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A Place of Quiet RestFINDING INTIMACY WITH GOD THROUGH A DAILY DEVOTIONAL LIFE
By Nancy Leigh DeMoss
MOODY PRESSCopyright © 2000 Nancy Leigh Demoss
All right reserved.
Some time ago, I asked the women who were attending a weekend conference where I was speaking to write on a three-by-five-inch card why they had come and what it was they were hoping God would do in their lives through the weekend. "Where does God find you as we start this weekend?" I asked.
Later, as I read the responses to my question, I was amazed at how many of them sounded alike. Here is a sampling of what those women expressed:
"I feel I'm out of control sometimes with so many pressures."
"I face too much stress and responsibility."
"I need God to show me how to cope with the stresses at this moment."
"I feel like I'm torn in all directions. I want God to show me how to manage my different `hats' of teacher, mother, wife, and daughter successfully, and still have time for church work and `me.'"
"I need to stop worrying about everything. I try not to and I know I shouldn't, but my worries that I conjure up even disturb my sleep and dreams."
"I've given myself up to service for about twenty-four months, and I feel a need to slow myself down and renew myself, but life gets real hectic."
"With a new baby I need to find the Lord's peace and rest-physically and emotionally."
"I often get overly busy and find my day gone without having done the things I most wanted to do."
"I am a single person by divorce, and I really am tired."
"I've left a whirlwind at home, and need a renewed spirit to face all that these coming weeks will hold."
"I want to slow down. I feel as if I'm on a speeding treadmill, and if I try to jump off I will stumble and fall."
"I need help with my frazzled, frenzied state."
"My busyness has robbed me of my joy."
Do you find yourself relating to any of these feelings? I find these kinds of responses are increasingly common among the women I meet. Why do we live such hectic, harried lives? Is this what God intended for us? And can we actually get off that speeding treadmill without hurting ourselves (and others) in the process?
The first chapter of the gospel of Mark gives us a glimpse into a day in the life of the Lord Jesus. In some respects, this particular day was not unlike many of the days that you and I experience.
We pick up the account in verse 21:
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (MARK 1:21-22)
If you've ever taught a Sunday school class, led a small group, or taught a Bible study, you know there's a lot more behind these words than what appears on the surface.
You know that you don't just get up before a group and teach the Word of God with power and effectiveness apart from a lot of time spent in preparation-not just preparation of the notes and the material, but preparation of your heart and life.
I love teaching the Scripture; to me there is nothing quite like seeing the Word of God penetrate and transform lives. But the process of preparing to speak is an intense one for me.
I agonize to determine what it is that the Lord wants me to teach; I wrestle with the passages involved, seeking to understand what the Scripture really means; I labor to put the material together in a form that is understandable and meaningful to the listener.
Throughout the process, I ask the Holy Spirit to search my own heart, to shine the light of His Word into every nook and cranny of my life, and to show me where I don't measure up to the truth I am about to proclaim. Before opening my mouth to speak, I spend time in prayer, pleading with God for a fresh anointing of His Spirit on my life and my lips, and interceding for those who will hear the message. I feel like a runner about to run an important race-every muscle taut, totally concentrated on the race ahead.
Then, while I'm actually teaching, there is more energy expended-physically mentally' emotionally' and spiritually I am intensely focused, never letting up from my goal-I want the truth to penetrate every heart; I want every individual to say yes to God about any issue He is addressing in her life.
When I have finished speaking, the battle is still not over-that is when the Enemy often seeks to discourage me with feelings of inadequacy or to tempt me with seeking the praise of men for my ministry. By the time it's all over, I am generally depleted and in need of restoration.
So when I read that Jesus began this particular day by teaching in the synagogue, I know this was not just a casual effort on His part. The people listened attentively to Him because they could tell this was not your normal, run-of-the-mill Sabbath message. Unlike the preachers they were accustomed to hearing, Jesus spoke with authority and power. We know that in order for this to be possible, He had spent concentrated time with His heavenly Father in preparation. As He ministered, He was being expended on behalf of others.
The apostle Paul said, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you" (2 Corinthians 12:15 KJV). That's part of what is involved in ministering to others, whether in a synagogue, a Sunday school class, or a house full of little ones.
This was just the beginning of Jesus' day-His work was not nearly over. Before He even had a chance to finish His message, there was an interruption in the service. Let's continue reading in Mark 1:
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!"
"Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." (MARK 1:23-27)
Here we see Jesus engaged in a battle between heaven and hell. Everywhere Jesus went during His years of earthly ministry, the demons of hell were stirred up because He lived and spoke and ministered in the power and the authority of God.
Obviously this was not some casual, relaxed encounter with the Enemy This was all-out warfare.
Now, I have never exorcised a demon. And in the course of an average day, you and I are not likely to have audible or visible encounters with demons. But God's Word teaches that we are in the midst of a battle against "principalities and powers"-that at this very moment there is a cosmic warfare being waged between heaven and hell. And sometimes, God sends us right into the front lines of that battle. Many of the people we encounter and deal with on a daily basis are in the midst of an intense spiritual battle for their souls, and sometimes we get caught in the cross fire.
In the course of being a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, an employee, you will find yourself in the midst of difficult, strenuous, demanding situations where you have to be alert to the schemes of Satan and skilled in using the sword of the Spirit to fight off his attacks. There is a natural drain that is a part of being God's servant in these situations. Jesus experienced those moments of intense confrontation with the powers of darkness.
As a result of this encounter with the demonized man, the Scripture tells us that "news about [Jesus] spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee" (v. 28). Try to imagine how that must have complicated Jesus' life. All of a sudden, people all over the area wanted Him to come speak at their synagogues and banquets, wanted to interview Him for their publications, wanted Him to heal their sick and cast out their demons. They all wanted a piece of Him. Later in this passage we learn that the time finally came when Jesus couldn't even stay in the cities but had to find quiet, remote places where the crowds couldn't find Him, in order to get time alone with His Father.
Perhaps you have had the experience of ministering to someone in need-lending a listening ear to a discouraged young mother, helping out in your child's classroom, preparing a meal for a family in a crisis, being a youth sponsor on a mission trip, ministering to a friend's troubled teenager, or offering biblical counsel to a woman in a shaky marriage. Then the word spreads that you are available to help people in need-and all of a sudden, your phone is ringing off the hook with people wanting your time and help.
Well, the service at the synagogue is finally over, and we feel a sense of relief when we read the next verse: `As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew" (v. 29).
Whew! Jesus has spent hours giving out and expending Himself for others. Finally He has a chance to get away with His friends, away from all the needy people. He gets to go home, kick up His feet, open up a good book, and relax-maybe even take a nap. Right? Wrong!
Read on: "Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her" (v. 30). Jesus is finally out of the public eye, back in the safe haven of a friend's home, and even there, someone needs Him.
Do you relate to any of this as a woman? Do you ever feel that there is no time, no place where you can totally escape the demands of other people? If it's not the people at work, it's your husband; if it's not your husband, it's your children; if it's not your children, it's the neighbor's children; if it's not someone else's children, it's your mother-in-law; if it's not your mother-in-law, it's ...
But as we would expect, the serving heart of Jesus comes out and He makes Himself available to meet the need: "So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them" (v. 31).
Finally Jesus can close the door and settle in for a nice quiet evening alone with his friends ... "Martha, go see who's knocking at the door!"
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door. (MARK 1:32-55)
I don't know how many people came to see Jesus that evening, but it sounds like a lot to me! Remember, this is still the same day-He started early that morning, teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick, and now the whole city is lined up at His door wanting help.
Do you ever feel as if the whole town is gathered at your door? Maybe it's your bathroom door, and you're just trying to get three minutes alone without having to answer any questions-but somebody's knocking on the door, the doorbell is ringing, the phone is ringing, the oven timer is buzzing, your three children seem like thirty-three, you feel as if half the world is sick, and everybody needs you-all at the same time. You panic: "There's just not enough of me to go around!"
And Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons. (MARK 1:34)
You wonder, How did He do it? How did He stay sane? How did He keep His sense of equilibrium? How did He keep meeting the needs of so many people without falling apart Himself?
We know Jesus was God. But He was also a man-He got tired; He got hungry; He knew what it was to have crowds pressing around Him all the time; He knew what it was to have His privacy invaded. But He kept right on letting the crowds into His life. He kept on teaching, healing, confronting the powers of hell-and never a cross or impatient word. How did He do it?
Besides, He was only given three years on this earth to accomplish the whole eternal plan of redemption. Talk about a long "to do" list! Yet He never seemed hurried, harried, or overwhelmed with all there was to do in a day. Why not? How did He handle all the stress, strain, and responsibility without "losing it"?
I believe verse 35 gives us the key-not only to Jesus' life but also to your life and mine, whatever our specific responsibilities and circumstances may be. That verse begins, "Very early in the morning ..."
I don't know about you-but when I've had a long, draining day like the one we just read about, I know exactly what I want to do very early the next morning. Nothing-except sleep!
Now, there's nothing wrong with sleeping when our bodies need it. But Jesus knew there was something He needed that next morning even more desperately than His body needed sleep. He had poured Himself out for countless needy individuals, and His spirit needed to be replenished. He knew it would never happen once the crowd woke up, so what did He do?
"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up ..." He got up! The Scripture says that Jesus was tempted in every point as we are, so I have no doubt that Jesus was tempted to sleep in. But He made a choice to say no to His body and yes to His Father. He got up. Then He "left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (v. 35).
And He did so none too soon. For it wasn't long before "Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: `Everyone is looking for you!'" (vv. 36-37).
However, having just been in touch with His heavenly Father, Jesus knew exactly how He was to respond to the demands of the new day: "Jesus replied, `Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come'" (v. 38).
Why was this morning appointment with His Father so crucial to Jesus' earthly ministry among us?
Jesus knew that any power or ability He had to minister to others was due to the fact that He was "one with the Father." He knew it was essential for Him to stay connected to His Father, for that was His Source of life, joy, power, peace, and fruitfulness. He knew He had to walk in union and communion with His Father if He was to know and do His Father's will. He had no other purpose for being on this earth than to do the will of His Father. So He had no higher priority than to abide in intimate, unbroken fellowship with His Father, so that He might fulfill His Father's will.
For Jesus, time alone with God was not an option. It was not something He tacked on to an overcrowded schedule. It was His lifeline to the Father. It was not something He could do without.
Excerpted from A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss Copyright © 2000 by Nancy Leigh Demoss
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.