Week of November 5

Pause on Purpose
by Max Lucado

Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.
Mark 6:31

Ernie Johnson Jr. knows baseball. His father announced three decades' worth of major-league games, following the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta. In the quarter century since Ernie inherited the microphone, he has covered six sports on three continents, voicing blowouts and nail-biters, interviewing losers and buzzer beaters.

But one game stands out above all the rest. Not because of who played, but because of who stopped playing. Ernie was a nine-year-old Little Leaguer, dutifully playing shortstop. An opposing batter hit a ground rule double that bounced over the fence. Two outfielders scampered over the fence to retrieve the ball so the game could continue. (Apparently the league operated on a tight budget.)

Both teams waited for them to return. They waited … and waited … but no one appeared. Concerned coaches finally jogged into the outfield and scaled the fence. Curious players, including Ernie, followed them. They found the missing duo just a few feet beyond the fence, gloves dropped on the ground, found ball at their feet, blackberries and smiles on their faces.

The two players had stepped away from the game.

How long since you did the same? We need regular recalibrations. Besides, who couldn't use a few blackberries? But who has time to gather them? You have carpools to run; businesses to run; sales efforts to run; machines, organizations, and budgets to run. You gotta run.

Jesus understands. He knew the frenzy of life. People back-to-backed his calendar with demands. But he also knew how to step away from the game.

Having withstood the devil's wilderness temptation and his hometown's harsh rejection, Jesus journeyed to Capernaum, where the citizens give him a ticker-tape reception.

They were astonished at His teaching. (Luke 4:32)

The story of what he had done spread like wildfire throughout the whole region. (v. 37 NLT)

People throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one. (v. 40 NLT)

Could Christ want more? Enthralled masses, just-healed believers, and thousands who will go where he leads. So Jesus …

Rallied a movement?

Organized a leadership team?

Mobilized a political-action society?

No. He baffled the public-relations experts by placing the mob in the rearview mirror and ducking into a wildlife preserve, a hidden cove, a vacant building, a deserted place.

Verse 42 identifies the reason: "the crowd … tried to keep Him from leaving them."

More than once he exercised crowd control. "When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he told his followers to go to the other side of the lake" (Matt. 8:18 NCV).

When the crowd ridiculed his power to raise a girl from the dead, he evicted them from the premises. "After the crowd had been thrown out of the house, Jesus went into the girl's room and took hold of her hand, and she stood up" (Matt. 9:25 NCV).

After a day of teaching, "Jesus left the crowd and went into the house" (Matt. 13:36 NCV).

Though surrounded by possibly twenty thousand fans, he turned away from them: "After Jesus had sent the crowds away" (Matt. 15:39 CEV).

Christ repeatedly escaped the noise of the crowd in order to hear the voice of God.

He resisted the undertow of the people by anchoring to the rock of his purpose: employing his uniqueness (to "preach … to the other cities also") to make a big deal out of God ("the kingdom of God") everywhere he could.

And aren't you glad he did? Suppose he had heeded the crowd and set up camp in Capernaum, reasoning, "I thought the whole world was my target and the cross my destiny. But the entire town tells me to stay in Capernaum. Could all these people be wrong?"

Yes, they could! In defiance of the crowd, Jesus turned his back on the Capernaum pastorate and followed the will of God. Doing so meant leaving some sick people unhealed and some confused people untaught. He said no to good things so he could say yes to the right thing: his unique call.

Not an easy choice for anyone.

God may want you to leave your Capernaum, but you're staying. Or he may want you to stay, and you're leaving. How can you know unless you mute the crowd and meet with Jesus in a deserted place?

"Deserted" need not mean desolate, just quiet. Simply a place to which you, like Jesus, depart. "Now when it was day, He departed" (Luke 4:42). "Depart" presupposes a decision on the part of Jesus. "I need to get away. To think. To ponder. To rechart my course." He determined the time, selected a place. With resolve, he pressed the pause button on his life.

The devil implants taximeters in our brains. We hear the relentless tick, tick, tick telling us to hurry, hurry, hurry, time is money … resulting in this roaring blur called the human race.

But Jesus stands against the tide, countering the crescendo with these words: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). Follow the example of Jesus, who "often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed" (Luke 5:16).

God rested after six days of work, and the world didn't collapse. What makes us think it will if we do? (Or do we fear it won't?)

Cure for the Common LifeFollow Jesus into the desert. A thousand and one voices will scream like banana-tree monkeys telling you not to. Ignore them. Heed him. Quit your work. Contemplate his. Accept your Maker's invitation: "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (Mark 6:31).

And while you are there, enjoy some blackberries.

From Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2005) Max Lucado