In our fast-paced world, where every second is filled by something, is it any wonder we don’t have time to hear the voice of God?
In the hurry to get tasks done, we neglect the glorious calling to direct our gaze heavenwards.
Even the ‘quiet time’ can degenerate into one more task to tick off our list, rather than a time to linger in God’s presence, and hear him in his Word.
On a diet of tweets and soundbites we lose the sublime that cannot be expressed in words.
When life feels meaningless, merely running on a wearisome treadmill, we must hear God’s call to come aside and rest a while.
We are trapped in a superficial merry-go-round which never satisfies our deepest longings.
“When the ocean of life is experienced mainly on the surface, or focus will be on foam and splash. If we live at depth, we are centred in our undercurrent, or soul. This current is strong enough enough to keep flowing in its chosen direction – sometimes against the prevailing tide . . . a rich inner life as the basis for all that we say and do . . .
In attitude and in behaviour, people in contemporary Western society tend to be one-sidedly extrovert: mind and body and senses intoxicated way the ‘busy dance of things that pass away’ (Wordsworth) . . . never shaking our thirst for more and more stimulus.” (Robin Daniels, The Virgin Eye, page 27-28)
What are we called to replace this yearning with?
Dare I say it, many Christians still have a God-shaped hole in our lives.
There is a Voice that demands to be heard above the competing crowd. There is Someone who commands we listen to Him over everyone else.
Who or what do we really worship?
Worship is not just about singing songs, although that is clearly a part of it. It is much more about who we serve. We worship our master, who determines and directs our lives.
If you worship Money, it means you serve it and allow its dictates to determine all your decisions. If you worship God, you make him your Lord and follow him in every aspect of your life.
Worship is not theoretical.
Do you love Jesus?
Do you love him more than anyone or anything?
Is he the object of all your devotion?
Does he thrill your heart more than money? More than power? More than sex?
Is your love for him so great that your love for possessions, health, comforts, friends, and family is like hate in comparison?
As we learn to love Jesus, so we will desire to abide in him:
Abide is an old fashioned word. It simply means remain, stay, or dwell. The challenge is for us to continue to be immersed in, satisfied by, surrounded by, empowered by, protected by, and infused with Jesus. Piper calls it ‘the lifelong extension of encountering Jesus.’
God is calling us to an intimacy with him that the ancients, who were not so distracted by technology speak of in words that sound alien to us today. I challenge you to read some of their words and not feel stirred to seek for more of God. No wonder that we can say:
THE GREATEST GOAL OF Paul’s life was a relationship with the resurrected Jesus. He considered everything else as worthless compared to this one thing. Paul claimed that knowing Jesus is the most critical thing, without which we will not be able to be changed by the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
What is Jesus himself calling us to?
“It is the bliss of converse with the Creator, day and night, in the depths of my soul. Could any outer pleasure equal this excitement?” (Robin Daniels, The Virgin Eye, page 31)
Knowing Jesus is no optional extra.
Without it we cannot enter heaven. Let this be our determination:
I will keep coming.
I will keep seeking.
I will keep knocking.
I will ask you to shape me.
Make me yours.
Mold my heart.
Bring this sheep back to the fold.
Don’t let me hear ‘I never knew you!’
This past year, my sickness has forced me to slow right down. And yet still there is the business of hospital appointments, and what I can manage to do around the home for family, and precious meetings with friends. Still I need to have times when I slow down even more.
At times I must get away totally from the hustle and bustle of life to seek God’s face. I must learn to follow Jesus’ own example:
Now the report of his power spread even faster and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But he often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:15-16, TLB)
In addition to forests and other quiet places you can withdraw on your own, there are such places as retreat centres. If you are like me, you never even knew they existed! These places are especially helpful for those of us who are so addicted to our phones, and all the other stimulation the World has for us that we would simply feel lost and not know what to do if we walked into the forest alone. These are places, often with a residential community who spend their days in regular prayer and devotion to Jesus, not so unlike the monasteries.
One such place is Ffald y Brenin. I was privileged to attend there this past weekend with a very dear long-term friend. I wouldn’t have heard about this or gone if he hadn’t invited me. I found just spending time with my friend driving all the way there and back leisurely was so helpful also. When was the last time you spent four days with a close friend and almost no distractions? We decided to take it easy and drive there and back over two days with a night with a friend in Bristol who is now a new friend of mine, and a night in a hotel in Cardiff.
The centre itself is an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place. I commend it to you if you live anywhere in the UK, and one regular visitor who was there when we were there had come all the way from Australia!
I had no expectations at all as I had arrived as I had not read up about the centre. Nonetheless, I was hit by a wall of peace within moments of parking the car as we had ‘happened’ to arrive just as a ten minute lunch time prayer was beginning so walked straight into the chapel.
They have a form of words they use every day, and a rhythm of prayer praying in the morning, at lunchtime, at teatime, and at night. They read the words of their written prayers and the Scriptures very slowly. Which in itself is part of a call to slow down, soak in the presence of God, and listen to his voice. I guess its a kind of liturgy which should have made this free church guy uncomfortable but really didn’t. When God inspires a prayer, we can re-use it again and again. They do interject this with free prayers, and pronounce a prophetic blessing over any guest that wants one.
In the middle of a pre-pepared liturgy I found myself weeping and we hadn’t yet been on site more than ten minutes. As their prayer time drew to a close, the silence seemed intoxicating. Without a word to my friend, we both just remained in the presence of God for some minutes. Honestly, I don’t even know how long. And in the quiet, I felt God speak to me more intimately than I have for years.
One of the things I believe he said was simply this ‘When you slow down. you will hear my still small voice’. (see 1 Kings 19:11-13)
Over the months and years to follow, I hope to learn the meaning of the following words in a much deeper way:
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
Images: Copyright Adrian Warnock, 2018 except where indicated.
Don’t miss the rest of the series “Jesus Commands”
Jesus said that if you obey him your life will be established on a firm foundation when the storms come.
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