Normally when we see those words together, we think of our money, but it also refers to battle strategies. To withdraw in battle is to move out of territory held by the enemy. In fact the dictionary definition of retreat is to withdraw from something hazardous, formidable or unpleasant. It is receding from a position or condition gained, normally indicated by a bugel call, a drumbeat or a lowering of the flag.
To advance in a battle is to move forward, promote in rank, to move against another (usually attacking), to make progress towards objectives.
Often we think that to withdraw or retreat indicates defeat in battles, but if they are immediately followed by advance it brings one to ultimate victory. In contrast, advance followed by withdrawal, results in sure defeat.
Day to day life feels like a battle! Many things fight for our attention and we often run ourselves ragged trying to attend to it all.
But a life strategy of “withdraw and advance” is vitally important, even Jesus followed it. Jesus was doing a lot of teaching and healing, in fact the crowds were so large that he had to sit on a boat in Luke 5 while he taught the people. From early morning till late at night he was working with “crowds of people” (v15) who wanted to hear his teaching and be healed of their sicknesses. As the rows did not get shorter and the crowds did not diminish one would expect Jesus to be exhausted and run away.
That last bit sounds like my ‘to-do list’ and the people I have to interact with every day. There is always something or someone who wants or needs something. Sometimes trying to get things done is an uphill battle.
Look at how Jesus applies the ‘withdraw and advance’ strategy:
“And Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16.
Jesus took time to withdraw to a quiet and deserted place, and Luke makes it very clear that he did not do this to sleep, but to pray. Jesus sought solitude in lonely places where the demands of his schedule could not intrude on the prayer time He needed. He chose to withdraw because He knew that His strength to do what God the Father had instructed Him to do came from spending time in the presence of His Father, praying.
Jesus understood that in order to advance in the work He was doing, to meet the needs of the people, He had to withdraw to find strength not within Himself as man, but in the supernatural power available to Him in the presence of the Father.
He also taught his disciples to withdraw. In Luke 9 the disciples went out to villages to preach to people and heal the sick, v10: “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida…”
Jesus taught his disciples that in order to advance, you have to withdraw to pray.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matt 6:6
When last did you take time out of your schedule to pray?
When last did you take time to spend an extended time thinking and praying about your life?
Perhaps the lack of advancement in your life is due to the lack of withdrawal.
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