These few short verses of our study hold a wealth of instruction for the believer who is constantly about the Lord’s work. Though we are called to put Christ first in our daily lives, we are also called to spend time to encourage ourselves in Him and His word. “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). Busy-ness does not mean that we are about the Lord’s business.
“And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught” (Mark 6:30).
The apostles had been commissioned to take the message of Christ to the lost, “And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7), so now they return to give a report to Him. It must have been very exciting for them to see the power of the Lord at work in their ministry, and we can imagine how thrilled they were to tell Him of their success. Jesus reminded them that while it is good to see people being set free from sin and Satan, they must not neglect their own salvation, “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 7:17-20).
The apostles, including the group known as the ‘seventy’, brought a report of everything they had experienced while preaching the word. This reminds us that prayer is more than laying before the Lord our wants and woes, instead it is a time of close communion with Him. Often we forget that we can discuss our daily lives with Him and receive guidance and strength for the day. Fellowship with the Lord is the believer’s secret for success in the daily life. Our deeds and words are in vain unless we are “instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). The apostles had learned this secret well, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Preaching and prayer must go hand in hand in our work for Christ.
“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately” (Mark 6:31-32).
We see here how considerate Christ was for His apostle’s welfare. He is no taskmaster who robs his labourers of their life and soul. His “strength” may be “sufficient” to overcome our “weakness” but He does not wear us out or grind us to dust (2 Corinthians 12:9). Time out is vital even to our work for Christ, but it is not the freedom to please ourselves with worldliness, rather it is time to recuperate, to be refreshed and renewed, “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). We must attend to our own souls before we can assist others with their spiritual problems, otherwise they will wear us out to the point of backsliding.
The admonition found in this text probably does not apply to the majority in the church today, for very few are in any danger of over-exerting themselves for the Lord. Most are indolent and lazy, for they squander away valuable time with things that do not matter. We ought to be “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16) and “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5). We must take time to examine our spiritual life and to meditate upon God’s word. We will never prosper in the things of God unless we prosper in attending to our souls. How can we call people to Christ if we do not resort to Him ourselves?
“And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:33-34).
These final verses of this passage of Scripture highlight why spending time with the Lord is vital to our daily walk. We must use our time wisely, for we never know when we will be called upon to minister to someone in need. By fellowshipping with Christ we will always be ready for the next request for our time.
Jesus loved souls and so ought we. The unsaved have no spiritual leadership, and we cannot expect them to receive any from the established church in our land. It is the believer’s responsibility to guide the lost to Christ by teaching them what the Bible says. We must tell them about God’s great love for them (John 3:16), and that Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who laid down His life to redeem them from sin (John 10:11). Bible-believing Christians are the only ones who know the truth to set sinners free, and if we tell them the unadulterated truth they will know that we have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The crowd did not flock to the apostles, despite the many miracles they might have performed; instead they “came together unto Him.” Unless the world sees the church walking with Christ we will never draw them in. Like Him, we must be willing to lay down our lives to win the lost to Jesus.
We may well be concerned for the lost and have a deep compassion for them. We may desire to see our Roman Catholic relatives and our Muslim neighbours coming to Christ, but we must not neglect our own souls too. We must spend quality time alone with the Lord so that we can face the world in the strength of the Holy Spirit. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).