A Solitary Place
The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So, they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. Mark 6:30-33
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. Mark 6:45 NIV (emphasis added)
Some background is required on Mark 6 to understand the context of Christ’s instructions to His followers. This was an incredibly demanding and emotional time, with Christ having recently visited His hometown where He was viewed with contempt. He had sent His inner 12 into the countryside to minister, and he had heard about John the Baptist’s beheading. If there was ever a time for a respite, it was now. Jesus also knew they were moving into another time of ministry, so His words of wisdom to find a “solitary” location were laden with insight on the demands of ministry and work. The word solitary in the Greek means “remote,” or in this case, a place away from the fray where Christ and His disciples could find rest.
Life demands that we carve out times of silence, think time, quiet, solitude; whatever you call it, we need a place and time to “become” rather than always being busy.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) is one of the greatest Western Christian thinkers, he also impacted the areas of science, math, and apologetics. His seminal work, Pensées (Thoughts), is a collection of thoughts on how faith should address the influence of the libertines (people devoid of moral restraints) of his day. The following quote from Pensées is on the topic of diversion.
“I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”
This remarkable quote by Pascal is a truism. I have the honor of interacting with many CEOs, and one of the common themes is: focus, balance, and carving out time without distraction. Today’s leaders don’t move at the pace of 100 years ago, let alone 10 years ago—technology has changed leadership in unimaginable ways. In a day when time is dissected into nanoseconds (1/1,000,000,000th of a second), leaders are driven to even more efficient ways to scheduling their day and making decisions at computer—processor speeds. Effective leadership requires time to focus on projects, and balance in life (faith, family, fun, and toil). It requires time to reflect on decisions. Even though such things are required to lead, many leaders aren’t living lives of focus, balance, and quiet. Why?
The answer is quite simple. We have bought into the lie that filling life with appointments, working untenable hours, and doing rather than becoming is the best way to lead and live life. Of course, this lie continues to be propagated in the marketplace (especially if you want to get ahead), so few leaders are willing to strive for a better way of leading.
Living life at today’s pace is our reality, and our challenge. This Leadership Lesson is a call for us to examine our lives to determine if they are adequately focused, in balance, and providing the quiet needed to keep life in perspective.
Christ set an example of pulling away from the hectic nature of life, as is demonstrated by the Scripture passage at the beginning of this lesson. It is interesting to notice that as He and the disciples tried to pull away, the people followed them. This is the nature of leadership, for how many times have you tried to find a quiet place only to be interrupted by someone? On more than one occasion during my time as a college president, I had employees follow me into the bathroom to continue their conversation without thinking about the appropriateness of such an action!
Leaders typically work very hard. They don’t count their hours on a time slip; they work until the job gets done. The typical worker in America works a 34.2-hour work week (2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics). I don’t know too many leaders who work 34.2 hours a week; they commonly work twice this amount. Leading also brings the burden of one’s mind being preoccupied with work 24/7. Even when leaders have time away from the office, their mind and heart can be caught up with work through an email they read or phone call they receive. My point is, a leaders’ life is different and therefore requires a proactive approach to keeping it in balance.
I’m currently reading about William Wilberforce, the British abolitionist, and am taken back by his routine of study and prayer. He would spend the first hour and a half closeted for personal prayer and devotions. He often used the Book of Common Prayer as well as wrote his own. He viewed the first hours of the day as a preparation for what he would face, “I always find that I have the most time for business and it is best done, when I have most properly observed by private devotions.”
As biblical leaders, you know the Bible often speaks about time with the Lord, but no passage addresses this idea more poignantly than John 15. In this passage Christ reveals the need to “abide” in Him. Read the following portion from John 15 with ears to hear about the power for life that is available as we spend time with our Savior.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” 15:4
How clear can it be that if we remain in Christ we will bear fruit? “What is fruit?” you may ask. It is not only a life that reflects the fruit of the Spirit, but it is also what is done in life that has lasting value, as compared to many of the things in life that have no eternal or meaningful value.
John Piper provides eight practical ways to abide that offer a great foundation for moving from a hectic life to a life of purpose and power.
- Remind: Prepare a way to remind yourself repeatedly of the reasons that meditating on the Scriptures is good for you (Psalm 19:7-11).
- Plan: Plan a place and time when you will read the Bible and thing about it each day. Put it on the calendar as an appointment.
- Decide: Decide ahead of time how you will read the Bible. Also, decide how you will study the Bible.
- Memorize: Memorize verses or paragraphs for this extra effort will provide incredible the benefit of driving the Word deep in your heart and mind.
- Retreat: Take periodic retreats where you saturate yourself with the Bible.
- Journal: Keep a journal and write out your thoughts as you meditate on the Scripture.
- Read: The words of Jesus will abide in you more deeply and more powerfully if you give yourself to some serious reading of great books that are saturated with Scripture.
- Keep: Keep Jesus before you as you read the Bible, and consciously remind yourself repeatedly that these are the words not of a dead teacher, but of the living Christ, who is as near as your own breathing and who is infinitely powerful. (from a January 3, 1993 message, “If My Words Abide in You,” by John Piper)
Let’s close with a profound question. If Christ (the very Son of God) spent time in quiet as He faced the rigors of His life, how much more do we need time to abide? As rhetorical as this question sounds, some of you reading this lesson will try to live life without abiding, and thus miss out on bearing the fruit you were designed for in life. Packing your schedule with appointments and always doing rather and becoming seems wise, but frankly it is settling for second best.