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“Come away alone with me and get some rest.” –Mark 6:31
I love how God is so concerned about our wellbeing that He corrects us to stop working when we should rest.
The Holy Spirit illuminated this scripture to me first thing one Monday morning. It came the first weekday after I had left my day job. God was instructing me to rest at the end of a difficult and exhausting assignment, after coming off the frontline. He wanted to give me rest after my mission and from my enemies.
I love what Billy Graham says in his book, Nearing Home: “God rested on the seventh day after He had finished His work of creating the universe, and we shouldn’t feel guilty if He gives us the opportunity to rest once our work is done.”*
God instructs us to rest because He knows we need refreshment and to hear from Him before He opens the door of a new project or situation that will require a significant amount of dedicated energy, a promotion.
In my case, I had pre-scheduled a morning coffee appointment that Monday with a friend who looks to me for spiritual counsel, and I hadn’t seen her in awhile. Because I knew she had been looking forward to our meeting, I did not want to disappoint her. So I drove off to the north side of town to her home.
A couple of days earlier, God had impressed upon me to get some orange juice, which is not a food item I typically keep at home. I intended to pick it up at the store, but with the busyness going on around me, I had forgotten. So on this Monday morning, while driving to my friend’s home, the Holy Spirit brought it to remembrance, and I set my intentions on a particular store.
When I approached the store, I saw much road construction and could not get into the turn lane that led to the shopping center. So I told myself I would pick it up on my way back. But when I journeyed back, I saw even more road construction and decided to take another route. In doing so, I passed up the store and the orange juice that day.
Make no mistake about it, delayed obedience is disobedience. And the ultimate consequence of my disobedience was a head cold. God saw this coming, and He tried to thwart the issue by guiding me to drink orange juice (vitamin C).
I often say, “there is no small sin,” especially because of the multiplied effect of our actions. Usually, the effects of sin affect more than us; they affect (and in this case, infect) those around us and those around them.
What better way for God to remind me of the careful obedience required in hearkening to the Holy Spirit than to allow me to catch a cold?
I love Psalm 23:2—“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” As God’s sheep, He has to make us rest sometimes. Only God knows and sees all things. He knows what is up ahead. He knows the amount of energy that is required to accomplish His tasks. And He doesn’t want us to fall into sin, which makes the journey more difficult.
A couple of days later, after I finally bought the orange juice and poured myself a glassful, I noticed a scripture in a new book I had recently purchased. The scripture was Exodus 15:26: “He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”
Could the Holy Spirit have made His point any clearer? I don’t think I will soon forget this learned reminder.
There comes a time in our spiritual walk when we realize we have become a wheel within a wheel, and any action short of careful obedience pulls us out of sync with God. God will allow us to wobble through these lessons as precursors to trusting us with more. In so doing, He refines us and affirms us.
Like work, rest is important. God did it; He expects us to do it; and it is an area in which He will test us. What’s more, His purpose in having us come away alone with Him to rest is not only to provide refreshment for us, but also to give us something more. In my case, God was waiting for me to enter into a place of intimacy with Him to receive a major ministry directive for the forthcoming year. And the day I came away with Him alone was the day I received what was on His heart.
How about you? Are you willing to lay down your agenda and rest at the Holy Spirit’s directive? What does God want to share with you, and how will that affect your life your ministry?
*Quoted in Billy Graham, Nearing Home (Nashville, T.N.: Thomas Nelson, 2011), p. 26.