We live in a NOISY world, don’t we? A car passed me a few days ago in the supermarket parking lot vibrating with sound. The sub-woofer was pumping bass that pounded my chest from 20 feet away! The poor kid driving that car will be deaf by age 40, but he doesn’t know it yet. But that’s not the noise that concerns me most. I am worried about people going deaf in spirit because of the ear-shattering, heart-breaking, mind-bending stream of information that amplifies every event. The internet and television turns what was once a city’s issue into a national one, causes us to believe that the Apocalypse is upon us by bringing war to our living rooms, and confuses us with information mixed liberally with the pounding beat of hype. Political candidates and talking heads shout at us, using ever more incendiary rhetoric to get our attention over the din! Even some pastors fall into the trap, sensing that their congregations are nearly deaf, they respond by shouting louder about less and less!
My appeal today is that we learn anew how to live with a quiet heart. When all the world is screaming, we need to know how to retreat to the place where the ‘still small voice’ of the Spirit of God can speak to us. When Chicken Little comes ripping through our neighborhood screaming that the sky is falling, we need the discipline to resist the urge to run with the crowd. Christian, our greatest strength is not found in our voice, but in our ears. Too often we speak before we have heard! Has listening, pondering, and deep thought become lost skills? There is far too much reaction in this world and not nearly enough proactive leadership.
Young Samuel heard a voice, but did not know the Source. An older, wiser Eli counseled the boy to pray: “Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” (1 Samuel 3:9, The Message) That boy learned to hear the voice of the Lord and became a powerful leader in Israel. Elijah knew great victory and then fell into a terrible depression. He retreated to an isolated place in the mountains and asked to die, but God renewed the man with a new word. That word was not shouted to him. It did not arrive in a hurricane or an earthquake. God spoke a new commission to him in “a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12, NIV) Even Jesus knew that the noisy world in which He lived deafened Him so the Gospels report that “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. ” (Luke 5:16, The Message)
Richard Foster, who taught me about a disciplined life in the Spirit, wrote these words that I bring often to mind. “Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in “muchness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied.” What wisdom and truth! The Devil applauds even our ‘Christian’ service if it is done in hurry, without inspiration, amped and hyped in the manner of 21st century life. God’s processes are slow, the growth of a seed, the ebb and flow of history, the ripening of fruit. But, can we, will we, let Him work in us or will we shout louder, urging Him to hurry along on our schedule?
One of my most profound regrets is the pace of life that I maintained in the first half of my life. I confused activity with results. Oh yes, I prayed, but too often behind those prayers was a subtle implication that more important work was waiting so I hurried from the altar to the pulpit. When life overwhelmed me, so many times I increased the frantic efforts to control outcomes and, in the process, I usually made bigger messes, alienated people, and obscured the face of Jesus!
The appeal to today is not to apathy, nor is it for passive acceptance of turmoil. Rather, the appeal is that we become people who know their Master’s Voice. Let us retreat often to silence and wait. Instead of screaming at God for what we want, make Him truely Lord and wait- actively listening – for His direction and wisdom. I love this Psalm, the metaphor so rich in meaning for me. “A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. I lift my eyes to you, O God, enthroned in heaven. We keep looking to the Lord our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (Psalm 123:1-2, NLT) Attentive, waiting, ready – responsive – with a quiet heart.
Here is a word from the Word. Meditate on it. Savor the Promise. Live in His strength. “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!” … “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.” (Isaiah 30: 15-16, 18, NLT)
Keep a quiet heart.