PRESCRIPTION FOR EXHAUSTION OR RECIPE FOR REST
Readings: II Samuel 7:1-14a
Mark 6:30-34 and 53-56
All of the Bible is not written TO you, but all of the Bible is written FOR you, so I hope you will follow along in your Bible this morning as we dig in together and see what it has to teach each of us. I am titling it, “Prescription for Exhaustion”, or “Recipe for Rest.” I know that it is a universal problem…we’re all tired and we could use some rest. So hang on now and let’s put ourselves into the story.
Turn with me now to Mark 6: beginning in verse 30.
We come in in the middle of the gospel story in Mark.
It tells us only that the apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.
Jesus had earlier sent them out to preach, teach and do miracles in his name. Evidently this time they had been successful. They were “up” emotionally but needed to lie down, physically.
You can be so excited that you don’t even realize that your energy is being spent, but there comes a crashing down to earth again eventually.
The scripture here says there were so many people coming and going, the disciples didn’t even have a chance to eat.
The disciples had not only been working long days, but they had also been HURRYING. It is not so much what we do that tires us so much, but the PACE we keep while doing it.
(It must be called a DEADLINE for a very good reason.) We just about kill ourselves trying to get everything done on time.
This is one thing we learn in retirement. When there is no certain time limit to accomplish something, it takes forever to get it done.
Someone said the only thing wrong with retirement is that you never get a day off.
So we set a goal and before we know it we are overloaded because we don’t leave enough time to rest in between.
Jesus was very anxious to hear about their ministry, but he looked beyond the surface and saw their misery, too.
He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
V33> But, many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them!
How many of you know that if you decide to rest, those whom you have been serving will not let you?
The background reading I did for this said it was about ten miles around the lake but only four miles across it. But if the wind was too still or blowing in the wrong direction, it was faster on foot to just run around to the other side than to take a boat across. These people hungered to hear more of the word of God and be in the presence of Christ. They didn’t let the distance deter them.
V34 When Jesus landed and saw the large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Imagine Jesus’ eyes of compassion on this crowd.
They disturbed him in the desert, but he delighted to disciple them!
He wasn’t irritated, nor did he complain about their imposition. He knew that sheep follow their shepherd. He knew that sheep need feeding and can get lost or get into dangerous situations.
We need to report for duty, regroup, refuel and then return to work. It is a healthy cycle that Jesus modeled for us.
In the verses 35 to 44 between those we read in the lectionary readings this morning, Jesus had the disciples participate with him in the miracle of feeding the five thousand. After he taught them, fed them and sent them back to their homes, he went away to the mountains to pray.
Jesus went into the hills not to escape, but to equip.
True prayer always has consequences in others’ lives.
Reading on in verses 45 to 52…
Then what happened? A storm came up with high winds and raging seas and Jesus was called to the rescue again.
Jesus saw the disciples straining at the oars (They were rowing but not going!) He could have spoken to the winds to be still or change directions. He could have sent an angel to rescue them. But, this time he started walking across the lake towards them and they thought he was a ghost. He was about to pass them by…BUT when they saw him they were terrified, so he got into the boat with them.
I don’t know about you, but two things about those verses struck me as strange. Why was Jesus going to pass them by? We know he cared about them and noticed their struggle.
Was he showing them he could handle a storm and waves by walking on the water first as a demonstration in front of them? Did he want to show us he is there in the situations but waiting on us to call out to him?
The answer is…we don’t know, but perhaps both of those are good reasons for what he did and why we are given the information that he would have passed them by.
Our help comes from the Lord, but often he will let us spend our strength trying to do something until we finally turn the task over to him.
The second thing I think is strange is that when they cried out because they were terrified thinking he was a ghost, he climbed into the boat with them! Now I don’t know about you, but if I thought it was a ghost I would just as soon he go ahead and pass me by!
It says Jesus told them, “Take courage, it is I, don’t be afraid.”
One word from the Great I AM, and courage came into the hearts of these men.
They are slow learners though.
It says “They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves and their hearts were hardened.”
If they had considered the past, they would have known they could count on Christ now, too.
How soon we forget the miracles God performs in our lives.
This was the evening of the very same day that Jesus had used them to feed five thousand people with just a boy’s lunch.
But food is one thing and drowning at sea is another, right? When will we learn that he has the whole world in his hands and he can either calm the sea or calm his child?
When we are in the midst of trouble and trying to stem the tide of a raging storm in our lives, it is difficult to recognize Christ as anything but another scary something or someone coming our way. But he sees our struggles and he comes.
Jesus recognizes the tired, but also reassures the terrified.
He commissions the committed, calls aside the collapsing, and has compassion on the confused.
All of us fall into one of these groups.
God gives rest to the tired.
You can enjoy and desire to serve Christ continually, but your body requires relaxation.
You may pray without ceasing but you cannot serve without ceasing.
You must come APART or you will COME APART with physical problems.
To really rest you need to be ALONE, with nothing to do for anyone and nothing to say to anyone.
We have lost the ability to just relax and mend our spirit.
God will come to you in the stillness and renew a right spirit within you.
Now we take up again in verse 54 -56 on the other side of the lake in another new town it says,
“As soon as they got out of the boat, the people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.”
“And wherever he went, into villages, towns or countryside they placed the sick in market places. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak , and all who touched him were healed.”
Does this sound like you just hit the pause button on your Tivo and it is re-running the show from the beginning?
I have a realistic quote that says,
“Expect permanent white water!”
And another one that says,
“Into each life some rain must fall….followed by large hail and damaging winds.”
In other words, don’t expect life to be easy or for things to settle down.
Christ said, “In this world you WILL HAVE tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
We need multiple miracles to get through the continual tempests in life.
Jesus went from crowd to crowd renewed, refreshed and reenergized. He didn’t worry about provisions. He wasn’t in a hurry, but he was never too late.
We can try to imitate Christ in our limited physical ways.
But we need to take time out to rest and pray.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, Jesus said.
God designed the Sabbath rest for us.
He designed a “sowing’ rest for the soil.
When you rest in Him, the soil of your heart becomes fertile ground for spiritual seed to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Matthew 11:28 says, “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
We are like rechargeable batteries, we run down and need to be plugged back into the recharging base. We need to get away to pray. It can be a fast prayer, like a quick charge, but then it lasts for only a short time and we need to get away again soon. So pray long or pray often!
I like this poem from George MacDonald:
“When with all thy loved around thee
Still thy heart says, “I am lonely.”
It is well, the truth has found thee,
Rest is with the Father only.”
Just as you need air, you need prayer and you need rest. An archer’s bow needs its string periodically loosened or it will break.
A woodsman can chop more wood if he stops occasionally to sharpen the ax.
Our lives are filled with TV, cell phones, palm pilots , laptops etc. Communication has become our recreation and our fingers are tired from the remotes and the key-tapping.
I was fascinated to learn that the two Chinese alphabet characters which mean ”busy” represent a heart and killing.
Being too busy kills your heart to do any more ministry.
Once I heard my sister say to her two young children who were demanding more and more of her time and attention, “I am all out of Mommy.” It says it all. doesn’t it?
So what do we do when we are all out of ministry mode,
we don’t want to serve another person in this world,…
we are just plain tired and worn out?
We don’t become a monk or a hermit.
There is a danger in too much work but also
in too much withdrawal.
Devotion must issue forth in deeds
We don’t withdraw from real needs.
We are strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit we can become “more than conquerors” over everything that is set against us.
If we are too busy to rest, we can’t serve God with our best. The proper rhythm of life is to go from people to God and then from God to people.
Christ commissions us to work, calls us aside to rest, has
compassion on our physical pain and comes to comfort us in our circumstances. (This is the progression in Mark’s gospel)
After proper rest and food we are more capable of right understanding (compassion) and right action (ministry) and right effort (efficiently providing what others need).
When we are too tired we risk hurting others and ourselves.
Ministry involves not only sharing the message of the gospel but also showing mercy and relieving misery.
YOU are MINISTERING whether you are caring for an aging parent, a sick spouse or friend, baby-sitting or visiting a lonely neighbor or shut-in.
Take the prescription…and REST !
The Old Testament passage we read this morning is connected to the same teaching idea as the passage in the New Testament. So let’s look back at II Samuel chapter 7 and see how this carries over into the Mark story theme of alternating work and rest.We will see how God ordains both.
II Samuel 7: 1-14 (I am paraphrasing here):
When king David sat in his house and the Lord had given him REST round about from his enemies, he thought about his life of leisure and fullness and wanted to do something for the Lord.
David was usually fighting battles and he would fight some more before he died, but during this period of peacefulness and rest, he didn’t sit back thinking he deserved it, he tried to propose a plan that would glorify God.
He thought it was a shame for God to dwell in a tent when he had such a lavish palace to live in himself, so he thought he would commission the building of a magnificent house for God.
When David ran his ideas by Nathan the prophet,
Nathan said, “By all means do whatever is in your heart and the Lord be with you.”
Nathan is just speaking off the cuff right now, as a politician, not a prophet. He was sure in his own mind that it would be a good thing. After all, if someone wants to do something for the Lord, we should encourage them, right?
But as my husband Bill likes to say,
God doesn’t want volunteers!
He CALLS people into his plans and purposes.
God wasted no time in coming to Nathan to tell him that he had different plans.
Since Nathan had said “go” but the Lord said “no”, he honored Nathan by coming to him and giving him the word of discouragement for David, thus keeping the office of the prophet held in respect.
Later we know that God spoke a word of encouragement to David himself. I Kings 8: 18 tells us the Lord commended his idea, “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.”
Every idea to do great things for God is APPRECIATED,
but not necessarily APPROVED to be done.
In I Chronicles 17:4 we are told “there is other work APPOINTED for you to do.”
The reverse order is the proper way:
God APPOINTS a work for you,
APPROVES the procedure and timing, and then APPRECIATES our efforts on his behalf.
David was appointed for WAR and WORSHIP.
He was to enlarge the borders of Israel, and to write psalms for worship in the temple.
He had faithfully carried out his appointment, but could not imagine that God wanted him to rest.
God was willing to remain in a tent temporarily….as Jesus dwelt in a temporary body of flesh.
(He is not for SHOW but for SUBSTANCE.)
His plan was to give Solomon the wisdom and the wealth to build the temple.
The Lord said, David, I am going to reverse your idea here and build YOU a house….I am going to build up your family line and give you an inheritance that includes not just YOUR son, but MY son.
In other words, God is saying, “David, cool it!”
My prescription for you is REST and I will work.
In Ephesians 2: 11-22 we read that God has a building plan for YOU.
Jesus is the cornerstone and the foundation.
The building is joined together into a holy temple.
You are being built together to become a dwelling place in which God lives.
In this world God lives in you.
In the next world we will live in Him.
And that is his word to each one of us.
Whether you have peace and prosperity or war and worries in this life, God says I am building YOU a house in eternity. ..a real temple for your body to dwell in and your spirit to worship in continually.
It pleases me greatly to inform you of His plans…”plans to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future.”
So the message for us today is REST.
Be grateful for the peaceful periods in your life and wait for the Lord to appoint you to the next duty.
Rest from your work, rest from your worry, even rest from your worship. (Don’t become weary in well-doing)
The Lord will never rest from remembering you and rewarding you.