There are two questions that everyone in the world is trying to answer:
Who am I meant to be?
What am I called to do?
These questions are so significant, for each one of us. Who are you allowing to inform the way in which you answer these questions? Because there are plenty of people who are ready to tell you who you need to be. You should be more this or more that. And there are just as many people who are ready to tell you what you should do with your life. Step into this. Accomplish that. Take on one more thing.
Are you interested in really getting the right answers to these questions? I hope so. If you are, here’s what you’re after: CLARITY. I love clarity. I think you do too. But:
Clarity does not come from endless activity.
Clarity does not come from always running at full speed.
Clarity does not come by constantly refreshing your email or your favorite news site.
Clarity does not come from scrolling social media.
Clarity about your identity and calling can only come from the source of your identity and calling.
We’re only in chapter 1 of Mark and it’s already been so full of activity. John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. Then he baptizes Jesus. Immediately Jesus is sent to the wilderness, where He is tempted by Satan for forty days. Jesus starts proclaiming the good news. He calls his first disciples. He starts driving out demons and healing people. It’s intense. It’s draining. It’s exhausting. So what is He going to do next? Sleep in? Go on a seaside vacation? Start drinking red bull or espresso? He’s going to give us a pattern or a rhythm for how we stay centered on what matters most. For how we get reminded of who we’re called to be and what we’re called to do. And to enjoy communing with the God who is everything we need.
Mark 1:35-39 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
When we find someone we admire, we want to observe their life and see what we can learn to help us live our lives. So we might try to copy their mannerisms or their daily habits. We’re wondering, “What is it that makes this person’s life so remarkable?” And at this point in the life of Jesus, people are hearing about what he’s been doing and they want to witness it for themselves. You can see it in this text where the disciples tell Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you!”
Everyone is into what can be seen, which causes us to want to spend all of our time and energy making sure all we’re doing is visible to the world. But Jesus wants to show us the power of solitude today. I’m calling this message, “The Unseen Advantage”.
What if the secret to what can be seen in your life comes from what will never be seen?
I love what John Mark Comer shared recently on Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast:
“Technology is great if you want to stay on top of things. But I think I’m trying to get to the bottom of things.” John Mark Comer
Jesus is giving us a gift. See, we aren’t doing this series on his life to simply learn how He lived. We want his way of life to inform our way of life. We want to live our lives how Jesus would live them if he were us.
Today, I believe Jesus wants us to see the significance of his mission. He wants us to also see the demands others placed on Him. He wants us to know his source of nourishment. So he invites us into the practice of solitude. What is solitude and why does it matter?
“It is to take seriously our need to quiet the noise of our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention.” Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence
FOR A TIME. Solitude is about pulling away from people, more information, work, noise, and other inputs…to be fully present to God with our complete selves. This means our phones don’t need to be with us when we’re practicing solitude.
“The purpose of silence and solitude is to be able to see and hear.” Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
What if this time of solitude with God each day becomes your favorite part of the day and what if informs every other part of your day? What if this time with God turns you into a non-anxious presence, a better visionary leader, a wiser decision-maker, and someone who is better able to distinguish between what matters most.
How do we make this a practice in our lives like Jesus made it a practice in His?
Decide the time and place you will be alone with God.
Be gracious to yourself as you begin to practice solitude, but I do believe it needs to be an almost daily habit. I realize it’s more challenging for some of us than others…depending on your life stage and current demands.
I’ve been thinking about how much easier solitude was for Jesus during the first 30 years of his life. He wasn’t known by many people. He had fewer relationships and fewer demands. But now he has to fight for his time alone with God. He teaches us a few things that I think are so key. Here’s the first and it’s incredibly practical:
For most of us, the morning time is our best opportunity for solitude with God.
I was not naturally a morning person. But there came a season in my life where I started craving time alone with God. And the only way I could get it was to do what Jesus does here – wake up before everyone else in the house wakes up. And this habit, more than any other in my entire life, has impacted by mind, my heart, and my ability to live out God’s calling on my life. And in this season, I’m actually waking up 30 minutes earlier most mornings. Here’s another huge lesson you must learn:
Don’t let the demands of other people decide your schedule.
I’m not talking about your spouse and kids. “Everyone is looking for you!” The number of demands, opportunities, and relationships is only going to increase over the course of your life. While you aren’t Jesus, the cycle he faced works the same in your life. Let’s say that you start off practicing this solitude time with God. God fills you up. He reminds you of your identity. He clarifies your calling. And all of this causes you to start making a great impact with your life. People start to take notice. Now, more and more people want your time. What do you do?
If we aren’t careful, we will let other people push out of our lives the secret to the life they want access to.
One commentator said this: “Jesus wouldn’t be controlled by the crowds or by his disciples.” The disciples wanted Jesus to capitalize on his newfound popularity.
Solitude does not take away from the mission of your life, so don’t let the mission take away your solitude. Solitude sustains your mission.
I’m assuming you think it’s a good idea for me to spend time with God so that I can do my best work as the lead pastor of Epic Church. Please have the same desire for yourself when it comes to living out your God-given vocations too. Don’t you want to operate out of who God says you are and what He’s called you to do, too?
Solitude isn’t something we do every now and then. There is to be a frequency to our times alone with God.
Luke 5:15-16 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
For Jesus: More popularity. Bigger crowds. Greater demands. More frequent times of solitude.
Solitude is not a luxury that some of us can have; it is a necessity for all of us.
Am I the only one who feels more comfortable doing things than simply being with God? Why is that? I think it has a lot to do with where we find our identity.
“But I wonder if the real reason we resist actually moving into solitude may have more to do with the anxiety that comes as we pull away from that which we have allowed to define us externally.” Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership
Rather than seeing this as taking away from what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, what if you began to see it as adding to what you’re supposed to be doing? What do you think this time alone with God might bring into your work, your leadership, your parenting, the challenging decisions you’re having to make, the anxiety you’ve been carrying, and the clarity you’re craving?
If solitude was a must for Jesus, then we can’t be fully formed by Jesus without regular times of solitude in our lives.
(Create time to let us all practice solitude – have keys playing underneath)
“God, you are here.”
“God, I am here.”
Let him speak to you about your identity.
Let him speak to you about your calling.