The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Welcome to another food for the soul worship service. Our theme today is TIME OUT. Time out to be in the presence of our God, regularly, each day, as we wait, hope, listen, read, meditate, contemplate and pray. Please note that the speaking on our part was placed last, purposefully.
Following Jesus’ example Christians have excised precious daily time with their Heavenly Father seeking strength, encouragement, fellowship and direction. Today we will hear the promise of renewal if only we will wait upon the Lord and allow Him to renew our strength.
We will travel with Jesus early in the morning as he goes to a solitary place to pray, to be renewed and to seek guidance from his Father. We will understand that it is this time out with God that provides the assurance that Jesus doesn’t have to meet everyone’s need but instead he must follow the priorities that God has for him.
Today I’d like to bring the message of TIME OUT in two parts. Firstly, a Biblical perspective and rationale for TIME OUT with God each day from the Mark reading. This perspective draws on Jesus’ example. Then a personal perspective; a sharing of how a time with God works for me personally while recognizing that personal quiet time is just that; very personal, as individual as each of us are.
Let us begin with the Mark reading. The context of this reading occurs very early in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has been baptized by John then he has spent 40 days in the wilderness being tested by Satan. Jesus has called his first disciples: Simon and Andrew, James and John. Jesus has begun his public ministry in Capernaum teaching in the Synagogue and driving out demons – even on the Sabbath. Our reading shows even more healing as Simon’s mother-in-law is healed and then again that evening; The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons.
We begin the following morning while it was still dark. Where was Jesus? Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
There are four principles that I’d like to draw from this reading. The first pertains to strength.
The day previous was an exhausting day for Jesus preaching, healing and casting out demons. So how does Jesus replenish his strength and energy and particularly his spiritual strength, answer, in a solitary place in prayer. It’s not just about physical renewal, it’s just as much about spiritual renewal and refreshment.
No matter how physically strong or well prepared we might be without the right balance melt down can occur. In the 1997 Ironman World Championships the Australian triathlete Chris Legh fell victim to meltdown. One minute he was striding toward the finish line and the next minute he collapsed. It wasn’t a lack of training or race fitness that caused his collapse, instead it turned out to be a lack of balance; a lack of correct hydration and nutrition.
No matter our fine intention or fortitude may be the balance of time out with God renews and replenishes our spiritual energy and direction otherwise we can be achieving want we want rather than what God is directing of us.
Jesus clearly finds his strength and balance in his time out with his Father and so do we. Even we can run and not grow weary, walk and not faint if we wait upon God. One of the reasons for this is that we only do what God intends us to do because we have waited for direction. We are not running around using energy in doing all manner of good things but not the things God is calling us to do. When God calls, God equips.
We can depend upon God’s strength even when we feel week or not up to the task. It may seem like an oxymoron but it is true. Paul affirms this Biblical principle; For when I am weak, I am strong. 2 Cor. 2:10. Or. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13.
Once again so as to reaffirm this Paul writes, Therefore we can do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. Ephesians 3:20
You know how a pacemaker works, it kicks in when the heart doesn’t work correctly, sustaining the power needed. We have a reservoir of spiritual power that takes over when we come to the end of our resources. However, if only we would take the time out regularly to wait upon God before we get to that state, we would not need the pacemaker image.
The second principle I find in this reading is that of balance. Balance is so important in life, particularly as we serve God. Jesus was very busy preaching and healing, so busy that the whole town gathered at his door. Jesus healed many of various diseases and drove out many demons. Even so, Jesus knew the secret of both strength and effective ministry. Ministry doesn’t happen effectively when one is physically or spiritually exhausted. Jesus takes time out with his Father to care for himself and replenish his spiritual connection with God. If Jesus demonstrates this need and the benefits thereof how much more we too have such a need.
Of course, balance also involves exercise, socialization, relaxation, sleep and good food.
The third principle is one that takes some learning, we don’t have to do everything. Simon and his companions went to look for him and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. We don’t have to attend to every need or everyone. There is a time to move on even though people will still be in need. It’s because of his time out with God that Jesus knew that the important thing was God’s mission NOT his own success. People pleasing can lead to missing the important callings God has for us. Jesus is clearly demonstrating that we are more than the tasks we accomplish.
Coming to terms with our human limitations in time and energy is crucial. Jesus didn’t operate his ministry on the bases of his need to be needed, instead Jesus was led by God’s leading and direction. The realm of control belongs to the Spirit.
Principle four is priorities. Even as Jesus’ disciples exclaimed, Everyone is looking for you, Jesus ignores the tug to remain for everyone, clearly deciding on the priority his Father has set for him, Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So, he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
This is the age
Of the half-read page.
And the quick hash
And the mad dash.
And the brain strain
The heart pain.
And the cat naps
Till the spring snaps
I’m sorry I can’t acknowledge the writer of this verse but there is much truth in these words. We live in a busy world. Many are restless unless they are moving or being entertained in some way. We are used to instant gratification. Thanks to Mr. Google we can have immediate answers to questions.
We are busy despite the fact that we have all the modern conveniences and technologies. Emails to answer, texts to answer or send and phone calls to return.
The one thing that we resist is stillness, silence, where our minds are not pre occupied, where we have to face ourselves. Yet this is the one thing that we need most in our lives TIME OUT. Time to be still and quiet in the presence of our God. Ecclesiastics 3 says, God has set eternity in our hearts. We are created to seek the aspect of eternity that is available to us here on earth. Time out with God is the closest relationship with our creator that we can enjoy on earth. God has set this need within each of us. It should be so natural and rational. James says, Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Psalm 147: 4 assures us that God takes delight in his people.
In this quiet time out, what we expend in our daily living and serving is replenished and renewed but have you ever noticed how difficult it can be to settle into this thin place where we meet with our God each day. We don’t even have to be busy. It’s as if there’s a battle goes on as we are tugged from one side to the other. We know this is a precious experience, such a privilege to be in the presence of God Almighty through the precious blood of Jesus, facilitated through the Holy Spirit and yet …. How easily we can be distracted, you know I’ll just finish …., maybe I should just ring…. Then I’ll just check …. I trust you recognize the scenarios.
There can be a real spiritual battle that occurs to distract us from time out with our Heavenly Father. Missing or compromising this time depletes us spiritually, mentally and physically. Being aware of the battle is half way to overcoming the distractions.
Our attitude toward time out with God is important. During the school holidays Len and I took four of our grandchildren caravanning and camping to Ulladulla for four days. The three nine- and ten-year-old boys slept in a tent right outside the door of the caravan – for obvious reasons while Rosie who has just turned five slept in the van with us although she would rather have been in the tent with the boys.
To keep everyone sane we had a time out system. There were two types of time out: a forced time out, the consequence of causing a fight, being mean or putting another down. This required sitting in the caravan quietly for 30 minutes while the others played.
The second time out was voluntary that is if play or the others became too much for you then you just take whatever time you need to sit and read by yourself until you felt you wanted to go back out. You were in control of how long you stayed and when you were ready to return.
This reflects our attitude to our time out with God. It is a discipline. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there are many times that I go to the study for prayer, Bible reading and contemplation as a discipline. A discipline that is always rewarded in some way. I have to say that the earth doesn’t always move during that time out however I’m always spiritually fed in some way. Sometimes I have a thought to chew over through the day. Sometimes I have to keep my commitment to pray for whoever or whatever. Sometimes I’m reminded that my day belongs to God and not my to do list. At other times God’s Spirit smooths off the rough edges so that I become a little easier to live and work with. Of course, I can be challenged to do something that I have put off. Sometimes I just enjoy the relationship with my Heavenly Father and become thankful for the many blessing that are mine and just now and again I keep quiet and just listen. My aim is always to do more of this.
The quiet time experience is not always and only reserved for that disciplined time although I feel that time is essential for me. The disciplines time out carries over sometimes when I least expect it. I often feel the Spirit providing ideas or answers on my morning run or swim. Then there’s the middle of the night experiences where I’ve learnt to keep pen and paper beside the bed. We don’t control God’s Spirit and God is far beyond our time clocks. How privileged we are to have this relationship, never to be taken for granted.
Time out is different for different people after all God created us all as individuals. I like to follow the lectionary readings, reading the Bible reading set for the day and staying with the primary source; the Bible reading, sometime reading and contemplating more than one translation. I find different translations give different perspectives. I contemplate the reading asking the Spirit to reveal whatever I should be understanding from the reading. That can be different for each of us because we bring different experiences to the page and therefore take slightly different understandings from the reading. I do read a commentary; Upper Room Disciplines which I usually find a helpful perspective. I keep a prayer list to stop my mind wondering. I often listen to Christian songs. I finds them wonderful praise opportunities particularly when I can’t sing on tune except when the study door is shut.
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private quiet time devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he or she would pour out their hearts to God, listen for God’s voice or just spend time in private relationship with God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect their time out, it was soon be apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother or sister, the grass grows on your path."
It’s timely for each of us to be reminded of the precious privilege it is to have time out with our creator each day. The reminder that Jesus provides us with this example is sufficient motivation that our strength and priorities are decided and reorganized in this quiet time as the Spirit guides and directs. The balance of service and replenishing our spiritual energy is another legacy we have from Jesus’ example. We are not controlled by the wishes of others no matter how important if those priorities are not God’s priorities. How do we know the difference? Wait and hope in the Lord, as spiritual strength is renewed and direction clarified. This is how to claim the promise as we fulfil our part in our time out each day with our God.
Brothers and sisters don’t let the grass grow over your path.