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Feb 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 10, 2013 – Mark 1:35-37; 6:30-34

A Spiritual Mentors Helps Us Make the Most of Solitude

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” Mark 1:35-37
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) Mark 6:31

INTRO: Last week I asked you to sent me questions you might want to ask a spiritual mentor, if you had one

I appreciate the responses I received
– I’ll walk through one of them the way I think a mentor might approach it

After greetings and exchanging pleasantries, the mentor and disciple settle into silent prayer
– they do this to still their hearts and minds and turn their whole attention to God
– then the mentor requests the help of God’s Spirit and prays they will be sensitive to his voice

Disciple: I’ve been applying myself to discovering what lies in the depth of the moment, but I also want to know what God intends for the years of my life
Mentor: Interesting. Could you fill that out a little for me?
Disciple: While I’ve been learning to be more aware of how God is present to me in the present moment, I also want to be able to see the horizon.
Mentor: You mean, the big picture of your life? Your purpose?
Disciple: Yes, sort of.
Mentor: You know, God rarely gives us the details.
Disciple: I understand. But what’s his overall design? How can I become a better partner in the process?
Mentor: Think of what you’re asking. You want to know how the clay can assist the potter. Well, be as compliant as possible–be plastic, flexible.
Disciple: Okay, let me put it this way: I can see God’s will up close, but I want to improve my distance eyesight.
Mentor: What does your heart tell you? Listen to it. What is its spiritual longing?
Disciple: It’s longing, right now, is to have a better grasp on the remainder of my life and what God wants to do with it. How can I devote it most fully to a life in the Spirit?
Mentor: Well, you don’t need to know what the divine Artist has in mind to live fully or love fully. But a primary ingredient to a full spiritual life is learning to trust. Trust that God knows what he wants for you, that he is working on it in the everyday circumstances of your life, and that he will get you there. God rarely lays out his whole will for us in advance. Rather, he works it out in our life day by day and we come to know his will by living it. We say Yes to his big plan that spans our entire life in faith, but we say Yes to his will today in obedience.
Disciple: But how can I say Yes to his future if I don’t know what it is? If I don’t know what he is inviting me to?
Mentor: I have three recommendations for you. First, look for God’s invitation in the present moment. You will find that it usually comes with an RSVP. Second, you ask yourself, “Am I looking for the subtle movements of the Spirit in my everyday activities?” God’s grace is at work even in our worst situations. Can you discern a pattern? Third, ask, “What do I love with a pure love? What am I passionate about with a pure passion?

That’s as far as I’ll take that conversation
– notice, a spiritual mentor does not answer these questions for us, but constantly encourages us to listen to God
• that’s the mentor’s gift, to keep turning us toward God
– to help us hear from God, a mentor will send us into solitude and teach us how to make the most of it

Jesus was not always able to enjoy the solitude he craved

This is probably the first lesson we learn about solitude
– others will be constantly intruding into our personal space – and thoughts intruding into our minds
• solitude is all but impossible for mothers of small children
• in these seasons, we must be easy on ourselves and gentle with others

Solitude is about being exclusive – nothing else is allowed in here

Jessica Powers described how solitude is created by shutting down the house (or the “self”)
The house must first of all accept the night.
Let it erase the walls and their display,
impoverish the rooms till they are filled
with humble silences; let clocks be stilled
And all the selfish urgencies of the day.

– the line “let clocks be stilled” struck me
• when I sit alone in the early morning silence, I sometimes hear the tick-tock of our bedroom clock
○ that reminds me, time is passing
○ there are other things to be done – pressing concerns
• and all at once, I’m no longer alone with God
○ the business of the day has come crashing in on us

Almost everyone in scripture that God used, spent time in solitude

Jesus regularly retreated into solitude

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Lk. 5:16)

– and what did he teach his disciples about prayer?

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Mt. 6:6)

Frequently, it was in solitude a person learned God’s will
– Moses before the sacred flame on Sinai – years later, in the same place Elijah received his orders
– solitude is all about an intensified concentration on listening

I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me . . .
(Hab. 2:1)

– in silence, Elijah heard God’s voice in a sound of a gentle blowing
• solitude sharpens our hearing and enables us to hear others better
○ if we’ve been listening for bird, breeze, running water, we have become more sensitive to sounds
– we are learning to listen to the silence  and notice how God moves in it
• sometimes, out of the silence comes forth an inspiration, an insight, an answer

More than once, God isolated one of his servant, drawing them into solitude

Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves (Dan. 10:7)

And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me (Acts 22:9)

I did not sit in the circle of merrymakers,
Nor did I exult.
Because of Your hand upon me I sat alone,
For You filled me with indignation
(Jer. 15:17)

Dolores Leckey tells of how rheumatic fever resulted in a period of imposed isolation
– she used it to immerse herself in prayer and later said, “I found the practice of solitude undertaken because of a medical necessity, had now become a spiritual necessity.”

William Penn’s work, Some Fruits of Solitude was written during the many times he was imprisoned for his faith
– he referred to solitude as “a school few care to learn in, though none teaches us better”

We need to figure out whether we’re afraid of solitude

If I cut myself off from others, but I’m not listening to God, I haven’t found solitude, I’m merely alone

Some people run from the crowd, because they’re weak
Some people run to the crowd, because they’re weak

Solitude is aloneness, but it is not loneliness
– loneliness is painful and drives us to others – to community
– solitude is blessed and draws us to God

Churches often fail to encourage solitude
– their picture of the model Christian is a vision of relentless activity and over-involvement

In our hyperactive culture, we use up our energy on business, errands, chores
– our plan is to give God the left-overs – whatever minutes remain
• but either we’re too weary to focus our attention or else our minds are too stuck in problem-solving mode
– it is sometimes too difficult to change gears – to open up our hearts and minds to be receptive

Are we afraid of what we might learn or be forced to face in solitude?
– if so, we need to deal with that fear
• otherwise it will cost us some of the richest moments we could enjoy with God
• and the blessing of whatever he wants to show us when we are alone with him

CONC: One thing you’ll learn to love about solitude: it is a place of rest

I know that I frequently quote this invitation of Jesus, but try to hear it as if for the first time:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Mt. 11:28)

Did you heart it?
– the promise of rest appears twice in his invitation
• it is a rest we receive from Jesus, have in Jesus, and share with Jesus
• God’s own rest (Hebrews 4:10)

As far as the practice of solitude goes, Enzio Bianchi has a good word,
“Let’s not forget that there are obvious external ways to help our spirit be more attentive”
– one obvious way is to schedule a time and place that we know will be quiet
• a lot can be gained while walking alone, tending a garden, sitting on a hillside or by the ocean
• and if you have to block out distracting sounds, remember your earphones or earbuds

The benefit of being in a “secluded place” with Jesus, is that we always return refreshed, blessed with clearer vision and renewed energy

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