After leaving 8 years of teaching Bible at a Christian H.S. I worked construction for 4.5 years. Many interesting and profound things happened to me spiritually during these years. One of them was surviving the “silence” of God. Let me explain.
My time of teaching was a loud time in my life. God seemed to be so clearly directing and blessing. I desired and pursued greater and greater risks. The risk that preceded the silence was the decision to uproot my wife and son to plant churches in South Africa. So, I quit my teaching job to prepare for this call. It was at this time that God became less clear and less loud. But decisions had been made and we were where we were. It can be a very scary thing to go out on a limb to serve God, only to find He did not go out on that limb with you.
In 1 Kings 19 we read of Elijah finding himself in a strange time of doubt, fear and confusion. He had a period of time of risky, successful ministry. Then came the threat from an angry queen. Elijah runs and hides in fear. His confusion is to the point where he even desires to die. Sitting in a cave, God teaches Elijah a new way to communicate with Him. God shows Elijah terrifying winds, earthquakes and fire. Yet, God was not in those things. Instead God revealed himself through a faint whisper. A writer in my Africa Bible Commentary says that God was showing that He does not always use extraordinary means to do His work. In fact, I believe that history teaches that God often uses the ordinary, quiet routine of life to work out His will in the world.
How badly I wanted God to do something extraordinary in my pursuit of South Africa. After all, He had so often surprised me with His work in my teaching days. Why wouldn’t he do it again? It wasn’t the lone hand writing on the wall that got me to being a worship pastor in central IL, but an ordinary application and interview process. Maybe God had other reasons for us to experience our failed attempt at church-planting in South Africa. Maybe it was to get us here. Maybe it’s even more than that.
So, what’s this have to do with worship? We spend a great deal of time getting “loud”. We pray and pray and pray. We read and read. – But silence. Let’s learn to listen for that still, small voice. When it’s quiet, don’t let your mind wander onto your “To Do” lists, but let yourself be quiet and consider what God might be saying or where He might be directing. You can do this in the morning by getting up just 15 minutes earlier than your routine requires. You can do this by turning your radio off during your drive to work. How you do it is not as important. God may be speaking to you and you might be just too loud to hear.
When it comes to the music side of our services I like to put space between verses. That space is intentional. I don’t want people to race off to the next verse or chorus all the time. I want them to use that space to let the Spirit sink those truths that they’ve been singing into their hearts. I want people to listen during the space. God doesn’t just want us to agree with the words, but to respond with joy, repentance, service, encouragement, action…whatever the Spirit chooses to work in our hearts.
I do believe that God works in breathtaking ways. However, we can be so locked into looking for the amazing that we miss the amazing truth that He’s been whispering to you the whole time. Listen!
Categories: Worship in Community
I greatly appreciate your post this morning. I have trouble just being still. But I am starting to recognize the gift of silence. I am so, so grateful God brought you and your family here. I grew a lot under your messages, your humility, your willingness to listen, your prayers and when you shared your heart for worship. You taught me that worship is not just music. It’s a posture of quietness and trust during the hard times and a sense of joy and thankfulness when it’s dark. I wrote recently that I have been struggling in my relationship with God for the last three months or so. I feel like God has been playing hide and seek with me. But I realized I was the one that moved. Not God. I realized that one reason I pulled away is because I thought He was being unfair. In my grief I am finding it hard to get comfort from a God who just keeps taking people away. Admittedly flawed thinking. But I made myself miserable. Guess that’s why it’s called a journey.