13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
Matthew 14:13-20 (New International Version)
The Strain of Service
Consider this scenario with me. You have been serving the Lord in your given ministry for a long period of time. The pace is non-stop and the strain of God’s mission is taking a toll on you, both physically and spiritually.
Then you receive bad news. One of your closest brothers in the faith, who was serving in another mission field, just died. This news was the straw that broke the camel’s back and you decide to take a break from serving. So you pack your suitcase and you take a vacation to the most secluded place you could find.
Rest versus Service
Unfortunately, news of your arrival has reached even this place and as soon as you get off the plane, you are overwhelmed by the many people that desire your help. There is a part of you that wants to say to them, “I’m sorry, but I’m on vacation.” However, you see the need and you feel compelled to serve them. What would you do in such a situation?
This was the dilemma that Jesus and His disciples faced in Matthew 14. Jesus received the bad news that His cousin, John the Baptist was executed. So He and His disciples went to a solitary place to get rest and restoration both physically and spiritually. The disciples probably looked forward to the break, for they just got done doing on Gospel tour, proclaiming God’s Message from town to town.
However, the moment they arrived at their vacation spot, they were greeted by over five thousand people, wanting to hear about the Kingdom of God. You have to wonder whether or not the disciples hoped that Jesus would send them away explaining that they were on vacation. They must have grumbled within themselves when Christ told them to go out and minister to the crowd. They must have thought, “We’re on vacation!”
Taking a Rest
In ministry, it’s important to take a break once in a while. Non-stop service could cause a servant of God to grow tired and burnout to the point of no longer caring about the ministry. The strain of being on mission is even more intense when tragedy strikes.
Commanded to Rest
There are limits to what we can and cannot do. That’s why the Lord commanded us to set aside a day of rest from our daily toils. This rest must be more than a physical one; it must also be a spiritual one. It must be a time to rest and realign with the Lord. Which is done through thoughtful study of His Word and quiet conversation with Him in prayer.
Alone time with the Lord is essential when we serve Him. It’s through our communion with the Almighty that we can be restored spiritually. The storms of life weaken the spiritual flame that’s in us. In order to rekindle the flame, we must step aside from the storm and go to the Source of our flame, the Lord God.
Push a Little Further
However, when we serve the Lord, it’s important that we be attentive to the Lord’s call. Even when we want to rest, God may call us to push on a little bit further in order to reveal the Love of God to the world. We may not have anything left in our spiritual tank, but if we faithfully obey, the Almighty will give us the extra strength that is needed in order to complete the task.
The Disciples Push On
That was the case for Jesus and His disciples. Although the disciples were exhausted, they obeyed Christ and served the people. As a result, the Lord gave them the means of powering through their fatigue and they were able to take part in the miracle of feeding over five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and a few fish.
Time to Rest
I cannot stress the importance of rest. We must set aside a time in our busy schedules to step away from everything and spend some alone time with God. Doing so will remove the strain that comes from the daily routine of life. Only when we are fully rested, will we be able to be effective servants of the Almighty. Even so, we must also flexible and be on call in case the Lord wants us.
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