The holiday season is generally very busy for us. We have special meals and travel to plan and execute, we have gifts to purchase, wrap, and in some cases, to mail, and we have special, year-end celebrations at work, at school, and in the community to prepare for, and to attend. As we concentrate on these preparations, we may work harder at them than we do in our day-to-day activities. Even so, we enjoy these times of celebration and we tend to feel a sense of refreshment as we participate in them.
The reason for this feeling is that while we are celebrating our end of the year holidays, we temporarily set aside the cares of daily life. We still go to work and pay our bills and deal with the typical issues, but our focus on the celebrations of the season minimizes these concerns. As a result, our spirits are refreshed, even if our bodies end up exhausted.
Everyone acknowledges the fact that we need times in which our spirits and our bodies may be refreshed. This is one of the underlying principles behind taking yearly vacations from work and school. We simply need time away from the regular grind to relax and to renew ourselves. If we do it right, we come back from these respites ready to give our best to the tasks at hand.
The idea of times of refreshing did not originate with vacations and our year-end holidays, however. This is a principle that has its roots in God’s word. After Peter and John had healed a lame man in the temple, they had an opportunity to preach Christ to the assembled crowd. In Acts 3:19-21 Peter said, “Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presences of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”
As Peter spoke to this assembly, he, for the second time, convicted the Jews of having put to death the Savior whom God had sent into the world. Although this was according to the eternal plan of God, the Jews bore the stain of sin because they had rejected God’s Son and had turned Him over to Pilate for crucifixion. This is the context in which Peter spoke to them of “times of refreshing.”
Under the burden of our sins, we are not only separated from God, but we are beaten down physically and emotionally by this load. Our lives are drudgery, and we are literally without hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). The only way in which we can recover, or be refreshed from this heavy load, is to repent of our sins and return to God. This is what Peter called upon the Jews at the temple to do. When the Jewish rulers released Peter and John, the people glorified God over the miracle that had happened, but we do not know how many of them, if any, obeyed Peter’s command to repent and return to God.
It is certain that the times of refreshing of which Peter spoke only came upon those who obeyed the gospel, whether on that day, or at some time thereafter. The same is true still today. As our spirits long for renewal and strength, we can only find that refreshing by obedience to God’s word. If we choose to continue on carrying the burden of our sins, we will be exhausted in life, and lost in eternity. If we repent and return to God, our burdens will be lifted and we will receive times of refreshing in His Son, both here, and forever more.