While reflecting on the importance of rest, God revealed the big picture of why rest is needed. Type A personalities like myself tend to value time and productivity. I have observed this trait in many leaders. We are often driven, effective, competent, proactive—bottom line, we get the job done!
After carefully meditating on Mark 6 (which I highly encourage you to read, reread, pray and reflect upon), the writer reveals that we are more focused and useful when we take the needed time to rest. Working without ceasing actually presents a temptation to distract us from the main focus on God.
Overworking ourselves feeds into the small American deception that we are our own, self-made people. We pull ourselves up by our boots straps and work for what we want in life. This posture of self-sufficiency subtly draws us away from God. Even the Christians who say with their lips, “We trust God” will often follow with actions that reflect, “We depend on ourselves.” Surely, there is tension between God’s sovereignty (his universal control over all things) and our human responsibility (the choices we make).
I find there is also a constant need to remind all humans, all Christians, and especially leaders, of the Creator in whom we all depend. That’s what rest does—it first reminds us of our dependency on God. Rest also makes us more compassionate people. Notice the cycle in Mark 6:
Jesus called his disciples away to rest from work (in this case ministry) – v. 30-32
The people of the town realized how much they needed Jesus (my first point) and ran to follow him. The people arrived at the solitary place before Jesus and his disciples got there – v. 33
When he saw the people, Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” – v. 34
Later in the day, the disciples and everyone else was hungry and tired. The disciples tried to send the people away from the compassionate Jesus. Jesus then calls the disciples to a compassionate response stating, “You give them something to eat.” – v. 35-37
Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000+ is a compassionate response for those who realized they needed him – v. 38-44
After performing this miracle (a great work), Jesus sent his disciples ahead of him and he went off to a solitary place alone to pray – v. 45-46
Even Jesus, himself, had to come away for intimate moments of prayer with his Father. He encouraged the disciples to do so in an effort to maintain the proper focus and to make them more compassionate to the people around them. They missed the lesson, by the way (v. 51-52).
Jesus calls us away to focus on God through prayer so that we can respond in the same manner that he would to those he brings into our paths. Rest is critical for us individually, critical for our personal relationship with the Lord, and critical for how we respond to other people. Let’s not miss the point.
Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39 NIV).”
It is sometimes hard to see the forest from the trees. In other words, we often miss the big picture by distractions and focusing on the wrong things. This is a long weekend, how will you prioritize time away with the Lord?
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012