HOW DO YOU HANDLE SUCCESS?
In Luke 5:12-16, Jesus teaches us how to do it, but despite Jesus instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. Nevertheless, Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Luke 5:15-16, we live in a culture that prizes success and celebrity. These often go hand in hand, one building on the other. Consider, for example, the case of Mark Zuckerberg. Seven years ago, he was simply a Harvard student with a creative idea and computer programming expertise. Today, as the founder of Face book, he is one of the most well known people on earth. Last year, Zuckerberg was depicted in a highly popular movie, (The Social Network) and honored as, “Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.” He even voiced himself on an episode of the Simpsons. Talk about success and celebrity!
There is not necessarily anything wrong with being successful or well known. However, both can be dangerous to our souls. We can begin to live, not for what matters most in life, but for achieving more or enhancing our image. Moreover, we can be tempted to fill our lives with more and more activities, neglecting our core relationships and even our own health. Last year, a number of the “most successful” Christian leaders backed away from their ministries in order to get their lives back in order. Though I have not found myself in need of this level of retrenchment, I am easily tempted to overbook myself when people want me to do stretch myself in other areas for them.
Thus, the example of Jesus in Luke instructs, challenges, and admonishes me. As Jesus fame grew throughout Galilee, “vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases” (5:15). From our cultural point of view, he was becoming more and more successful, as measured by the numerical response to his ministry. So how did Jesus handle his success and celebrity? Yes, he continued to preach and heal. But, as Luke reports, he “often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (5:16).
It is no exaggeration to say that Jesus went on retreats, often, in fact. He knew that he needed time away from the crowds in order to pray. He did not just sneak in a few moments of prayer between preaching gigs. He did not just have a quiet time in the morning. Rather, Jesus took time away from his busy and growing ministry in order to be quiet with his Heavenly Father.
Think about it. If the Son of God, the one who experienced unique intimacy with the Father, needed to go on a retreat, then don’t you and I need to do the same? How can we expect to negotiate the challenges and opportunities of our lives if we do not back away every now and then so as to take time for rest, reflection, and, most of all, prayer?
REFLECTIONS: When have you experienced refreshing times of retreat in your life? What keeps you from taking the time you need to retreat? What helps you to make the time?
MAXIMIZE PRAYER: Father, every time I read this section of Luke, I am impressed by your habit of taking time away from the crowds in order to pray. I quickly realize how little I do this and how much I need it. And I know I’m not alone. So many of us find our lives more than full. It can almost seem impossible to get away. Help us, Father!
Teach us to build times of retreat into our lives. The details will vary with our life situations. There is not one way to retreat in order to spend time with you. However we do it, we all need it.
Thank you, dear Lord, for your example in this text. Help me to follow your example. In Jesus name, Amen.
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