Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alone with God for Replenishment

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the JordanAnd it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”  So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  (I Kings 17:2-5)

Elijah was told to hide himself in a desolate ravine – Cherith.  It was one of the many deep ravines that wind their way through the wilderness east of the Jordan River.  The name Cherifth means “cut off.  In this stark and dreary place he found himself utterly alone.

But alone with God.

Cherith represents the hidden life no one sees but God.  It’s the prayer closet.  It’s the Sabbath of rest.  Call it what you will – quiet time, solitude, retreat, rest – we need it.  Replenishing your soul is essential.  The Quakers used to call is “soul-making.”

It’s no easy task to persuade people like you and me to slow down.  We’ll do almost anything but rest.  In this world, value comes from what we do, and of course, there is always more to do.  Life for us is one prolonged and dedicated struggle to fix everything that’s broken.

Unfortunately, our work habits carry over to our relationship with the Lord and our work for Him.  We’re driven and compulsive in our obedience – always hustling and hoping to do more.  Eventually, of course, we get weary and worn down and want to give up.

Yet Jesus said His yoke is easy.  Could it be?
Jesus promised us rest.  Is that possible?

Why, then, are so many of God’s faithful workers and ministers experiencing stress fractures?  Why are so many servants of Christ coming unraveled, unhinged, and undone?  Why do so many feel empty and dry?  Could there be something wrong with the way we are going about our labor for the Lord?


I think of Mary and Martha, two sisters whose home Jesus often came to.  He always found it perfectly suited to His needs.  One time He began to teach, and Mary – who instinctively knew what was most crucial – sat at His feet, absorbing His presence and everything He had to say.  Martha, who had much to do for Jesus, busied herself with work and became distracted by all the preparations and hustling about to make it more presentable, doing things for Jesus that He didn’t want done at all!

Jesus kindly said that Martha was too busy with things that that didn’t need to be done.  Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Your sister Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Excessive busyness is not a Christian virtue and spiritual maturity is not measured by the amount of work we accomplish.  Rather, it is more important that God do His work in us.  This was the point Jesus made regarding Mary and Martha.

When you think about it, Jesus Himself was never that busy.  Yes, He had an infinite job to do and only three years to pull it off, yet He was never hurried.  His pace was always measured, deliberate, and slow.  And when He withdrew to isolated places in the wilderness, it was to repair the damage done by the crowds.

From the very beginning, God has been concerned about our compulsive work habits, trying to stop us from working all the time and getting us to take time for rest.  That’s why He instituted the Sabbath – six days you shall labor, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord.  On it you shall do no labor” (Exodus 20:8-10).

It’s hard to rest when there is so much to be done, but God wants us to know that resting is one of the most important things we can do.  To make His point, He had to make Sabbath-breaking a capital offense before anyone got the message (Numbers 15:32-36).

Compulsive self-effort is rank unbelief.  It’s a lack of faith in God’s provision.  It’s the very thing that kept the children of Israel from entering into God’s rest.  We are warned of the very same danger in Hebrews 4:1.  Our lives depend on it.  It’s a serious thing to work all the time and get no rest.  We may work ourselves to death.

Let’s be honest about it:  So often we think that everything depends on us.  We figure if anything is to get done, we’ve got to roll up our sleeves, pitch in, and do it.  And so we labor on, working seven days a week, wearying ourselves – and missing out on God’s best for us.

Is God calling you to a place called Cherith?

The people God uses the most are those who have been there.  This is the place where ravens fed Elijah – the place where we learn to be nourished by God.  We need solitude, not mere privacy and time alone, but time alone with God. 

We don’t make our mark on the world by intellect, personality, excessive busyness or hard work through self-effort.  Influence comes from within.  It is the result of God doing His work within us.

And that work is always done in secret.


Brooke McIntire said...

Beautifully put! I am really looking forward to seeing what God shows us through you in this series. I started reading through the life of Elijah this week in my daily readings. It's always one of my favorite stretches ;) Thank you for sharing this!

Brooke McIntire said...

FYI- I blogged on just this almost a year ago on a long since abandoned blog (I turned my attention back to my original blog, which I still don't keep up very well). You can read it here if you're interested.


Ron said...

I'm looking forward to the series on Elijah too. Thanks for the comments.