Turning Quiet Places Into Holy Places
by Robert Donato
Theologian A. W. Tozer gives tremendous insight as he writes these profound words in his book The Knowledge of the Holy: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What do you think about God? Do you see Him as being bigger than our star-strewn universe? If so, then the problems of life won’t seem so overwhelming. On the other hand, if we project God onto a small screen in our minds, life’s obstacles can take on giant proportions. We will tremble and quake before them. We will act first and pray later, and the twin fists of panic and worry will pummel our hearts with fear.
In his book Your God Is Too Small, British pastor J.B. Phillips challenges us not to settle for such a meager concept of God.
“Let us fling wide the doors and windows of our minds and make some attempt to appreciate the “size” of God. He must not be limited to religious matters or even to the “religious” interpretation of life. He must not be confined to one particular section of time nor must we imagine Him as the local god of this planet or even only of the universe that astronomical survey has so far discovered. It is not, of course, physical size that we are trying to establish in our minds…It is rather to see the immensely broad sweep of the Creator’s activity, the astonishing complexity of His mental processes which science laboriously uncovers, the vast sea of what we can only call “God” in a small corner of which man lives and moves and has his being.” (JB Phillips, Your God Is to Small NY NY Macmillan Co. 1961 pp 61-62)
Through Jesus Christ, God offers to us understanding and intimacy.
Everywhere Jesus went people came to Him with their needs. His reputation spread as He met those needs. Then the demands increased. His journeys were filled with times of teaching and then the meeting of human needs. It’s what He was about. It’s why He came. As Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-21) He foretold of His own ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
As Jesus did these things people were changed. Hope was restored. Renewal of mind and spirit took place. It was an amazing time because of the power of Jesus Christ was unleashed. In Him, heaven met people.
As people encounter the Living God, then as well as today, they sense the bigness of deity’s presence, and find in Jesus Christ a Person that can be trusted. If we are to remain in His presence we must draw ever closer to Him
This is accomplished by…
I. Closeness to God Requires Obedience.
Deity descends on the lonely life of a leper v.12 “and it came about that while He was in one of the cities, behold, there was a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Leprosy, according to Wm. Barclay, proliferated in two forms in Palestine. “There was one which was rather like a very bad skin disease, and it was the less serious of the two. There was one in which the disease, starting from a small spot, ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or leg. It was literally a living death.”
This was probably the type, which afflicted this man who knelt at the feet of Jesus. Luke says he was “full” of leprosy. He was compelled by the Law to be ostracized from the rest of society. Therefore the agony of his leprosy was intensified by the social stigma attached to it.
Death’s tentacles grabbed his heart as well as his body. When he walked down the street, people kept their distance. Mothers covered their children’s eyes. Doctors shook their heads. No one dared step too close to an open grave
When the leper saw Jesus he knew this Man held life in His hands.
Desperate lunge of faith, he drew near, falling in the dust before Jesus, he spoke in a trembling voice: “Lord, if you are willing…” No bargaining, no expectations. Just a glint of faith, and that was enough to open the floodgates of Jesus’ compassion. “And He stretched out his hand, and touched him saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately the leprosy left him” (v.13).
Did you see what Jesus did? He reached out and “touched” the leper. He could have cleansed him from a distance, as a doctor might call your prescription in to the local drugstore. But Jesus came to touch the untouchables, to hold the Father’s cup of love to the parched lips of humanity. The leper drank deeply as the Master reached out His hand. How long had it been since he felt the tender touch of another human being? How long since he had belonged and had been welcome among others?
Immediately the leper was healed. No empty promises from Jesus, but the unmistakable release of heaven’s power.
At that point Jesus instructed the man to go to the Temple to offer sacrifices that Moses commanded in this kind of situation. Jesus knew that such an action would be a witness to the priests and that it was the only way the man could ever be received back into the community. How refreshing Jesus’ action is. Instead of promoting himself as a wonder-worker, He promoted respect for God’s laws. A miracle of God had taken place. A man had received his life back. Transformation came to a man on a collision course toward ugly, painful death. And the news of Jesus continued to spread as crowds of people came near to Him to be healed of their sicknesses.
II. Closeness to God Grows Through Prayer.
Luke interjects a curious, almost out of place statement at this point in the story. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
In the midst of many needs, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place where He could be alone with His Father in prayer.
Luke 6:12 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
Mk 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”
Mk 6:46 “After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Luke 3:21, at the time of His baptism, it was while He was praying that the Holy Spirit descended on Him. All through the N.T. references are made to the importance of prayer in the life of Jesus. Obviously prayer was an energizing habit of His life.
How intriguing to think that the One who needed to pray so little because of who He was, prayed then and still prays now. There is no way to look at Jesus without noticing the depth of His devotional life. It was an essential part of who He was.
Many people look at Jesus and say, “Oh, how He healed.” Others look at Him and say, “Oh what a great teacher.” Some might look at him and proclaim, “Oh how he loved.” All of them would be right. But we need to look once more and proclaimed “Oh how He prayed.”
Prayer was a priority action for Him. It was so important that He taught His disciples how to pray.
Why would prayer be so important to Jesus? Why would it be such a passion with Him? We see one possible answer in John 6:38 where Jesus says, “I have come down from heaven not to do my Will but to do the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus was so committed to His Father’s will that He want4ed to listen often to the Father. Nothing would shake that relationship-the one relationship around which all other relationships revolved. It was the relationship that enabled Him to be who He was. If this relationship were hindered, it would negatively impact what He came to do.
His relationship with the Father was what Satan tried to destroy in our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. If Satan could have gotten Jesus to compromise that relationship, then it could never be said again that Jesus and the Father were one. The plan of salvation would have failed, and the enemy would have won. But Jesus didn’t cave in. The enemy did not win; the presence of God in human history was not compromised and it prevailed.
How important is prayer in your life?
III. Closeness to God Makes Us Strong
All through His ministry Jesus taught His disciples to “pray and not give up.” What did Jesus say to them on the night of His betrayal? “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40). Earlier He told them “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). When he taught His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He was telling them to stay focused on the will and way of the Father.
Looking at Jesus’ prayer patterns we see that He wants us to pray. He wants us to withdraw to solitary places to be with God so our relationship with Him can be vital and real. How can we who need prayer so much, but who pray so little expect to be closely bonded with God, when Jesus who needed to pray so little prayed so much?
The most important thing we can do in our lives is to develop our relationship with God. Our relationship should not be a business or religious arrangement. Rather it should be a bonded relationship of persons so deeply moved by what God has done for them that they want to love Him and be with Him. In John 17, in His high priestly prayer Jesus reflects upon the relationship He has with His Father, “just as You are in Me and I am in You” (v.21) Then He prays for us when He says, “May they also be in us” (v.21). Those words of petition have love written all over them. That has relationship written all over it. This is not a mere religious experience or a philosophical notion. Rather, this is a personal relationship with the living God who sent His only Son into the world to die for our sins.
What are you doing to deepen your relationship with God? As we look at Jesus and see how much weight He placed on prayer, it’s a necessary question to ask ourselves. How is your prayer life? Are you allowing God’s truth to grow in you so that His ways become the normal operating ways of your life? We need to pay attention to a profound detail about life mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It says to all who have received Christ into their lives and have chosen to live for God, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
Life is no picnic out there. It’s real world 101. The apostle Peter took more than his share of shots from the enemy and was led to write in his letter “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:8-9). How can we resist him if we don’t have somebody that is stronger than this “roaring lion” within us? Do you think you can actually take on a roaring lion barehanded? I don’t want the job, especially when the lion is the devil himself. I much prefer that God take on this lion. I would like Jesus Christ who died and was raised again from the dead to take on this lion. I would like the Holy Spirit, who is mightier than all the demons of hell, to take on this lion.
If we want to live a life of victory in Jesus, we must develop our personal relationship with Him We must nourish ourselves on His Word. We must refresh ourselves from His well of water that springs up to eternal life in us. We must spend time with Him. We must draw near to Him so our thoughts become His thoughts and our ways become His ways. Then, we can face the lion and take him down, “because the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
I urge you cultivate a precious relationship with God. Don’t neglect it. Make it special. Love Him. Draw close to Him. Whisper, “I love You, Lord,” into His ear throughout the day. Set aside special moments when you open His love letter to you. Sing His praises. Lift up His name. Quiet your heart before Him. Let the littleness of your life get lost in His greatness. Pray to Him. Worship Him. Shut out the world until you only hear God. Become like a child and bask in His embrace.
Don’t you sometimes feel like the leprous man who found healing and restoration in Jesus? Remember how you had nothing and suddenly you were given your life back again. You were headed for destruction and suddenly you heard Jesus say, ” am willing…be clean!” You felt like a nobody who heard Jesus say, “I love you and I forgive you. Welcome home.” Don’t you want to grow in that kind of relationship? When you look into the face of God, don’t you want to say, “I may lose everything else in the world, but I am not going to lose my relationship with God.”
Find ways to cultivate your relationship with God. Make your devotional life a high priority. Protect it. Cherish it. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Every day, find a way to quiet your heart in God’s presence. There is your peace. There is your victory. There is your strength. There is your first love.