The Gospel and Your Recreation

by Jason K. Allen May 17, 2018

Many Christians do not enjoy rest and recreation because they cannot. A host of factors contribute to this. For some, material excesses force them to work nonstop to pay the bills. For others, an overdone drivenness pushes them to work too much—compromising their health, family, and spiritual lives.

Still others, seeking to raise perfect children, shuttle their kids to and from sports leagues, practices, lessons, etc., disrupting norms of family life. Ultimately parents are most responsible for stewarding their children’s hearts, not their batting averages, violin proficiency, or GPA.

In light of this, how can we enjoy our recreation to the glory of God? How does the gospel affect our recreation? Consider the following four ways:

Recreate for the Glory of God

First, let’s reflect on these Scriptural charges:

  • “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
     
  • “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

As John Piper argues, we glorify God through our recreation by making him an explicit part of it. Piper observes:

Therefore, as we pursue our recreation, let’s pursue it to the glory of God. Since God wills recreation, he also wills to be in on it. It is crazy to think that God would create in us certain desires, ordain the innocent means of satisfying them and then spoil the whole thing if we pause to ask his blessing on it. On the contrary, he will not spoil the fun; he will enlarge it and purify it, so we don’t go home feeling crummy about how we acted. He will transform the game into a little slice of joyful life and turn the field into a diamond of grace.[1]

Rightly Prioritize Your Recreation

As one wit observed, the average American “worships his work, works at his play, and plays at his worship.”[2] Our recreation is not to be job-like, and it certainly is not to be worship-like.

Our recreation should not displace our families or our work, and certainly not our worship. We can, however, pursue our recreation with joy, understanding that God has given it to us for our health and wellbeing. And, whether it is fishing, exercising, or some other sport or craft, how we engage it reflects on our Christian life. As Joe Thorn observed,

“We abuse the gift of recreation when we live for it, rather than use it to live. Recreation is abused when it dominates our thoughts and time; when it overtakes its proper boundaries. It is used well when it is received with thankfulness, enjoyed in faith, and experienced as a means to a better end.”[3]

Think Evangelistically about Your Recreation

I am all for churches building Christian Life Centers and using them for intercongregational activities, but our recreation can be a unique arena for the gospel. For many of us, our recreation is our most consistent interaction with unbelievers. How we conduct ourselves, how we engage people, and the general witness we share and reflect can all be powerful gospel witnesses.

This is when evangelism tends to be most effective, anyway. Usually, it is not through cold calling a list of church prospects. Usually, it is through engaging unbelievers, on their terms, as we go through our day-to-day lives.

Rest from Your Striving

Moving more specifically to our spiritual lives, the author of Hebrews teaches us that the Sabbath day had a typological dimension—it foreshadowed the rest we have in Christ. When we become believers, we no longer carry the burden of trying to earn our salvation through keeping the law, through our personal morality, or through our religious works and good deeds.

On the contrary, Christ has accomplished our redemption for us. We now serve out of love and unto love. We now practice our Christianity from a position of acceptance, not in order to be accepted. Thus, we can rest in Christ and be spiritually, eternally satisfied in him.

In Conclusion

One of the most driven and productive persons who ever lived was the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther. Luther was a titanic intellect, a lion in the pulpit, and a relentless servant of Christ. Through his 95 Theses, his fiery preaching, and tireless pen, Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church, ushered in biblical reformation and revival, and literally changed the world.

Yet, Luther’s secret, by his own admission, was not in his own gifting or determination. It was not even long days and short nights. It was the power of the Word and Spirit of God. Luther testified that he unleashed the Word and then he rested. Luther wrote:

“Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my [friends] Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all.”[4]

May we, like Luther, be content to fulfill what God has called us unto—nothing less, but nothing more— and then rest in his goodness and in the quiet confidence that he will take our meager efforts and multiply them to his ends. As we live with this confidence, we can work, rest, worship, and recreate, for his glory and for our own well-being.

[1] John Piper, in his article, “Softball, Sex, and AugustusStrong,” as found at http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/softball-sex-and-augustus-strong.

[2] As found in Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997), 95.

[3] Joe Thorn, in his article, “Two Keys to Better Recreation,” as found at http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/two-keys-to-better-recreation.

[4] Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2011), 20.

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at JasonKAllen.com and is an excerpt from Dr. Jason Allen’s latest book, Being a Christian. You can purchase or find more information on the book at LifeWay Christian Resources.