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A Prescription for Rest!

By Dan Schaeffer


Tranquilizers, sleeping pills, bio-feedback, watching videos of fish swimming in an aquarium, listening to tapes of waterfalls and babbling brooks; these are just a few of the new prescriptions available for people who are badly in need of rest, and can't seem to get any. 


Have you noticed how tired people seem to be lately?  Have you noticed how tired you seem to be lately?  Studies show that Americans aren't getting enough rest.  Yet, there are still 24 hours in a day.  This seems to indicate that there is enough time for us to rest, but that many of us simply don't know how, or don't feel the freedom to. 


Most Christians aren't surprised if their employers run them ragged, but when they perceive God is contributing to the process, they get quickly discouraged.  Jesus, however, was (and is) very sensitive to the depleting and demanding pressures of ministry and life.  In fact, after an exhausting preaching campaign, Jesus demonstrated immediate concern for 12 obviously weary men.  It is in these words that we find the Great Physician's prescription for rest.  (Mark 6:31)


..and He said to them...


"Great start men!  Now, John, I want you to give me a detailed report on the demographics of the situation.  What age groups were most receptive to My message?  What was their income level, political views, that sort of thing.  Peter, I want you and James to immediately follow-up.  Let's see if we can't keep our momentum going.  See if you can book us into 20 new towns and villages in the next two weeks.  Matthew and Andrew!  I want you to commission some of those slick new glossy embossed scrolls.  The rest of you find out how I am faring in the public opinion polls.  We can't rest now!  I need you to work hard for the Kingdom of God.  Let's go!"

If you look at the pace some Christians keep you would think that's what He said, but listen to Jesus' actual words.  "and He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while."  (Mark 6:31  NASB)


In this short sentence, this gentle command, is contained precious insight for 21st century Christians, in the midst of busy, chaotic, and fast-paced lives.  It's so simple we almost miss it.  Or, maybe we're just too busy, or too tired, to notice.


"Come Away!"


We've all encountered times when we are so tired, and stressed, and discouraged by the pace of our lives that all we want to do is run away.  We just want to find a hole and crawl in it.  But there seems to be no escape.


Notice that it was Jesus who was calling them to get rest, to come with Him to a place of quietness. He didn't say go away, He said come away.  He wanted them, in fact, was even gently commanding them to join Him apart from everyone else.  His presence was essential to their rest!  It still is!  There are times in life when what we need to do more than anything else is to drop everything and come to Him. 


The second part was to come away--away from all the demands, and questions, and commotion and noise of life.  Away from the rigorous pace that the disciple’s lives had been subjected to and was now threatening to overwhelm them. 


It's not enough to simply come to Jesus, and it's not enough just to get away.  To find true rest, they have to be combined.  We need to move towards Him, through prayer and the reading of His Word, while briefly moving away from the pressures of life.  "Cease striving, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) is still God’s message to us.


This allows the background noise of life to recede once again to where it belongs--the background of our lives.  The tyranny of the urgent can only be tamed by the presence of the Master. 


"By Yourselves"


Like spouses who are the life of the party in public, yet when alone retreat into separate corners, silent and lonely roommates, many Christians aren't comfortable being alone with Jesus.  Yet, there is nothing mystical or monastic about being alone with Jesus.  When I'm alone with my wife, I talk with her, openly and honestly, and listen to what she has to say.  When I'm alone with Jesus, I talk with Him through prayer, openly and honestly, and listen to what He has to say, through His Word, the Bible.  There is a give and take during that time that is emotionally and spiritually refreshing.


In His presence, I can put my life and problems back into their proper context and God back in His proper role in my life.  The result is the gradual reduction of stress and worry, without pills or doctors, or tapes.


"To a lonely place"


Jesus took His disciple’s to an uninhabited place, where the demands of people and the hustle and bustle of activity would be absent.  A lonely place provided just that; an opportunity to allow their mental and emotional and spiritual batteries to re-charge at the proper pace--slowly!  If you try and charge a battery too quickly, you can ruin it, and it's the same with people.  There is no quick charge for emotionally, physically or spiritually depleted people.


Jesus knew precisely the type of place to go to find rest, a lonely place.  It's easy to make the mistake of going to the wrong place to rest. A quiet place could be your home when the kids are at school, or taking their naps, or your office at lunch, your car on the way to and from work, or a quiet, secluded corner you find somewhere.  Please don't misunderstand; Jesus doesn't want us to be lonely, or a loner.  He simply wants to lead us to lonely or quiet places occasionally to restore our strength.


Sensual bombardment is the greatest single threat to peacefulness and rest I know of.  With radios and TV's blaring, phones ringing, doorbells buzzing, cars and trucks honking, the incessant cries and demands of children, co-workers, bosses, employers, is it any wonder we have trouble finding rest?  We can’t often escape this bombardment, but we can still find rest. 


There was once an art contest, in which the artists were asked to paint a picture best portraying the concept, "Peace."  Most of the pictures were of serene and pastoral scenes.  But the winner was a picture of a mighty thundering waterfall, where behind the roar of the waters, protected from the tremendous onslaught, could be seen the nest of a mother bird feeding her babies.  Peace amid the tumult; that's what we need to find. 


And rest for a while!


Jesus didn't say, "Let's get away to a lonely place where we can discuss and plan and strategize uninterrupted."  He said, "Let's get away to a lonely place and rest!"


In case you think there is some special spiritual definition to this rest, there isn't!  It involves things like sleep, quietness, and stillness, not engaging in strenuous or demanding activity.  Reading a good book, taking a leisurely walk, sitting in front of a fire, all of these and more are restorative to our bodies and souls.  Rest means just exactly what it sounds like. 


By the way, notice that Jesus said awhile, not indefinitely.  Not when we should be working, not so that we become lazy--but for a while.  Sometimes all we need is 15 minutes of uninterrupted rest to restore ourselves.  Sometimes we need two weeks, or more. 


We need to come to terms with our need for rest.  Jesus recognized the need, and He still wants His disciple’s to get some.  Driving yourself till you drop is not spiritual!  So, if you've been trying to get more rest, here's the prescription from the Great Physician. 


Come Away.  Move towards Him, while briefly moving away from the demands of others. 

By Yourselves.  Rest involves a one on one with you and Jesus, alone! 

To a lonely place.  A place without noise, activity, commotion. 

And rest for a while.  A place where withdrawal from activity can take place.  This is a time for relaxing, contemplating, sleeping, rejuvenating, resting!! 


Isn’t it time you got some rest? 

man resting in hammock next to a dog



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