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A Bible Message by Bayless Conley
Copyright © 2007 Answers with Bayless Conley
Please open your Bible to Matthew, chapter 14. In Matthew 14, as well as in the other three gospels, we have recorded the story of the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves and the two fish. Interestingly enough, though, there is another event that takes place in connection with the feeding of the five thousand that is rarely mentioned. It gets very little attention, and yet it is filled with important truths for every one of us. Every gospel writer looks at this other recorded event from a slightly different angle. Each one of them, though not contradicting the other, adds new bits of information that make the story all the more illuminating. That event is that of Jesus drawing away to a place of solitude. I want to share with you four reasons why every one of us needs solitude with God. Every one of us needs times where we are just alone with God. FOUR REASONS WHY WE NEED SOLITUDE WITH GOD 1. Reflection As the story opens up in Matthew 14, John the Baptist is in prison. Herod is throwing a big party. Everybody is there, including his wife Herodias, who he has taken unlawfully. Her daughter dances in front of everyone. Apparently, Herod is pretty infatuated and inflamed with thoughts of this girl. He promises to give her anything she wants including half his kingdom. She runs to her mother and says, “What should I ask?” She says, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.” We pick the story up in Matthew 14:10, 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself… We will stop there. We will come back and read the remainder of the verse in just a little bit. When Jesus heard it, He departed to a deserted or to a solitary place by Himself. The number one reason we need solitude with God is for reflection. John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Christ’s own ministry, had just been savagely murdered. He was the cousin of Jesus. He also understood more of Christ’s ministry than any man on the earth. He knew and understood more of Christ’s mission than Christ’s own disciples did. Upon hearing of John’s death and the circumstances surrounding it, Jesus immediately withdrew seeking solitude, looking for time to process things and to reflect. I think perhaps He would have reflected on the fact that now the forerunner was gone. That meant that His time was that much closer. Perhaps He was reflecting on the fact that the will of God often leads in the way of sacrifice. John walked in the will of God and ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice, and very shortly Christ, following the will of the Father, would pay the ultimate sacrifice. Maybe He would have thought on the wickedness of unregenerate men and women, and how scheming, conniving, and ruthless people can be. They desperately need to be saved. Maybe, he would have thought about the power of peer pressure. For example, though Herod
respected and knew that John was a man of God, he violated his own conscience and committed such a heinous crime. The Bible states that Herod did not want to lose face with all of his party guests. Peer pressure caused him to cave in and commit a violent crime. Maybe Christ would have just reflected on the brevity of life and how frail and brief life can truly be on this earth. Maybe Jesus just wanted to go away to receive comfort and peace. Sometimes, events happen in our lives that call for a short season of solitude and reflection. I remember some years back a major scandal hit the newspapers and the media regarding a Christian leader who was having a global impact for the gospel. My initial reaction was to withdraw and get alone with God for a time of solitude. I wanted to do some grieving because he was a man whom I highly respected and admired. Secondly, I needed to try and work out and see what God would say regarding this shift in the spiritual landscape. How was the church going to react to this event? How am I supposed to react to this as a Christian leader? Again, my response was to withdraw and to get with God and look for answers. I am sure Jesus had much on His heart to deliberate, but He never received the opportunity. Look once again at verse 13 (Matthew 14:13). 13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. Multitudes found out where He was, and they followed Him. How did Jesus respond? Did He lash out and say, “Look, can you not leave a guy alone? Do you not understand? My cousin has just been killed. Can I just have a half a day by Myself?” No, Jesus was moved with compassion, and He healed their broken bodies. I think we can learn a few things. There are going to be times when God will call you to minister to others when you yourself are hurting. There may be a time when you feel like, “Man, I am the one who needs to have hands laid on me,” and God is going to have you laying hands on somebody else and praying for them. Secondly, it is important to realize who our real enemy is. Jesus realized that His enemy was not all these people with their needs who were intruding on His solitude. His real enemy was the devil who, behind the scenes, had inspired Herod and Herodias to have John killed. What did Jesus do? He decided to give the devil a black eye. He began to destroy the works of the devil in people’s bodies by healing them. I like Jesus’ response! One day years ago, I was out with a friend. We were up in Los Angeles in the garment district looking around for some new suits. I found this great suit at an inexpensive price and I bought it. He said, “You know what? I will run it back to the van if you want, and we won’t have to carry it around.” I said, “That would be great!” He ran to the van and returned. We shopped around for another 45 minutes to an hour. We returned to the van and saw that someone had broken into the van and stolen my new suit! I had it less than an hour! I never even got to wear it! I was so mad! I said, “That is it! We are going witnessing!” We grabbed tracts, rolled out of the van, and for the next hour on the street, we witnessed to everybody who would stand still long enough to hear us. I thought, “Devil, you are going to think twice before you inspire somebody again to steal from me. It is going to cost you when you attack me!” I think it is important to understand our enemy.
2. Rest and Replenishment From this point on, Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes distributed through the disciples, they fed the five thousand, and then they gathered up the fragments. Jesus was obviously very tired; the disciples were very tired, which brings us to the second reason for solitude: Rest and replenishment. Look at Matthew 14:21, 21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. 22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. Notice: Just because Jesus was robbed of one opportunity of solitude, He did not say, “Well, you have just got to put your head down and keep going.” No, he seized the very next opportunity. Now, He had a twofold reason for doing it: The first was to reflect. He had been giving out and giving out. He knew that He needed to get replenished. The same story is recorded in Mark’s gospel, the sixth chapter. Jesus, of course, was on the mountain alone by Himself praying, and the disciples were caught in a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The wind was contrary to them, and they were straining at rowing. Jesus came walking on the water and rescued them. In Mark, chapter 6, Mark adds some other information that is pertinent. Mark 6:7, 7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. (Verse 12), 12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. From this point, it goes into the story about Herod, Herodias’ daughter dancing and the beheading of John the Baptist. Verse 29 says, 29 When his disciples heard of it (speaking of John’s disciples here), they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb. 30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. Now from what Mark adds here, we see Jesus has sent His apostles out two-by-two. They had been out for many days on a very strenuous ministry time. They had been casting out demons; they had been preaching; they had been anointing the sick with oil; they had been praying for people. Then they came back and told Jesus everything they had been doing and preaching. Jesus, received that information from them about their ministries trip at the same time He received the information about the murder of His cousin, John. Jesus, wanting to get away, certainly wanted to reflect because of what had happened to John. He was also thinking about
the disciples because He knew they were tired. Although they did not immediately get to cash in on that time of solitude and rest, Jesus’ statement, “Come aside by yourselves to a solitary place, a deserted place and rest,” I think emphatically points out how important He thought that rest was. Rest is important for every one of us. When we have been giving, ministering, and helping other people, we need to return to our source to be replenished. If you withdraw from your bank account and withdraw from your bank account and never make any deposits, soon you will be overdrawn. Your checks will begin to bounce, and they will be returned with a red stamp on them that says “Insufficient Funds.” Some people are overdrawn spiritually. They have been making withdrawals and their faith checks are bouncing because they have not taken time alone with God in solitude in order to get spiritually replenished. I used to play basketball every Sunday after services with some men from church. I would go out and play and have a lot of fun. I will confess that I am fairly competitive, and I always played hard. One Sunday after preaching three services, I was a bit tired as I was running the court. Suddenly I felt light-headed, and these little black flecks started dancing in front of my eyes. I thought, “This is weird. Maybe I better have the guys pray for me.” Then it suddenly dawned on me that I had been fasting. I had not had anything to eat for three days. I just forgot about it. It basically boiled down to the fact that my expenditure of energy had exceeded my intake of fuel. I had gotten into trouble because of it. It also is true of people spiritually. Their use of spiritual energy has far exceeded their spiritual intake, and they are running at a spiritual deficit. Now look at Luke, chapter 5. Here in Luke, Jesus had just healed someone, and He had told him not to tell anyone. This was because the crowds had grown so large that Jesus was finding it difficult to have time alone. They were following Him everywhere He went. However, instead of keeping it quiet, the man told everybody. Luke 5:15, 15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. 16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. Notice: Crowds were coming more and more. They were hearing Him preach; He was ministering to them; He was healing them, and so all the more often Jesus was withdrawing to a solitary place and praying. Why? He knew He needed to rest and to be replenished. Some of you might think it is an easy thing; but I will tell you, it is taxing. Every weekend I generally preach at least six to seven times. There is a lot of output. By the time Monday rolls around, I generally feel like a wrung-out dishrag. You know what I do on Mondays? Nothing. It is my time to rest and replenish. Somebody might say, “What are you doing Monday, Bayless?” “Nothing.” “Oh, great! We can get together.” “No, no. I am doing nothing. Nothing. I am just going to hang out, and I am going to read my Bible. I am going to rest. I am going to replenish.” I am planning on being in this thing for the long haul. I do not think it is a luxury, either spiritually or physically. It is a necessity to rest and replenish. Even God took a Sabbath Day to rest. He was not tired. Why would the Creator rest on the Sabbath? To set an example for us. If you are following the Good Shepherd, it is not optional with Him. He makes you lie down in green pastures. That is what the Bible says in Psalm 23. He does not ask you. He makes you. He leads me beside still waters. He makes me lie down. If you are truly following the Good Shepherd, He will make you take time off. If you burn the candle at both ends, you may not pay a price now, but you will eventually pay a price in your spiritual life, your physical life, and your
emotional life. Even God, Himself, took a day of rest. You need to do the same. Rest and replenish. 3. Revelation The third reason for times of solitude is for revelation. The disciples that Jesus had sent out in the boat were caught in a storm. Look at Mark 6:45, 45 Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. 46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. 47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them… The story continues. He came walking on the water and rescued them. He saw them. That was a revelation. This was the middle of the night. Jesus was on a mountain by Himself. There was a storm on the sea. It would have been impossible to see them with the physical eye. He saw them with the eye of His Spirit. He saw them by revelation. The point is this: When we take time alone with God to rest and to pray, our spiritual senses are sharpened, and we become much more spiritually sensitive and open for the revelation or illumination of the Spirit. Jesus even chose His 12 apostles after an entire night of solitude with God. He chose them by revelation. It was important that He choose the right ones, even down to the one who would betray Him, because prophesy had to be fulfilled. 4. Reaffirm Purpose The fourth reason is to reaffirm or, if necessary, to realign purpose. Look in John, chapter 6. The same story is recorded here in John’s gospel, chapter 6. Again, John adds something that is very intriguing. John 6:13, 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. He perceived they were going to, by force, take Him and make Him king. Jesus’ purpose was not to be an earthly king, crowned by men; no matter how good that may have sounded. They wanted to elevate Him; they wanted to exalt Him, but their way was not God’s way. Jesus’ response to their desire to lift Him up and submit themselves to Him by making Him king was to find solitude. That was His response. Now it may have seemed like, “Hey, this is a shortcut. This is a way to achieve what you want minus the suffering.” I mean, “You can be the king! They know You have come from God!” Friend, listen to me: When you are walking the pathway of God’s purpose for your life, on occasion, the devil will hand you a counterfeit. I believe that Jesus withdrew to be alone with the Father in order to reaffirm God’s purpose for His life.
Look at Luke’s gospel, the fourth chapter. There is a story here that puts an exclamation point on what is being shared. Luke, chapter 4. Jesus had been preaching in a synagogue. He had amazed everyone with His words. We come to verse 40, Luke 4:40, 40 When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ. 42 Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; 43 but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Again, He had been giving out; He had been preaching; He had been laying hands on the sick; He had been ministering; He had been casting out demons. What did He do? He withdrew in solitude to rest and to get replenished in prayer. The people found Him, and they said, “Hey, this is revival! People are being healed! God is here! We have heard Your words. You have moved our hearts. You need to stay. We will advertise. We will bring more people. Man, this is a God thing!” But Jesus came out of that place of solitude with God with reaffirmed purpose. He said, “No, God’s purpose for My life is that I take this message to other cities, as well.” These people, with good intentions may have even been very noble, but it was not consistent with God’s purpose for Jesus’ life. Sometimes we need solitude to reaffirm our God-given purpose; or if we have gotten off track a little bit, to realign our lives with the purpose of God. One night recently, I was going out to Catalina on a small boat with some friends, and I was driving. We were heading to a particular point on the island, and there was a star hanging right over that point. That was my bearing. I just headed for the star. It was amazing how often I had to realign because there were winds blowing that would have blown the boat off-course. There were currents that would cause it to drift off-course, and then there was the whole factor of human error. I am always having to correct and realign. I believe it is important that we have times of solitude. We get alone with the bright and the morning star, Jesus Christ, and we get our lives aligned with His purposes for us. It just accentuated in my heart, once again, how important it is to have times of solitude with God to reaffirm His purpose or, if need be, to realign. There are many winds in this world that will blow us off-course if we let them. There are many currents in this world, even with individuals, that can cause us to drift off-course. There is that ever-present human factor within ourselves and from other people, sometimes well-intentioned and well-meaning people, that can draw us a little bit off course. So we must have times alone with God where we reaffirm and realign with His purposes. I realize I am talking to mothers who have a house full of children, fathers raising small children, people who work jobs and have very busy lives. I remember when our children were small. It was always so noisy at our house. Sometimes, at night, I would say, “Janet, did you hear that?” She would say, “What? What?” I said, “Nothing. Isn’t it wonderful? The children are asleep!” I remember those days. You think it changes, but it has not changed around our house. We have young people at our house all the time. We have electric guitars and drums thumping
away. We love it. Our house is noisy much of the time. Regardless of that fact, we all must take time. He makes us lie down in green pastures. The Lord insists. If we will search for the time and make it a priority, opportunities will present themselves. It is the idea of, “All right, I am going to wait until everybody else goes to bed, and I am going to have an hour with God tonight,” or getting up in the morning before everyone else and spending that quiet time with Him, read your Bible and spend half an hour with God. We need to do it for the purpose of reflection, for rest and replenishment, for revelation, and to reaffirm and realign our lives with God’s purpose. The marvel of the whole thing is that God actually meets with us. Think about that! The Creator of the universe will come, love us, caress our soul, embrace us, speak to us, and correct us when we need it. It is not a pipedream; it is not a fanciful tale, friend. It is made available to us by the shed blood of Christ and by virtue of His salvation. We can have a personal relationship with the living God! As we get alone with Him, He becomes more real to us than our wife or husband who sleeps next to us in the bed at night. He wants to make Himself real to each and every person. Let us quiet our hearts down before God and give a listening ear.
Copyright © 2007 Answers with Bayless Conley
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?