Silence Really Is Golden
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 18, 2007

 

Main Passage: Psalm 46


Over the past decade, do you know what one of the fastest growing vacation destinations has been? No, Iím not talking about Disney World. And Iím referring to any four-star hotel. No, one of the fastest growing vacation destinations has been monasteries.

What do you think of when you think about a monastery? You think about peace. You think about solace. You think of times of meditation and reflection. You think about serenity. You think about silence.

Weíre in the middle of a series of messages dealing with spiritual habits that can help you grow spiritually. Weíve already talked about studying the Bible. Weíve talked about sacrifice as it relates to fasting. Over the next few weeks weíre going to talk about solitude and service and simplicity.

But today, weíre going to talk about the one that is perhaps hardest of all.

Silence.

We really donít do very well with this one, do we? We tend to fill every minute of everyday with noise. At home, we always have the stereo on or the TV on or a radio playing. Then you get in your car and what do you do? Well, you turn on the radio. You stick in a tape or a CD. I plug in my mp3 player.

You go to the mall, and thereís music playing over their sound system. Plus thereís the constant chime of cash registers ringing. You stop at Tim Hortons. Thereís music playing there, too. And if you sit there, you canít help but notice all of the beeps and buzzes and alarms going off to tell the staff to change the coffee, pull the buns out of the oven, wait on the customer at the drive thru, and pull that muffin out of the microwave.

You go for a walk, and you pull out the headphones. You go downtown, and youíre hammered with the sounds of motors revving, horns honking, and tires squealing.

You get on an elevator, and thereís a whole genre of music thatís played in there! You canít even spend the 15 seconds it takes to go from one floor to the next in silence!

Silence.

Why is it so hard for us to practice silence? Why are we afraid of it? Why are we intimidated by it?

Do you remember going on that first date and sitting there in an uncomfortable silence? You felt like you had to say something... anything... to break that silence. Surely nothing you could say could be worse than sitting in silence. And then you opened your mouth and proved that to be false.

We donít like silence. We donít know what to do with silence. And so we do everything we can possibly do to avoid it at all costs.

Problem is, weíre missing out on a very important and valuable practice. Because silence gives us time to think. To reflect. To evaluate whatís important. To filter what we need to do and what we need to say. To regroup and reenergize. To connect with God and to hear His still small voice.

Yes, I know that we canít eliminate all the noise from our lives. But I do think we can reduce it. And I believe itís critical for us to carve out a few minutes from our day or a few hours from our week to practice silence as a habit.

And no, Iím not asking you to take a vow of silence or anything like that. Thatís kind of a pious, legalistic ritual. Iím just talking about integrating silence as a regular part of your life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 (NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven....
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

We have no problem with the times to speak. What we need to do is recognize that there are also times for silence. And we need to work those times into our lives.

Here... take a look at this...


PLAY VIDEO - NOOMA: 005 NOISE


Silence. It was essential for Elijah to experience silence so he could hear God. I mean, he had the same problem you and I have. He was a busy man. He has pressures and demands on his time. He was stressed out. Hey, he had people trying to kill him. And he had had enough.

So he got away. He travelled all the way to Mount Sinai so he could get alone. And he listened to the latest recording by Earthquake, Wind and Fire (sorry). No, he sought God, and he looked for God in the midst of an earthquake, and wind storm, and a great fire. But God wasnít in any of those. It was only after those past, and there was a quiet... there was a stillness... that he heard God. And in that moment of silence before God, he was reenergized, he was encouraged, he was empowered. And because of that time in silence, he was able to go back face life head on. He needed that time in silence before God.

So why is it that we neglect this essential habit of being silent before God? Why isnít silence a part of our daily lives? Perhaps for a few of you, it is. But for many of us... probably the majority of us... we donít practice silence a whole lot. We donít even think about it much.

ďCould it be that despite all our technological advances and heightened theological understanding, the one thing weíre in great need of is quiet, still attentiveness to the presence of God?Ē
~ Laura Harris, Christian Single magazine

I believe the answer to that is yes. We are in desperate need of a quiet, still attentiveness to the presence of God. Everything else in our lives works against that. Itís not going to happen by accident. So we need to purposefully carve out times of silence.

Sandra read a passage for us earlier from Psalm 46. And that Psalm is packed full of imagery for what our lives are like. It talked about earthquakes and mountains trembling and ocean waves roaring and foaming. It talked about nations being in uproar, it talked about kingdoms falling, it talked about wars and battles. It talked about all kinds of upheaval.

And then in the midst of all that chaos, we find these words... read them with me...

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)
ďBe still, and know that I am God!Ē

That right there is one of my favourite verses in the entire Bible. ďBe still, and know that I am God!Ē No matter what life throws at me, God says, ďBe still, and know that I am God!Ē No matter what failures and disappointments I experience, God says, ďBe still, and know that I am God!Ē No matter what stresses or pressures or expectations or demands I encounter, God says, ďBe still, and know that I am God!Ē

And there have been times that I have had to cling to those words. And I have found incredible peace and strength and reassurance by just taking the time to be still, to be silent, and to recognize who is God. Tell you what, itís not me. Iím not God. And it does me good to just stop acting like I am, to settle down, take a breath, and realize who is God.

Now, what is silence? What does it mean to be silent? What is silence all about? Because silence is not just about being quiet. Itís not just about the absence of noise. Because you can actually experience silence in the midst of noise.

So what is silence? What is it all about? I suppose there are a lot of ways we could answer that question. But weíre just going to focus in on what I believe is the primary description of what silence is all about. Here it is...


 Silence is about listening

Now, for the past couple weeks, Iíve been spending a lot of time listening. Because we have a squirrel running through our house and I keep trying to track him down! So there are a lot of times that I just sit quietly and listen. And a lot of the times, I donít hear a thing. But every once in a while Iíll hear him running across the ceiling. Or Iíll hear him scratching on the wall. Or Iíll hear him in our basement rummaging through something.

Now, I havenít had any luck yet in catching him. But I keep listening. And every once in a while, I hear him.

Now, I donít know if listening for a squirrel is really a great illustration of what it means to listen for God, but there you have it. In order for me to hear that squirrel, I need to get rid of the distractions. I need to turn off the TV, I need to shut off any music I might have playing, and I need to sit in silence and listen.

And in order for you to hear from God, you need to get rid of the distractions. Whether thatís turning off the TV, or shutting off the music, or just taking a break in the midst of the busyness of life... create some silence in your environment, create some silence in your spirit, and just listen for God.

I mean, weíre bombarded every day with distractions... with sounds, with images, with advertisements, with rushing around from here to there.... There are all kinds of distractions, and we just need to settle down and listen to God.

ďSilence is abstaining from sound in order to open our spiritual ears and listen more closely to the voice of God.Ē
~ Keith Drury

Now, you can be quiet without actually listening. But this spiritual habit of silence is not about being quiet; itís about listening. Thereís no point to it if youíre not going to listen.

Thereís a great book that came out several years ago that talks about all these spiritual habits weíre addressing during this message series. Itís a book by Richard Foster called, ďCelebration of Discipline.Ē And itís a classic. If you want to delve a little deeper into these habits, Iíd recommend that you get a hold of that book. And when talking about this particular habit of silence, this is what Richard Foster says...

ďThough silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening.Ē
~ Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 98

Let me ask you, what do your prayers look like? I donít know about you, but all too often my prayers consist of me doing all the talking. Even though I know that I need to listen, I find that incredibly hard to do. I feel like if Iím praying, I need to be talking. I donít know what it is about that, but thatís the way it is with me. And I suspect Iím not alone.

So what do your prayers look like? Are your prayers just monologues that you recite to God? Or do you allow God time to speak to you, too? How are you at listening? Because the truth is, even though we tend to do most of the talking, we should be doing most of the listening.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 (NLT)
As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Donít make rash promises, and donít be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few.

In other words, Godís God. Let Him do the talking. We need to hear from Him much more than He needs to hear from us.

You know, in Jesusí day, the Pharisees... the religious elite... thought they were doing a great thing by babbling on and on when they prayed. They thought they could gain Godís approval by using a whole bunch of words. And Jesus reprimanded them for that.

Because God isnít looking for people to recite a bunch of words. Heís looking for people who humbly listen to Him. I like what the writer of Psalm 85 said...

Psalm 85:8 (NLT)
I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people.

And then in the New Testament, Jesus said...

John 8:47 (NLT)
ďAnyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God.Ē

We need to listen to God must more than we need to talk to Him. Youíve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. You need to listen more than you speak. Silence is about listening.

So what does that mean for you? How can you bring a little bit of silence into your life? Can you get up a few minutes earlier just to spend a few minutes in silence listening to God and allowing Him to re-calibrate your life? Can you take a drive through the countryside with the radio off? On one of these last nice days before winter, can you just take a walk through a park, or along the shore? Can you sit down on a bench and just sit there in silence, listening?

You know what Susanna Wesley, John Wesleyís mother used to do? She had 19 children, so silence wasnít something that necessarily came easy for her. But every day, she would sit down in her rocking chair, cover her head with her apron, and spend an hour praying and listening to God.

Now, if I sat in my rocker and did that, youíd think I was off my rocker! But that was her solution. And I would guess that none of us could find ourselves busier than her, taking care of 19 children.

So figure out what will work for you, and spend some time in silence.

At first, youíll probably be a little bit uncomfortable with it. Because youíre not used to it. You wonít feel like youíre accomplishing anything, youíll wonder if youíre doing it right. but let me encourage you to stick with it.

And you will find refreshment, you will find encouragement, youíll find rejuvenation, and youíll discover a renewed focus and passion for life.


 

 

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