Getting Away from It All
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 25, 2007
Main Passage: Mark
read about an experiment done years ago to determine the effects of
amphetamines on mice. Some mice were kept together in a group, and some
mice were kept separate from all the rest. And what they found was this:
A mouse that is kept in solitude will require a much greater dose of
amphetamines to kill it.
Hey, donít blame me. I didnít conduct the experiment; Iím just telling
you what [those monsters] discovered.
see, what happens is, when the mice are kept in a group and theyíre
given amphetamines, they start to get all excited and start hopping
around frantically and they feed off of each other. They hype each
other up to the point that they just canít take it anymore and they
drop dead. In fact, they discovered in the experiment that if you take
a mouse that has been given no amphetamines and you place them with a
group that has, that even that one mouse will get hyped up by all the
others and will be dead within about ten minutes.
But... a mouse
thatís kept in solitude... that mouse is not going to be riled up by
all the others. So it takes a much greater dose before it becomes
Now, youíd think that only mice would be so foolish as
to run around frantically and to feed off each otherís busyness to the
extent that they put their own lives at risk, wouldnít you? Youíd think
that, but we know the truth, donít we?
We know our own lives can
be like that. We know how busy we can get, and we know how we can feed
off of the busyness of others, and we know how the pace of life gets
faster and faster until weíre all running around frantically in
mindless pursuit of even meaningless things. We know how the RPMs of
our lives can creep higher and higher until weíve got that needle
pegged in the red and it just stays there.
And we know that...
unless weíre careful... thatís a perfect description of what the next
month will be like as we head toward Christmas.
So what I want
to propose to you this morning is that we need a release. We need times
when the pace of life can take a breathe... when we can get those RPMs
down out of the danger zone... when we pull ourselves out of the rat
race, re-calibrate, refocus, and regain our perspective on life.
And the good news is, God has already shown us the way to do this...
through the habit of solitude.
enables us to do all those things... it enables us to get life in
perspective, it enables us to take a breather, it enables us to
refocus... but the greatest thing about solitude--and the real reason
the Bible talks about it--is that it enables us to experience God.
ďSolitude is abstaining from people contact in order to be alone with
God and get closer to Him.Ē
~ Keith Drury, With Unveiled Faces, p. 31
to be clear, solitude is important. And so is community. Itís not an
either/or situation. You donít have to choose between living in
solitude away from everyone else and living in community with everyone
else. God designed us to live in community while scheduling and taking
advantage of brief times of solitude.
Centuries ago, a man by
the name of Diadochos made this observation: He observed that if youíre
taking a steam bath and you leave the door open, all the heat is going
to escape. I know, shocking, isnít it? I mean, thatís not news to us.
Thatís why we donít leave our windows open in the middle of February.
But Diadochos went on and suggested that we spend too much time with
the doors of our lives open, allowing the heat of our souls to escape.
Solitude is a way to shut that door and to allow our souls to recover.
many of you remember the movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks? In that
movie, Tom Hanks is traveling on an airplane when something goes wrong,
it crashes into the ocean, and Hanks is the only survivor. So he
becomes this lone castaway on an isolated tropical island. Heís there
all alone. And through most of the movie, we see a transformation in
Beforehand, Hanksí character was ruled by his
schedule. He was career focused, rushing here and there, sacrificing
meaningful times with his friends and family, and doing everything he
could do to get as much done as possible in as short a time as possible.
then the island. He was stranded there... he was isolated... there were
no more modern conveniences... there was no more agenda... there was no
more career to worry about... there was no more rushing here and
there... there was no more busyness and stress... there was no more
noise... there was just him, alone on the island, with a volleyball
named Wilson as his only companion.
And in the movie we see a
transformation take place in Hanks. We see him progress through the
first few hours on the island, the first few days, then weeks, months
and even years. And over time, we find him becoming a much different
Now, that was an extreme form of solitude. And itís not
really the kind of solitude weíre talking about here this morning
because God wasnít part of the equation. But we do see that he is
changed for the better, he comes to realize whatís really important in
life, and he gets to know himself in a much deeper way.
And in a
sense, what Tom Hanksí character in the movie goes through is what
every follower of Jesus needs to go through from time to time. We need
to go through regular, even weekly or daily, periods of solitude when
weíre focused completely on God and we all Him to transform us. We need
So what is solitude, anyway?
Weíve already seen Keith Druryís definition. Let me just expand on that
is getting away from the noises of life, the stresses of life, and the
people of our lives for the purpose of connecting with God.
I said itís ďgetting away.Ē Itís not ďrunning awayĒ, itís ďgetting
away.Ē When you run away, youíre trying to avoid life. Youíre trying to
escape from your problems and pretend they donít even exist. Thatís
running away. But when you get away for the purpose of solitude, youíre
not trying to avoid life--youíre just putting it on hold for a while.
Youíre regrouping so you can come back and face your problems and face
your challenges with a renewed focus and a renewed strength.
the example that we look to for what it means to practice the habit of
solitude is none other than Jesus Himself. Jesus regularly got away by
Himself to a quiet place in order to spend time with His Father.
Jesus lived an incredibly busy life. He travelled throughout a good
portion of Israel, teaching people, healing people, telling people
about the Kingdom of God... there were all kinds of demands on His
time, crowds of people followed Him around, He faced opposition daily
from the religious elite who felt threatened by Him, He received death
threats, He performed miracles, He squeezed in time to mentor His
disciples... in fact, there were days when He was so busy He didnít
even have a chance to eat!
But even with all that, Jesus made
the time to get alone with God. He didnít runaway from His challenges,
but He did get away from them for a time so He could come back and
handle them much better. He carved out margins in His life to practice
the habit of solitude.
Just a few examples...
Right at the beginning of His ministry years, Jesus spent 40 days alone
in the desert.
Before He chose His twelve disciples, He spent time in solitude.
receiving the sad news about the execution of his relative, John, He
felt the need to get away and spend time with His Father.
highly busy seasons of His life, like after spending an entire day
teaching a crowd of thousands and miraculously feeding them all supper,
He needed some time in solitude to reenergize.
In the passage that
Karen read earlier, we saw how Jesus had an incredibly busy day healing
people and it went on right into the night. Jesus was worn out. So what
did He do? He got up early the next morning, took time in solitude to
talk with His Father, and when He came back He was reenergized and He
had a fresh focus for the next day.
And of course, there was the
time Jesus spent in solitude right before His arrest, trial, and
crucifixion. If He hadnít spent that time alone with His Father, would
He have been prepared to endure what He had to endure? I donít know.
What I do know is that Jesus set an example for us
to follow. If Jesus, who is God, needed to practice solitude, then Iím
certain that you and I need to.
So why are we resistant to it? What are we afraid of? Let me suggest to
you four reasons people avoid practicing solitude...
Are We Resistant to Practicing Solitude?
The Fear of Limited Time
is the fear that says, ďYouíre too busy! If you take time for solitude,
thereís no possible way youíll have the time to get everything done
that needs to get done.Ē Thatís what this fear says, but the truth is,
thatís exactly why you need times of solitude.
ďSolitude doesnít give us the power to win the rat race, but to ignore
~ Richard Foster
got to pull yourself out of the rat race before it destroys you. And
the miracle of it is, when you put God first and work Him into your
schedule, He helps you with all the rest. And suddenly you find
yourself able to accomplish more than you ever could before you spent
time in solitude.
Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at
night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his
Plus, spending that time in solitude gives
you an opportunity to pull back and reflect. Do you really need to be
doing everything youíre doing? Is there something you can cut? Are
there ways you can do things better? What are you learning? How are you
growing? Where do you want to go from here? When youíre franticly
rushing around in the busyness of life, you donít have the opportunity
to ask yourself those questions. Solitude gives you that opportunity.
The Fear of Loneliness
be honest. A lot of people--maybe some of you here this morning--feel
lonely. Loneliness is a way of life for you, and youíre surrounded by
people all the time. So you think, ďHow much worse will that loneliness
be in solitude?Ē
But thatís a misunderstanding about what
solitude is. Hereís how Richard Foster describes the difference between
loneliness and solitude...
ďJesus calls us from loneliness to solitude... Loneliness is inner
emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.Ē
~ Richard Foster
Celebration of Discipline, p. 96
and loneliness do not have to go together. They are not the same thing.
Loneliness concerns itself with emptiness and despair. But solitude is
all about finding joy and fulfillment through spending time one-on-one
with God. And thereís a BIG difference.
ďLanguage has created
the word Ďlonelinessí to express the pain of being alone, and the word
Ďsolitudeí to express the glory of being alone.Ē
~ Paul Tillich
The Fear of Seeing Ourselves Clearly
you donít like solitude because you donít like the company. You donít
want to be by yourself because you know that youíll see yourself for
who you really are.
Do you know when I donít like solitude? I
donít like solitude when I know thereís unconfessed sin in my life.
When Iíve done something or said something or thought something that I
know Godís not pleased with, then I donít want to be alone. Because I
know Iím going to have to deal with it. Iím going to need to confess
it. Iím going to need to work it out. And that can be a painful
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah had an
experience like that. He encountered God in a vision, and when He
experienced the holiness of God he couldnít help but notice the
wickedness in himself. This is what He said...
Isaiah 6:5 (NLT)
all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I
live among a people with filthy lips.Ē
was confronted with the face of his own sinfulness. Thatís not a very
pleasant experience. But thatís not where the passage ends, is it? Yes,
Isaiah came face to face with his own sinfulness. But then he
experienced the cleansing work of God. He said...
Isaiah 6:6 (NLT)
one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from
the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said,
ďSee, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and
your sins are forgiven.Ē
yes, in solitude you may see the ugliness within yourself. But thatís a
good thing, because it gives you the opportunity to experience the
forgiveness and cleansing work of God.
The Fear of Seeing God Clearly
this has to do with sinfulness in our own lives. We know that God knows
us completely. Thereís nothing thatís hidden from Him. And so weíre
afraid to be alone with Him because we know Heís going to call us to
account for it. Itís like being called to the principalís office. Itís
a scary thing, so we tend to avoid it if at all possible.
what weíre forgetting is that God is also all-loving. And He doesnít
want to punish us nearly as much as He wants to redeem us. He wants to
make us right. He wants to cleanse us and restore us so that we can
experience joy instead of fear in His presence.
So those are
four reasons people are afraid of solitude. But none of those fears are
valid. None of them should stop you from working times of solitude into
your own life.
Okay, so how do we practice this habit of
solitude? Whatís involved? What do we do? Well, Keith Drury (who some
of you are familiar with) has written a book called, ďWith Unveiled
FacesĒ. And in that book, he lays out a simple process for practicing
solitude. So Iím just going to use his outline here...
to Begin Practicing Solitude:
Find a Place
when I was a kid, we lived in a house across from a wooded area. And I
would often go exploring over in those woods. And hidden in those woods
was an old, abandoned chicken coop. And my brother and I, and a couple
neighbours, fixed it up a little bit and made it into a clubhouse. And
it was a great place to go and be alone.
Maybe you had a hideout
like that when you were a kid, too. So what Iím encouraging you to do
is find one as an adult, too. Where can you go to be alone? Maybe itís
a room in your house. Maybe itís a specific chair in your home. Maybe
itís sitting in your car. Maybe itís a cottage. But find a place.
at the example of Jesus. Jesus travelled around a lot. But wherever He
was, he always seemed to be able to find a place where He could be
alone to spend time with the Father.
Schedule a Time
only did Jesus always find a place, but He always made the time for
solitude. Often that meant that He got up early while it was still
dark, or He snuck away for a while at night. But He always made the
And thatís what you need to do--you need to make the time.
Because itís not going to happen by accident. Itís not going to happen
unless you decide to make it happen. Set a time, mark it on your
calendar with a permanent marker, and stick to it. It doesnít have to
be a long time... in fact, it probably shouldnít be all that long at
first. Maybe five, ten minutes. Maybe half and hour. But schedule a
time and make it non-negotiable.
Keep Your Expectations Sensible
other words, donít go into your time of solitude expecting to see wild
visions and fireworks going off and experience earth-shattering
revelations from God. Sure, I guess they could happen. But really, you
should just go expecting to wind down a bit, take a breath from life,
and enjoy a sense of Godís presence.
Keep the Focus on God
know, just spending the time alone has benefits. Itís good for everyone
to take a break every now and then. But even better is to spend the
time alone with God. Because youíre not just practicing solitude to
relax; youíre practicing it to connect with God.
Seek One Important Message from God
all likelihood, Godís not going to unveil His grand plan for the cosmos
to you in one hour of solitude. Heís not going to lay everything on you
at once. Heís not going to challenge you in every area of your life at
once. But what He will do is reveal a little bit of what He wants to
say to you, and then Heíll reveal a little bit more next time, and then
a little more next time... so at most, just seek one important message
Be Aware of Effect Lag
other words, you may not seem to receive any message for the first
little while. And you may wonder, ďwhatís the point?Ē You may feel like
thereís no reason to practice solitude at all. But let me encourage you
to stick with it. Give it time. Give God time to do His work in you.
Seek Moments of Solitude in Your Ordinary Day
truth is, you may not always be able to take chunks of time out of your
schedule to practice solitude. And thatís okay. I mean, during this
message series weíre talking about a variety of spiritual habits. And
youíre not going to be able to practice them all at the same time. And
Iím not saying you should. So solitude may not be something you
practice all the time, at least in longer spurts. You should do it
periodically, but you may not do it all the time. But even if youíre
not carving out a few hours every week for solitude, you should still
grab those moments of solitude here and there.
Like when youíre
laying in bed in the morning. Use that time alone to focus on God. Or
when youíre commuting to work--claim that time for solitude. When you
pull into your parking space, sit there for a few minutes to experience
solitude with God. Grab hold of those brief pockets of time and
experience solitude in those moments.
Try Longer Time Periods
you may or may not do this regularly. But every once in a while--maybe
once or twice a year--try to take an extended period of time and
practice solitude, seeking to experience the presence of God. Maybe
take an entire day and get away. Maybe go to a cottage or hotel, unplug
the TV, and spend that time in solitude with God. Make it a spiritual
Let me ask you, what would happen if you began
to practice the habit of solitude? Yeah, I know it may feel awkward at
first. But what will happen over time? Let me tell you what I think
will happen. I think you will experience unprecedented spiritual growth
in your life, you will sense the guidance and leadership of God more
fully, you will experience His comfort when you need it, you will
experience renewed focus and strength in life, you will be able to
withstand temptation much better, you will experience an increased
sense of compassion for others, your marriage and your friendships will
be stronger and healthier, you will be much more effective and
productive in everyday life, and you will have a richer relationship
Doesnít all that sound like itís worth a shot?