30 ¶ And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him.
Jesus Christ mandates rest, not pushing yourself to death. There are people who think they can substitute obedience with causing themselves unnecessary personal suffering as a sign of spirituality.
Pastors need a balance. Christians need a balance. God didn’t call us to go without sleep or to not eat right under ordinary circumstances. It proves nothing. There were medieval Catholic monks who whipped themselves and performed all sorts of disciplines that ravaged the body and mind in an effort to prove that they were pious and spiritual. None of this means anything. It is the worship of the will, masochism, and self-hate.
We’ll see in a couple of chapters that Jesus lays down as one condition of following Him is to deny yourself.
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
But this is not about causing yourself suffering or denying your basic needs of nourishment and rest. Self-abuse is not a sign of obedience to Christ.
Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
See here while Paul acknowledges that denying yourself in this way does deny the flesh, it is a form of worship of your own will and only a show of wisdom, a pretense. People who cause themselves pain and anguish supposedly for Christ are only drawing attention to themselves. We are to be pointing to Christ not to ourselves.
Jesus told the disciples to come apart and rest. There are times when you need to separate yourselves from your responsibilities to pray, reflect, and recover. Do not mistake your martyr complex for spirituality. It is mere self-promotion and pride.
One of the great things about uniting with a small church body on Sunday mornings is taking yourself out of the world and the cares of the world to worship and sing and rejoice with like-minded fellow believers. It is a coming apart from the world, a refreshing, and very important for the Christian. The church meeting shouldn’t be a place where you hide in a crowd, sing half-heartedly, pray reluctantly, and give a few unenthusiastic hellos because some self-righteous person has made you feel that it’s your duty to be there. It should be a place of refreshment and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Take this verse out of its context in Nehemiah and reflect on what they did then, thinking about your worship.
Nehemiah 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength
Another set of verses that would do us well in the church age are in Psalms.
Psalm 100:1 ¶ «A Psalm of praise.» Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. 2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The people in this passage would not be denied, though.
Modern Bible versions have changed this passage to reflect only the desperate people’s knowledge and need for the disciples and not Jesus alone. It was Jesus they wanted, needed, and longed for and the modern versions often deny that fact in this passage.