Be Still

Hearing God's Voice in the Midst of Challenges  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:25
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Over the last 3 weeks we have been looking at the topic of Hearing God’s Voice in the Midst of Challenges.
Today I would like us to think about what it means to be still.
It is hard for us to be still when surrounded by challenges.
Stand silently still for an awkward amount of time
It is something that I really struggle with
Yet throughout history there have been many whose stillness testifies to great faith and spiritual power.
131 Christians Everyone Should Know Mystical Child by Galli, M., & Olsen, T. (2000) (p. 259). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
One of those was Catherine of Siena
Caterina Benincasa’s birth into a middle-class Sienese wool dyer’s family caused scarcely a ripple; she was the twenty-third of 25 children. Another event that year, a flea full of the bacillus Yersinia pestis entering the Italian port of Messina, brought a tidal wave of disease called the “Black Death.” In just three years, 1348 to 1350, more than one-third of Europe died. Baby Catherine survived the onslaught.
As a young girl, Catherine often went to a cave near her home in Siena to meditate, fast, and pray. At about age 7, she claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus with Peter, Paul, and John the evangelist; then she announced to her parents her determination to live a religious life. Convinced of her devotion, they gave her a small room in the basement of their home that acted as a hermitage.
Alone, by choice, in a small room in the basement of the family home focused only on Christ.
This room apart from a very simple bed made from a wooden plank and a log for a pillow held nothing other than a small cross.
Her spiritual formation came about because of hours, days, weeks, months and even years of quiet prayer.
This devotion drew many followers, she learnt to read and write, studies the works of the church fathers and when a wave of the plague struck her home town in 1374 most people fled but she and her followers stayed to nurse the ill and bury the dead.
She then began a letter writing campaign to reform the corruption of the church. The pope had moved to the French city of Avignon and his court had adopted many of the immoral ways of French nobility, which scandalized the common people.
In a series of letters, Catherine exhorted the pope to address the problems of the church and charged him to return to Rome: “Respond to the Holy Spirit who is calling you! I tell you: Come! Come! Come! Don’t wait for time because time isn’t waiting for you.”
One year later, in 1377, after Catherine had visited with him in Avignon, Gregory XI finally returned to Rome. It was the great moment of her public life.
Catherine died in Rome at the age of 33. In 1970 the Roman Catholic Church declared her a doctor of the church, an honor bestowed on only 31 others (and only one other woman).
Probably her most famous words are
“[You are] not to love Me for your own sake, or your neighbor for your own sake, but to love Me for Myself, yourself for Myself, your neighbor for Myself.”
—from a divine vision to Catherine of Siena

There is Great Spiritual Power in Hearing God’s Voice in the Stillness

The prophet Elijah was surrounded by challenges.
One of the greatest of those was his confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
It was what we call a power encounter.
One man, outnumbered facing incredible evil spiritual power, yet totally reliant on God.
The outcome was a dramatic victory.
Elijah dared the prophets of Baal to a duel.
If your god can send fire from heaven to burn up a sacrifice then you win, but if the Lord sends fire from heaven to burn up his sacrifice then he wins.
After hours of fervent pagan ritual seeking fire to burn their sacrifice nothing had happened and it was Elijah’s turn.
He quietly prepared the alter and then to prove the point had water poured all over it three times.
He prayed and God sent fire from heaven which consumed the sacrifice, the alter on which it was laid and turned all around it to dust.
It was an incredible victory, the prophets of Baal were defeated and executed and the people challenged to return to the Lord.
But King Ahab and the power behind the throne his wife queen Jezebel were not happy at this humiliation and sent a message that they would hunt Elijah down and kill him.
Elijah was spiritually tired as people often are after they have given in great faith.
He fled, exhausted to the desert and sat under a tree.
He really felt that he could continue the battle no longer and simply wanted to die.
Listen to what happened next.
1 Kings 19:7–13 NLT
Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.” “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
It was in the stillness of that gentle voice that God spoke.
Only when Elijah was still, quiet, ready to listen did God go on to reveal his plan for a powerful victory.
A victory which would see the evil King and Queen destroyed in humiliation.

God speaks quietly, gently and with great purpose to those who are ready to hear

Think of the disciples as they witnessed the crucifixion of Christ.
They were not ready to hear or understand his plan.
Even after the resurrection they were still uncertain as to what was going on.
In John 20:19 we read that the disciples were meeting behind locked doors.
John 20:19 NLT
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.
They were locked away in fear.
In hiding, yet it was here that Christ met with them.

When the disciples locked the doors, Christ knew He was sure of a welcome. He could not get their ear because of the din and confusion that came through the open doors. Closing the door to the world is opening the door to the Master. Don’t be afraid of shutting the door. It is the best invitation for the Master to enter.

—Christian Herald

Now just like Elijah their withdrawal from the world was motivated by fear.
But it was in the stillness of that fear that the Lord was at work.
For some like Catherine of Siena, and the great evangelists like John Wesley, Moody, Billy Graham and others even to our day the stillness is the result of disciplined prayer.
But in every case these people are ready to hear, to hear because they have nothing left, or to hear because they have emptied themselves of themselves and are focused on the love of God.
Now if the great drama of spiritual battle doesn’t appeal to you and the discipline of hours of prayer is beyond your comprehension then there is a third option.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 4612 Letting the Lord Love Her

4612 Letting The Lord Love Her

“What do you do during the day?” a friend asked an elderly Scotch woman who lived alone. “Well,” she said, “I get my hymnbook and sing. Then I get the Bible and let the Lord speak to me. When I get tired of reading and cannot sing anymore, I just sit still and let the Lord love me!”

In the act of worship God can meet us.
This wise old lady knew that if she spent the time worshiping the Lord and continued to worship until she came to a place of reflection on his word and stillness then she would be present in the Love of God.
There is a common theme in each and every example I have shared with you.

Stillness before God, hearing his voice comes when we have understood our need for dependence on him

Sadly in our culture we struggle to communicate this concept.
We don’t have a common practice which declares publicly our dependence on another.
Many cultures have a practice which signifies gratitude for what someone has done for us in a very public way.
The Karre in Africa
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 4620 Expressing Gratitude in Africa

4620 Expressing Gratitude In Africa

In another African dialect, the Karre, the expression for thankfulness is “to sit down on the ground before” another. A thankful Karre will go to the home of his benefactor and sit on the ground before his hut. No word need be spoken; his silent vigil signifies his gratitude. The man who is thankful to God, therefore, sits before God to enjoy his presence. He is never satisfied merely to tip his hat to God as he passes; gratitude demands that he seek God’s presence and fellowship.

—Roger William Thomas

What do we find in the 23rd Psalm, isn’t it a picture of dependence.
The picture is painted of a shepherd, a shepherd leading his flock.
We know the picture of a shepherd in the middle east.
Traditionally they spent their time leading, guiding, protecting a flock.
They are not within a paddock which contains the sheep.
They are out int he open where the sheep are dependent on them to lead them to places of safe pasture.
Listen to these words, in fact read them with me.
Psalm 23 NIV84
A psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Many of the Psalms reinforce this message.
It is in the stillness of dependence on God that we will hear his voice.

Ultimately being still before God isn’t about our comfort. It is about his Glory

As Catherine of Siena said all those years ago. “[You are] not to love Me for your own sake, or your neighbor for your own sake, but to love Me for Myself, yourself for Myself, your neighbor for Myself.”
We find this same idea in nature.
God’s glory is reflected in his control over nature.
Mark 4:38–41 NLT
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
In the midst of the storms, be still
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