Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – The Importance of Space
September 10, 2023

Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – The Importance of Space


This week we continue our Jesus Masterclass series with Nick speaking on The Importance of Space


In this sermon delivered by Nick, the topic is "The Importance of Space." Nick discusses the significance of creating space in our lives to connect with God and prioritize what truly matters. Here are some key points and Bible verses highlighted in the sermon:

1. **Introduction:** Nick emphasizes the importance of creating space in our lives and the challenges that come with it.

2. **Biblical Foundation:** Nick references Genesis 2:2-3, where God rested on the seventh day, setting an example of the importance of rest and space.

3. **Jesus' Example:** Nick discusses how Jesus sought out desolate places for prayer and solitude, even amidst his busy ministry. He highlights verses like Mark 1:35, Mark 6:31-32, Mark 14:32, and Luke 5:15-16.

4. **Mary and Martha:** Nick refers to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, where Jesus encourages Mary's choice of sitting at His feet and listening.

5. **Recognizing the Need:** Nick prompts the audience to consider their own lives and what takes up their time and energy, such as family, finances, work, distractions, or worries.

6. **Taking Back Control:** Nick encourages the audience to reclaim space by setting boundaries, exploring silence, and prioritizing their relationship with God.

7. **Creative Ways:** Nick suggests creative ways to find space, like fasting, tithing, or simply putting away distractions like phones and TV.

8. **Worship and Praise:** Nick emphasizes the role of worship and praise in creating spiritual space and mentions the song "I Raise a Hallelujah."

9. **Closing Remarks:** Nick concludes by reminding the audience that, by the grace of God, they can create space in their lives to connect with God and prioritize what truly matters.

Overall, the sermon underscores the importance of making intentional efforts to create space in our lives for God and spiritual growth. It encourages listeners to examine their own circumstances and seek ways to prioritize their relationship with God.


We're entering the realm of PowerPoint 30 years too late.
The importance of space, we are coming right up close to the end of our Jesus Master Class.
And as Andy said last week, so much of it has gone from the very sharp challenge of what
it means to be a disciple of Jesus, what it means to our heart.
And it's not morph, but it's transformed into a bit of a biblical life-training, life-coaching
sort of thing that is so challenging as well in its own way.
And everything that I have to say this morning about the importance of space is like a boomerang
It comes back at me because definitely not someone and I know very few people who are
in a position to say, oh, I understand, you know, we've got this nailed, creating space
in our lives.
It's important today what we've done this morning has been great.
We've been creating space.
We've heard the voice of God.
We've sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit instead of then plowing on.
We've stepped back.
We've created space.
And that has to be applicable in so many areas of our lives that we have to create the space
that is necessary in order for God to move, in order for God to speak, in order for us
to understand what He is doing with us and saying to us rather than just being sort of
just tied to a runaway train that is our lives and not having time or space for anything.
And so you see my little man there in space, I can't imagine what that feels like, but
certainly he had plenty of space when he did that.
The importance of space.
It's not something that we're really used to thinking about.
Our lives and our schedules are so crowded, aren't they?
All the time things are coming at us, either in our ears or through our phones or through
our emails or through children, you know, tugging at us, mommy, daddy, whatever it is, whatever.
There is always demands on our time and space is something that feels like a far away luxury.
So many things convince us that we need our time, our attention and our energy.
Tell us that we're needed, we're needed in this place, we're needed to write that email,
we're needed in this conversation, we're needed in this situation, and it's all about where
we're needed to be.
But in actual fact, just as Jesus taught us, that space is not about us being needed,
but it's about understanding what we need.
We need space in our lives, so much so that we can't afford for it just to happen.
It doesn't happen, like nature abours a vacuum, that a vacuum will fill itself.
So space in our lives tends to fill itself unless we actually take steps to create it,
to make it, to value it, and to focus on it.
Oh, my buttons aren't working, Graham.
Hang on, hang on, I've turned it on, there we go.
Problem is every time we move to create space, something crops up, look, a distraction.
Something that will take our time and energy, I know you know what it's like, you feel like
you've got to the end of everything, you think, I've finished now, I can sit down, oh, something
happens, something's needed, a distraction crops up, I'm not an expert on Hebrew, you
may be surprised to understand, but I am told by people who do know about these things,
that one specific meaning for the word shabbat, which is translated sabbath, is stop.
And by the grace of God, we have to learn how to stop in our lives, I'm not just talking
about stopping physically, stopping to do nothing, although sometimes that's part of
it, sometimes it's just stopping in our thinking, stopping in that runaway train that I'm talking
about that just goes mad in our lives, just learning to stop, to step back, and to understand
the value of space, oh, if that's not it, let's go back.
At the beginning of everything, we read this.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he
rested from all his work.
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the
work of creating that he had done.
That's God.
Have you ever looked in those Hubble Space Telescope things that show you millions and
millions and millions of light years into the universe and it's just so immense and
so far as my brain has stopped even, I used to be utterly spellbound by it, now my brain
just closed down and thought it was too big to think about.
So big God created all that, but yet the pattern, the rhythm that he's placed into his word
and into the universe is that on the seventh day he made it holy because on it he rested
from all the work of creating that he had done.
Now compare that to the rhythm and the pattern of life that we set ourselves without measly
responsibilities and the things that are so important and unless we did them the whole
world would collapse.
Can you hear yourself saying, yeah, yeah, yeah, it's a nice idea, but there's just so
much to do.
I have a friend in Zambia who used to say plenty of time for rest when Jesus comes.
Maybe it works for people who don't have families who don't have the responsibilities I have.
But if I didn't have so much debt to worry about, I have to work all the time.
It's not in my nature to rest, I like to stay busy.
I can't afford the luxury of stopping, maybe when I'm a bit older.
And I've thought about it as over years as I've wrestled with this myself and what it
means to be someone who knows the grace of stopping and wonder why Sabbath was included
at the heart of the ten commandments that God has given us, the laws, the fundamental
laws that he has laid down for life that you shall keep the Sabbath, not about a day,
not about a particular practice, it's about a principle of learning that there is a grace
to stop and to create space.
He isn't giving us a suggestion for a better life, he's telling us this is how life works.
He knows what we need, he sets us an example and has built a rhythm into the foundations
of creation.
Maybe it's a bit difficult to relate to the creator of the universe.
How many of us can I tell you, I remember what it was like when I made a planet.
We don't, do we?
We don't know what it means.
But we can relate because of the nature of who Jesus is, we can relate to Jesus.
He was human in every way just as we are, yet carried the responsibility of bringing
salvation to the whole world.
How much planning, how many logistics and resources would you need to gather to meet
that level of responsibility?
We're going to try and put on a different venue and we're scratching heads and don't
say, oh, let's try the week after because it's challenging to get all of those things in one
place altogether.
And the bulk of what Jesus had to be done was done in three years.
Space can wait three years to save the world, yet Jesus in space, I hope you can read these.
So apparently my power points need to be on a different background, Mark 135 and rising
very early in the morning while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate
place and there he prayed.
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place and the people sought
him and came to him and would have kept him from leaving them.
So even when he was in his desolate place, he was feeling the pressure.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.
But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
And he said to them, come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while, for
many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.
One of the leaders in our first church used to love these verses in the different version
where it says, Jesus took them apart.
Come away by yourselves for this place to rest a while, for many were coming and going,
they had no leisure even to eat.
I mean, that's the interesting thing.
People used to hate going on road trips with me in Zambia when we used to go out for the
day and we used to visit different churches and different places, different villages.
I would forget that people needed to eat and drink.
I've just got plow on, come on, kingdom work.
And then by the time we got back eight hours later, they were hanging out the car and they
were the tongues hanging out.
We just wanted to drink and he wouldn't give us one.
But Jesus seems a bit like that God seems to be even keep concerned that we have leisure
to eat.
The miracle of the feeding of 5,000 was not just that he multiplied food, but that was
his priority.
Make sure they have something to eat.
There's a different rhythm in the heart of God, but he would withdraw to desolate places
and pray.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane and he said to his disciples,
sit here while I go over there and pray.
It was absolutely core to Jesus to continually and repeatedly find places where he could be
by himself, where he could pray, where he could find space in his heart.
So you're facing, all that he was facing in Gethsemane.
He didn't want to be around people, he needed to be by himself and to be with his father.
Jesus could no longer openly enter a town but was out in desolate places and people were
coming to him from every quarter.
So you see the tension all the time, Jesus seeking out desolate places as a priority
as part as a key plank of his strategy in life.
It was driven by his DNA because although he was every bit as human as we are, he was
every bit as divine as God the Father is.
And God the Father who created the universe on the seventh day rested, had built into
Jesus DNA that rhythm that said you need in the midst of all the business, amidst the
six days and everything else, you need that time and you need that space to come aside
because that is your life.
Mary and Martha in Luke 10, 38 to 42.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village and a woman named Martha welcomed
him into a house and she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened
to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving and she went up to him and said, Lord, do
you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone, tell her then to help me?
The Lord answered her, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things
but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away
from her.
Martha was distracted with much serving, good stuff.
Many of us with our sympathy with Martha.
Mary wasting the time sat around all day doing nothing except looking at Jesus and what
uses that to anybody?
Do you not care, tell her to help me?
Jesus said, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing
is necessary.
And if there's one banner, if there's one word that could go over our time and our generation
and probably any time and any generation in human history, it's this one.
Oh, look at that.
You are anxious and troubled about many things, especially that the PowerPoint has slipped
off the bottom of the screen.
You are anxious and troubled about many things.
How many of you can say amen to that?
You are anxious and troubled about many things.
You've enjoyed it this morning, there's been a time of space, there's been a moment where
we've connected with the Holy Spirit, there's things going on in our hearts and yet you
know that when you step out of this place, everything's going to come back.
Even now, while you're half listening to me, you're worrying about other stuff, anxious
and troubled about many things and God wants to give you space and He wants to give you
the grace to create space in your life so that we can actually find freedom, times of
freedom from those things, that we can actually know what it is to have Him carry a burden
with us.
So it needs decisions and it needs strategy.
We need to recognize and accept the need we have for space, make creating space a priority
in our lives and take the necessary steps that we need to take.
I've been reading a book, it's not all, this is not all from the book, but it's been an
inspiration as I've thought about it and as this came up on my preaching plan to speak
about space, it's called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, if you haven't
read it, I recommend it.
And he highlights a few things, and one of the things he said is I really miss boredom.
Boredom is a gift of God, I remember one time I went on a mission trip and back in the
day when, do you remember those days when we didn't have mobile phones or anything like
And I didn't take any books or anything like that, and we didn't have a great deal to
So a lot of times on the trip and so I would spend time just sat staring at the ceiling.
One time I read the entire terms and conditions on my airline ticket and the Geneva Convention
and all of that, that's, no Erica wasn't there, yeah, yeah, yeah, the backs of, you
know, deodorant.
Instead of looking at your phone, you used to read the back of the cornflakes.
Used to do all that, didn't we?
But yeah, boredom is a gift of God because in that situation now, I know they'll just
well pick up a phone, start scrolling, spend hours now scrolling, scrolling the phone,
reading useless articles, watching daft videos, all that sort of stuff that goes on, other
In that moment, in those times when I had, after I'd got over, you know, I'd sort of
set the priority, the airline ticket first and then God.
But you know, you have space and things start, the Holy Spirit starts to stir in us and we
have time and space where we can connect with God and we can start to learn to pray.
And so boredom is a gift of God because it actually gives us time and space where we
can allow the Holy Spirit to stir in our lives and to bring us to a connection with Him.
A friend of mine travelled to China in the late 80s and he had a pastor there who had
spent many years in prison for his faith and he was sentenced to solitary confinement
for a number of years and given the task of standing in the cesspit outside the prison
And as the raw sewage was pumped out of the prison block, his job was to shovel it and
spread it.
And that was his job alone for a large portion of every 24-hour period.
And somebody asked him, how did you cope, how did you keep your mind bearing that you
have separated from your family, you have separated from your church?
You know, it doesn't seem fair that that is your life.
And he said, I thank God for it because that place became my own private garden where
I walked and talked with the Lord.
Now both of those examples, me with my airline ticket and this man with his shovel, their
extreme ends, you know, they're not the same sort of thing.
But they are about circumstances that force us to discover the value of space.
We can fill every moment, we can fill every spare minute of our lives with stuff, with
activity, with noise, with entertainment, with whatever it is, with worry, with fear.
We can fill all of those things in our hearts and yet we miss the opportunities that space
brings us.
Sabbath, stopping, finding space is a marker of our freedom, who we belong to.
It's like an act of resistance.
It sounds easy, doesn't it?
Well, just put your feet up, do nothing.
It's not easy.
That's why it's one of the Ten Commandments.
I don't know if you can see that, it's one of those far-side cartoons.
There's a cow stampede and in the middle there's one with a bath hat and a towel round its
waist saying, this happens every time I just get in the shower and someone yells stampede.
We're all in the flow, aren't we?
We're like, well, we can't do anything about it.
This is just the way it is.
Every time I try and do something else, somebody yells stampede and off we go again.
That feels like our life.
That feels like the pattern of things.
There's an alternative cartoon that will help us.
These are inspired cartoons, by the way.
There's some sheep hurling headlong over the cliff and in the middle there's the black
sheep of the family there just going backwards saying, excuse me.
Would you mind stepping aside?
I want to go in a different direction.
Look at this quote.
Slaves don't get a Sabbath, they don't even get a day off.
They work all day every day until they die.
Slaves are subhuman, a line item on a spreadsheet bought and sold like a commodity, a means
to whatever end the rich and powerful sea fit.
All that matters is the bottom line.
To stop and create space in our lives away from all the things that otherwise control
us is actually spiritual warfare.
It's fighting back for the things that really matter, for the things that are really valuable.
We are not slaves and we shouldn't live as if we are.
Have you ever wondered about the vision, the creativity and the effort that went into
the creation and construction of the great cathedrals?
No idea where that is.
Anybody know?
Looks like it's been a bit coloured in but it's probably been designed like that.
It's not our tradition, is it?
This is our cathedral, unit three.
One, four, six, nine to five thousand pound granted to build something great.
Which is awesome, by the way.
But there's something to be gained about thinking about what drove these projects.
Actually, some of the men and women that designed and built these things,
they never actually saw them completed, but they had a vision.
They wanted to do something that was reflective from a human perspective of the glory of God
and the capacity of God that is beyond our tiny minds.
And without that type of vision, without that type of space,
to realise that there is something far bigger and far greater than us,
something more important than our life and our schedule,
then all we get is ground level politics and economics.
We don't find space in our lives for God and we have nothing left but the government science
and money to make sense of our lives and that's a miserable existence.
Something great about taking a step back, setting aside, laying down everything
that is clamouring for our attention, everything that feels important,
everything that makes us feel important, lay it down and look up and see the glory of God.
And that's why we need space in our lives.
So, how do we find space?
A popular question that we've been taught to us is what would Jesus do?
Well, it's obvious.
He'd go out to the desert and pray. So, off you go.
It doesn't work, does it? We can't always answer a question with what would Jesus do.
But we can understand a principle from what would Jesus do.
The pressure on Jesus' space was the same as ours.
He had the pressure of people, the pressure of time, the pressure of responsibility,
the pressure of expectations.
He had the pressure of criticism and opposition.
He was under so much pressure in Gethsemane.
He still was looking for space in Gethsemane, but he was sweating like great drops of blood
because he was saying, God, help me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.
We might not have the desert to go to, but we do need to find space.
Not just to do nothing or think nothing, but a creative space where we can connect with God.
Set our perspectives, understand priorities, recharge our energy, understand what our lives for.
How are you going to do it?
Because I know, without knowing the background of your lives, I know that this is relevant.
I know that there is so much that is clamoring for our attention, so much that is taking our energy,
so much that is distracting us, so much that is worrying us.
You are anxious and troubled about many things, says the Lord.
And so we have to take more than one decision.
We have to want it, we have to believe it.
This is an interesting statistic.
The average iPhone user touches their phone how many times in a day?
Do you want to know?
I don't know if that is true or not.
Scientists say it is true, so it must be true.
The average iPhone user touches their phone 2,617 times every day.
That is the average.
So David Edens probably had about 5,000 or something like that, so it is incredible.
But Psalm 1688 says, I have set the Lord always before me.
When I read that, that wasn't my statistic, I got that from Psalm.
But when I read that, and then I saw it contrasted with that scripture, that had an impact on me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Now this is not a plea to say throw your phones in the bin or whatever, because I know you are not going to do it.
We are not going to do it, but we have to reclaim space.
If we can touch our phones 2,617 times every day, if we started by giving our attention to the Lord 262 times a day, that would be awesome.
That would be a change.
We have capacity.
What it means is if I can touch my phone 2,617 times a day, I am an average iPhone user, then I can find time.
I can find space in my life for the things that are really important.
Whatever I tell myself, and whatever I tell you, I am just too busy.
I just can't manage.
I can.
What is your most present pressure?
What takes most of your time?
Most of your energy?
What distracts you most easily?
Think about it now.
This is all part of the response as well as we come to a close.
Think about it now.
Pressure of family.
Financial anxiety.
It's a big one.
Busyness with work.
Boredom with not working.
Your own thoughts.
In adequacy.
Shortage of time.
Phone. TV. Internet.
Secret issues.
Sinful stuff.
Trivial issues.
Could be anything.
All these things have the power to control us.
And the battle is to create space, to take back control.
To take back the control, I think that's why.
If I'm touching my phone 2,617 times a day and I didn't even know, that means it has control.
And so therefore, I'm not making a case, as I said, to say we don't need phones or we shouldn't have phones or we shouldn't, you know, because that's a hiding to nothing.
But in actual fact, we do need to take back control.
We do need to take back our time.
We do need to take back our ends because we always have the capacity to create the space.
Jesus was saving the world in 3 years.
And every time, almost every time you read about, he's going to look for a desolate place.
A quiet place.
He got up very early and he went and he spent time with his father because he knew the priority that God has for him.
If time is your issue, ask God to give you the wisdom and a plan to take it back.
Let go of some of your schedule.
It's the same principle as tithing and fasting.
We spend all that time eating more than we need to eat.
And then somebody said, why don't we fast?
We do a bit radical.
It's a bit extreme.
It's not actually, nobody's going to die if we miss a meal or we don't eat for a day.
And God has put that into our, into our rhythm, into our activities to say,
actually that reminds us that whatever we're doing, whatever is important to us, whatever we value,
we can set it all aside and we can fast and we can tithe.
But we need every penny that we've got.
Well, God says, actually we don't.
We can set some aside.
If financial worries are the things that are taking all of your time and all of your energy
and are giving you a stomach ulcer, don't try working harder.
Maybe try giving something away.
Try creating space in a creative way by the grace of God.
Imagine that planning or giving.
Oh, yeah.
There was a lady, a single parent lady in our first church and she was really anxious about money.
And nobody spoke to her about it.
It wasn't a church rule.
You have to tie.
She said, I want to tie it.
But I can't.
I can't afford it.
I can't do it.
So she said, so she made up her own plan.
Nobody told her this.
She made up her own plan by the grace of God.
She said, I'm going to take my tithe of my money and I'm going to put it in an envelope
and I'm going to put it on the, on the half in my, in my house.
And I'm going to leave it there.
Because I know that before the end of the month, I will need that money for petrol.
I'll need it for food.
I'll need it for something.
The children will need something.
But, you know, I'm just going to leave it there and just see.
And of course, you know the end of the story.
She got to the end of the month and the money was still there and she was able to give it
to God because she was creating space in the midst of her worry and her anxiety.
If other people take all your time and energy and leave you no space,
you can reclaim your space with a positive no, putting down some boundaries.
If it's your phone or TV that takes every spare moment, you know they do have an off switch.
They don't control you.
You control it.
Explore the delights of silence and learn to relate to God without a screen in front of us.
You know, everything we do in terms of our devotional life is on the screen as well now, isn't it?
We can actually do it without a screen and I've still got one of these.
We can open it up.
It doesn't have to be on a Kindle.
It doesn't have to do anything.
You can just try and find ways that are meaningful to you.
Whatever it is that fills your mind and your heart can be pushed back.
We can each of us find the space we need as we've praised and worshiped this morning as we finish.
They're all space makers, the things that we've done.
I raise a hallelujah in the middle of the mystery.
I always think of Paul and Silas in the prison, flogged and beaten.
I'd have been absolutely fed up.
I don't like rats.
I don't like damp.
I don't like being flogged.
And so what do they do?
They sing a hymn.
Spiritual space in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the mystery.
There's nothing, one of those messages where you say there's nothing you can raise up against, not me condemning.
We're all in the same boat here.
But there's nothing you can say, but you don't understand my situation because I've got this problem.
It doesn't matter what it is.
You can, by the grace of God, create space.
You can step back.
You don't have to hand over control.
God is in control of our lives.
And if we're going to follow the example of Jesus, the Jesus Master Class, we need to be those who maybe not literally,
but definitely figuratively, looking for those desolate places where we can connect again
to the Holy Spirit.

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