“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother (Vegas), have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” (Philemon 1:7) Happy Holidays! It’s great to be in Las Vegas, the city of refreshment. With Christmas approaching and the new year at our doorstep, most people take these last two weeks to rest from a long year. Although there is nothing wrong with resting physically, we must be careful not to rest spiritually. Often times the rest we want, is not the rest we need! Although our bodies do need physical rest, from a spiritual standpoint we should never need a break. For me personally it is so easy to rest spiritually, as I rest physically. To combat this temptation, I have decided to redefine the way I think of rest going into the new year. To shed light on this topic, I would love to use the feeding of the five thousand as a reference to a biblical way to rest.
Our story starts with the twelve being sent out by Jesus for the very first time. When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1-2) The twelve had just been given an extension of Jesus’ power and couldn’t wait to test them out. For all intensive training purposes, Jesus sends them out with nothing, allowing them to focus solely on their mission and reliance on God. “He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” (Luke 9:3) I can only imagine the emotional, physical, and spiritual strain on the twelve apostles as they are on their own away from Jesus. So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Luke 9:6) As they traveled from village to village, they had great success in their own personal ministries. To me this would be considered a cranking day, let alone a cranking year! The question then is sparked, when do we deserve to take a break?
As the story continues the apostles return to Jesus most likely exhausted from a long day’s work of preaching, and healing. Very interestingly they were able to tell Jesus about all the amazing miracles they had performed. Jesus knowing that his twelve had poured themselves out, had opted to withdraw with his guys for some rest. “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida,” (Luke 9:10) Not realizing in this very moment, they were already resting. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) The apostles being in the very presence of Jesus himself was their rest! If you take the (R) from rest it can simply stand for recharging in the presence of Jesus. In Kingdom vernacular, we would simply call this a quiet time. Often times we fail to have some of the best quiet times, when we have the most time during the holidays. The challenge is to feed yourself spiritually while you have the chance!
Very interestingly, the disciples’ quiet time with Jesus was short lived as the crowds found out the location of Jesus. “but the crowds learned about it and followed him.” (Luke 9:11a) Our times with God really do reflect how we handle hardship, as the twelve at this point have checked out physically, and spiritually. We know this as they were not the first to receive the crowd with open arms like Jesus! “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” (Luke 9:11b) Where were the twelve at this point? “Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” (Luke 9:12) If you take the (E) from rest it looks as if the the twelve, failed to examine themselves.
The truth of the matter was that the disciples took a rest from a spiritual standpoint. They no longer wanted to seek and to save the lost, as it was only a day time job for them. Keep in mind they did crank their day, but Jesus always had a plan to teach, and push his disciples. What was he trying to teach them? It’s so easy to deceive ourselves spiritually, but when we stop doing what is right in God’s eyes we start to take a break spiritually! In this case they should have been the first to accept the crowd on behalf of Jesus. What sin do you think the twelve started to let creep in? Selfishness, laziness, bitterness? Make no mistake that when we stop doing what is right spiritually, sin is crouching at our door! “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7b) Although we need moments to catch our breath, we should never stop the mission of God.
If you take the (S) it can simply stand for Seeking and Saving the lost. It always encourages me when I see baptisms over the holidays, as that means there were disciples somewhere working hard. “He replied, “You give them something to eat.” (Luke 9:13) We must always be ready to answer the call of Jesus, when it comes time to feed his people. “They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there.)” (Luke 9:14) The conclusion brings us to the (T) which can describe the tough decisions we all have to make spiritually. “But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.” (Luke 9:15 -16) This usually entails us lining, ourselves up with the will of Jesus, and being obedient to his call. What tough decision will you make this Holiday? “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Luke 9:17) The beauty of disciples making tough decisions, is that the world always benefits from it. Happy Holidays, and a happy new years from Las Vegas!