Sunday, February 27, 2011

Discouraged? Put the Physical Before the Mental

Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
Mark 6:30-32 NKJV

Ever been discouraged? Have you ever arrived in a point in your life where you thought you were physically and mentally out of gas? I think it's fair to say that at one time or another we have all experienced these feelings of helplessness and discouragement, and with what we see happening all around us today it is entirely possible some of you are at that point right now. One of the benefits of being a Christian, however, is the knowledge that whatever situation we might be facing it is sure to be addressed somewhere in scripture.

The Bible is full of stories of people just like us facing discouragement based on the circumstances they found themselves in. Yet if you read some of those stories you find that there seems to be a common, practical answer to dealing with those situations which we find in the passage above. I will call it God's three step answer to discouragement; rest, repast, and remind.

In chapter 6 of the book of Mark we find the story of Jesus sending the disciples out to share the Gospel and call the people to repentance. While they were doing this, we see that King Herod has John the Baptist beheaded. So the picture we are presented with here is this. The disciples were excited to be commissioned to go and spread the call to repentance, so they took off to many cities all over the country and got busy doing the work they were commissioned to do. Yet while doing so they hear that John the Baptist, who was arrested for doing the same thing, gets his head cut off. So all of them return from whatever part of the country they had been in and take the body of John and bury it. Then they go and find Jesus to tell Him all that had occurred.

Now I don't know about you but I can easily imagine just what might have been going through the disciples minds right about now. It was probably something like “am I going to be the next guy to lose his head over this Gospel thing?" Is it a stretch to think that is exactly what Satan was trying to accomplish by arranging this scenario? Do you think the disciples might have been just a little tired and discouraged right about now? What sort of questions do you think they had for Jesus when they met with Him? I have no doubt they were extremely troubled and concerned with what was to come, yet it is the response of Jesus to them that I find interesting, if not a little surprising. It is how He choses to deal with their discouragement that I want to look at this morning to see what we can learn from it and apply to the situations many of us find ourselves in today.

Rest. The first thing Jesus chooses to address is not their mental anxieties, but their physical needs. Jesus recognizes that in order to deal with the problem of discouragement the priority was addressing their need for rest. Now I don't know about you, but with me, when I get physically tired I notice my brain tends to shut down and go to the old hibernate mode. I mean if I try to do things that require my mind to be sharp when I'm tired, the results are less than acceptable. I think all of us understand that, and it would appear that Jesus does as well. Jesus says simply “you need to get away and rest”. So He takes them away to a place where they can be alone and gives them an opportunity to recover.

Repast. Now I know I could have just said eat, but I figured if they all started with “R” it would be easier to remember. So the next thing we are told is that Jesus is concerned that the disciples had not had the opportunity to eat. Again He is focusing His attention and ours on a physical need before He addresses the mental needs. I'm sure all of us are aware of the necessity to eat considering that food is the fuel that makes our bodies run, yet how often when we get discouraged or depressed do we fail to eat because we “just aren't hungry”? Our bodies are in a way just like our cars. It doesn't matter if our car “feels good” or not, it still needs gas at regular intervals in order to keep performing. In the same way our bodies need to receive the nourishment necessary in order for it to function efficiently. Here Jesus is concerned about the disciples need for food, so He also takes them away from their duties in order to allow them the time to eat.

Remind. As we continue to read in this passage, we find that after the physical needs of the disciples have been met, Jesus not only addresses, but orchestrates two opportunities to remind the disciples of His power and authority. The first is the feeding of the five thousand, and the second was by walking on the water. Why two?

For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
Mark 6:52 NKJV

It seems beyond me that the disciples could witness five loaves of bread and two fishes feed over five thousand people and not understand they were witnessing a miracle, but such was the case. Why? The word for “hardened” in the Greek is pōroō which means “to grow hard, callous, become dull, lose the power of understanding”. I like the phrase to “become dull”, simply because I believe that word by itself describes what happens to us all mentally when we ignore our physical needs. Apparently the disciples were so tired and hungry that they still had not recovered sufficiently to recognize the power of God when they saw it!

Yes the disciples were discouraged because of the events they had witnessed, but how much of that discouragement was a result of ignoring their physical needs? We all have the tendency to want to fix our mental state first because it appears to be our greatest need. However in this passage I think Jesus made it clear that in order to fix the mental, you can't forget the physical. As someone who has spent a great deal of time and effort over the years to take care of his physical body, I can assure you I have read of numerous studies that support the fact that the physical can affect the mental. Isn't it curious to find that Jesus knew this long before our “clinical” studies took place?

Are you suffering from discouragement in your life right now? Are the circumstances we find ourselves in as believers approaching the end of the age beginning to affect your mental state? Jesus says He won't, and we should not, forget our physical needs. At the same time we can be assured He will address our mental needs by providing the circumstances to remind us of His omnipotence in a world that seems to be falling apart.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

Keep watching.