When you have to wait, by Dr. Charles Stanley

Lessons From Silence

God is always speaking, but are you listening?

Charles F. Stanley

How do you feel about silence? It’s an interesting question because there are times in our busy lives when we long for some peace and quiet, but we can’t necessarily say the same thing about enforced silence. During a power outage, for example, everything ceases. The refrigerator stops humming, the radio and television are quiet, and once the batteries in our smart phones and computers die, we start to wonder what we should do with ourselves. The fact that these moments are so unsettling should be an indicator that perhaps there’s something out of balance in our hearts and minds. It says we’re out of practice when it comes to practicing stillness—in other words, ceasing our striving and knowing that God is God. This is an important part not only of reading Scripture, but also of knowing the Lord intimately through prayer and listening to His Spirit.

If silence isn’t something you embrace, it’s time to rethink your priorities and ask yourself some challenging questions: Are the activities that consume my time and energy those God wants for me? Do I need more periods of stillness, rest, and refreshment? How have I let technology rob me of peace and quiet? And most importantly: Have I shortchanged my relationship with the Lord because I’m preoccupied with lesser things?

Sometimes we’re so involved with the activities of this earthly life that we neglect what’s more essential—sufficient quiet time with God in His Word and prayer. I’m not talking about reading a quick chapter in the Bible and offering a short prayer in the car on the way to work, but an extended time of meditation. (See Psalms 119:15-16.) The truths we learn in the Scriptures are implanted in our minds, hearts, and practices when we consider what they tell us about God and His ways.

To help us understand how the Lord works in quiet and stillness, let’s consider several biblical examples. Moses grew up in the busy household of the Egyptian pharaoh (Exodus 2:10). His days were filled with learning, and as he matured, the duties required of royalty demanded his attention. But when he was about 40, everything changed. After killing an Egyptian in an effort to defend a fellow Hebrew, Moses found himself on the run as a fugitive (Exodus 2:13-15). The silence of the wilderness replaced everything that had once occupied his time and energy. He eventually became a nomadic shepherd who had only a flock of sheep for company while he was out in that lonely terrain. His knowledge of these surroundings would later help him shepherd the much larger (and more unruly) flock of Israelites. And when the conditions in Egypt were exactly as God desired, He interrupted Moses’ quiet lifestyle with a burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to set His people free and lead them to the Promised Land (Exodus 3:1-10).

If we ever feel forlorn and forgotten by the Lord, we must remember that even though we can’t see what He’s doing, He is not idle. God is constantly working in our hearts and circumstances to achieve His will for our lives. These quiet times of inactivity may well be the preparation we need for what He has in store for our future.

David was another shepherd who learned to know and trust the Lord in silence and isolation. Much of his early life was spent alone with the sheep, and even though he was an anointed king, he was forced to hide in the wilderness for many years (Psalms 78:70-72). But David’s time wasn’t wasted. He wrote many of his psalms during this period, and they give us a glimpse into the depth of his relationship with the Lord.

The only way we truly get to know someone is in private, and this is true of our relationship with God as well. Church gatherings and seminars may broaden our understanding of the Lord, but they can never take the place of intimate one-on-one fellowship with Him. We need peace and quiet to process what He says in His Word, to respond in worship, and to bring all our concerns to Him in prayer. Like David, we will discover that these quiet moments with the Lord become our greatest joy.

When life is whirling around us and our time and energy are in great demand, it’s unlikely that we will perceive God’s faithfulness. But if we take a few minutes to sit quietly with Him, we may be surprised to discover how often we’ve taken His tender loving care for granted. Such lessons are rarely learned on the run, but they become evident in quiet contemplation and reflection.

Our final example is the apostle Paul. He was a devout Pharisee whose life was ordered not only by the law of Moses but also by a multitude of man-made traditions. Paul was an expert in the Scriptures but failed to recognize His Messiah until he met Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1-6). After his conversion, Paul spent three years alone (Galatians 1:11-18). During this time of isolation, he was trained to become the greatest advocate and missionary for Christianity. He learned to see His Messiah throughout the Old Testament, and every situation and experience in his life was filtered through the truths of Scripture. That’s why he could rejoice in weaknesses and be content despite pain, deprivation, and persecution (Philippians 4:10-13).

This is one of the many blessings that come our way when we reserve time to be alone with the Lord, praying and reading His Word. The Holy Spirit teaches us wisdom, which is the ability to view life through a biblical lens. Wisdom is not learned in front of a television, through social media, or at a sporting event. It’s acquired quietly in our private time with the Lord as He puts His Word into our mind and works it out in our relationships and responses to various situations.

As difficult as it may be to carve out a period of quiet stillness in your life, the benefits will be worth the sacrifice. Perhaps waking up a half hour earlier would work for you, or if you’re a night owl, the optimal time could be in the evening. Maybe finding a peaceful place to be alone during your lunch break is the best option for your lifestyle.

Silence for the sake of silence is not the goal. After all, we aren’t simply seeking an absence of noise, disturbances, and activity. Our purpose is to remove every distraction so we can focus our attention on God (Psalms 62:5-7). Instead of inviting the Lord to join us in the midst of our daily activities, let’s pause for a while and discover the joy and blessings of quiet solitude with our heavenly Father.

ABOUT DR.CHARLESSTANLEY Dr. Charles F. Stanley joined the staff of First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1969 and became senior pastor in 1971. In 1982, Stanley...

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