Distraction is a powerful weapon in the devil’s arsenal. And if distraction is Satan’s white noise, then busyness is his sniper rifle. He picks us off moment by moment with each act of selfishness, each act of pride, each act of apathy. Busyness aims for our hearts, so we need to be vigilant against his schemes and slip on and tightly buckle the breastplate of truth, because, as Solomon offered in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Including our capacity to listen. But we have to remember that, as children of God, we possess the power to come against anything the devil throws at us. As Paul instructed in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” The Spirit gives us self-discipline. Self-discipline to listen. Self-discipline to obey. Self-discipline to pray. Self-discipline to quiet ourselves before God, enter His throne room, and acknowledge Who He is, a privilege bought for us by the blood of His Son. And the Spirit gives us self-discipline to be still. To love the silence. “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Psalmist quoted God in Psalm 46:10a (NIV). In the New American Bible translation, the same line is translated “Desist! and confess that I am God.” Desist, God says, as in cease, stop, quit it! And the Message translation puts it this way: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” “Stop!” God is saying to us, “Stop with your busyness, stop with your self-focus, stop with your fretting, your distractedness, your small-mindedness, and confess and acknowledge that I am God!”
The Lord said [to Elijah], “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
–1 Kings 19:11-13
God’s voice comes in a whisper. No wonder we complain we never hear it. He desires a dialog with us, not a monolog. He desires to show us His glory, and when we recognize His glory and tell others about it, He is glorified. And we are satisfied. But to hear God’s voice, we have to learn how to love the silence. Patiently.
I admit I struggle with patience, and I sometimes have a hard time waiting for the Lord to provide guidance, direction, and timing. Once I asked God what my greatest sin was. “Impatience,” He replied. I heard His voice loud and clear, but, sadly, patience and I still don’t see each other eye-to-eye. I’ve wrecked cars because of impatience, lost a ton of money because of impatience, suffered through a bad first marriage and worse divorce because of impatience. But from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is very clear: those who waited on the Lord with an attitude of patient expectation received the Lord’s promises. And when they didn’t wait, well, the Bible is full of examples of folks jumping the gun. One of the most remarkable is the story of Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael. In Genesis 15, God promised Abram he’d be the father of nations, a people as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the beach. But when Sarai didn’t conceive right away, she grew impatient, and in Genesis 16 she urged Abram, already in his mid-80’s, to sleep with the Egyptian slave girl, Hagar. Of course, Abram complied. The result: Ishmael, “a wild donkey of a man” according to the angel of the Lord in Genesis 16:11. Isaac finally came along when Abram, who’s name God changed to Abraham, reached 100. God kept His promise to bless Abraham’s descendants, and while Ishmael received God’s blessing, God established the covenant with Isaac, who fulfilled God’s promise at the appointed time.
After Pharaoh finally relented and commanded Moses and Aaron to take the Israelite people and leave Egypt, God led the Hebrews out of the land of their 430-year slavery along the desert road instead of through the land of the Philistines, until He commanded them to camp next to the Red Sea. The Israelites found themselves with desert behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, and for all intents and purposes, they had their backs against the wall when the king of Egypt changed his mind about letting his slaves go and sent his chariots after the Hebrews to recapture them.
Immediately the Israelites, numbering more than 600,000, cried out to God and started complaining to Moses: “’What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’” (Exodus 14:11b-12 NIV). As their slave mentality oozed from God’s chosen people, Moses looked past the physical impossibility of their situation and exhorted them to continue to trust the God who had freed them from Egyptian slavery. But instead of calling for action, Moses urged the Hebrews to do the opposite: “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” (Exodus 14:13-14 NIV).
You need only to be still. And when they kept still, the Lord opened a passage through the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to pass through to safety on dry land. When the Hebrews replaced fear with trust and held their ground, God performed one of the most spectacular miracles the world has ever known.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,” Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 30:15. But in our society, rest, quietness, and trust are in short supply as we strive and struggle through everyday life just to keep up. And isn’t that the trouble? We strive to keep up. But as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High King, there are only two commands God expects us to follow: love Him, and love each other. That’s it. “Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear,” the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle (1 Peter 1:17). Love God, love each other, love yourself. Rest, repent, trust. Listen. Learn to love the silence.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes