From Solitude to Service

By Rev. Tim Yee

September 2, 2018

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles… He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:12-13, 17-19


Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us.

Silhouettes of people against a sunset.Henri Nouwen makes it a point to notice how Jesus, in our story, first spends time alone with God (solitude), then gathers his disciples (community) and then does the work of healing people (ministry). He observes that most people do this in reverse: we get busy trying to accomplish something, then try to get others to join us, and finally cry out to God for help when it all goes wrong! Nouwen invites busy leaders to consider a more fruitful life by beginning, like Jesus, to center ourselves on God and our identity as his beloved children.

When we live from this center of being in communion with God, we will find in the long run that not only can we avoid the burnout that is so common in our modern society, but we will also enjoy a fruitfulness that can only come from God being the one who is planting the seeds, working the soil, and shining his blazing rays of life to grow and sustain something new. Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world. Our businesses, ministries, and families will be grateful that you’ve taken time to connect with God and with others as a prerequisite to engaging in work.

We must make regular space to remember that our first identity is simply as a child of God the Father. The Spirit of God doesn’t need us to blow wind to make things happen, but he invites us to raise our sails and to harness his power. Jesus the Son shows us a life of fruitfulness by prioritizing his identity in the One who called him, sent him, and empowered him. All Christian leaders will stunt their effectiveness without some time away from trying to accomplish more. We hope that these devotions from Life for Leaders are a helpful part of making space to be with God so that you can engage your work with faithfulness, endurance, and joy.

Something to Think About:

Henri Nouwen says, “Solitude, community, ministry—these disciplines help us live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.”

Something to Do:

Watch this video of Henri Nouwen’s preaching on the “Disciples of the Beloved” and on this movement of solitude to community to ministry.


Jesus, help me to see that activities that aren’t rooted in my identity with you can be vain attempts to make myself feel valuable through my work. Help me to not define myself by my successes or failures, but simply by the truest reality that I, first and foremost, belong to you.

Bring a community around me to join me in the work at hand and to encourage me along the way to always work as unto the Lord. We rest in the fact that nothing we do for you ever goes to waste, as we rely on the Spirit to flow through us.

Thank you, Father, that you have chosen to bear much fruit through me, as long as I remain centered on you. Help me to know the joy of doing the work that you have prepared in advance for me to do. May I do this work well. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Sabbath and Work (Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17)

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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