Thursday, January 23, 2014

Matthew 14 The Power of Solitude

Matt 14:13-33 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."  They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish." And he said, "Bring them here to me."  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

In the last six months, the Lord has placed me into a business environment where fighting to keep the ship afloat seems to be order of day, and where small sparks can start fires that need to be put out every other day. In the midst of this daily grind of relentless crises, it is easy to lose one's focus on what is really good--and even, what is really God.

As I look at Jesus' life, it seems like his was an endless activity too--from dawn to dusk. Great crowds would follow him to hear him teach and the sick would seek him out to be healed. On one particular occasion, there were "five thousand men, besides women and children" (v.21). If we add women and children, the number in the crowd could exceed fifteen thousand persons. Jesus fed this crowd with five loaves and two fish. Jesus could turn the little we have surrendered to him into a miracle of blessings for thousands. The lesson here for busy people: Never underestimate the power of our "small" things to accomplish great blessings when employed for Christ's cause. We don't have to act big to be big.

Later on there was another miracle, this time taking place only among the disciples in a boat as Jesus came to them walking on the raging sea! Peter in a moment of excitement cried out, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." And Jesus said, "Come" and Peter in his usual impulsive knee-jerk reaction got out of the boat into the sea and walked towards Jesus! Peter did fine--until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused them onto the raging sea. Another lesson for harassed people here is this: In the midst of our daily crises, it's important to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, not on the crises that threaten to engulf us daily. When we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we can walk above the fray.

But preceding both miraculous events, we read that Jesus did something quite unusual but habitual to him. Twice in this chapter, we read that Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a desolate place or mountain to be "by himself" (v.13, 23). On the first occasion, he did that because of the emotional exhaustion experienced after hearing that John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod the tetrarch. On the second occasion, he did it because of the physical exhaustion experienced after spending the whole day teaching and healing the crowd of 15,000 men, women and children. This withdrawing of Jesus to be "by himself" to be with God alone is perhaps the key to his sanity in the midst of a busy and hectic lifestyle.

For us busy moderns who always like to give "no time" as an excuse for avoiding tasks we don't like to do, Jesus' example of withdrawal to spend time alone with God is instructive. For Jesus, this solitude is his powerhouse. It was where where he sought God's perspective to renew himself. It is also the place where He received his marching orders from his Father that would release God's supernatural power for another busy day.

In Mark 1:35, we read that this discipline of solitude seems to be Jesus' regular habit: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35). Of course, it was not just all bible study time (it was too dark to read anyway), but it was a time to be "alone with God" in prayer. And prayer needs not necessarily be a time of endless chatter too. Prayer can be simply sitting in silence--listening for instructions from God, rather than giving instructions to God.

For too many Christians' "prayer" is nothing more than telling God what they want Him to do for them instead of listening to God to hear what He wants done through them. We have confused who is Master and who is servant.

Father, teach us to make time to be alone with You daily, so that we may take daily instructions from You to allow You to accomplish Your work through us. Amen.

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