Everyone needs rest. Picture a man named Bill. Bill is a busy guy, constantly on the go. He has a demanding job and often finds himself working 10-12 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. When he’s not at the office, he is still active. He picks up the kids from school after work, and when they make it home the family scarfs down a quick supper, before running back out to basketball practice or a band concert. It seems like there is something going on almost every evening. By the time his head hits the pillow at midnight he is exhausted. Within minutes he drifts off to sleep, but morning comes way too early and the alarm clock tells him it is time to get up and do it all over again. He can’t wait until the weekend comes, but even then there are projects that need tackled around the house and errands that have to be run.
Bill wants to slow down, but he doesn’t know how. Life is relentless, and even though he doesn’t want to admit it, it’s starting to take a toll on him. One day he is driving into work, waiting for the stoplight to turn green, and he finds himself drifting off to sleep. The car behind him honks the horn jolting him awake, and he drives off thankful that he didn’t cause an accident. It’s affected his attitude as well. He’s not as patient as he used to be, and has become more irritable with others. And it’s affected his ability to function. He has trouble concentrating; simple things seem like huge problems in his mind. Finally, his wife tells him “Honey, you know that I love you, and I appreciate how hard you work, but you can’t keep going like this or you’ll burn out.”
Maybe you have felt like this at times, I know I have. Our lives can be so demanding that we forget how important it is to slow down for a little while and rest. We get so busy, and there are so many urgent things that require our immediate attention, we tell ourselves “I don’t have time right now to rest.” Or maybe we’re overconfident in our own abilities. We think “I can handle this. This is just a really challenging season I’m going through right now, but it will pass. Then, once I push through this, then I’ll slow down.” The problem is, after we make it through this busy season there is a new set of challenges waiting for us. Or maybe you think that life is all about doing, and you start to feel guilty if you’re not constantly involved in some activity. You wouldn’t want anyone to accuse you of being lazy, so you drive yourself to take on more projects than you can handle. But we can’t keep going like that forever. Eventually, if we don’t take the time to recharge, we will wear ourselves out, becoming physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
That’s not how God intends for us to live. We find a different pattern in the life of Jesus. There was a rhythm to his life of work and rest. He spent time ministering to people, but he also withdrew from the crowds to be refreshed by his Heavenly Father. Things could be fast paced but he also knew how to slow down. It’s fair to say that his life was more demanding than any of us can imagine. For three years he traveled through the countryside of Israel, preaching countless sermons, healing the sick, performing miracles, mentoring his disciples, refuting critics, impacting the lives of thousands of people. And yet he also made time for spiritual renewal, and he taught his disciples to do the same. We see that in our passage this morning, in Mark 6:30-32.
Jesus shows us we need to pause from the busyness of life.
Look at verse 30.
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
This was a busy season of ministry for the Lord and his disciples. He had recently sent them out on their own to carry the good news to nearby villages. Up to this point, they followed Jesus wherever he went assisting him in his ministry. But now he was giving them the opportunity to take what they had learned and put it into practice. One author describes it as a “…supervised training mission so they could gain the experience and skills need for preaching the gospel after the Lord’s death and resurrection.” [i] The twelve headed out, two by two, in different directions, eager to see what God would accomplish through them. Jesus told them what to preach, and gave them the authority to cast out demons and to heal the sick. We don’t know how long they were gone, but we get the sense that it was at least several days if not weeks. It must have been exhilarating to see so many lives impacted with the gospel, but also exhausting. There was so much excitement and enthusiasm generated throughout the region that crowds of people surrounded the disciples expecting to see another miracle… another healing… another sign.
When the twelve finally met up with Jesus, they were ready for a break. We can picture the men huddled together, sharing stories of their experiences. But the crowds continued to gather, interrupting them, making it impossible to sit down together or enjoy a meal. So Jesus invited them to come away to a quiet place to rest.
He invites us to do the same. We need to set aside time in our busy schedules to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Slow down. Take a moment to catch your breath. Recharge your battery. We’re not like the energizer bunny, in the commercial. He rolls across the screen pounding the drum, and he keeps going and going and going. Our batteries wear down, and we need to take a break so that our strength can be renewed.
That’s one of the reasons why it is so important for believers to gather each week on Sunday mornings for worship. It gives us an opportunity to pause from our busy routine and seek renewal in the Lord. Maybe you’ve had a rough week. You’ve been wrestling with all kinds of challenges at work and at home. But when you come through these doors you’re able to lay all of that aside for a little while and be renewed.
I hope that we don’t look at church as one more activity in our already busy schedules, but that it has become a refuge where we can pause and be refreshed by God. If we don’t set aside time in our busy schedules to rest in the Lord, it won’t happen because life is relentless.
We see that rhythm of work and rest in the life of Jesus, but we also see it elsewhere in Scripture. God demonstrates it all the way back in the book of Genesis when he called the universe into being. The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth in six days. Each day of creation he was doing incredible things, setting the stars in place, carving the mountains and valleys, pouring the oceans, designing various creatures to inhabit the planet. But in Genesis 2:2-3 we are told,
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. (NLT)
That’s an intriguing verse. We can’t help but wonder why God chose to do things this way. After all, He is all-powerful. He didn’t need six days to bring the universe into existence. He could have just snapped his finger and made everything instantly appear. And he didn’t need to rest. God is infinite. He never grows weary and never sleeps. So why does he make a point to rest on the seventh day? –He was setting a pattern for us. He shows us that work is good, and meaningful, and productive… but there is more to life than work. We need to pause on a regular basis from the daily grind and center on lives on what’s most important. God does not grow weary but we do. We can’t keep up the fast pace of our lives 24/7. And so it’s essential that build into our routine a rhythm of work and rest.
Parents try to teach that to their children. Little six year old Johnny says “I don’t want to go to sleep, I’m not tired. I want to stay up late and watch another show on tv.” And his father replies, “You need your rest. Tomorrow will be a busy day, with lots of exciting things to see and do, but you won’t be able to enjoy it if you’re tired. So get some rest.” God reminds us of what we already know. We need to take time out from our busy routine to rest in Him, or else we will be too tired and worn out to enjoy the lives that he has given us.
Jesus also shows us we need to spend time with the Lord.
Look at verse 30. The passage tells us, “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught…”
These weary men had been out in the world working for the Lord. Now they were ready to return to Jesus. They missed the quiet times they often shared sitting at his feet, listening to his voice, asking questions, hearing him teach, and being in his presence. They longed to enjoy fellowship with Him. This is what it means to be a disciple.
As the crowd continued to grow, Jesus invited the disciples in verse 31 to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Looking around, they spotted their little fishing boat anchored along the edge of the Lake. Navigating their way through the maze of people, Jesus and the disciples climbed aboard and set sail onto the peaceful waters of Galilee. As they drifted out to sea the noisy village disappeared behind them. Finally, they were alone with the Lord.
This was something they witnessed Jesus do often, retreating from the crowds to spend time in prayer. He loved the people, and enjoyed being among them, but he also needed to get away from time to time and enter the presence of his Heavenly Father. His closeness and intimacy with God the Father provided a powerful source of strength throughout his ministry.
Elsewhere, in Mark 1:35 (NASB95) we are told, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”
On other occasion we read in Luke 5:15–16 (NASB95) “…the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”
The relationship that he enjoyed with his Heavenly Father was precious to him. Jesus is fully God, but he is also fully man, and in his humanity he needed the strength that God supplies. One commentator writes,
Jesus knew well that he could not live without God; if he was going to be forever giving out, he must be at least sometimes taking in; if he was going to spend himself for others, he must constantly summon spiritual reinforcements to his aid. He knew that he could not live without prayer… Prayer may be defined as the appeal of the soul to God. Not to pray is to be guilty of the incredible folly of ignoring [the resources of God]… If prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more must it be necessary for us?[ii]
These verses show us the importance of drawing close to God and allowing him to fill us with his strength. That means quieting our hearts, spending time in prayer, listening to his voice as we read his Word. Our busy lives leave us depleted and weary, but when we spend time with the Lord we are refilled.
During the summer Charity and I had the kids help us water the new shrubs that had been planted around the church. The kids held buckets, and I filled them with the hose, so they could carry water across the yard to each of the different plants. I didn’t fill it all the way to the top, because it would have been too heavy for them, but I filled it part way. When they had finished pouring their water they came back so I could fill the buckets again. There were a lot of plants, and it took a little time so we had to do this several times. It would have been nice if the buckets never ran dry, they wouldn’t have needed to come back for a refill, but it doesn’t work that way. The bucket can only hold so much, and they had to keep coming back for more.
That’s how it works in our lives. We go out into the world each week and are emptied as we live for Christ. We pour out his love to our family, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers. To keep going we need to be replenished. That happens and we draw close to God, allowing him to fill us with new strength.
On Sunday mornings we gather together in God’s presence when we meet for worship, but this isn’t the only time we draw close to the Lord. We can also make it a priority to spend time with God each day. Maybe it’s something you do first thing in the morning. When you wake up, you find a quiet place for devotions and prayer, and pour out your heart to God. You share your struggles and the things that have been weighing on your heart. You ask for the strength to meet the challenges that await you. You find encouragement in the verses of Scripture that you have read. When you go away from that place you realize that you’re not alone. The presence of God is with you, and you’ve been refreshed.
Maybe you’re not a morning person. That’s okay. Find a time that works for you. Maybe it is in the car on the way to work. You turn the radio to a Christian radio station and sing along with the praise songs. Or maybe it’s during your lunch hour. You pull up the Bible on your smart phone and read a couple of chapters in the break room. Maybe it’s something you do in the evening before bed. There are many ways to spend time in God’s presence. Whatever you do, make it regular part of your day.
When life is hectic, we are tempted to think that we don’t have time for God. “I have so much to do today, how can I possibly make time for prayer or devotions?” “It’s been such an exhausting week I don’t know if I have the energy to go to church.” But if we don’t make time for God we are depriving ourselves of the spiritual strength that he supplies.
Psalm 63:1–5 (NLT) tells us
1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water… 3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you… lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.
When we have rested in the Lord, we need to go back to the world ready to serve.
Turn back to our passage in Mark 6:32.
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:32–34)
After spending a couple of hours sailing across the lake, Jesus and the disciples found themselves nearing the shore. They were looking for a quiet and secluded place, away from the busy towns and villages, where they would be able to enjoy some much needed rest. This would have been the perfect place, if it had not been for the crowds who decided to follow. On a windless day, it would have taken the boat a little longer to make the journey from one side to the other. Meanwhile, the people were so anxious to see Jesus they ran ahead on foot around the top of the lake, and were standing there on the beach waiting for the Lord to arrive… so much for a quiet afternoon.
We can picture the response of the disciples when they realized their rest was going to be cut short. “Are you serious? You have to be kidding me! What does a guy have to do to get the afternoon off? All we’re asking for is a few hours to ourselves! Does that sound unreasonable?” We don’t know if these were the kinds of things they said to each other, but I’m sure they were more than a little disappointed.
But Jesus had a much different attitude. The passage tells us that when he saw the crowd he had compassion on them. He realized this was more important than sitting under a shade tree taking a nap. These people needed him, and they were desperate to experience his love. He was willing to spend the day ministering to them. As they sat along the hill he taught, and even performed a miracle, feeding the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. The time he and the disciples spent relaxing in the boat would have to do. There was work to be done.
It’s important that we make the most of our time with the Lord, because he wants to send us back into the world to serve him. We enjoy the quiet moments we spend with the Lord. We enjoy our times of worship on Sunday mornings. But we realize that this is not an end in and of itself. God is using these experiences to equip us to make a difference in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our workplace. What God is doing here should overflow in our lives out there. If not, something is missing.
One author warns,
There are two dangers. First, there is the danger of a too constant activity. We cannot work without rest; and we cannot live the Christian life unless we give ourselves time with God. Second, there is the danger of too much withdrawal. Devotion that does not issue in action is not real devotion… We must never seek God’s fellowship in order to avoid human fellowship but in order to fit ourselves better for it. The rhythm of the Christian life is the alternate meeting with God in the secret place and serving one another in the market place.[iii]
It’s so important to maintain that balance. Scripture teaches us that we need pull away from the busyness of life to rest in the presence of God, but then the Lord wants us to return to the world where we can bring his love to those around us. If we lose sight of one or the other, there is a problem.
I was reading this week about a period in church history when a group of believers decided to withdraw from society to pursue a deeper life of and pray and study. So they built monasteries, so they could escape the distractions of the world and devote themselves entirely to Christ. We have to admire their passion and commitment. That is a noble goal. Every Christian should long for a deeper relationship with Christ, and there are certainly many lessons we can learn from the Christian monks. But in some ways, they were a little misguided in the way they went about it. It is one thing to retreat from our busy world for a little while to draw close to Christ, but it’s another thing to live in seclusion. If we shut ourselves off from the outside world, how will the Lord use us to carry his light to others?
Jesus cherished the times he spent with his Father in prayer, but he didn’t stay in that quiet place forever. He came down from the mountain and spent time ministering to the people. He calls us to do the same.
In John 17 Jesus prayed for his disciples before going to the cross and he said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one… 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them… (John 17:15–18)
The Lord is sending us into the world to make a difference. That’s one of the reasons we draw close to him, so we will be ready to serve him.
reminds us of how important it is to rest in the Lord. Maybe you’re feeling weary this morning, a
little burned out from the frantic pace of your life. You want to slow down but you don’t know
how. I understand. Life
can be demanding, and so we need to adjust our priorities. Is there clutter that needs to be cleared
from your schedule to make time for the Lord?
There are a lot of good things that can fill our time, but they may not
be the most important things. Make sure
that you pause from busyness of life to spend time with the Lord. Find a space in your daily routine for prayer
and devotions. Maybe you’re thinking “I
don’t have time for that.” I would
suggest we make time for the things that are important to us. We make time each day for breakfast, lunch,
and supper, because we know that if we don’t eat our body will not have the
strength it needs to function well. The
same is true in our spiritual lives. If
we don’t rest in the Lord, we will not have the spiritual strength we need to live
[ii] Barclay, W. (2001). The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Mark (p. 46). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.
[iii] Ibid, p.179