Summary: Following Jesus will cause us to feel overwhemled because we will want to meet other people’s needs, but when we give Jesus what we have, God multiplies its effect far beyond our expectations.
I know what some of you are thinking today. Some of you are thinking, "Only 17 shopping days left before Christmas." Others of you are wondering just how you’re going to get that Christmas letter out in time. You’re thinking, "Perhaps it should be a New Year’s letter instead."
Let’s face it: This is the season to feel overwhelmed. What to buy that aunt you can never think of a gift for? How to deal with those quirky family members you manage to avoid the rest of the year? Gridlock traffic near the malls, office Christmas parties, picking out a Christmas tree, putting up decorations.
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
And if we can rise above our own personal circumstances enough to see the bigger picture, we feel even more overwhelmed. We see problems far bigger and more complex than our ability to figure out. The war on terror, the imminent conflict with Iraq, the AIDS crisis in the continent of Africa, poverty and homelessness here in the US.
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
Feeling overwhelmed is simply a part of life. Sometimes we feel like the proverbial little boy trying to plug up holes in the dam with his fingers. Each time he sticks his finger in one hole, two more holes open up.
Following Jesus Christ as a Christian doesn’t make that sense of feeling overwhelmed go away. In fact, in some ways it gets worse, because we not only worry about the things we can see, but we also worry about the things we can’t see. We not only worry about things like our kids and our health, but we also have concerns about reaching lost people for Christ, about the vitality of our church, about the spiritual climate of our culture.
Today we’re going to talk about running on empty. The title comes from an old Jackson Brown song about a guy who feels like he’s constantly behind. I know how that guy feels. Today we’re going to look at a situation where some of Jesus’ followers felt overwhelmed. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. Today we’re going to find some principles that relate to us when we run on empty.
1. Feeling Overwhelmed (Mark 6:31)
Let’s look at what leads Jesus’ followers to be running on empty in v. 31. Last weekend Pastor Doug did a wonderful job talking about how Jesus sent his twelve apostles on a special ministry assignment. Jesus gave his 12 apostles authority and then sent them out to the towns and villages. This was part of their training, preparing them for the time when Jesus would ascend to heaven and he’s give them the keys to the car. They’ve returned from an effective and successful time of ministry, but they’re exhausted from the experience.
Mark’s comment about "so many people coming and going" makes it sound like the Ontario Mills Mall the day after Thanksgiving. So Jesus invites his followers--those who’ve trusted in him--to leave the crowds for a quiet place to rest. The Greek word "quiet place" here is literally "desert place." The "desert" had strong associations for the Jewish people, because it was in the desert where they encountered God in the book of Exodus, in the desert where they were tested and tempted. In Jewish thought, the desert was a place of proving and testing, yet also a place of renewal and restoration.
By calling his followers away from the crowd to a desert place, Jesus is reminding us that the essence of being a Christian isn’t doing stuff for Jesus, but it’s being with Jesus. Jesus is inviting them to hang out with him, to let down their guard, to not need to perform or act, but to simply be. Although their time of ministry was effective, they need to disassociate themselves from ministry for a while. They were feeling overwhelmed by the chaos, the coming and going of the crowd, the constant needs people keep bringing to Jesus.
Here we find the first principle. WHEN WE FOLLOW JESUS WE WILL SOMETIMES FEEL OVERWHELMED.
Sometimes I feel like the mythical figure Atlas, who in Greek mythology carried the world on his shoulders. We carry the burdens of our friends and our family the burdens of our church family and our community, the burdens of our nation. Sometimes it can feel crushing.
I feel that way sometimes. I look at the task of sharing the good news of Jesus with every nation and every language, and I feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of the task. I look at my unchurched friends and family who don’t yet establish a relationship with Jesus, and I feel responsible. As a pastor, I look at the needs of our congregation, the needs of our church budget, our need for more property, the people who aren’t growing and getting connected, and I feel like I need to fix these problems.