There are many spiritual disciplines that followers of Jesus should be practicing on a daily basis: prayer, worship, fellowship, scripture memorization, meditation, and the reading of the Bible just to mention a few. However, there is one that I often overlook. Truth is, it is probably the most non-threatening, least intimidating, and simplest discipline of them all. That discipline is stillness.
Recently I attended a piano concert performed by a friend of mine. She is the most accomplished pianist I have ever met and has a heart of gold. She loves Jesus and prayed that God would be worshipped during the concert. The weeks leading up to the performance I would walk into the church office and hear her practicing for hours. When the night of the concert came, my mind was scrambled with the chaos that is Sunday morning ministry. If you’re a pastor or serve in any capacity of ministry on Sunday morning, you know what I’m talking about. I was tired. I was already thinking about Monday. I even brought a book to the concert with me to read so I could prepare for a new class I was developing. However, all that changed the moment my friend began to play. I put down my book. I closed my eyes and drifted into an hour of peaceful stillness as my heart was comforted by the melodies of familiar hymns and modern worship songs. In fact, it was that night that inspired me to write this post.
The Psalmist writes, “For He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God,’” (Psalm 46.10). We find two truths in this short verse. First, we are called to be still. That means let go of what keeps us from staying focused on the Lord. The word, still, is a military term used in the Hebrew language that calls for a cease-fire. In other words, the Lord is telling us to stop fighting, to drop our weapons, and let go of what we think will give us satisfaction or fulfillment.
I don’t know about you but I have a hard time finding clarity in the midst of distraction and chaos. Have you ever tried to drive through downtown Atlanta or Chicago? It’s not easy! I remember the first time I tried to navigate the complex roadways of Chicago. Trains were moving around me in all directions. Cars were passing under me and over me at the same time. Semi-trucks were merging onto the highway from the right and the left! You need to understand, I grew up in a rural Midwest community where we had to watch out for cows instead of pedestrians. You could drive to a four-way stop and wait 15 minutes before you saw another car. When you came across a vehicle on the side of the road, it was probably a farmer checking his crops or a hunter set out for whatever was open that season. The insanity of large city highways was nearly enough to make me lose my mind. However, after some time, I began to familiarize myself with my surroundings and adjust. But isn’t that what we do with just about everything. We are surrounded by chaos, so we adjust. We learn to maneuver around the challenges and obstacles in our way and keep moving forward. But here’s the problem with that approach, the chaos hasn’t stopped, we just got used to it.
God never intended for us to live in chaos, certainly not on our own. That’s why He sent Jesus; so that we can have a constant, stable relationship. Jesus wants us to give Him our burdens, stresses, fears, frustrations, tiredness, and whatever tends to burden us at any given time (Matthew 11:30). So we must learn to let go and seek stillness. That brings us to the second truth: Know that He is God.
Know is in this passage means to “have the right perspective.” When we see things the way God intended them to be we will experience clarity and confidence. My family has a history of poor eyesight. Without my contacts or glasses, the world looks like a painting by the hands of Picasso, VanGogh, and Philip Barlow all-in-one. I remember when my oldest daughter, Brooklyn, received her first pair of glasses. At first she was excited because of the design. We spent nearly 45 minutes trying on glasses before she settled on a pair of dark brown plastic frames with teal-blue leopard-print arms. After a week of waiting for the glasses to arrive we received the phone call that they were ready and off we went to the eye doctor. What I enjoyed most about the moment was when she actually put them on. She was excited to have glasses but she wasn’t expecting them to make a difference. For the next 2 days she would put her glasses on and then take them off. Each time with a play-by-play action report about what she could see. It looked like this:
Glasses off. “Daddy, I can’t read that sign.”
Glasses on. “Daddy, the sign says ‘Home Depot.’”
Glasses off. “Daddy, I don’t know what that says.”
Glasses on. “Daddy, it says ‘Speed Limit.’”
Glasses off. “Daddy, I don’t know who that is.”
Glasses on. “Daddy, I didn’t know my friend’s dad is on that billboard!”
The beauty of perspective is that we experience life the way God intended it to be. When we have clarity we develop confidence. Over the next several weeks, Brooklyn’s grades were better. She made some new friends. She joined a soccer team. She could catch a football. She even beat me at corn hole! Her perspective was clear and her confidence was high.
That is exactly what the Lord wants for us. He is calling us to find peace in Him by letting go of distractions. He wants us to have confidence in who He is and who He has made us. He wants us to experience peace, rest, and clarity. So turn off the TV. Put down that book. Place your cell phone out of sight. Close your eyes. Breathe. And for a moment (or two or three) experience the presence of God.