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Posts Tagged ‘silence’

Standing before His accusers, Jesus said not a word. That’s because silence is a perfectly appropriate response to a closed mind.

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We live in a culture of almost constant motion and noise; where many businesses operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; where television and radio stations operate around the clock; and where people are rarely seen without an electronic device in their ear.  We even have televisions which allow the screen to be split, so that we can watch more than one program at a time.  Interestingly, the cumulative effect of all of this stimulation has not been to sharpen our senses, but to dull them.

 

The average person today seems to require far more stimulation to maintain their attention for a given span of time. Sadly, as with all cultural trends, we see this played out within the church as well.  High tech sound systems, video equipment and power points have become common elements in church services; with contemporary, stylistic, multi-media presentations finding great favor amongst the people.  While all of these things have the potential to enhance the presentation of the Gospel and/or the worship experience, they also have the potential to reduce church goers to spectators.  The difference between a congregation and an audience is roughly equivalent to the difference between a sacred gathering and compelling musical theatre.

 

In contrast to the things of the culture, the Bible speaks of God’s “still small voice” and tells us of His desire to lead us “by the still waters”; while Solomon extols, “Better is a handful with quietness, than both hands filled with travail and vexation of spirit” and Peter speaks of the value that God places on a “gentle and quiet” spirit.  Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we see Him walking away from the crowds and even His disciples, to be in a quiet place with His Father.  While the scripture certainly portrays God moving and working in numerous different ways, there seems to be a special reverence for the place of quiet stillness before the Lord.

 

In my own journey of faith, I have found that my most profound encounters with the Lord have often been characterized by both of these attributes.  Despite the fact that there are many who would likely echo this aspect of my testimony, there seems to be a high degree of discomfort with quietness or stillness within corporate settings; as though we lack confidence in the inner working of the Holy Spirit, unless we can see some outward (i.e. physical) manifestation of it.

 

After spending many years within the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, it has been my observation that we seem to be highly enamored of the “shout”, which appears to be the preferred response of many who engage in corporate ministry.  It is unlikely that anyone who has traveled within these realms for very long has been able to avoid being chided from the platform for the insufficiency of their response (e.g. Aw you didn’t get that, if you’d have gotten that you’d be shoutin’; somebody ought to be running these aisles; is anybody alive this morning; I’m preachin’ better than you’re amenin’…).  While there is no doubt that congregations may not always be engaged in the ministry to the degree that they ought to be, it is also true that the lack of jumping and shouting may not be an accurate indicator of what they are deriving.

 

Ministry that is bore of the Spirit will likely spark conviction and/or even deeper revelation, which may or may not be accompanied by an external response.  Unfortunately, many a well-meaning minister has interrupted the inner working of the Spirit, with their demands for an external display of response.  Undeniably there is a shout that rises out of the Spirit and there are times that one might be moved to cast off restraint and to run the aisles, but unless these things are initiated by the Holy Spirit, they are nothing more than motion and noise.

 

I have been in services where I’ve sensed that the Spirit was hovering (i.e. tangibly present, but not necessarily moving or speaking), waiting to see if we will wait on His move or initiate one of our own; sadly it is a test that is often failed.  I would submit that the enemy of our souls is not opposed to a church that jumps and shouts, as long as no one is being genuinely transformed into the image of Christ.  As a matter of fact, I would guess that as long as the latter remains true, the former is actually beneficial to his work.

 

Understandably, ministers who are passionate about their work are hoping to incite a passionate response in those whom they minister to. That passion can come in multiple forms, many of which are deeply personal, and difficult to express.  Just as there are times of boisterous motion and sound, there are times that we need to be still, and know that He is God.  Just as Jesus said that He didn’t do anything until He saw the Father do it first, we need to wait on the Lord to initiate His move.  He is the Bridegroom, who initiates; we are the Bride who responds.  If He is dancing, let us leap. If He is weeping, let us travail. If He warring, let us fight, and if He is quiet, let us be still.

 

I wanted to share the lyrics to this song, which God has used mightily in my life.

 

In the Silence – By Jason Upton

 

Tired of telling you, you have me

When I know you really don’t

Tired of telling you I’ll follow

When I know I really won’t

Cause I’d rather stand here speechless

With no great words to say

If my silence is more truthful

And my ears can hear how to walk in your way

 

In the silence

You are speaking

In the quiet I can feel the fire

And it’s burning, burning deeply

Burning all it is that you desire to be silent in me

 

Oh Jesus can you hear me?

My soul is screaming out

And my broken will cries teach me

What Your Kingdom’s all about

Unite my heart to fear You

To fear Your holy name

And create a life of worship

In the Spirit and Truth of Your loving ways

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