Servanthood is the calling of every believer, but we are also children of God. He desires to meet with us in times of spiritual rest, to simply love us and restore us through intimacy with no expectations.
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. (Mark 6:31)
Today’s verse contains such simple, beautiful wisdom, especially in our hectic schedules and demanding environments. There are times when even our dedicated quiet times seem insufficient, even though we take care to stick with them. This is because we need moments of spiritual rest over and above our day-to-day times with God and in Bible study. We need to step out of our normal routine and soak in the love of Jesus, away from the demands and obligations. There are always things that nag in the back of our minds, demanding attention. We are constantly faced with intrusions from people and situations, and there is always something waiting just beyond the end of our quiet time to distract us. We can learn from Jesus in this, who always made time to withdraw from the crowds and be alone with the Father.
Spiritual rest is a biblical principle.
If the Son of God needed spiritual ‘time out,’ how much more do we need the rest and restoration it brings? If we examine the lives of any biblical character, we will see this same spiritual principle applied in their lives. They all had their time of meeting with God in prayer and study – the ‘business’ part of communion with God, for want of a better word. These meetings are critical for growth, revelation, guidance, and teaching. But spiritual rest is simply being with God with no expectations. It’s a time of drawing near without an agenda or a need, of simply kneeling at the throne of grace and allowing Abba to hold us close and restore what we have given out in His service. This is the time when we simply ‘hang’ with Jesus, letting His rest wash us and cleanse us and revitalise us.
It’s the time when the Spirit is able to work in us without distraction to comfort and affirm us in the freedom of absolute trust and surrender. Moments of spiritual rest are for us, times of perfect liberty and rest where nothing is demanded and nothing is expected. All the ‘heroes’ of the Bible had these moments of set apart with God. Today’s verse reminds us that it’s a critical biblical principle we must never overlook. We need to study the Word and to meet with God for revelation, purpose, and teaching. But we also need the moments of spiritual rest to rebuild, restore, and revive us. When we consider that service to God requires giving out, it’s obvious that there must be times of receiving to provide balance and keep us filled with all that will be demanded from us. Unless we’re regularly filled, we’ll have nothing to give.
Spiritual rest requires coming apart.
Times apart with God mean a conscious effort on our part. This may seem to contradict the nature of it, but unless we consciously decide and follow through, they will never happen. There will always be someone or something intruding, demanding our attention. How many times in our lives do we feel we don’t even have time to eat? It’s such a human condition, and therefore universal, that we can immediately identify with the pressure and stress it places on us. But these are the times, Jesus tells us, that we must draw apart for spiritual rest. This is, in a sense, our warning sign to take time out for rest and restoration. Most of the time we tend to ignore the need and buckle down to meet the demands that face us. We dig in and keep going, gradually drawing on our depleting reserves.
Our relationship with God is multi-faceted. There is the very real servanthood to which we are called – the giving out as Jesus did. Every believer is expected to live the life of Christ and to manifest God’s love to the world as He did. But we are also His children. He delights in us and desires relationship with us beyond that of obedient servant. Times of spiritual rest provide the balance between sonship and servanthood. They are the opportunity to grow in intimacy instead of only knowledge and maturity through Bible study and prayer. For this reason, we must choose to come apart simply to know God and enjoy the love we share. We must choose to know Him as Father, not only as Lord.
Deserted places are places of spiritual rest.
It’s no accident that Jesus specifies a deserted place. While we’re still surrounded with the clamour and demands of life, spiritual rest is not possible. Unless we remove ourselves entirely we’re still distracted by others, still prompted to give when we should be receiving. The problem with constant service is that it’s constant giving. Often, this means that we can lose our ‘connection’ to the source and end up doing things in our own strength. It is only in a deserted place, where there are no reminders, demands, or obligations to intrude, that we renew that connection and receive from Jesus what we need. Real spiritual rest occurs when the Spirit can work unhindered, when we can focus only on the love of God and His perfect grace. In the deserted place, we can meet one-on-one and simply bask in the presence of Jesus without a needs list or agenda.
The good news is that there is no limit to deserted places. They can be anything from the bottom corner of the garden to the beach or a park bench. We don’t have to drive for miles or spend half a day climbing the mountain. Our deserted place can be across the road or round the corner or even the attic. Whichever one works for us, we can be absolutely sure that He will be there, waiting to meet with us in our time of spiritual rest. We need bring only ourselves, though it’s good to have our Bible as He will often restore through His Word as well as His Spirit. All that is required is to be there and to be willing to set aside everything and focus only on Him. Jesus has already purchased everything we need on the cross.
What to expect from spiritual rest.
The true value of spiritual rest lies in the truth that there are no expectations. We don’t come with a list of needs or requests. This is not a time to have prayers answered or to intercede for others. It’s a time to empty ourselves of everything except His presence. Of course, it may well be that He does provide guidance and answers along the way. But that’s not the primary purpose of meeting with Him. If we must expect something, let it be that He will meet with us. Our God already knows every need and has already made provision. That’s the assurance that allows us to draw apart from responsibilities, demands, and obligations. It’s the truth that enables us to set aside our servanthood and simply be loved by God in whatever way He chooses to love us. No expectation means anything is possible.
This is perhaps the hardest aspect of spiritual rest. We’re driven by routine and responsibility. There is always someone or something demanding our attention. If the truth be told, self enjoys the pressure because it makes us feel needed and that we’re accomplishing something. To set it all aside and simply meet with God removes the sense of control we enjoy. But when we set aside all expectations and enter His presence in yieldedness something wonderful happens. We get to know Him without the clutter and ‘have-tos’ of the world. He draws us into a place of beautiful intimacy. Here, worship and rejoicing and unity are unrestrained and directed by Him alone. The times of spiritual rest are when God gives us Himself without limitation. These are the times of gentleness and intimate restoration that belong to us alone. They are the free gift of a loving God and Father.
Spiritual rest in the purposes of God.
Jesus raised the need for times of spiritual rest because it’s important in the purposes of God. He knew its value, but also knew human nature needed to be reminded. It’s easy to get swept along by the needs we encounter and to be buried by our obligations. We look at Jesus and mainly see what He accomplished. The doing appeals to us because it impacts on our feelings of worth. It’s all too easy to slide into a place where we think God expects us to constantly be doing, working on His behalf. In a sense this is true, because we are called to lay down our lives in the service of others. But we must never lose sight of the truth that God also desires relationship with us.
He desires the times of quiet rest and communion, to spend uncluttered time with us, to love us, restore us, and simply be with us. It is in the intimacy of times of spiritual rest that we discover our real value in Christ. Anyone can work, but only His children can meet in the place of intimate rest close to the Father’s heart.
Lord, thank You for Your grace that draws us into loving relationship and intimate rest with You. Help us to heed the call to draw apart to a deserted place, not in service but in surrender to Your loving purposes. Thank You for the restoration only You can give, and for the incredible privilege of knowing You as Your child and not simply Your servant.