Summary: Being quiet before God is as important as being busy for him.
The Call to Quietness
I have to say that I am very glad that our gospel reading today skips over the horrific story of the beheading of John the Baptist, and rather moves on chronologically from last week. We read then how Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in ministry for the first time. Today we meet them again on their return.
Let’s just imagine that scene for a moment. They would have all been gathered around Jesus, literally bubbling over with stories of all that had happened – the miraculous healings; the casting out of demons; the hundreds of people who had turned back to God in repentance. They must have been falling over each other to top each one’s stories. Their voices raised to fever pitch there would have been plenty of pushing and shoving as they each clamoured to be heard.
The whole atmosphere was crackling with excitement.
And how did Jesus react? He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
That’s what I want us to think about this morning, Jesus reaction – the call to quietness – which, just as it was for the first disciples, is a vital part of our Christian walk.
There’s a story told of a missionary who was making a long trek through the jungles of Africa. Tribesmen from the area were hired to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The missionary had high hopes of completing the journey in double quick time. But come the second morning the tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. When he asked about this strange behavior, he was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that the tribesmen were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.
There are times when our lives move so fast, that we need to slow down and let our souls catch up with us -- not literally, but figuratively.
We will rarely find God in the hectic moments of our lives, but we will often find Him in the quietness.
You’ll recall the story of Elijah who was told to stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord was about to pass by. The Lord wasn’t in the great and powerful wind that shattered the rocks; He wasn’t in the earthquake or the fire that followed it, but the Lord was in the gentle whisper.
Isn’t it true that we prefer to see God in activity, in all the things we are doing for him? We rush around; get caught up in chapel meetings, bible studies, prayer meetings, visiting the sick, caring for the needy, working amongst the children and so on and so on.
And please do not misunderstand me, these are all extremely important ministries that God calls us to. But perhaps the mistake we sometimes make is to think that these are enough.
There’s a danger that we spend all our time doing for God and not enough of our time listening to God. We want to feel the strong and powerful wind and we fail to hear the gentle whisper because it’s drowned out by everything else
I wonder how many of you are like me – when push comes to shove and life just gets too busy, our devotional time with the Lord is often the first thing to be put aside? Of course we never consciously say, “My daily quiet time with the Lord doesn’t matter.” We rather dress it up with nice words. “God will understand,” we say to ourselves, “After all I’m doing his work.”
But if you really think about it, what we are actually doing, is pushing the Lord to one side in order to take care of what we think is really important.
In 2 Corinthians Paul urges us to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. So what was Jesus like when it came to taking time to be quiet. In Luke 5 and verse 16 we read, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Surely it’s significant that Luke, that meticulous gospel writer, thought that it was important to record this fact right the middle of all the healings; the driving out of evil spirits and the recruiting of the twelve disciples. For Luke it was a vital and essential element in the character of the Messiah he was describing to his readers.
Over and over again throughout each of the gospels we see Jesus drawing aside to be quiet and to pray. He could well have sat back and argued with God that the more time he spent in prayer and meditation the less time he would have to preach, teach and heal. But Jesus recognized the need for constant refreshment in body and soul.