Make Time To Be Still

woman standing in front of body of water during dawn

I want to encourage you to focus on a spiritual principle that is true all year long, but that is especially necessary during this holiday season.  The Christmas season is a joyful time for many, a heavy emotional time for others, and a very busy time for just about everybody.  Our normal life and work responsibilities continue, and yet we add more events, gatherings, shopping responsibilities and so much more to our schedules.  The opportunities for us to serve others are tremendous, and yet, if we are not careful, they can lead to such exhaustion, stress, and frustration that the spiritual meaning and purpose of this season no longer affects our heart.  The reason for the season may be on our lips and in our songs, but we are too overwhelmed to allow it to move our hearts.

That is why I want to give you (and myself) a reminder to make time to be still.  To be still physically, and to be still spiritually before the Lord.  It might be harder than ever to make time for this during the Christmas season, but it is more necessary than ever.

There were many times in which God’s people faced an enemy and God told them (as a nation or army) to be still, to stand still, and to see God fight for them and deliver the enemy into their hands.  But this principle of being still, in our heart, soul and body, is also a very personal one, that we tend to neglect, and it always has a detrimental effect in our life, our relationships, and our walk with the Lord.

Take a moment to read these passages that talk about being still, about quietness, and about internal rest.  Each gives us an important principle about being still.

 

Being still reminds us of who is in control

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

 

Being still is about connecting with God

Psalm 4:4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

 

Being still allows us to hear the voice of God

1 Kings 19:12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

 

Being still is what leads to spiritual strength

Isaiah 30:7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, Their strength is to sit still.

Isaiah 30:15 For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; in returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.

 

Being still is a personal choice

Psalm 131:2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: My soul is even as a weaned child.

 

Being still is a priceless blessing

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

 

Being still leads to spiritual rest

Exodus 33:14 And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.

Psalm 37:7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Matthew 11:28-29 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 

At different moments in the ministry of Jesus, with the crowds around Him, and the constant movement, we read that Jesus “stood still” (Matthew 20:32; Mark 10:49) and interacted personally with specific individuals and their need.  Even Jesus made it a priority to be still, to be quiet and wait before the Father, often rising long before daylight.

This is also why the principle of the sabbath is so necessary for us as human beings, and for our spiritual walk with God.  We must be intentional about making time to be still, to rest and to be at rest.  Otherwise, we begin to pay for it in many different ways.  And if that is true all year long, how much more during one of the most busy and stressful times of the year.

So, let me encourage you to make time to be still.  How?  You may need to get up earlier than others in your house.  You may need to remove certain apps from your phone, turn off your notifications throughout the day, and keep your phone far away when you are spending time with the Lord.  You may need to block off a day, or even half a day, with no outside agenda, maybe to sleep a little longer, or even nap.  You may need to turn off the music or radio in the car and give your heart and mind the gift of silence, to listen to the Lord, as you commute.  You may need to go for a walk and seek to quiet your heart from the constant list of tasks and to-do’s.  Whatever you need to do, make time to be still, to slow down, to commune with the Lord.  Allow the Word of God and the Spirit of God to do a work of renewal, refreshment and rest in your soul this Christmas.

What are some practical ways in which you have learned how to be still before the Lord?  Share them in the comment section below.

Advertisements

A Picture of Prayer and Fasting

Mark 9:17-29

If there is one thing that we Americans like it is food. The average American eats 2000 lbs a year, which includes 29 lbs of french fries, 23 lbs of pizza, 24 lbs of ice cream, and 53 gallons of soda (1/wk). That, of course, has led to the need for shows like The Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover Weightloss Edition.

However, dieting is also now cool, hip and popular. But when we think about not eating for a period of time, we usually don’t think about our prayer life (other than praying for weight loss). And yet Jesus uses an incident in His ministry to make a direct link between praying and another spiritual discipline: fasting. The story of a Daddy and his boy paints us a picture of praying and fasting.

Family Crisis

We all face needs in our life each and every day. But there are times in which we head into a full-scale crisis (family, kids, marriage, work, ministry). These are times in which “business as usual” is out of the question.  Just think of the recent hurricanes and the required preparation and responses.

This Daddy was in one of those times. Imagine your little boy or girl possessed by a demon, their small body ripped and ravaged by an invisible force within. A power that is totally out of your (or their) control (vs. 18, 20-22). This demon would throw the boy’s body into convulsions like a violent seizure, make him start foaming at the mouth, grinding his teeth as he cries. It was happening right then! Throughout his life, this demon had led him into open fires to burn him, or into deep water to drown him. This was a full-blown demonic assault!

This is a picture of what Satan wants to do to your life, family, ministry (John 10:10 – steal, kill, destroy; I Peter 5:8 – devour). We all will face times of crisis.

Faith Crisis

This Daddy went to the first people he could think of: the disciples. But they weren’t prepared (vs. 18b). Jesus expresses tremendous frustration with His disciples for their lack of faith (vs. 19). Lack of faith is always something that disappoints and frustrates our Lord. It is like a slap in the face from His children!

Here is where Jesus challenges this Daddy about his own faith (vs. 23-24). I love this response! With tears in his eyes, and a cry in his voice, the Daddy says, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” I have faith, but I’m not where I need to be. Help me grow in faith! That was all Jesus needed to hear (vs. 25-27). But there was another crisis that was also lacking when it came to the disciples’ prayer life:

Fasting Crisis

The perplexed disciples couldn’t figure this one out. So Jesus makes a powerful explanation (vs. 28-29). Prayer is powerful. Praying in faith is even more powerful. But there are some crises that are so serious, threatening, daunting that nothing will overcome them unless you also fast. Prayer, faith and fasting.

The disciples clearly were not fasting (though they would after Jesus’ ascension; 2:18-20). But Jesus obviously was. We don’t read much about it. Jesus didn’t flaunt it or draw attention to it (we only read of His wilderness fast; Mt 4:1-2). But here He implies that He was fasting. And He was ready to confront this crisis in the power of the Spirit (Lk. 4:18).

The take-away? Sooner or later you will face a time of crisis in your life. You may be in one today. That is not a time for business-as-usual in your prayer life, devotional time. It is a time to seek God’s face with body, soul and spirit. And fasting may be just what is necessary to confront that demonic assault. Prayer, faith, and fasting: it will empower you to face anything, by connecting you to the power of God’s Spirit.

Facing The Financial Instability Of Missionary Life

Here’s an article from the Missionary’s Corner archives: 

As I recently stood before a group of fellow preachers (mostly pastors), I presented a few  biblical principles to help us face the often inconsistent, unstable and uncertain income that many ministers live on.  These are realities that affect pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and many Christian workers.  But my heaviest burden that day was for my fellow missionaries who at that moment were ministering around the world, some in remote places, having to face these challenges alone.  It is for them that I want to share these thoughts once again.

The Apostle Paul penned some beautiful words to the Philippian believers as he encouraged this missions-minded congregation to continue its long-term involvement in his ministry (4:10-19).  But in doing so he opened a window to shed some light into his heart and life as a minister of the Gospel.  He allows us to see the truths that enabled him to face this kind of ministry life.  Here is what we can learn from the apostle:

Contentment is not based on our level of support (vs. 11).  Paul’s contentment did not waver in times of financial or material need – it was consistent.  As missionaries we cannot be content when we have a good month, and discontent when we have a bad month.  Our contentment cannot rise and fall with the giving of God’s people or the regularity of our supporting churches.  This will lead to spiritual distraction, depression, discouragement, and even resentment.  Our contentment must be consistent – by being rooted in the One who never changes.

Contentment is learned through experience (vs. 12). Paul had learned to be content.  The circumstances had literally instructed him in contentment.  The unstable circumstances taught him the “how to”s of ministry life: how to handle the good months and administer God’s provision, how to handle the low months without getting distracted, depressed or discouraged, and how to even be “abased” or leveled by a situation.  We must remember that contentment is developed over time as we experience the ups and downs, abundance and necessity, fullness and hunger.

Christ is our Source of provision (vs. 13). It was Christ who gave Paul the strength and provision to face life – in the good times and in the bad.  At times God’s provision came through the giving of God’s people.  At times Paul’s hands had to labor in a personal trade.  But he did not look to these things for provision – he looked to God.  This kept him from becoming resentful if a church did not give much, or even dropped his support. This kept him from looking to his own skills and actions to get him out of a bind.  As missionaries most of our income comes through the giving of God’s people, and sometimes as the result of a letter, presentation or sermon, so it is easy to look to these for our provision.  But this will lead to a roller coaster ride of emotions because people don’t always give as they should, pastors do not always make the decisions we expect, and our own efforts are not always effective.  Our focus must remain on Christ.  He is our Provider.

Consider the mutual benefits (vs. 17). The Apostle had no reservations in encouraging the Philippians to give to his ministry because his motives were pure and he knew that they each had a role to play in the kingdom of God.  Both sides benefited from their participation.  When the Philippians gave, Paul could better carry out his God-given ministry, and the Philippians could better fulfill the Great Commission.  Missionaries have no reason to feel like beggars as they seek to raise financial support, as long as they remember that they are seeking a relationship of mutual benefit.  The entire work of God is benefited when God’s people give and God’s servants are able to carry out their ministry calling.

Perhaps you have been struggling with the financial ups and downs that come with missionary life.  Let me encourage you through these truths to learn to maintain your contentment no matter what circumstances the Lord allows.  Learn from your past experiences.  Seek the advice and encouragement of veteran pastors and missionaries.  But above all and before everything else, keep your focus on the Lord Jesus Christ as your one and only Provider.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”