We can’t help but be amazed and challenged by the way Jesus lived his life on earth. I often hear people say things like, “Jesus was God, so it was easy for him to…”, and you can fill in the rest. In other words, because Jesus was the Son of God, they conclude that living a life of dedication and surrender to the Father came at no cost to him. But this is more an excuse for mediocracy in our own lives than it is an observation of Christ’s life.
While it is true he was the Son of God, let’s not forget that Jesus was also a man who lived just as we do today. He was nursed as a baby, was vulnerable to the cold, he hungered and thirsted. And yes, he even had to go to the bathroom. He was not a phantom who left no foot prints in the sand. When he stubbed his toe on a rock, it hurt. He experienced rejection and heartache. By coming in the likeness of sinful man, Jesus subjected himself to all the above and more (Phil 2:5-8), even temptation (Heb 4:15). But he also enjoyed fellowship with God, his father, as it is meant to be for us all.
And this, my friends, is at the core of today’s post. In building on my latest post about our practice of prayer, “The Vacant Prayer Closet“, I want to look at just one aspect of Jesus’ life. You guessed it, his prayer life. This subject alone easily warrants an isolated study, but today we’ll observe only one passage.
“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.” (Mark 1:35 ESV)
The day was Sunday, and the hour was approximately 4:00 am. Jesus had spent the entire day before (the Sabbath) exhaustingly busy about his Father’s business (cf. Mark 1:21-34). He had been on his feet from the morning, starting the day by teaching and healing in the synagogue, and carried on all the way into the night, healing the mother-in-law of Peter, and then touching countless lives that desperately gathered at Peter’s door to meet Jesus. It had been a grueling day of ministry indeed. Do you think Jesus went to bed that night not a little tired? You know he did! But notice Jesus’ idea of getting refreshed. It was not to sleep in while missing the best part of the day. He rose early, before the sun, and then pursued a secluded place to commune with the Father.
Folks, as the second Adam Jesus lived his life the way God desires all of us to do (Heb 12:1-3). Therefore, I will be so bold as to prescribe the same for you and me. It has been said, and wisely so, that
“He who fails to seek the Lord in the morning shall not likely find him the rest of the day.”
How did Jesus do it? I can assure you, it was simply his choice to do so. He was not mysteriously infused with a biological clock different to ours that required less sleep. But Jesus also exercised self-discipline. And while that is a word some of us might rather skip over, it is inescapably a quality that should characterize the life of every Christian. Self control is a fruit of the Spirit who works within us (Gal 5:22-23).
Nonetheless, the challenge for us may not be as much in rising early as it is in going to bed early. A simple practice we all would do well to acquire. I believe it was John Wesley who used to say to his evening house guests,
“Gentlemen, it is 10:00 o’clock. Time for all good men to go to bed.”
He literally kicked out his friends so he could go to bed and rise at 4:00 am to pray and enjoy the Lord his God. So, “early to bed, early to rise” is a good practice because we see that Jesus did it. Or at the very lest, he rose early. Also, the Scriptures exhort us to rise early and seek the Lord. But did you also know that studies have shown the following:
1. The sleep we get before midnight is the most beneficial.
2. The most successful and achieving people are early risers.
3. Our most productive time of day physically and mentally is in the early morning hours.
Personally, I love to rise early. But does it come easy for me? No way. Especially if I hit the rack later than prescribed by our wise brother John Wesley. And yet, practically speaking, unless I rise while it is still dark, I can forget about getting quiet time with my Lord. My Biblical studies will be gone with the dawn. Instead, my feet will hit the ground running to the sounds of my children crying, the dings of email filling my inbox, the demands of the day and my ever- growing task list. Behold, I will attempt the day’s journey on an empty tank, with nothing to offer others, let alone to keep myself going.
So let’s learn from our Lord, and follow in his footsteps. Cultivate quiet times alone with God in the mornings, and if 4:00 am is too early for you, find a time in the morning that works (quiet and alone is key) and stick with it. You will find no greater way to be refreshed. You’ll also be amazed at how much you get done and how blessed your day is when it is given over to Jesus first thing.
What do uThink? Does this model work for your daily quiet-time with the LORD? If not, what are the obstacles you face and what alternative do you propose for keeping in fellowship with God? You can post your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.