I am confident that each of us desires to follow the 10 commandments, right? Some of you may have them almost memorized. What’s #4 and do you follow that one?
Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand if you follow this one, but I doubt many honest hands would be raised. Listen to the words of Mark Buchanan from Experience The Rest of God:
Most of us feel utterly ransacked. We are waylaid by endless demands and stifling routines. Even our vacations have a panicky, task-like edge to them. “If only I had more time,” is the mantra of our age. But is this the real problem?
What we’ve really lost is “the rest of God-the rest God bestows and, with it, that part of himself we can only know through stillness, quietness.” The gift of Sabbath is essential to our full humanity and faith. God, knowing that, and knowing how easily we might neglect it, made it a command. We’ve neglected it anyhow. We’ve lost the rest of God.”
It seems that all the time saving devices in our 21st century world have actually given us less time, less time to stop, to be quiet, and hear God. You might think: “Geez, a Sabbath sermon is exactly what I don’t want to hear today.” You’re in luck. That’s another day. But here is what the sermon is about today: without genuine quiet time, frankly you will seldom hear God.
Our key scripture today is from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10a. That sounds like God is asking us… to be still….to be still and think of God. Just be quiet in His presence and know that He’s God. Forget the Sabbath, there are a lot people have a hard time doing even this. “Nature hates a vacuum.” In the same way, many people hate… quiet. They struggle with silence. Let us pray. Seemed like the silence was forever? It was 30 seconds.
Did it seem long? Why? Because many people don’t like… silence. We’ll do just about anything to fill the emptiness because too much quiet is unsettling. A person will get into their car, start it, and the radio is on….. usually until we stop. In the morning, how long is it before the TV or radio is turned on? For some, they are never turned off during the day if you’re in the house, whether you watch or listen or not. Go anywhere and what’s sticking in people’s ears? Earbuds. For many, take their phones and earbuds away and you have a major crisis in life.
There’s music and all kinds of noise that bombards us everywhere we go: stores, restaurants, Walmart, offices, tractor cabs and the list goes on. (Put, put JD) (Radio Kadet) People seem to feel the need to fill every waking moment with noise. It’s like we can’t stand to be around silence. But… that’s really not always true. An expert noted that people only feel comfortable being silent when they’re in the presence of someone they’re comfortable with. When they’re with those people… it’s nothing to just sit and say nothing.
How about young people in love on a date? They could sit and look at each other forever and not notice, if they have put their phones down. Because they like being around each other. Or a husband and wife who are deeply in love, can feel totally at ease sitting down at the table together or in the room and being together. Because they enjoy each other’s company. Be still, and know that I am God.
The only way you can be silent around God is if you’re comfortable in His presence. OR if you want to LEARN to be comfortable in His presence. You see, the way to learn to be truly comfortable around God is start practicing being quiet in His presence.
What’s the most beautiful thing that can happen with an 18month or 2 year old or any age child? Sooner or later they are on your lap and they may talk, ask for things, jabber, squirm but what is the best thing? Every once in a while, a child will just crawl up into a lap and just sit there.
They don’t want anything. They don’t want to talk about anything. They just want to be with you. Sit with you. Just be held by you. When a child does that, you’ll do anything for that child, and you just might give them whatever they want. When a child just wants to simply be with you they are simply saying: I LOVE YOU. I TRUST you. I feel SAFE with you. MMM!
Now when people pray, what do they usually do? They talk and often just give their request list to God. There’s nothing wrong with that. Remember James 4:2 where God tells us we don’t receive because we don’t ask and ask, seek, knock, and the door opens. Ask BIG! But imagine what it must be like for God, when one of His children just wants to be with Him. When a child of God just comes to Him and wants nothing more than to silently sit in His “lap”? I think He just simply loves that. But how can you possibly do such a thing?
I got some ideas. In the Bible we see people praying in different positions. Some laid face down on the ground. Elijah sat, bowed and put his face between his knees, Solomon and others lifted their hands up in praise. Whatever position you take, and maybe you need to change positions or places, and visualize God there with you, and be silent. Don’t make it a ritual but just be there with God. Yes, I pray at the alter each Sunday and yes sometimes it is just the motions, but usually it is just to stop, breath, slow down, and relax and be with God.
Recently I’ve found my prayers are focused more on giving thanks to God than on getting things from God. Yes, I’ve slowed down my talking and requests from God in prayer, I’ve gotten quieter and frankly, I’’ve fallen asleep lately praying but what a way to go to sleep! But also by slowing down my time in prayer and with God, my mind tends to drift off to things to do. I’m praying to God or simply being silent with God then suddenly my mind is far away from God thinking of those “other” things.
Maybe if you can’t be silent when you’ve drifted, maybe that’s the time to just repeat a phrase: “Jesus” or “I love you Jesus” or “Lord, have mercy on me.” just go over a list of things you’re thankful for, and then quiet down and focus simply on God. But there is another problem we or I sometimes face. There’s times when I don’t feel that DESERVE to be in His presence. Like it would be hypocritical to be in the presence of God in light of what I’ve done or said.
Author Buchanan offered this suggestion then, think, “I’m not doing this because I DESERVE to come into your presence. I’m doing it because I NEED to come into your presence.” You find your phrase. Now I often use this phrase from a prayer bead form I read: “In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help. Answer me O Lord, because your love is kind. In your great compassion, turn to me.” And I know He does turn to me, and I am quiet.
Often I’ve taken to thinking Jesus is literally in the room with me, and I stop some stupid thought or possible action. The key is I stop and see Him and be in his presence. Be still and know that he is God.
God knows He needs to remind us to be still… and to wait for Him….the scripture is full.
Psalm 4:4 says: “when you are on your beds, search your hearts AND BE SILENT.”
Psalm 27:14 declares: “WAIT FOR THE LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
In Psalm 62:2 & 5 David says: “Truly (God) is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. For God alone, O my soul, WAIT IN SILENCE, for my hope is from him.”
And a favorite is from Isaiah 40:31 “But they that WAIT UPON THE LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Sounds good to me!
We need to be still. We need to be quiet. We need to WAIT for God. And you know why people have such a problem with that? It’s because when things are quiet, it feels so empty. So meaningless. Like there’s nothing going on. It feels like God’s just NOT THERE and not doing anything. I believe God is ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING!
Psalm 37:5-7 puts it “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. BE STILL before the LORD and WAIT PATIENTLY for him…” Your timetable is not God’s timetable. Your schedule is not His. If you are quiet, if you are still, if you stop the noise, if you even take a Sabbath to do this and you hear nothing you must believe one thing. God is there & doing something.
People misjudge the distance between God and themselves. They think they’ve got to make up the difference all by themselves when all they had to do was BE STILL… BE QUIET… & WAIT. I have one last thought about this: it occurred to me that this “being still” thing sounded a lot like Eastern religions! Yoga and meditation… where people sit around contemplating their navels.
A website that promotes Yoga. (http://www.doyouyoga.com/meditation-and-the-art-of-doing-nothing-at-all/) said it this way: “What is meditation? … One of my favorite answers is simple… Nothing. That’s what happens when you meditate. Nothing at all. That’s what meditation is. The art of doing nothing
But when God calls us to be still… He’s NOT asking us to do nothing OR focus on nothing.
You remember what God says we need to focus on???? “Be still… and know that I am God.”
Not only does nature hate a vacuum… so does our soul. If you don’t fill yourself with God, something else is going to fill it and Jesus says it will be even worse.
Matthew 12:43-45: “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”
Jesus is saying… you can’t just empty yourself out and expect everything to be good. Your soul will not permit a vacuum. If you don’t fill yourself with God, something else will take His place.
And YOU WILL NOT like the end result. Be still and know that I am God.
I pray today that you consider if you are taking time to slow down, being still, and therefore increase your opportunity of hearing God. Is the noise of your life drowning out the sound of His voice? Are you ever sitting in the lap of God like a child? The world says to go faster, get a better gadget, find a better plan and implement it, get more efficient but God says I’ve given you a better way: my spiritual disciplines like the Sabbath, prayer, silence, just so you can “be still and know that I am God”. You know what happens when you do that? These words of Jesus will truly come to life: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”