By Dr. Delroy Brown
In one of his Australian letters (Letters from Tertius, Vital Publications, 1975), Tertius writes,
I looked around the congregation. I saw Joe who, by the grace of God, beats his grog (drinking) problem about 60 percent of the time. Behind him was Joan, who has 10 children and as disorganized a home as you would ever see, who comes up for air at church each Sunday to get a little more strength to go back into the mess again. Allen’s wife nags him into the ground, and he looks pathetic meekly following her into the service; but as I caught his expression I could see that he was feeling a lot bigger in the presence of the Father who accepts him as a child of God. I notice that Mary had made it this morning. She spends 52 weeks of each year resolving that she will get to church. She makes it about 10.
These attendees have one desire in common. They assemble in anticipation of receiving “times of refreshing . . . from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Refreshment Is to Breathe
Although times of refreshing occur when Christians gather, such moments are not limited to the weekly assembly, but are available throughout the Christian life—particularly when relationship with the Lord is impaired. In essence, the process of spiritual refreshing is characterized by the Greek anapsuxis, which means properly breathing or refreshment after being heated with labor or running. Albert Barnes described it as “any kind of refreshment, as rest or deliverance from evils of any kind, as well as of the offering of encouragement.”
No doubt we’ve all faced times when our relationship with the Lord was strained and we yearned for times of refreshing to help us cope and reconnect with his presence—though he never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5).
In Acts 3:19, the apostle Peter stood before a crowd drawn by a miraculous healing and said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
While the phrase “times of refreshing” often refers to “a breathing time, or respite and refreshment from heat,” there is some disagreement on Peter’s meaning here. For instance, Clarke is persuaded the phrase refers to “the space that elapsed from [Peter’s] time till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.”
Barnes believes Peter meant the gospel dispensation as a fulfillment of Jewish expectations. In other words, “Repent, since it is a true doctrine those times would come: they are clearly predicted; they were expected; and you are now living under them.”
Gareth L. Reese maintains that although he was aware of the Jewish expectations (Isaiah 28:12 and 40:1-5), Peter’s aim was to focus on faith in Christ and obedience to him as fulfillment of blessedness, joy, peace, and respite.
The world’s fastest man, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, trains at the National Stadium in Kingston five times a week and works out three times in the gym. After each session his body naturally gets heated and he is ready to catch his breath, cool down, and be refreshed from the burden of training. Spiritually, the Christian is afforded restful moments to breathe, cool down, and be refreshed in order to maintain a right relationship with the Lord. But anapsuxis reveals another dimension of refreshing.
Refreshment Is to Repent
Peter’s intention was to convey repentance and conversion to his audience so their sins would be blotted out and they would be brought into a right relationship with God. But there are other times in our Christian journey when repentance is necessary. For example, a mother asked her children, “What makes you happy?” One said, “Joy!” Another cried out, “Peace!” A third declared, “Love!” However, the youngest boy said, “Repentance!” Perplexed, his mother asked him, “How does repentance make you happy?” He replied, “I always feel good after I tell God I’m sorry!”
Peter’s sermon on Pentecost urged believers to repent and be baptized for forgiveness of sins to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:19 carried the same thought as in Acts 2:38. His main purpose was to offer personal salvation that delivers from evil and gives rest to the soul through, as J.W. McGarvey noted, “the joys of the Holy Spirit.”
Those whose sins are forgiven receive the Holy Spirit, entering a new era of refreshing that results in a right relationship with God (Galatians 3:27;
John 7:37-39). But the security of the relationship must be maintained.
An article about the history of the Internet in the London Daily Mail stated, “The first network connection was made on October 29, 1969, when an undergraduate named Charley Kline attempted to make a computer in Los Angeles communicate with another computer at Stanford up the California coast. The word communicated on the system was ‘Lo’—Kline was attempting to type the word ‘Login’ when the system crashed.”
In order to maintain our relationship with the Lord and continue to enjoy times of refreshing, Christians must “login” to Jesus Christ—not only when they assemble, but continuously for times of refreshing from his presence. Collectively, it involves continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Personally, it involves being filled with the Holy Spirit through reading, meditation, and applying God’s Word with prayer (Ephesians 5:18). These will ensure a right relationship with the Lord.
Refreshment Is to Encourage
The idea of “refreshing” is also found in 2 Timothy 1:16. True to his name (which means, “help-bringer”), Onesiphorus visited Paul many times during his imprisonment and refreshed his soul with comfort and encouragement. The Lord works through brothers and sisters in Christ to refresh one another. We also refresh others by forgiving them when they trespass against us (Matthew 6:12, 14, 15).
While staying with a Hindu family in Suva, Fiji, we sat down to dinner and I heard a familiar sound from two doors up the street. It sounded like a choir singing. I asked my host about it, and was told that a Christian family, who lived in the neighborhood, sang Christian songs every evening at dinnertime. My soul was suddenly encouraged by their song, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine.” Many miles from home in a strange land I was being refreshed.
A vessel ran out of drinking water while sailing in the Southern Atlantic at night. A distress signal sent out to a passing ship said, “Out of water!” The swift reply said, “Let down your bucket!” The captain of the distressed vessel thought the reply strange, so he ordered it repeated. And again the same reply came. A third attempt proved similar, “Let down your bucket!” Tentatively, they did; and sure enough they dipped up fresh water because the vessel had drifted into the mouth of the Amazon River. May we let down our buckets in the river of God’s presence to breathe, to repent, and be refreshed so that the Lord can use us as help-bringers to encourage the Joes, the Joans, the Allens, and the Marys in our congregations.
Dr. Delroy Brown is the founder and minister of Toowoomba International Christian Church in Queensland, Australia.
Books for Daily Refreshing
(Standard Publishing, 2012)
Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional
by Martin Luther (Zondervan, 2005)
Walking with God Day by Day:
365 Daily Devotional Selections
by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Robert Backhouse
(Crossway Books & Bibles, 2003)
Wellspring: Daily Meditations to Refresh Your Soul
By Karen Moore (Abingdon Press, 2011)
Daily Encouragement Online
or Delivered to Your Phone or E-mail