that requires you to seek wisdom and pursue knowledge. So, how can we leverage our summers for the glory of God? We use our time engaging in the world God designed for his glory to build categories for our direct godwardness. God designed our activities of playing outside to serve our time in the word and prayer together. They keep us from being vague when we read about God in his word.
But what might it look like this summer? My small group has decided for several reasons to take a break this summer. I love my small group; I love meeting with my small group; and I love the reasons we have decided not to meet for the next couple of months. So, here are two examples of how I hope our indirect summer godwardness fuels our direct godwardness.
Overnight at a Cabin: A family has invited our small group to stay at their cabin over a weekend. How might that help us know and enjoy God more?
Although we go to sleep that night, we will wake up the next day and still be together. This is a foretaste of the never-ending fellowship we will have in heaven (John 14:1–4; Revelation 5:13; 7:9).
The wonder we feel when we taste bacon in the morning not only reminds us how sweet it is that God has made all foods clean, but also declares that we have dominion over all creation. God enables us to raise pigs to delight our taste buds (Genesis 1:28; Mark 7:19).
Drive-in Movie: Our group is already planning to watch a movie (or more) together outside during these weeks when we are not meeting.
The sense of anticipation we feel watching a thrilling scene unfold gives us a tangible experience that shows what it means to be waiting, longing, and feeling anxious for the second coming of Christ (Matthew 25:1–13; 1 Corinthians 16:22).
The laughter that overtakes you in a comedy demonstrates that you were made for joy. There is nothing you can do to stop laughter. God wants you to know that he designed you to be happy, ultimately in him (Psalm 37:4; John 6:35; 16:22).
Don’t waste your summer by ceasing to pursue God in all you do. Taking the summer off from formal ministry is not a move from the significant to the insignificant, but from formal to informal, from direct to indirect. Overnights at cabins and drive-in movies serve our long-term ministry.
Use this summer to seek wisdom, to know God, to love him more, and to live for his glory.