Where do you go when the storms of life beat upon your heart and mind? Where do you turn when life’s sorrows pile up on you? Do you retreat into isolation, turn to a trusted brother or sister in Christ, cry out to the Lord for strength and comfort, or do you suffer in isolation? The worst thing we can do is retreat into a cocoon of isolation. I have seen how the Enemy has worked overtime to cut folks out of the fold and drive them to secluded places away from those who love them, care for them, and can work to support them while they go through very difficult times. I’ve seen this happen to believers and unbelievers alike over the past several years. A myriad of factors are used by Satan to convince us that we need to withdraw from those who care about us. When he does this he will have a field day with our head.
Satan’s ploy to drive us into seclusion is not a new strategy of his–he has been driving folks into isolation for generations. Take a look at Luke 8:26-39 and read along with me.
26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. 30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39 NIV)
I want you to notice some things about this man who was being terrorized by Satan. First, he had been living naked, without any clothes, and outside for a long time. Secondly, he was living among the tombs. The man was living among the dead – he himself was a dead man walking among the dead. Third, notice how the man responds to Jesus when he sees Him.
28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” (Luke 8:28 NIV)
Isn’t that interesting? The tortured man, who has been living in the tombs among the dead, no clothes, and out of his mind, is begging the Prince of Peace not to torture him. Have you ever had your mind so twisted that you shrunk back from Jesus in fear? I knew a man one time who was being tormented. As we talked I sensed that I wasn’t going to be able to help him simply by talking to him so I asked him if I could pray with him. When I moved over and took his hands I said, “I want you to say, ‘Jesus is my Deliverer.'” He looked back at me with hollow eyes and didn’t say a word. I tried it again, but he still was silent. Finally, I said, “Mike, just say ‘Jesus.'” This man who had shared Scripture with me in the past, who knew the Bible better than most churchgoers, was not even able to say the name of Jesus.
The trials of life, the troubles of every day, the tragedies that visit us, and the turbulence of temptation can be used by Satan to separate us like a cutting horse separating a calf from the herd. I mentioned to you earlier that Satan can and will use anything he can to destroy you. I have known people who have gone through all kinds of experiences, everything from financial pressures to health problems to marriage problems to breaking up with a boyfriend to not fitting in at school to not making the team or the grade and more. These problems have weighed heavy on their hearts and made them feel like losers. The problems caused them to crawl in a hole and the darkness enveloped them like a winter coat. They stopped talking to their friends. They stopped getting out. They were depressed. They feared that somebody would find out that they weren’t who they had represented themselves to be. They were haunted by the thought that others saw them as weak and feeble. The depression turned into despair until they wondered it there was even a reason to live.
Just a few months ago I got an email from a young friend of mine who lives in another city. She was going through a tough time. I’ve known this young girl for quite some time and I will tell you that she has got a heart of gold for God. The darkness was creeping in as things were not going as well as she had hoped at school. Satan was throwing temptation after temptation at her from every direction. She wrote to me and shared her struggle. In her letter she said, “I don’t want to do what the voices in my head are telling me to do.”
How many of us here this morning can relate to that statement? When the darkness sits so squarely on your chest that you can hardly breath and your eyes are clouded with an endless stream of tears aren’t there thoughts that pound your brain, that embarrass you, that you hope nobody ever finds out about? That is exactly what Satan is trying to do to us – he wants to isolate us, convince us that his way is really the only option we have, and then convict us as losers in the eyes of God. God’s Word gives us such good counsel during these times. Read along with me from 1 Peter 5,
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11 NIV)
Satan will try and convince you that you are all alone, but the fact of the matter is that everyone struggles with something, everyone faces trials and troubles in life, and the darkness reaches far and wide to touch the life of every person at one time or another. The question isn’t “will I face hardships?” or “why am I going through this?” but when the hardships come how can I respond so that the Enemy doesn’t isolate me and drive me to solitary confinement where he can destroy me?
Peter tells us to hold on, to stand firm in our faith, to be self-controlled, alert, and resist Satan when we are going through all kinds of sufferings. Why are we to resist and stand strong? Great question and there are two answers based upon this Scripture:
First, because the God of grace will restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast. Peter says as much in verse 10 when he writes, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Satan’s plan is to convince us that our lives are over. Our present pain will be the order of the day for the rest of our lives. He wants to convince us that we are all alone and hopeless. God wants us to know that He will restore us as we stand strong and resist the enemy’s plan to isolate us.
Second, we are to stand strong because we are not alone, at the very moment that we are suffering, there are literally untold millions who are struggling along with us. Once again, Peter says as much in verse 9, when he says, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” There is strength in numbers and when sufferers and strugglers come together to seek God’s comfort and strength without trying to offer easy answers to one another then there is hope and encouragement.
I have to tell you that our problem is not the trials and struggles that we encounter in life. Problems can be great opportunities. Struggles can bring about strength if they are put in the hands of the Father. Solitary places are not the sole possession of Satan. As a matter of fact, Jesus went to a solitary place often, but the result of His time spent there was quite different than the results we see in the Gerasenes demoniac or the results that many of us have seen in our own lives when the enemy has driven us to seclusion and isolation. Let’s take a look at Jesus’ time spent in solitary places. Look first with me at Matthew 14:13-14.
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14 NIV)
We are told that when Jesus heard what had happened that He withdrew to a solitary place. What had happened? If you read the first twelve verses of Matthew 14 then you will learn that Herod had just had John the Baptist beheaded. John, the one who prepared the way for Jesus. John, the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. John, because of a drunken promise of Herod, was now gone. Jesus was heartbroken and grieving over the death of someone He dearly loved. Where did Jesus run when He was overwhelmed with sorrow? He went to the Father. He went to a quiet place where He could be held and comforted by the only One who brings lasting comfort.
In the next Scripture that I want us to look at this morning we find Jesus seeking out a solitary place once again. Take a look at Luke 4:42-44.
42 At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:42-44 NIV)
On the day before Jesus had been worn slick casting out demons, healing the sick, and pouring out His life in ministry to those who were hurting and coming to Him. After such a long day Jesus found solitude, but while He was there the people found Him once again. What was Jesus doing out there in the quiet place? He was being restored, revived, and renewed by the Father.
Let’s take a look at one more section of Scripture this morning before we leave here. Open your Bibles to Mark’s Gospel and let’s read from Mark 1:35-38.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:35-39 NIV)
Once again Jesus goes out, while it is still dark, to a quiet place where He could be alone with the Father. The old hymn says, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God. A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.” Long before the hymn was ever written Jesus knew the place of quiet rest in the storms of life. These instances of Jesus’ going to quiet places to be with the Father have been recorded in Scripture for you and for me. Just as Jesus needed to withdraw into the arms of the Father, so we need to step into His loving arms as well.
It is really important that we recognize what happens in Jesus’ life when He retreats to solitary places with God. This is so important for us because it is the difference between living victoriously in a vicious world or succumbing to Satan’s schemes to smother and destroy us. If you will notice, in each of the three Scriptures where Jesus withdraws to a quiet, solitary place, immediately afterwards He leaves that place to step into the mess of life and minister to those who are hurting. This is the difference between the solitary places of God and the solitary confinement of Satan.
When we step into the arms of the Father for times of quiet rest, confession, sorrow, or fellowship we will be broken by the hurts of others. Our suffering and sorrow, our depression and despair, and our frustrations and confusion will be turned into a brokenness for others. On the other hand, when Satan is able to isolate us he will consume us with our own troubles, he will surround us with ourselves, and cause us to forget about the suffering and confusion of others. If you’ve ever succumbed to Satan’s ploys then you know that wallowing in our own self-pity and pulling the shades to try and shut out the world will never work. When we feel the excruciating pain of those wounds we need to run into the arms of the Father.
I pray that today you will run into the Father’s arms. If you have never received Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life then won’t you surrender your life to Him this morning and allow Him to give you His salvation, His peace, and the healing for your soul that you’ve always longed for.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 11, 2013