“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.’ For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been tired? Of course you have. You’re probably tired right now. So much of our culture – and many cultures around the world – operate on a limited amount of rest. But there are different kinds of tired. There’s sleepy tired, worn out tired, tired of it tired, and that special kind of proud and satisfied tired that comes from having worked hard at something good and right and done a good job at it. The disciples returning to Jesus from the missionary assignment He sent them to accomplish were this last kind of tired. Whatever kind of tired you happen to be, though, the solution is rest. When Jesus knew His disciples were tired, He sought rest for them. This morning, let’s pause with them in that for a minute together.
A good leader doesn’t just model good habits for the people he is leading. He actively encourages them to take up those habits as well. Back in Mark 1, we found Jesus exhausted after a long day and night of healing people. His response was not to just get up and keep going because the demands on Him were so great. Instead, He actively sought some time away to rest and restore His spirit before continuing on His way. Now, the rest He got there wasn’t more sleep which He no doubt needed, but there are different kinds of rest. Sometimes sleep is the thing we need to restore ourselves, but sometimes we need to take time to slow down a bit and rest in our Lord.
The disciples were no doubt exhausted after their journey. We don’t know what all they did, but they were excited about it. When Luke tells the same story he speaks of their excitement at having been able to heal people and cast out demons with the power their Lord had gifted them. Well, the temptation in a moment like that is to strike while the iron is hot. While everyone is all fired up, we jump immediately to the next thing and make the most of the energy and momentum we have in our favor.
The disciples were apparently not alone in returning to Jesus. As they began to regather with their rabbi, the crowds they had impacted on their journeys returned to see and hear more from the one about whom they had been told. There was a movement growing and it needed to be fed (literally, as it were, but more on that later). It would have been so easy for Jesus to say, “Okay guys, let’s keep rolling.” And the disciples would have jumped immediately on board. They were running on high and would have been glad to keep going.
But Jesus knew better.
When we have accomplished something significant for the Lord, it is often the case that the wisest thing for us to do in that moment is to pause for a bit and rest. We do that in spite of the risk of losing the momentum we have built. We do it because when we are soaring on high like we so often are in those times, while we almost never realize it, we are running on the edge of an epic collapse. The line between charging forward on God’s power and charging forward on our own power is perilously thin. It is perilously thin and we can cross it without realizing we’ve done that.
Externally, the difference is negligible between our accomplishing great things for the kingdom fueled by the power of God, and our accomplishing apparently great things for the kingdom fueled by the power of our own personality or energy or determination. In both cases the church may be thriving. Lots of ministry is happening. Lives are being changed. Needs are being met. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. But on the inside, when we are operating under our own power, we are burning through our energy reserves really quickly. We’ll start taking small short cuts or finding ways to consume the emotional or relational equivalent of a Five-Hour Energy bottle. Those may keep us going in the short term, but the long term effects aren’t good. And they aren’t an acceptable alternative to the real rest our bodes and souls need.
But look at how much we are accomplishing! It would be foolish to miss out on getting all this kingdom work done. And yet, if we are the ones driving the work, exactly whose kingdom is it all benefitting? If God isn’t directing it, it’s not His. How many ministries have been built into kingdoms of the pastor or a particularly energetic lay leader and nobody was the wiser until the whole thing came crashing down and was revealed to have been a sham the whole time? Often the damage to God’s actual kingdom in those moments is terrible.
So, how do we avoid this? We start by throwing all our weight on our Savior. That’s right at the heart of the Gospel: We can’t do it on our own. When we try, we’ll just make a mess of things. From there, we make sure we are getting an adequate balance of work and rest in our lives. When we have accomplished something significant with our Lord, we don’t jump straight into the next thing. We take a pause and get some rest with and in Him. Let Him minister to your weary soul and make sure that you are staying connected to your source of strength. Then you will always thrive when the time for thriving comes. You can’t do it on your own. With Him, you can’t fail to do it. Seems like a pretty easy choice to me.