Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! (1 Sam. 12:16)
‘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.’ (Exod. 14:13-14)
Sometimes what the Lord requires is not our action but our stillness and attention, even though we are champing at the bit with what may or may not be holy fire coursing through our veins. Those memorable words we have quoted above were taken at a time when Moses and the Israelites had obeyed God and set off on their escape from Egypt, but were being closely pursued by relentless forces intent on their destruction. They desperately needed the Lord to do something to deliver them – but in the first instance he asked them just to ‘Be still!’ Really?! We much prefer having to something to do than to do nothing. But when the Lord is at work, being still is very far from doing nothing!
What poignant concepts that word ‘still’ conjures up. Our English word stems from a very old Germanic word meaning to ‘be fixed, to stand’ and perhaps, to ‘put in order.’ It was not until the language we know as Old English evolved that it came to mean ‘quiet, calm, gentle, silent,’ along with the sense of ‘without change or cessation, continual’ – from which emerged its use in phrases like that most unhelpful question people so often ask of expectant mothers, ‘What? Are you still here?” as if they should be cracking on and having their baby.
Perhaps the most familiar use of the word ‘still’ for Christians is that found in 1 Kings 19, in the King James. Elijah is deep in pain and sharing it with the Lord, when God says to Him,
“Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.” And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him. (1 Kgs. 19:11-13a KJV)
In the sudden stillness after earthquake, wind and fire the Lord ‘puts things in order’ for Elijah, and renews his perspective and his calling. It’s so precious, isn’t it, when He restores calm after the storm? And that is when new ideas are frequently birthed, and present ones sharpened.
We are so wise to make the most of our Time!
Walk in wisdom toward those outside, redeeming the time . . . Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Col. 4:5 BLB, Eph. 5:15-16 ESV)
May we encourage you to take time to be still in these coming weeks, to wait on the Lord and give Him your whole attention? One word from the Lord truly can change anything! And although the Lord can speak to us anywhere anytime, whether we are officially praying or not, some words only come when we make the effort to seek Him.
Clive James, the incisive writer and TV personality who died recently, was diagnosed with leukaemia nearly a decade ago, but was grateful for improved drugs that held back the advance of the disease. Gifted with this unexpected extension to his life, he declared that it was ‘only good manners’ to make good use of the time he felt he had been given back. May we do all we can to redeem the time that we have each been given by focusing on the things that matters most, and, rather than bemoaning our circumstances, bringing them directly to the Lord, just as Elijah did.
One man who became well known for the way he shared everything with the Lord, was a fascinating and gheatly used missionary called Frank Laubach. He regarded spending time seeking God’s leading and presence not so much as a clock-watching ‘chronos’ matter so much as an integral part of an on-going series of ‘kairos’ encounters and experiences. (In both the verses quoted above, Paul used the word kairos and not chronos). In his determined attempt to spend as much time as he possibly could seeking God, Frank wrote:
“I compel my mind to open out toward God. I wait and listen with determined sensitiveness. I fix my attention there, and sometimes it requires a long time early in the morning to attain that mental state. I determine not to get out of bed until that mind set, that concentration upon God, is settled. It also requires determination [of the will rather than the emotions] to keep it there. After a while it will become a habit, and the sense of effort grows less”.
Many of us will find we do best by winning the ‘Battle of the Bedclothes’ and getting out of bed completely in order to seek the Lord . . . but each of us must find the way that works best for us. One thing we can say we certainty is that the more we do this, the more likely it is that vain pastimes and preoccupations will fall by the wayside.
Why not make times to get together with friends just to spend an hour or two together in silence? Agree to zip your lips, say not a word and just be together? It is in silence that we create space for one another, and for the presence of the Lord to come in fresh ways. It can be SO refreshing and enriching! Of course, we don’t necessarily have to be physically still during those times. We can walk, or work or cook together, just as we wish: there is so much to enjoy about finding ways to communicate without the need for words. We may even be surprised at the level of communication that develops!
At first it may be hard to imagine a life without words but, after all we all began life that way and we managed perfectly well! It is so good not only to fat from time to time from words, and to find other ways of communicating, allowing our minds the restfulness of simply being with the Lord and with each other.
May I urge you to get together with a friend and try it? Yes, even as we negotiate these troubled and unpredictable times!