Jesus had been performing miracle after miracle. He had been teaching crowds, defending himself against the Pharisees, and now recently, his cousin, John the Baptist had been beheaded. And everywhere He went, he had the disciples in tow, teaching them everything He possible could for the time after He would return to heaven and the gospel message would be placed into their hands to spread throughout the world. They stood by observing, soaking everything in and miracle after miracle, they were left in speechless awe. Some of them probably wished they could do some of the miracle Jesus had done. And then, in Mark 6, Jesus sends them out to the villages nearby to do just that. It was time to put what they had been learning into action. When they return, they are exhausted and Jesus invites them to come away and rest.
Then, the story changes scenes as Mark inserts the interlude story of John the Baptist being beheaded. In the gospel of Matthew, we find that this incident is connected to Jesus deciding to get away for a while for some rest. We all need rest from time to time, even when we are busy doing the Lord’s work and serving Him through ministry. Since God created us, He knows more than anyone else that our bodies need adequate rest. In fact, He established for Israel the Sabbath day as a day of rest. He also set the example for us in the creation story where we see that on the seventh day, God rested from all His work – not because He was tired, but because the work was finished.
Because Jesus, the Son of God, came to dwell among us in a flesh and blood body, he experienced being tired. In John 4:6, we find Jesus worn out from His journey and sat beside the well where he would encounter the Woman at the Well. Without rest, we are not fully able to accomplish the tasks he has called us to do. When we become so tired that we don’t know how we can keep going, Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Follow Jesus’ Example
The Greek word for “come” is deute and means to “come hither” or “follow.” Jesus calls us to himself and to follow His example. He calls us to experience Him in an up-close-and-personal kind of way. He longs to bring us into close proximity and into an intimate fellowship with himself. Jesus wants us to take whatever circumstance we are in and He says, “Give them to Me.” He longs for us to give Him every burden and problem in total surrender and dependence on Him. As we learn to trust him, we are then able to find peace and rest. In 2 Chronicles 20:17, God tells his people to “position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He is with you.”
Heavy-laden and weary?
Sometimes we get so caught up in hurrying from one to-do item to another that we barely have time to breathe. We end up heavy-laden with burdens and become weary. The Greek word for “weary” is kopiao and means “to labor, toil, expand great effort in hard and disagreeable work,” “to grow weary, tired; labor to the point of exhaustion.” Doesn’t this sound like us? But instead of taking time to rest, we just grab some caffeine or one of those very unhealthy energy drinks and just keep going. The result shows in both our physical health and emotional health. What we really need, is rest.
Refresh and Rest Up – Cease from Labor
“Rest” is the Greek word anapauo which means “to refresh, rest up,” or “to cease from labor.” In Ecclesiastes, the wisdom of Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything – a time to work, a time to clean, time to spend with friends and family. But too often we neglect the time to come away with Jesus and rest for a while. God created our need for rest…a pause from life…for our own good. A pause to cease from the hustle and noise of life so we are able to:
- seek His will and determine our steps
- spend time with God so we are able to listen to Him
- avoid burnout
- to keep serving Him in whatever capacity we have been called
Without rest, we are on the path to burnout
At times, we allow ourselves to get so caught up in life and say “yes” to too many things (sometimes, even ministry areas in the church) until we become burned out. But when we take a pause and seek His will, He will give us insights and let us know His will so that we don’t overextend ourselves to the point of becoming exhausted. We can protect ourselves from being involved in too much if we take the pause to determine His will. However, even when we are following His will, we become weary and need to take a pause. It then becomes a time of re-evaluation and we need to eliminate unnecessary things from our lives so that we have the energy and time to do what He has called us to do.
Time to pray
Sometimes, as we do the will of God, Satan fights against it and we feel as if we are rowing a boat upstream without a paddle. Taking a pause to spend time with God and pray over the task we’ve been given will send the angel armies our way. Daniel is an example of this.
In Daniel, chapter 9, he is praying for the Lord to hear him. Verses 20-23, Daniel pleads to God and in his weariness, Gabriel comes to him. Daniel wrote in these verses, “While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God- while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, came to me in my extreme weariness.” Then in Chapter 10, verses 12-13, Daniel receives another visit. In these verses we read, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”
God had heard Daniel’s prayers and sent his messenger to Daniel, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in the way opposing the messenger. Daniel was completely unaware of the spiritual warfare his prayers were stirring up. Yet Daniel continued to pause and seek God until the messenger arrived.
Pause and Listen
Another reason to pause and rest is so we are able to listen to the voice of God. 1 Kings 19:12 is the only verse in the Bible that talks about God speaking in a whisper. Because we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us, the way God speaks to us today is the soft whispers across our heart as we are reading His Word or as the Holy Spirit recalls a verse of scripture to our minds. Sometimes it comes to us as our pastor is preaching or in a conversation with a friend. These soft, quiet impressions are easy to get lost in the loud bustle of everyday life. If we want to hear the voice of God, we need to quiet ourselves and listen with expectation. He longs to speak to us. But we have to ask ourselves, do we really want to hear His answer?
Too often our prayer lives become a one-sided conversation where we tell God what we want Him to do in our lives then jump up and go on about our day. There are things God would love to say to us, but we have to quit talking long enough for Him to get a word in. If you feel as if God never speaks to you, then perhaps it’s time to take a pause and rest in His presence….quietly before Him and give Him a chance to speak as we sit silently and listen expectantly.
Rest to re-charge
Taking a pause also gives us the change to re-charge. Just as your car runs out of gas, so do our bodies run out of energy. We reach a point where we feel that we have nothing left to give and yet people are still demanding more from us. In Matthew 14:23, Jesus found the need to have some alone time. “After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.” Did you notice what he did on the mountain, he prayed. Our help and our strength to keep keeping on comes from God. In Psalm 121:2, the psalmist wrote, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” In Psalm 28:7, he wrote, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song.” If you feel as if you energy tank is running on low, when was the last time you had some meaningful time along with God?
Do not neglect your physical rest…or spiritual rest
While we also need to take time to get plenty of physical rest each night, we cannot neglect the rest our souls need if we are going to be spiritually healthy. So as we go about doing the various tasks that need to be done today, let’s also take time to rest, pause, and recharge so that our labors tomorrow hold new energy, ready to continue in the tasks that God has called us to…whether it’s a ministry related job, real estate, medical, education or any other field where work.
Jesus recognizes our need for rest
In Mark 6, Jesus recognized the disciples’ need for rest, and He recognizes ours as well. It is under these circumstances that He invited His disciples to…
- come away with him
- by themselves
- to a quiet place
- and get some rest.
Come Away with Jesus
Sometimes getting the rest you need requires you to get away. Maybe you need to get physically away from all the distractions and just rest. Sometimes the rest we need is spiritual and we need to get away with Jesus. Either way, remember that our Savior knows when we need rest and in those moments He invites us to get away with Him. He wants to lead you away from the crowds and the busyness of life to just bask in the His presence. To lean on Him. To draw from His strength. And to be renewed and refreshed. What will it take for you to actually get away with Him for the rest you need?
Come away by yourself
Have you ever taken a vacation and when you get back you feel as if you need a vacation from your vacation? Sometimes our vacation are so jammed backed with activities that we come back more exhausted than before we left. When Jesus invited the disciples to come by themselves, it was a time for the ministry team to relax and recover. Mark 6 tells us that the disciples had been in such high demand in the villages where they went that they hadn’t even had time to eat. Whether you serve in a ministry of some sort, are a stay-at-home-mom, a corporate executive, or a day laborer, we can become so busy that we don’t take time to stop an eat or see to the basic needs of life. Jesus invited his ministry team to take some time just for themselves – where they were not in demand, where they were not healing or preaching or casting out demons. Jesus wanted to invest in them relationally. He was also teaching them the importance of rest so they could keep on serving.
Come away to a quiet place
Not only did Jesus invite them to come with him to get away be themselves, but he also wanted them to find a quiet place. Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable it can be when everything is quiet? If we are with others, the silence often feels awkward. Some of us even need the hum of a fan just to go to sleep. Whenever I travel and stay in hotels, the hardest part of getting to sleep is how quiet the room is. The truth is, we simply are not used to quiet.
However, Jesus challenges you to find it. It is in the quiet where we can here Jesus say, “Be still and know that I am God.” He wants us to just be still and rest. He knows the demands that have been placed on us. He knows the ministry He has called us to. And He knows the problems you are struggling with. He knows. And He’s inviting you to come away with Him and rest.
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