Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly a silent guy. Whether it’s a key-chain jangling, my laugh, my footfalls, or my input on an issue, I am rarely without some sound. For some years, I was the guy who wouldn’t shut up. Then, I was the guy who always had a thought, but I could keep it to myself for a while. But these days, I am still a bit chatty, but I’ve begun to learn the value of silence. Sometimes, this is listening, but sometimes, it’s just being silent regardless of the circumstance.
Many people have a drive to do something. When a tragedy hits, a child needs assistance, or there’s a job to be done, these people step in. But it may be less obvious, too. It could be that drive to save money, the desire to make a name for yourself, or maybe just the desire to “make the world a better place” for those around you. The common aspect is that most people want to DO something! And if you don’t want to do it, it’s a fair bet you want someone to do it! After all, what often happens when there is some major tragedy in the US? People cry out for the authorities (be it law enforcement, local government, or federal government) to “do something!”
This drive, this desire to do something, is can be a holy desire, but oftentimes, it is more of a human desire, something borne of our flesh, our sin-sick side. And that’s what we’re examining today. When that desire is not from the Holy Spirit, we are in danger of doing harm to the cause of Christ, and we are feeding our flesh. Hence, it is crucial for Believers to develop the discipline of silence.
While this may harken images of monks taking lengthy vows of silence, I don’t mean to imply anything that extreme, though some may be so compelled. Rather, I am calling to the need to quiet ourselves (internally and externally) in times of prayer. Sometimes, we spend so much time talk TO God that we forget to listen FROM God. As I often repeat, Christianity, following Jesus, is not about religion (rules and regs) but a relationship with Jesus, with the Almighty God. And you can’t have much of a relationship with someone if you don’t listen to them.
Wait, are you saying God speaks? Audibly? This tends to be where many people get hung up. In general, there are three camps, three answers to this question. One group says, “No. God does not speak anymore, not audibly! He only speaks through His Word, through circumstances, or through other people!” Another group says, “Oh, absolutely! God speaks to me every day; it’s like He’s right next to me, talking as audibly as you.” And a third group straddles a middle ground, “Well, God doesn’t always speak audibly, but He can! He speaks through all the above, and audibly, but He will never contradict His Word.” No matter which group you are prone toward, let me submit that the third group is the most accurate!
“So, God actually speaks to you?”
Sometimes, yes! And sometimes, it’s my imagination. And other times, it’s Scripture, others, or any of the above. But the fundamental point is that He will never contradict His Word, aka the Bible. So, if I hear God telling me to get drunk, I can be sure I’m not hearing God. If someone tells me it’s ok to move in with my girlfriend, I can be sure that person is not speaking for God. And while there may be a caveat or two that someone could site to make some statement sound Biblical when it is truly unBiblical, let’s stick to simple examples.
God often has plenty to say to us, but He is a gentleman, and He will rarely force us to listen. (I say rarely because there are times and is precedent for God to intervene, powerfully, when there is need, but it is truly rare.). In reality, it’s as was said above; it is a relationship, and that relationship must be nurtured or we will find ourselves further and further off-course, following after our own desires and forgetting what His voice sounded like.
The discipline of silence helps to redirect us away from ourselves, learning to quiet our exceptionally boisterous flesh, and tuning our ears to His voice. This can be a time of prayer where you make your requests known but spend several minutes in silence, just listening for Him to respond. It may be turning the radio off on a drive, so you can focus on a Scripture He drew to your attention that day. Or it may be quietly praying in your mind for what the Lord would have you to do in a situation, not doing something and not saying much, until the Lord responds or choosing to let a situation pass when no response is heard.
This is complimented when we regularly spend time in the Word. Without that, our spirit will whither and we will be prone to that same wandering above, more inclined to hear our own selves than the Almighty.
“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”John 8:32
Shortly after saying this, Jesus goes on to say “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:38) Later, at the final supper with His disciples, in John 14:8, Jesus reveals that He is “the way, the truth, and the life…”(emphasis mine). So then, it is not any mere truth that sets us free but Jesus Himself, and not just a knowledge of the truth, but a knowledge, a relational, life-spent-with-each-other knowledge of Jesus. In other words, without spending time getting to know Jesus and following His example, we cannot hope to be free.
Hence, it is necessary for us to take time in the discipline of silence to learn to hear His voice to invest in our relationship with Him and our ability to follow after Him.
One final note, as I’m sure I’ve caused a brief bit of confusion. This is not a work we can take credit for. This isn’t a “gold star” that God puts on some cosmic chart. Without Jesus, we would be blind to our need for Him, like a man in the desert who is so dehydrated that he thinks the sand will quench his thirst! And yet, it is something we do out of love for our Savior. In the same way that a man or woman will give their girlfriend or boyfriend, respectively, their time or a gift; in the same way, this is one of our expressions of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.
He made the absolute, ultimate sacrifice for us. Nothing we can do will ever compare, but we live our lives for Him out of love and gratitude. Like a child who uses his father’s money to buy the same father a gift, so we give to Him out of all He has given (and continues to give) to us. Praise the Lord that we don’t have to be perfect but are continually loved and nurtured back when we fail. He is so good, and we are so unworthy. Let us give up our selfishness, and endure the challenge of silence, that we may serve Him better, love Him dearly, and hear Him more clearly. And may the glory, honor, and power be His, forever and ever! Amen!
Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10