July 3, 2018

The Discipline of Silence

“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel.’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’” 1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)

We will never discover the uniqueness of our life message without listening to God. If you’re anything like me, that will require shutting out the ambient noise of the world and practicing, as we call it, “the discipline of silence.” It’s the best way to tune in to the divine whisper of God. Jesus said,

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27 (NIV) 

Do you listen for the divine whisper? When Samuel was a young boy, he was raised by the Priest, Eli, in the Temple. One day, God began to speak to Samuel to reveal to him his unique life message. When God called his name, Samuel thought Eli was calling him. He asked Eli what he wanted, but Eli told Samuel that he did not call him. This happened a couple of times until the Priest told Samuel to return to his bed and listen for the voice calling him again; but, this time, he told him to say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.”

I wonder how often God has been speaking to us, but we have failed to listen. This was a common problem among God’s people in the Bible. In Isaiah 50:2 God asked, 

“Why was no one there when I came? Why didn’t anyone answer when I called?”  

In chapter 65 verses 1 and 12, God says, 

“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on My name. … For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen.”

In Jeremiah 7:13 God says,

“I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen.”  

Many times, we blame God for not speaking to us; perhaps, the real problem is that we are not listening. To really listen, we must stop, close our mouths, and be quiet. This is something Chris and I have been learning in a new way, specifically in the context of discovering our life message and mission. If we really want to know what to do in the world, if we want to pursue those things that will truly be helpful and transforming, we need to obey Him completely. We must listen for His whisper. We can’t simply charge ahead and create our own agenda.

We are discovering that there are deeper levels of spending time with God. There are spiritual disciplines and practices designed to take us out of our busy lives and into a period of silence, one that isn’t filled with anything but God Himself. And, it’s in this special time that God reveals Himself in a special way. It’s here where we find our marching orders for being the message and taking the Gospel to our world.

Andrew Murray, an early 1900’s pastor and author, wrote:

As long as in our worship of God we are chiefly occupied with our own thoughts and exercises, we shall not meet Him who is a Spirit, the unseen One. But to the man who withdraws himself from all that is of the world and man, and prepares to wait upon God alone, the Father will reveal Himself. 

Why not pause for a moment right now? Stop. Don’t speak. Be quiet and listen for God’s whisper. Then, obey what you hear Him say. It may be a gentle prompting to help a friend, share a word of encouragement with someone, or correct an attitude or behavior in your life. As you begin, just say “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.”