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On your Mark

Retreat or advance

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. (Mark 3:7,8, NIV)

What should you do when you are really in a tough situation and your physical, mental or spiritual health is threatened?

I’ve faced this question numerous times over the years.

Late one evening a parishioner called me to help her. Her husband was threatening to kill her and her small son. She had fled the house, but the boy remained inside. I went immediately to see if I could help. She was frantic because her husband held a loaded pistol. I peeked inside the front door, and he appeared to be asleep on a reclining chair with a gun in his hand. I probably should have been more cautious, but I went into the home, took the boy and carried him out to his mother. Fortunately, the husband never stirred.

Is it all right to escape when someone is trying to kill you? Jesus’ action gives the answer to the question.

When the Pharisees and the Herodians sought to kill Him (Mark 3:6), He “withdrew.”

I’ve also faced the issue of withdrawal for pastor and missionary friends who despite their best efforts encountered hard and painful dilemmas that threatened their physical, spiritual and emotional health, and the well-being of their children. It is a great virtue to endure adversity, but also sometimes it is best to walk away and get to a place of safety.

Jesus endured the cross, but He also retreated when attempts were made to kill Him. Only the Holy Spirit can help us know when to stay steadfast and when to pull out.

It is vital that we not sit in judgment when someone we know feels like the pressure is so great they must extricate themselves for a while lest they be “killed.”

Jesus withdrew, but that act also opened a whole new chapter. He found himself in a place where great things began to happen.

Huge crowds came to Him from all over — in fact, this passage records the greatest geographical reach in Jesus’ ministry. Gentiles came in droves from places well outside Israel proper — areas that today are named Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. People also came from as far south as Judea and Jerusalem.

Notice that even Tyre and Sidon are presented — towns whose doom had been prophesied in the Old Testament. Yet, within these places people were desperate for the Lord’s touch.

All over the world today, people from every religious and secular background are coming to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus answers the deepest needs of the heart! They are not coming to a religion — they are coming to a relationship with Jesus! What do they receive? His gifts of healing, deliverance, salvation and eternal life. No wonder Jesus remains the most sought-after Person on Planet Earth.

The Pharisees and the Herodians plotted to kill Jesus, but their efforts rebounded against them. In withdrawing from them, Jesus increased His reach.

When you face a time of withdrawal, take Jesus’ example to heart. It may not be a defeat to withdraw — instead, your retreat can open the door to unparalleled new opportunities.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, even You needed times to get away — to back off from things that were too stressful or dangerous to stay with. Help me, however, not to be an escapist by always wanting to withdraw, but also help me to exercise good judgment when I need to disengage.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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