by: Matt Alexander
I am currently reading through the Gospel of Mark with an intentional focus on the life of Jesus. I have always been quite intrigued by Jesus' rhythm of life and ministry. There is no doubt that a day in the life of Jesus was filled with large crowds of people. Especially as news about him spread across the region, people came from everywhere to see firsthand what he was doing. In Mark 6 we find Jesus feeding some 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish. A miraculous account to say the least! When we read this story we often focus on the miracle of multiplication but recently I have been awestruck by what follows this account.
Think with me for a moment. Jesus and his disciples have just ministered to several thousand people. Not only have they fed them but they have socialized and ministered to them through relational interaction. Anyone in full time ministry will tell you that such a task is both physically and emotionally draining. I am more of an introvert by nature so I can't imagine how exhausted I would be once the crowds were dispersed. Yet, no matter our personality we can't constantly be giving of ourselves without a pattern of letting ourselves be filled. Jesus knew this best.
In verse 45 Mark says that immediately following this encounter Jesus MADE his disciples get into a boat and go to the other side of the lake. Then once he sent the crowds away he, Jesus, retreated to be alone with the Father and pray. Do you see it?
Jesus was pastoring his disciples by making them get alone and refuel while we would do the same. This act was very intentional to say the least. Jesus knew that in order for himself and his disciples to be able to fully give themselves to ministry they must have regular rhythms of retreat with the Father to fill their souls.
I find a valuable lesson here. I communicate to my ministry staff on a regular basis that they must care for their soul before trying to care for anyone else. What good is an empty vessel?! I am a firm believer that we must have daily time away with the Father but we must also schedule both quarterly and yearly time away to refuel what "ministry" can take out of us.
If Jesus needed it how much more do you and I need it!
A live by a definition of ministry which states: "Ministry is what you leave behind as you follow Jesus." This means I must put Jesus first in everything I do. I must make my walk with him my main priority and then
"ministry" will take care of itself. This is not just for those in vocational ministry but for us all. Every believer is a minister of the Gospel and every believer needs these regular rhythms of retreat in life.
What does this look like for you? Being with people is important, yes. But more important is retreating with the Father so that you can adequately be with people.
Are you caring for your soul?
If not, stop whatever you are doing and seek God's wisdom to build a rhythm of retreat into your life today. You need it and the people around you need it.