The Pause That Refreshes

by James Rudy Gray

James Rudy GrayThe late evangelist Vance Havner used to tell ministers, "If you do not come apart (get away for some renewal) you will just come apart (break down or burn out)."

That is sound counsel for those who counsel others today.

Jesus often got away from the enormous crowds that followed Him. It was a pattern in His life. For example, Luke 22:39 says, "And He came out and proceeded as was his custom to the Mount of Olives" Jesus did not withdraw because he was afraid. It is certainly possible His body became tired. However, Jesus was not running from anything but to something: the will of God. He sought to honor the Father in everything He did.

We, too, need to withdraw. We need it more than Jesus because we are more needy than Jesus.

Why do those in ministry need to withdraw? To refocus their minds, renew their hearts, and replenish their energy. When people burn out, they actually stop caring. Too many servants of Christ are running on fumes today. Many of us need time away from the work for a season. The withdrawal should be purposeful and planned. It should not be an escape but an exercise in spiritual refreshment.

Recently my wife and I took several days to attend a conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove. We rested, talked, shared, prayed, and were fed the Word of God by John MacArthur, one of my favorite Bible teachers. We had times just to reflect and be alone. We had time to rest. The result was new energy and a renewed spirit. It was good for our marriage and our souls.

I do several marriage retreats a year. This is often a very important time for couples to get away from their often stressful and taxing schedules. Many actually find time to relax, refresh their souls, and even renew their marriage. Hopefully, the whole idea of a retreat is to help people see God at work and hear God's truth. We need the rest and relaxation and that need cannot be underestimated. But to balance that, we need the refreshment of God's Word.

Jesus did not do retreats like we do today. But His pattern of getting away leaves us with a powerful pattern we can employ in our lives. Jesus also got away from the crowds often to be by Himself. In that time of solitude, our Lord prayed. If Jesus spent special and extended times in prayer, how much more do we need to follow that practice? Martin Luther once stated was he was so busy he had to spend more time in prayer. That may sound like a paradox but it is true. Time spent in real prayer is never wasted. However, we must be sure we actually pray when have our prayer time.

God's people have been given the wonderful privilege of having fellowship with the God of the universe. He speaks to us through His Word. He ministers to us in many ways by His Holy Spirit. We have a tendency to become tired, frazzled, even discouraged-and when we sense stress or tension, it may be a signal that we need to get away or at least spend some quiet time in prayer.

God's servants cannot labor in ministry effectively if we do not draw on the power of God's Spirit. Our work is not simply about work but about a relationship with our Lord. We need Him in order to serve Him. He gave us a tremendous example of getting away from the crowds to focus on His mission. We should do no less.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the
National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the
American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors
Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

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