Twelve Tips from Twelve Stones: Foundations for Biblical Counselors - Tip 10

By: Scott O'Malley

January 21st, 2022



There is a heaviness that comes from bearing another’s burdens. Whether you counsel hurting people or encourage suffering friends, you will feel the weight of their pain. While it is a burden to one degree that God calls us to bear (Galatians 6:2), it is also a great privilege that people would invite us in to help in their most difficult moments. And if you become skilled at helping suffering people, word spreads and more people come, longing for help. We know this to be true in our day, but how much more so when Jesus walked the earth. In Luke 4:31-35 we read of Jesus healing a demon possessed man, but I want to focus on the reaction of the crowd in the next two verses. “And they were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!’ And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region” (Luke 4:36-37).


The question I want us to consider then is: what was Jesus’ response to the crowds of people seeking His help because “reports about him went out into every place?” In other words, if you feel weighed down by the burden of ministry or the people in your life who need your help, what is a sustainable rhythm of care that you can provide that will keep you serving over the long haul? Thankfully, as is true in every area of life, Jesus provides us the perfect example to follow. I would like to draw our attention to four life principles from Mark 6:30-52 that should be repeated over and over again to provide us a sustainable rhythm of care to those around us. Those four life principles are:

  • Serve

  • Retreat

  • Rest

  • Compassion

After we serve others we should make time to retreat and rest to help us maintain a spirit of compassion that led us to serve in the first place. This cycle really should be a way of life for every Christian because it is easy to become irritable and impatient with people when we are exhausted or overwhelmed. Let’s look at each of these four life principles to help have us have a sustainable rhythm of care.



Foundation #10 – A sustainable rhythm of care


Serve


We read in Mark 4:30, “The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.” In this situation the apostles were living out a pattern of service that is commanded and encouraged all over the Scriptures. Galatians 5:13 tells us not to indulge our flesh but serve one another in love. After Jesus served the apostles in John 13 by washing their feet He told them He gave them an example to follow (John 13:14-15). There are many other examples that could be given, but the idea is clear, as Christians we are to serve one another.


As a result of living in a fallen world, there will always be great need. Therefore, we should find ourselves tired from serving the Lord because the needs around us are so great. The Apostle Paul described it like this in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor in not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We see in this verse we are to be abounding in work, meaning there is a lot of work to do. Notice Paul also says our labor in the Lord is not in vain because of the hope of the gospel. While this verse is focused on hope as a result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, don’t miss that we are to labor, or work hard, in light of this resurrection and the life to come.


In summary, we should follow the example of Christ and diligently serve people, even to the point of being tired. But once we have served to the point of exhaustion or being tired, then what? Let us return to Mark 6 and see the second life principle Jesus provides us.



Retreat


After the apostles had served, Jesus says to them in Mark 6:31a, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place." For many people in ministry there is this great pull to always keep serving, but even Jesus taught and modeled pulling away (Luke 5:16).


What keeps people who love and serve God from being unwilling to retreat after serving others to the point of exhaustion? I would like to suggest three possible reasons: anxiety, the fear of man, or pride.


One man that we counseled at Twelve Stones many years ago was a missionary overseas and he was so anxious about money that he added a couple of part time jobs to his missionary work and he literally went crazy as a result of lack of sleep. While it is good to be resourceful in providing for your family, the only provider who doesn’t need sleep is God. Thankfully, after receiving counseling that exposed the heart issues behind his anxiety he was able to receive help and is doing well today. Part of his homework was to pull away from all that he was doing and reevaluate the amount of work he was trying to get done.


A second reason we can fail to retreat is the fear of man. Anyone who gives counsel or serves others desires to be well received. While it is not wrong to desire others to think well of us, it must not be our focus. We must be more focused on pleasing God, trusting God, and walking in wisdom that pleasing the person we are serving (Proverbs 29:25; Galatians 1:10). Sometimes people want us to serve them in ways that would be unhealthy for us to do. A common example is someone insisting I make time for their emergency that would cause me to neglect my wife or family. While some situations are emergencies, the vast majority of requests like this can wait a day or two because the problem has been going on in their life for years.


A third reason we can be unwilling to retreat from our service is pride, thinking we are God’s only solution to a particular issue or problem. While we must not shy away from fulfilling our ministry, sometimes others can step in and help. Or, sometimes we may be the right person but the other person will have to wait a bit to get the help from you they desire.


Every successful counseling ministry I know has a waiting list. The need is so great in our world that if you are helping people there will be more people needing help than you could ever serve. Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). My co-worker Craig Mercer came up with a phrase I have found very helpful: “Your desire to help will always exceed your capacity.” That does not mean we don’t labor diligently and even become tired in our service, but we must recognize we do not have the capacity to eradicate every problem. Therefore, we must serve at a marathon pace.


Recently I was speaking with missionary friends encouraging them to see the necessity of learning to retreat from all of their labor and I shared that a marathon runner travels a much farther distance than a sprinter ever could. A sprinter will not be able to keep running at that pace and will either learn to slow down or will stop running. As a counselor, you will help a lot more people over your lifetime if you counsel at a marathon pace rather than overworking yourself and quit counseling all together.


Rest


After serving and then retreating, the next life principle Jesus taught us is to rest. Mark 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” When we think about rest we need to begin with two very obvious principles: God gave us 10 commandments and one of them is to have a day of rest (Exodus 20); and God created the human body to need sleep. If God wanted us to get as much work done as possible He could have made our bodies not to need sleep. But He didn’t – in fact, if we lose even three days of sleep, we could begin to hallucinate (www.healthline.com).


The purpose of rest is to provide refreshment or rejuvenation. It is important for each of us to find things that refresh our body and soul. For me rest comes from time alone with God in Bible reading and prayer as well as getting 7-8 hours of sleep. But it also comes from time with my wife, family time, listening to worship music, watching sporting events, and reading good books. A current book I am reading that has been a wonderful source of refreshment is Paul Tripp’s new book Do You Believe? It is important that all of us find things to refresh our souls because otherwise we can become overwhelmed and retreat from serving others. It is difficult to feel compassion for others when our own life is overwhelmed by chaos.



Compassion


As we faithfully serve others while learning to retreat and refresh our own souls, we will be able to still have the compassion of Christ exhibited in Mark 6. After Jesus and the apostles retreated to get some rest (Mark 6:30-32), the crowds still followed them and some arrived before Jesus and the apostles. “When he [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).

The end of Mark 6:34 says: “And he [Jesus] began to teach them many things.” So it is interesting to note that they did not get the rest they sought but Jesus still had compassion on them and served. But notice what happens next: Jesus miraculously provides for them food and then tells the apostles to get in a boat while He dismisses the crowds. Then in Mark 6:46 it says of Jesus, “And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.”


In other words, even though Jesus had to keep pursuing retreat and rest, He modeled for us this life pattern of serve, retreat, rest, and compassion for those around Him. Because after Jesus retreated and found rest with His Father, He then walked on water to the apostles, had compassion on their struggle in the storm (Mark 6:48) and served them by reassuring them of His presence and miraculously calmed the storm (Mark 6:50-51).

May God help us to be people who serve diligently, retreat and find rest regularly, and who never lose our compassion for those around us. Next week we will look at the importance of being focused on faithfulness and not results in our counseling. For now, let me close with a couple of questions for you to ponder this week.



Questions for Reflection


  1. If you find yourself overwhelmed by ministry responsibilities and are not retreating from that service as Jesus modeled, ask yourself what is keeping you from the retreating and resting? Consider the three options presented above as a place to start.

  2. Spend some time prayerfully considering, what are some activities that provide refreshment for your soul?

  3. How regularly are you doing those refreshing activities so you can serve others for the long haul? What can be done to make these times more prevalent without stopping serving others?


41 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All