Each of our hearts is an open book to Christ. And because His aim is to restore our hearts to their original design, He continually asks us questions to reveal the true nature of our heart. This is the process of spiritual formation. The question is, do we cooperate with him?
Just Another Day at the Office? Not so Much
On this fine day which Mark records (see Mark 3:1-6), everyone rolled into the synagogue ready for another routine pattern of prayer, readings, and interpretation. Yet today they had something else coming. With a burning and consuming love for all those involved, Jesus Christ didn’t waste any time. He was going to expose the hardness of each of their hearts. Having compassion on a man with a shriveled hand, Jesus brought him forward. His compassion for the man and for the whole assembly is strikingly clear. The miracle he was about to perform was not just for this wounded man, but it was also for everyone else. First Jesus would heal the man with a crippling affliction, and second Jesus wanted to heal the assembly of onlookers. In his view, those in the synagogue had an equally crippling affliction of hardness of heart.
A Simple Question
You could probably cut the air with a knife when Jesus asked, “Which is lawful on the sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Mark notes that the crowd stubbornly, “remained silent.” Is this really that difficult of a question to answer? No. In matter of fact it is an eerily simple question to answer. The crowd’s silent response shone like a spot light on their hearts. They were more interested in following laws, keeping their nose clean, and not making waves in their community, then they were willing to consider the claims and invitation of the Messiah to follow Him. They wanted religion on their terms, and Jesus was turning that upside down: Discipleship is on His terms. This was too much for them to handle so, “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”
Discipleship is Always on His Terms, Not Ours.
Regular solitude out in God’s Creation helps us hear Jesus asking us questions. A lack of regular solitude makes us deaf to his voice. That is one of the greatest values of wilderness ministry… we go away from the city and begin to enjoy the benefits of solitude. Solitude is not a chore or a hassle, it is a gift.
Once we experience solitude, we might begin hearing God’s voice in a more noticeable form because we are ready and open to hear him. When he speaks to us (like he did to the synagogue that day), a doorway into new horizons of growth opens. Now we are beckoned to not only listen to His voice, but obey it.
A Situation Where “Remaining Silent” is Not a Good Idea
In this story, we see the people remaining silent when Jesus confronted them with a question. We are all tempted to do the same. We are afraid to answer direct questions because they call us out. Yet we learn from Christ’s anger (Mark 3:5) that day that the cost for remaining silent and ignoring Christ’s call is huge. And here comes the double-edged sword. There is irony in what Jesus says in this passage because although it will cost you dearly to be silent and ignore Christ’s call on your life, it will also cost us dearly to listen to his call and respond to Him with honest and humility. In other words: Running from the cross is very costly, and the reward is nothing. But carrying our cross is very costly too, yet the reward is great. The reward is closeness to Jesus Himself. And there can not be any greater reward than that.
3 Questions to Consider During a Time of Solitude
- What questions might Jesus asking you now in your journey?
- What is your response? Might it be stubborn silence? Or might you and I have the courage to answer Him honestly and receive the blessing of having Him restore our heart to God’s intended design.
- Can we afford not to listen and respond to Him honestly? What might it cost you to ignore the questions Jesus is asking you?
What is the value of solitude in the wilderness? Solitude enables us to hear God’s voice and it reveals the true cost of ignoring God.
About the Author | Ashley Denton
Ashley is the Vice President of Nexus International and is the founder of Wilderness Ministry Institute. Ashley is the author of Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice, and is a professor of outdoor leadership at Denver Theological Seminary. He spends time helping younger leaders in over 30 countries develop effective youth & student ministries that incorporate effective outdoor adventure in their overall strategy.