Lessons from Jesus on BoundariesBy Jon Kelly
August 18, 2021
“Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” – Luke 5:15-16
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus says “no” in the gospels? Have you noticed how often he declines a request or walks away from a situation that seems urgent to others? For example, in Mark 5 we find the story of the demon possessed man who is healed by Christ. It is a remarkable story of God’s redemption. Yet, at the end of this story we find a lesson from Jesus. Scripture says that when Jesus was ready to leave, the man who had been healed “begged him that he might be with him. And [Jesus] did not permit him” (Mk.5:18-19). Think about that for a minute. This man who has been healed by Jesus is now begging Jesus to go with him, and Jesus’ response is “no, go to your family.” How many of us would have felt the pressure to walk with this man? Yet, we find Jesus doing the very opposite.
Let’s look at another example in Luke 5:15-16. It states, “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to a desolate place and pray” (emphasis added). This is so counter-cultural to what is done in our day. This passage states that great crowds were coming to him to hear him preach or to be healed. What is Jesus’ response? To withdraw to a desolate place. Think about what you are reading. Picture it in your mind—crowds coming and Jesus pulling away.
Virtually everyone I talk to feels their plate is full. Most feel they have less time, not more time. Less energy, not more energy. We go on vacation to be replenished and refreshed, only to come back and feel the same way we did before we left. The question I want to ask you as you read this is: How much of the pressure and exhaustion you currently feel is because you often say “yes” to too many things? It is very tempting and unhealthy to move at the pace of the demands of others, especially in ministry. There is always an event, another birthday party, a baby shower, a dinner invite, a graduation, a person to meet for coffee, an email to respond to, or another request placed on you by someone else. I suspect that more often than not, you say yes to those invites. But have you noticed that inside you don’t want to go because you feel exhausted and need rest? How much of your current calendar is filled with a bunch of “yeses” you personally don’t want to do, don’t need to do, or don’t have the capacity to do right now? How much rest and margin do you give up because you say “yes” too much?
For every yes you give, there is rest and margin that you give up. I’m amazed at how Jesus had boundaries. While Jesus was willing to leave the 99 sheep to go find the one, he also was willing to let the rich ruler walk away (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus was willing to serve those in need, yet he wasn’t controlled by the pace of everyone’s needs. He would often pull away to be with the Father. In our culture of busyness, we don’t know how to stop, say no, or slow down. Often, we can feel guilty or lazy for saying “no” as if we aren’t serving the Lord.
What lies under our willingness to sign up for everything is a lack of trust in God. Saying no can be an act of worship to Christ. When we say no and instead choose rest, it displays that saving the world isn’t based on our availability, it is based upon Christ at work. The sabbath in the Old Testament wasn’t just a day of rest, it was also an act of worship. At the heart of the sabbath was this question: “Do you trust God enough to believe that he can keep your world afloat if you humbly shut things down for a day to rest and worship him?” This is a question for us to answer, as well. Do you trust the Lord to take care of things if you choose to not respond to emails or answer your phone today? Are you willing, by the leading of His Spirit, to say no to some things for the sake of the greater yes and rest? Here are a few questions to ask the Lord and yourself this week to better protect your boundaries and cultivate a culture of rest and refreshment in your life.
Questions for Cultivating a Culture of Rest:
- What are the things I have said “yes” to that I shouldn’t have added to my schedule?
- Am I saying “yes” because I am more concerned with what someone will think of me, rather than protecting my margins and physical capacities?
- Am I unwilling to trust the Lord by declining opportunities or pulling away to rest and worship?