Theology Thursday: God in My Recreation

Person standing on top of mountain

Is recreation a valid part of a Christian’s life? After all, people all around us are hurting in every way — physically, emotionally and spiritually. Should we not spend every second straining to the utmost to do God’s work in the word? Is taking time off from this work selfish and wasteful? The answer to this can be approached from two angles.

In This Article: 

Who We Are: Body and Spirit

First, we can examine who we are as humans and what this implies for allowing recreation.

Physical and Spiritual Needs

Human beings are physical as well as spiritual beings, and the Bible speaks of taking care of both our physical and spiritual needs, although spiritual needs are given priority. In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul writes, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come,” (NIV). Spiritual disciplines have a higher priority for Christians than physical fitness. But note that physical training has “some value.” Suppose I abuse my body with a constant diet of junk food and let myself get run down physically by lack of exercise. How much energy will I have to devote to the kingdom of God? The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Am I honoring God when I abuse that temple?

The Role of Recreation for the Christian Life

The human body cannot go all out 24 hours a day. Not only do we need enough sleep, but we need time to recharge and renew our strength. A spring that is always extended soon loses its elasticity. A person who keeps up a frantic, non-stop pace will burn out. Rest and recuperation are necessary, and this is where recreation comes in.

Recreation Is Individual

Not everyone recharges in the same way. We need to find ways that work for us. For some, recreation means hiking and playing the guitar. For others, it involves playing sports and flying model airplanes. The varieties of recreation are virtually endless. The important factor is to find out what works for you and to take time regularly for rest and recharging.

A Marathon and Not a Sprint

We should consider the Christian life a marathon instead of a sprint. We need to sustain our work for years, not months or weeks. Consequently, we require a long-term strategy that builds rest and recreation into our lives.

Examples From the New Testament

The second angle from which we can address the claim that recreation is selfish and wasteful is to look at New Testament examples. 

The Examples of Jesus and Paul

We would surely consider Jesus and his apostles as examples of working hard for the kingdom of God. And yet, after the apostles finished a hard preaching, teaching and healing tour, Jesus told them to come away and rest (Mark 6:30-31).

When the Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that he was facing prison and possibly death, he took time out to walk from the city of Troas to a city named Assos by himself (Acts 20:13-14). This hike is beautiful, and although walking slowed down his journey, he likely used this time to help prepare himself for what was coming.

Recreation Can Take a Back Seat to Ministry, But Not Forever

We should note that in the incident mentioned above, when Jesus took his apostles aside to rest, a large crowd soon found them. Jesus ended up teaching them and then miraculously feeding them. We learn from this that sometimes we need to postpone or delay our times of refreshment when ministry needs arise. Having said that, however, we need to realize that ministry needs will always be out there. We cannot address them non-stop and continue doing so indefinitely. If we break down physically, emotionally and spiritually, we may end up sidelined for a long period.

Plan to Recreate

As noted earlier from 1 Timothy 4:7, spiritual disciplines should have a high priority in our lives,  but Paul did add “physical training is of some value,”  Thus, we need to plan to care for our bodies and minds. And a major component of this is planning times of recreation into our schedules. As a personal example, I set a goal of walking down and up the Grand Canyon in a day. I trained for this over several months, involving various exercises and practice hikes. In June, I successfully completed this hike. The whole process worked well because it forced me to plan exercise and recreation into my schedule. Others will find other ways to work exercise and recreation into their schedules. 

Find What Works for You

The main message is this: find activities that work for you and then make time for them. Far from being selfish distractions from ministry, these times of recharging and refreshing will help ensure that you can continue in ministry over the long haul. 

If you are interested in reading more Theology Thursday blogs or exploring ministry and theology degrees at Grand Canyon University, fill out the form on this page. Check out other degree programs and visit GCU’s College of Theology to learn more.

Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on Oct. 23, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.