For this exercise on how the Lord Jesus Christ practiced the art of hearing the Father’s voice, we will take a closer look at one particular instance of Him doing this. This is found in Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Firstly, in this instance (which was by no means an isolated one but a regular practise our Lord engaged in as can be attested from Luke 4:42 and 5:16), as in all others, we see the Lord Jesus Christ adopting a proactive approach to His personal time with the Father.
His rising early in the morning while it was still dark speaks of the intentional nature and purposefulness of His action. He did not relegate his personal devotion time with the Father to in-between ministry or other activities and functions but deliberately set aside a fixed time of the day for that all important communion and one-on-one contact with His father. He made a deliberate decision of rising very early in the morning for the purpose of meeting with and spending quality communion time with God.
Many of us do not even set aside a time to do that, we do not intentionally make the time to spend with God but leave it to chance drifting with whatever takes us. Christ did not let that happen or allow other items on His agenda to crowd out this time of communion and fellowship with the Father. Rather, He ensured that He planned for it in advance and made the time even if it required sacrifice. For Him, time with God was not surplus to need or something that He could do without but an absolute necessity that demanded Him being intentional and proactive in His approach, planning and execution at the expense of everything else. There was no way He was going to allow His communion and fellowship with the Father to be supplanted and overtaken by anything else – it was far too important to be relegated to a lower position or left to chance. From the verses that follow it is clear that leaving His personal time of fellowship with the Father to chance would have meant it would never happen as His time would have been taken over by the ministry activities He was in demand for.
And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” (Mark 1:36 – 37).
Clearly, even at the start of His ministry, Christ was in high demand and leaving His personal devotion time to chance without intentionally planning for and executing it would have resulted in it not happening at all. It is very important and absolutely vital that we too realise our need and knuckle down to intentionally plan for and resolutely execute our personal time of devotion with the Father. Here was Christ’s first secret – He was intentional and proactive in His personal communion and devotion with God, not careless or laid back.
We need to take responsibility, take things into our own hands for it to happen on a regular basis like Christ proactively and resolutely did. Regardless of how busy we can get, whether it be with ministry related or other activities, what can be of greater importance and priority than ensuring that our individual and dedicated channel of communion and communication with God is kept open and operational through a regular time of personal devotion with Him?
Second, as we see from Christ’s action, He rose “very early in the morning, while it was still dark,” demonstrating that sacrifice will be called for and required if we are to be successful in maintaining our personal communion and fellowship with God. Christ made a point of rising early, while it was still dark while the rest of the world was still asleep. And very often maintaining our personal devotion will require us to stir ourselves way before others have, when we know that those elements that can cause our distraction and disruption are in “disabled” mode. Here it cost Christ a little less sleep but the sacrifice was worthwhile and rewarding as He not only found deep fulfillment in His relationship and time of fellowship with the Father but it ensured He was on the right track toward the purpose and calling of God in His life. It meant He had to deprive Himself of some sleep (sacrifice) in order to achieve that.
For us too, the maintenance of our personal walk and communion with God will not be without sacrifice in this world where distractions and disruptions abound plenty. We have to be ready and prepared to sacrifice some things in order to effectively and routinely maintain our personal devotion with the Lord. It will not happen without some element of sacrifice in some form or shape somewhere in order to avoid and bypass these potential hurdles to the maintenance of our personal and dedicated channel of communication and communion with God. We need to be ready and willing to give up whatever it takes to maintain that communion, to uphold our devotion through thick and thin and above all else.
The Lord indemnified His mission against failures and shortcomings by ensuring He was in regular contact and communication with the author of this same mission through daily times of personal communion with Him. When Christ departed for the desolate place of communion with the Father, it was still dark. His time of departure indicates that most those – if not all – who could potentially distract and disturb were still asleep which afforded Him the solitude and privacy the personal communion with His Father demanded.
Thirdly, as we see from the actions of Christ that He not only headed to a desolate place while it was still dark but He departed from somewhere in order to head someplace else. He had to shift His location away from where the commotion was, from where all the activity and excitement was taking place in order to be alone with the Father. He would not have had a quiet and uninterrupted time of communion with the Father had He stayed in the same place no matter how dark it was and most people were still asleep. Christ “departed” from the place where it was all happening, from where the crowd was no matter how exciting and full of buzz that would have been. And this departure Christ made away from the crowd, the commotion and excitement it all generated serves as an example for us that we too need to pull ourselves away from where it seems it is all happening, from where all the action seems to be taking place. In our context these are in most cases the social media platforms where everything seems to be happening and to which most people are, quite frankly, in a state of addiction. It is from these various and multiple social media platforms we need to pull ourselves away if we are to generate the kind of quiet and solitude personal communion with God requires. We need to leave them behind and depart from these platforms routinely and intentionally, efficiently isolating ourselves from them as we head into a solitary time and place of meeting with God for ourselves. This was exactly what the Lord did as He headed for a desolate place departing from the crowd and excitement that the work He Himself was doing generated.
It is crucial that we recognise and accept the vital importance of pulling away from and creating a conducive space for successful personal communion with God. It is not possible, in this day and age of digital and 24/7 communication, to effectively maintain our personal devotion with the Lord unless we cut off, temporarily severe our connection to it. It is not possible to commune with God effectively and with rewarding results while at the same time staying open to all the interruptions and distractions social media brings with it. We must (and need to) distance ourselves from all social media platforms (FB, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, email – you name them) for the period of time we set to personally commune with God. More than the social media and the threads therein, it is the voice of our Shepherd we need to hear for our lives and ministries in order to effectively follow Him. Christ made sure He “departed” from the place that held the most potential to distract Him heading to a desolate/solitary place to fellowship and commune with the Father. So should we if we too are serious about our relationship with Him and His calling and purpose in our lives.
Once it was daybreak and they had awoken, His very own friends and followers were those who sought Him ought and tried to egg Him on the bandwagon of popularity and fame which they themselves had only started to experience for the first time. But Christ would have none of that, especially as He had just returned from communicating with “Mission control”. He was intent and focused not on the fame and popularity the mission generated but on the substance of the mission itself. Hence His reply to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is what I came for.” (Mark 1:38). The work He had come for (His mission) was what preoccupied His mind and at the centre of His plans – not popularity or fame. The Lord was aided in this focus He effortlessly maintained on His mission without being easily carried away with the fame it produced precisely because He stayed anchored in His fellowship with the Father. We too need that anchor if we are to remain focused and intent on God’s calling and purpose in our lives and not be side-tracked or waylaid by the excitement and euphoria it generates.
Christ valued and rated His personal fellowship with the Father pretty highly and so ensured He regularly and intentionally made time for it. But not only that. He needed and depended on it if He was to successfully accomplish His purpose on earth. He knew for certain that He was unable to sustain an effective ministry on earth without this close and personal communion with the Father. He could operate as the Father sent and intended Him to only when His channel of communication with the Father was open and operational. Here is what He had to say on the subject – So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19). The Lord Jesus effectively cancelled Himself out as the initiator of the works He was doing but attributed that honour to the Father. And seeing what the Father was doing necessitated a proximity to Him, a closeness which Christ proactively maintained through His personal times of devotion with Him.