Summary: An encouragement to make time along with the Father a priority as it was in Jesus' lifetime on earth
After the song "I Miss My Time With You"
I wonder to how many of us God would convey the same unmet longing this morning? To how many of us do those words connect, as if God would actually say those same things to us?
History is rich with the examples of “holy men” who set aside hours, days, years, even lifetimes to separate from the rush of living and spend time alone with God.
The earliest famous person to do this was a peasant from Egypt named Antony the Hermit. He was born in mid 3rd century, and his example was followed by others – living alone in the desert, prayer, meditation, Bible study, and fasting were all part of their attempt at achieving closeness with God. Many went to weird extremes, like walling themselves up in caves, learning to sleep while standing up, confining themselves to tiny boxes only a few feet square, or living on top of pillars. One of the most famous 5th cent. pillar-sitters was a guy in Syria named Simeon Stylites. The last 36 years of his life was spent sitting on top of a pillar some 50’ off the ground, and people made pilgrimages from miles away just to see him and listen to his counsel. A church was built around the site of his achievement, and there in the middle is the base of his pillar. (see picture)
All in the name of holiness. All in an effort to spend time with God.
Then there are the people a little closer to home, like Don Dewelt, who stressed the need to spend at least an hour a day alone with God, and even developed a very structured way to do that. I remember the last class that Don taught at OCC, Expository Preaching, where we spent the first week on this subject, and where the first requirement of the class was the hour every day alone with the Father. Here we thought we’d gotten into a preaching class, and instead we were learning about spending time alone with God!
So where does God want us? Who was right? Whose example is the right example? Who had the right balance of work and play? Of socialization and solitude? Of blank time and busy time?
To which I must say: Well, Duh, Jesus, of course! While His mission in coming to earth wasn’t to just be a good example, we can bet that the way He treated this is definitely the right example.
It seems fitting to me, at the end of the summer, for us to reflect back and look at what we did with our “time off.”
What did we do in the way of recreation? God is in the recreation business. It’s root has to do with being “re-created,” and that’s what God does to people. So, did your recreation consist of activities that helped “rebuild” and “recreate” you? Or are you still recovering from it?
What did we do in the way of vacation? Did you go somewhere? Leave home? You can see in the word vacation the word “Vacate.” But more than just going somewhere, it carries the idea of freedom and exemption. Was your time of freedom from the grind a time that refreshed you and prepared you for the rigors of life? Or was your vacation a rigor of life?
How did you do? If you’re like me, we tend to not focus our time away from the normal hustle as a time to get closer to God. We tend to use it as a time to get away from everything, including God – but how sad it is that we spend our lives running away from something, as if life were an angry dog – rather than running to our God!
So, yeah, I’m going to say this today: that Jesus lived the priority of regular time alone with the Father. And I know that inward objections are going to trigger, saying something like “My day’s so full, I never have time alone, let alone with God. I already don’t have enough hours in the day. There’s no way I can set aside more time for anything else. No one around me will understand or appreciate it – they won’t help.”
If you want to say those things, go ahead. Jesus could have said them more quickly than any of us, because those are all challenges that He faced and that we face when it comes to spending time with the Father. Let’s look again in Jesus’ early Galilean ministry and flag some of those challenges together:
You meet them wherever you go. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, other people are going to impact your life.
They were certainly impacting Jesus. In fact, in this part of His ministry His days are full of people.