Thursday, July 5, 2012


The word retreat has a negative connotation especially in regards to war and also in business. If a nation is retreating in a war, it most probably means they are on the losing side. If a business is in the same situation, they are not doing too well. However, many use this word, retreat, for something good. When someone is in a retreat, he or she seems to be enjoying a holiday or a breather. When a company does a leadership retreat, it actually speaks of employees or key staff going some place together to get new strategies, for awards and perhaps renewing of its mission.

What about retreats in a church setting or to an individual Christian’s life? Although no one normally takes retreats for a long period of time, it is so necessary for us Christians periodically to take short breaks or pauses to ponder over our walk with God. In the setting of a church - a church camp or a seminar. Or even time-outs on our own for a day or two. Normally, God speaks in these retreats. Not that God doesn’t speak at other times but in these focussed moments, we listen. Christians today are a distracted lot because we live in a fragmented world of many ‘noises’. Worldly philosophies and unbiblical opinions are ‘shouting’ loudly everyday through the screens of televisions and computers. Busyness of the day adds to the confusion in our minds, what is of God and what is not.

What are the benefits of “retreating” as we journey on forward in our walk with God? The first benefit is that,

1. We calm down.

At a retreat, away from the hustling and bustling of professional or college life, we let our minds be at ease. It is like taking a refreshing sip of cool water after a scintillating long walk in a hot day. Like a father who comes home from a hard day’s work to finally being welcomed by his lovely wife and his adorable young daughter. In a hive of activities of creating everything in the earth, the sun and moon, God looked back and ‘rested’ at all His marvellous creations. God created the garden for man, a perfect environment for rest and retreats. It was fairy-tale like beginning. When mankind fell, they were restless, always looking for ways to survive on their own. Those who depended on God got their respite while those who rebelled, suffered.

When Jesus restored us back to God through His death and resurrection, we now have the privilege to rest in God’s presence. The closer we are to God, the less anxious we become. That where retreats help to achieve. Six days of work were scheduled for mankind and one day of rest was chiseled in stone. Work is honourable but overwork dishonours God!

In a research recently, doctors found out that fifty over illnesses were directly related to stress. So, let us all calm down as we take our ‘retreats’.

When we are calm, then the next benefit is that,

2. We see things in a different light.

When you take a plane to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur, you cannot see anything while on the way there. When you take a bus, you will manage to see a great number of things while you travel along. If you want to see more, or even feel the pulse of the people, you drive and stop at certain places. If you want to smell the flowers and see butterflies and bugs, you walk!

As we slow down in a conducive environment, we begin to see many things we may not have noticed during our stressful day work.

King David’s life always paints a picture of utter trial and turmoil in his life, yet maintains an internal compass that always points to “true north.” Whereas most of us look for happiness based on external circumstances in our lives, David has discovered a deeper joy grounded in his inner self.  Taken from THE GREAT PURSUIT: The Message for Those In Search of God, by Eugene H. Peterson and Randall Niles (NavPress 2007).

There are many scriptures confiming his calmness in spite of his trials (Psalms 32:3-7; cf. 3:1-8)

Let us learn from him when he said, “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah” (Psalm 4:4).

What makes David different from so many who go hysterical when face with troubles? His quiet times with God. His retreats so to speak. His bedtimes when he chose to let God do the talking and him the pondering and obeying.

This leads us to the third benefit when we do our retreats,

3. We listen clearer.

Today, even if we have a good budget to buy a smartphone, it still presents a tough choice with so much of packed-in state of the art technology in different phones and not forgetting the spectacular advertisements! Someone jokingly said that product catalogues are from the devil, luring us to buy what we don’t need with the money we don’t have to impress people whom we don’t even know or like.

‘Noise pollution’ today is killing many wise decisions that we ought to make. Every day, thousands of messages criss-cross our path and we must therefore learn the art of holy listening. Anything that goes against the Word of God must go to the bin. What is allowed to pass through our minds are godly values and healthy ‘titbits’. How do we discern which is which when we often make choices through our selfish desires, whether what we choose benefits us. Most of the time, we jump to conclusions without a clear thought process. As a result, we make mistakes. Some small mistakes can be pushed aside but greater ones could cost us greatly.

The answer - retreats! Say ‘STOP!’ to all the noises once in a while and take time-outs to do processing and filtering. That’s where we practice holy listening. As we calm down and seeing things in God’s perspective, we will be ready for the voice of God. This is not suggesting that God only speaks at retreats but at those quiet moments, we listen clearer.

God’s voice through His Word could be our determining factor whether our sojourn on earth is God’s best or wasted opportunities. Listening to God is an art where once upon a time in Israel only prophets could hear while the rest indulged in disobedience. Their call to be the light to the Gentiles went unfulfilled. Even the disciples of Jesus at one time could not discern the voice of God, a case of so near yet so far. But when they did, they turned the world ‘upside down’. It all happened when they gathered for a retreat as commanded by Christ before His ascension (Acts 2).

God loves to speak to His children but are we listening?

After we are able to hear the voice of God in a retreat, the fourth benefit is that,

4. We can process slowly.

Another word for the above is meditation. Many Christians rush through their devotion time (if you could call it devotion) and miss out on the meditation part. They swallow whole the Word of God as a duty without chewing on it. Rushing through with God never works in this life. The mountains were Moses’ training ground. For prophet Elijah, it was the cave that saved his remaining ministry as God spoke in a still small voice. King David’s finest years in forging a close relationship with God were when he was a shepherd boy. He trusted God to kill Goliath while the great army of King Saul cowed in fear. Like Moses, the higher grounds were our Lord Jesus’ connecting place with His Father.

This step is vital for our preparation for action. It is not a place per se or even time spent in retreats that counts, it is whether we have the assurance of God’s Word. It is like Habakkuk who in spite of troubles everywhere managed to rejoice in the Lord. After the meditation in his own retreat, he was assured of the plan of God (Hab. 3). The Psalmist who was angry with God because of unrighteous prospering came out of God’s sanctuary with the clear understanding of God (Psalm 73).

Many Christians today know all about God but still fall short of knowing God! Do you know God and know what He wants from you? You won’t be clear until you meditate in His presence. Unless you are clear, the next and last benefit of this article would not be impactful to you.

5. God will use you for His glory.

God desires to fellowship with His people. It is up to us to create time, go to certain quiet places to hear from Him. And when our hearts are ready, God not only presents us His plan but calls us to do His bidding. Unfortunately, there are so many half-baked believers of God who barely scrape through the surface of God’s best for their lives. It is like the Israelites who tasted the manna from heaven but died wandering in the desert.

The earth is not a play ground while we enroute to heaven. Rather, it is a training ground for us in God’s heavenly plans. The King of kings is looking for anyone who is available, willing, adaptable and long suffering to do His work. Are you the one? Truth be told that you cannot be one until you build a close bond with God. That’s where retreats are vital bridge-builders. They may link us to God’s master plan and our little humble part that He allows us to play.

Retreats are not sure proof of all the benefits mentioned in this article. We can be all alone in a quiet cool cave for a week and yet our minds are restless. What makes the difference? Our trust in God that He holds the key to the best things in our life. The world may give us pleasure but never rest. Everything that this world gives us is temporary, but God gives us inheritance for eternity which we can enjoy forever. If our heart is set on things above, then a retreat will help to streamline our priorities in life. To filter out all the noises of the world and absorb in God’s Word in all its fulness.

Let us move on powerfully and effectively for God! Let's retreat!