"Be still and know that I am God" — Psalm 46:10
We live in a society and culture here in the U.S. where everything moves fast. We are in such a hurry to get so much accomplished each day that we will usually gravitate toward using any tool we can find to help us squeeze more into a 24-hour day. Smart phones allow us to handle hundreds of communications per day. We eat at fast food restaurants. We shop at convenience stores. We go to the immediate care. We drive in the express lane. We mail overnight and shop online. We are in such a hurry to live our lives that very few of us know how to just stop, be still, and let life happen.
Many of the modern churches have organized their services to get everybody in and out in an hour or less. One big church I recently visited started at 11 a.m. on the dot, had an entertaining worship service, took an offering, had a communion service, showed a video, had a water baptism service, and preached a sermon all in less than one hour's time. I realized there were a lot of good things that happened in that short span of time, and I am grateful for every church that preaches the love of Jesus Christ. But it made me feel like it was like fast food religion.
At one time in my business career I had a plaque on my office wall that read:
"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you'd better be running."
The mindset in the business world is that it is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and you better be moving fast if you want to win the race. Some call it the rat race, and often times I have felt like one of the rats.
In Psalm 46:10 the Word of God tells us to be still. The word still in the Hebrew is רָפָה râphâh: meaning to be still, slacken, abate, cease, consume, fail, (be) faint, be feeble, forsake, idle, leave, let alone (go, down), (be) slack, stay, (be) weak.
This concept of being still is almost totally foreign to our human or carnal nature. We don’t want to abate or cease; we want to increase and work. We don’t want to fail. Instead, we want to succeed. We don’t want to be faint or feeble; we want to be strong and mighty. Why do we have trouble forsaking things that God wants us to forsake? It is because our pride has held on to them for so very long. We can’t see the profit in being idle because we know that through hard work we can prosper. We struggle with leaving or letting go of old habits, old thought patterns, and old ways of behaving. Change becomes difficult for us, even if it is God telling us to change. We certainly don’t want to go down; we want to rise up. And we have the most trouble just staying or remaining at the feet of Jesus. This idea of God wanting us to be still, as simple as it is, is treated as an alien from Mars in our modern culture.
This whole matter of a caterpillar abandoning itself completely to the will of God and turning into a cocoon and being willing just to wait for God to transform it into a butterfly is great for worms, but it is almost impossible for human beings. We would rather just change ourselves; we think that if any transformation occurs that we will have to do the work and oversee the process. When in reality God showed us the metamorphose of the worm to a caterpillar to give us an excellent picture of what it means to be still, to wait upon the LORD, and to rest in His grace.
Here we see the Holy Scriptures tell us to rest and to wait.
“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. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.” — Psalm 37:7-9
If we get angry, or worried, or stressed, then we are trying to leave the cocoon early in order to redeem ourselves. It is not our place to defend ourselves or to fight with others over who is right or who is wrong. We are not to prove ourselves to be righteous in the eyes of men, but rather we are to let God fight our battles for us, and we are to rest in his grace and to wait upon God to redeem us out of our situations and save us from our enemies.
We need a “Mary Heart” while living in a “Martha World.”
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:38-42
Martha was simply doing what comes natural for us humans to do. She was working hard to try to accommodate Jesus. She was preparing to serve Him. And she thought that Mary should get up and help her prepare. But Mary, on the other hand, realized that preparing for Jesus or serving Jesus was not nearly as important as worshiping Jesus. Mary just stopped in her tracks when Jesus came into the room and fell at his feet and soaked up His Word and His Glory. Mary chose the good part, and that was being still before her Maker and her Redeemer. Mary realized that just waiting at His feet was the most important thing she could possibly do.
One of the richest and most meaningful scriptures in the Bible to me this past year has been 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:...” — Isaiah 30:15
Here God clearly states that the secret to our salvation is in Returning and Rest. And our strength will be found in quietness and confidence. If we want to be saved from hell’s fire, or saved from ourselves, we first must return to God. As long as we walk in the way of the world or walk in our own sinful way, our soul will always be filled with strife, discontentment, worry, and fear. Once the soul of man truly repents and turns back toward God, then he can begin to cease from his own works and enter into the rest of God. Our power is not going to come from more labor, trying to be good enough. It is going to come from getting our soul still and quite before the LORD and putting all of our trust in Him. Again, it is like the caterpillar surrendering to the will of God in order for it to change while resting in the cocoon. We must enter into a world of darkness, of the unknown, so that God can transform us into a beautiful butterfly.
There was a Catholic Monk, born in 1614 in France, named Nicolas Herman, who is today commonly called Brother Lawrence. He wrote an amazing book entitled Practicing the Presence of God. Below in an excerpt from this awesome book that has blessed me.
If we were well accustomed to the practice of the presence of God, bodily discomforts would be greatly alleviated. God often permits us to suffer a little to purify our souls and oblige us to stay close to Him. Take courage. Offer Him your pain and pray to Him for strength to endure them. Above all, get in the habit of often thinking of God, and forget Him the least you can. Adore Him in your infirmities. Offer yourself to Him from time to time. And, in the height of your sufferings, humbly and affectionately beseech Him (as a child his father) to make you conformable to His holy will. I shall endeavor to assist you with my poor prayers. God has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes seems to hide Himself from us. But faith alone ought to be our support. Faith is the foundation of our confidence. We must put all our faith in God. He will not fail us in time of need. I do not know how God will dispose of me but I am always happy. All the world suffers and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and great that I can scarcely contain them.
We have a lot to learn from the Monks, for they understood the importance of being still. As our soul gets quiet and as we tune out all of the cares of life, our spiritual ears can hear the voice of the Gentle Shepherd calling out to us. This is the only way we will ever live a life of obedience to Jesus, for we must first learn to hear him in order to obey Him.
Brother Lawrence had found the secret of the cocoon. No matter what sufferings you are experiencing or no matter how severe the pain of life, you can practice the presence of God. You can continually be aware of His presence and with a grateful heart surrender to His sovereign Lordship. He is the divine Ruler, Master, Owner and Governor of our lives. And He wants us to slow down, get still, rest in His grace and wait on Him in prayer. This is how God’s love will transform us, by falling at His feet, returning and resting in quietness and confidence.
This is what the essence of Sabbath rest is really all about. God worked for six days to create this present creation. Then He ceased from His work and rested on the Sabbath Day. In the book of Hebrews God challenges us to find this Sabbath Rest.
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." — Hebrews 4:9-11
One of the more popular scriptures in the Bible calls out to us to learn to wait upon the LORD, and it shows us the great benefits to learning to wait.
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” — Isaiah 40:31
We have a hard time waiting in a waiting room to see the doctor and even a harder time waiting in the check-out line at the grocery store. We don’t like to wait at long, slow traffic lights. Nor do we enjoy the security lines at the airport. We feel like waiting is wasting our time and therefore wasting the precious minutes of life. Concerning our relationship with God, we need to learn to think just the opposite about this matter of waiting. There is perhaps nothing we can do more important or nothing we can do more valuable with our time than simply waiting upon God.
To lay at the feet of Jesus, to soak in His Spirit, His Glory and His Word is perhaps the greatest privilege offered to mankind. This is where intimacy with God is developed. And to actually be afforded the opportunity to have a close personal intimate relationship with our Creator is worth more than all of the world’s riches combined.
I encourage you to just try it and see for yourself. Be still. Get quiet. Learn to rest in His grace, and while doing so, think upon His Name and experience the transforming power of God’s unconditional love.