Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TheStorm : There. Alone.

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...Matthew 14:22, 23

So here we come to the second ‘retreat’ of Jesus found in Matthew's account in Chapter 14. The first time Jesus withdrew in this context is found in Matthew 14:13. 

I like it when we see a human Jesus. I would be tired too after all that had just transpired. So, really, let’s be honest, if Jesus needs to get away every once in a while, from the crowds, from the rush, how much more, ladies and gentlemen, do we need to get away! I think we would do very well to take this lesson to heart. 

No, it’s never easy to drop what we’re doing. It’s never easy to say no, but it’s always worth it. Yet what we clearly see is that there is intentionality on Jesus’ part. Jesus is very intentional with His actions. Ever time you read the word 'intentionality' think Sovereignty. He makes the disciples get into a boat (more on that in a second), but by his Sovereign Will he intentionally sends the crowds away and then makes a trek up a mountain to be by Himself. These are all very clear actions on Jesus’ part and we would do well to perform them ourselves regularly. Weekly. Daily, even. The truth is, if we don't intentionally send people away and get away by ourselves, it's never going to happen. We don't need to be rude about it, but we do need to be intentional. I'd even say that we need to be shrewd about it. 

We can assume that Jesus gets away to pray the first time after he hears about John the Baptist dying because we have recorded for us in the Gospels that He would often do that, but it’s not implicitly said that was what He was doing. In this text, though, it clearly says, …after He had sent the crowds away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray (vs. 23)Again, underlining the need to be intentional, he intentionally sent people away so he could be alone. He intentionally climbed a mountain so He could be alone. To pray. By Himself. Alone. Get the gist? Jesus is giving us a very good lesson here. When life seems to overtake us, when the world seems to be crashing down, when it seems like God doesn't desire to break His own silence in our storm, we need to get away. Get away from people. Make it intentional. Climb the mountain. Walk through the forest. Walk down the street. Whatever it takes, get away. Breathe a little. Intentionally walk away from the circumstances you find yourself in and be alone with your Heavenly Father. But don’t forget to pray.

One of the things that I find happens when I do find the time to get away is the thoughts that I neglect that are rolling around in my head while I’m busy come to the surface. They truly are a rude awakening sometimes (Ok, most of the time). This just convinces me further that I need to get away more often. I need to, I need to mark on the calendar a day off. I need to intentionally find the time in my busy life to stop, reflect, and allow the thoughts that I have to come out. And the best way I find in dealing with these thoughts is prayer. Sometimes my prayer comes out in music that I write with my trusty guitar, other times it’s in the things that I write on my blog or in booklets that I write, or sometimes my prayer looks more like me just looking up into the sky and saying thanks. But may I encourage you to speak out what you are feeling, in your times of being alone. 

If there’s nothing else that I know about prayer, it’s an act that we get to do, with our Creator, because He wants to hear from us. It’s a great privilege to pray. Sometimes it's hard to carve out the time, but it always is incredibly rewarding when we can have those sweet times with the LORD. So, maybe, like me, you need to get away from the ‘theology of prayer’ – just bask in the ever-present God who longs to be in communion with you. Rest in those promises and reflect on the amazing privilege we have of communing with a Sovereign Creator. Tell Him how you feel. Speak out those doubts, those tired feelings, those worries. He longs to hear from us. I define prayer this way: exposing those nagging thoughts or feelings that roll around in my head by speaking them out to my Heavenly Father and being confronted and comforted by His Sovereignty. It’s incredible how much better I feel once I get out these feelings into the open air, but I assure you I'm not speaking them out into the air - they are being heard by the ears of a God that loves me and has an amazing Sovereign Plan for my life. 

So, there is a part of this text that I said I was going to get back to. It’s this intentionality on Jesus’ part, specifically with His disciples, to make them get into the boat. Note, again, that Jesus is very intentional here. In his sovereignty, he is just as intentional with sending the crowds away. It’s all for the purposes of Him getting away by Himself but it's also to open the classroom door for the disciples to learn something of his Sovereignty. I find this word made in verse 22 very interesting.

In Psalm 23 we find the same word – He makes me lie down in green pastures (Ps. 23:2). Notice this word makes. It sounds almost persuasive doesn't it?  I've also gone to the New Testament and there we read about the Good Shepherd in John 10 and find the same 'making' by the Shepherd. But after all is said and done, as I continued to seek out 'the making Shepherd' in my life, I knew that the LORD was teaching me a very valuable lesson. Discipline is good. When we experience the LORD 'making us' do something, it's for our good. In a word, he's revealing a bit more to us of this beautiful characteristic of his Sovereignty. His discipline is always very good – because it’s coming from a Good God. May your heart rest in this for a moment. As long as the action is coming from the Master’s Hand, it is always very good. But that doesn't mean it’s going to be comfortable. This is a paradox that we need to wrestle with as Followers of Christ. In this text we find ourselves in, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat, so He could be alone but also, so the disciples would experience what they were going to experience. The Storm was brewing. But we’ll look at that soon. For the time being, let’s try to wrap our arms around this point:

When it seems like God doesn't want to break His own silence. When it seems like Jesus has withdrawn from us, forced (or makes us go) into a circumstance that we would rather not be put into, may we reach down deep inside and claim that these circumstances are coming from a Good God. So the next time the LORD makes you to do something, hang on. Because, while He’s praying for you, you've got a lesson in the Classroom of Sovereignty 101 ahead of you, that will change your life forever. 

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