My wife Ann and I lead busy lives. Yet, despite the flurry of activity, God has protected us from the ravages of spiritual collapse. One of the reasons is that we’ve been able to keep up a daily personal devotional life. For us, it’s a key to sanity!
Many of us are task oriented. What we DO is the measure of our success. If you ask people why Jesus was successful most will point to the to the things he did. “He healed the sick…cast out demons…raised the dead…preached to the multitudes”…and the list goes on. And yet, there’s an aspect of the Messiah’s life that involved doing ‘nothing,’ but spending time alone with the Father. So significant were these times that all four Gospels mention them. In fact, Luke 5:16 says that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
So much for the image of the tireless man of action who never stopped working! Though he was 100% God, the Messiah was also 100% human. That means he felt 100% like we feel sometimes after long periods of hard work and pressure. What was his solution at times like this? Luke 4: 42 says: “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them.”
In this instance the Messiah got alone with the Father following a long day of ministry. That day he drove out an evil spirit in the synagogue in Capernaum, healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and then did overtime. Luke 4:40 says, “When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.” He had so much to do in such a short time that he often pushed himself to the limit. But despite his torrid pace of ministry he never burned out.
Spending time alone left Jesus open to the accusation of being uncaring. “How could he go and hide from those so desperate and needy?” Yet, it was not a lack of care at all. The Messiah simply recognized that to be truly present with people one sometimes needs to be away from people. As a pastor who wants to be faithful to the flock, I’ve sometimes overdone it. After helping people for long hours, I sometimes have the experience of being with them in body, but no longer in spirit.
Jesus knew that if He could just get alone and commune with the Father he would find new strength to face the pressures of ministry.
If you don’t take the time to get alone with God in the solitary place you risk physical and emotional collapse. Someone described a mudslide this way: “There is seasonal danger of serious mud slides and fast runoffs of water if there is a prolonged rainy period. The ground can absorb only so much water and then there comes a moment of total saturation when the hills become destabilized. You can’t ever tell when that moment is going to come. But when the soil is saturated and the hills are destabilized, the next rain, no matter how light it is, will set off a slide of raging mud down through the valley that will destroy everything in its path: buildings, livestock, and roads.” For some of you, all it would take is just one more light rain,–one more committee meeting, one more talk to prepare, one more night-shift at work, to send you sliding treacherously down the mountainside.
There are two ways to stop a mudslide: First you can try to stop the rain. That’s not easy. Some of you may have made plans to radically reduce your rainfall–cutting out some of those meetings, inviting neighbors over for meals once a month instead of once a week, taking fewer classes at University this semester. But reducing the rainfall may not totally prevent your personal mudslide.
Another solution is to do some planting and putting down your roots deep in the ground. This means getting alone with God and letting Him sow seeds through reading and meditating on His Word. It means soaking in the sunshine of God’s presence. If you do this on a daily basis, even if it’s less than a half hour, you’ll grow hardy plants and shrubs on your hillside. Then, even the heaviest onslaught of rain has no chance of causing a mudslide in your life.
I’d love to hear about disciplines you’ve developed that have kept you inspired, engaged and durable in your service for the Lord. Look forward to your comment.