“Is It Really All That Important?”
Have you ever started to do something or taken on a certain project and then quickly realized you had absolutely no idea what you were doing? Oh, it seems to happen to me far too often. I remember a time, a few years ago, when I was with some family members and they wanted to teach me how to snow ski. And so we went to the mountain and I went through this little snow skiing school, graduated from it, and they said you are now ready to go to the mountain and ski down. And so I got on that chair lift and rode up the mountain, got off and as I was coming down on my skis I quickly realized I'm out of control. And before I knew it there I was, down, hurt, injured. Well, I went on down the hill, got back on the chair lift, went back to the mountain to try it again, got off and begin to ski down and sure enough it happened the same way it happened the 1st time. I fell, got hurt, frustrated, discouraged. I went back down, got on the chair lift and did that several times, over and over again, but always with the same result. And finally I realized this was something that I just could not do so I took off my skis and did something else. I suppose we've all been there before, haven't we? We’ve tried to do something, thinking we could do it, but it really did not turn out like we had hoped. Well there is a passage in the Psalms, in the Old Testament part of the Bible, that is familiar to many of us; perhaps we have committed it to memory. Psalm 46 and verse 10 reads like this, “Be still and know that I am God.” Well that's a beautiful statement but the question is, do we really know how to do that? Well, before we can know that God is the God of this universe we need to learn how to be still before Him, and again that might be harder to do than what we realize, or at least it is for me. We live in a hectic world. We live in a world where every body seems to be too busy. Were always on the move, were always trying to do something or get somewhere. Think about all the things you are called upon to do in just one day; to get up in the morning, to find something to eat, to take care of the children, to take care of the spouse, to get to work, to go to school, and then all of the after work or after school activities. Oh, often-times there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done. And we find our self coming and going, and we have very little time to still and quiet our life. In fact, does your hectic day look anything like this? <video of heavy traffic in India> Can you imagine trying to survive in traffic like that? And yet I know of millions of people who try to do that on a daily basis. Well, going back to our passage, here in Psalm number 46, this is a Psalm about God. And in these 11 verses the Psalmist exalts God, and he identifies God's powerful influence and involvement throughout the world, and he reminds us that because God is in absolute control then there is no reason to live in fear; understanding that God is our refuge and God is our strength. And so in light of all that he closes the Psalm with these words, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Psalmist wants people to quiet their lives, to pause and to recognize who God is, and what God does, and what God continues to do throughout His world. But again the question is, do we really know how to do that? I want to offer 5 things for our consideration today that help us to be still before God, and to quiet our lives, and to get away from it all; and then notice 5 things that help us to understand and appreciate who God is and what He continues to do in this world. And so with that in mind let's talk about 5 things for just a moment that help us be still before Him. The 1st thing is to “Just Say No.” Do you remember the story found in Daniel chapter 1, about the man Daniel who was told to bow down to the king’s image, and to eat King Nebuchadnezzar's food, and to drink the wine so that he would be associated with the people of Babylon? But Daniel said, “I'm not going to do that.” Oh, the people wanted Daniel to do certain things and to say certain things but he simply said no. He drew a line. He knew his boundary. And his devotion to God was more important to him than anything else. Well likewise, lots of people make demands on our time, don't they? On what we say, or on where we go, or what we try to do. And we try to accommodate them to the very best of our ability, but there comes a time when we, too, might need to just say no; that there are some things that are more important to me and my life, and that is my devotion to God. Yes, there is something more important than meeting the demands or the expectations that this world places upon us. But the 2nd thing that we might do in order to be still before God is to “Turn it Off.” Now, what do I mean by that? Well, the noise of this world is sometimes hard to control, isn't it? We think about the television, we think about the Internet, and the radio, and all of the other things and people of this world, the traffic, and the business world. Sometimes it's pretty noisy! And so how can we be still before God if the noise of this world takes away our attention? Well, no doubt there are some things that we can put in place. There are some things that we can do to quiet our lives, and to be still, and to turn it off. I love the words of the apostle Paul in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4 and verse 11. He writes, aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs and to work with your own hands. And when we do that there is now a room in our life, and time in our life, for the Lord; when we simply turn off all of the noisemakers and the attention getters that this world offers to us. And so that's number 2, there is something more important than always trying to keep up with the latest news, and media devices, and information, and the noise this world has to offer. But then number 3, how is it that we can be still before God? We simply “Go Away.” Many times in Scripture we read about Jesus going away by Himself, away from the crowds, in order to be still before God; to pray and to refocus His life on what He needs to do in His ministry. I think about the time immediately after His baptism when He went into the wilderness for some 40 days and 40 nights, no doubt talking with God while He was there, preparing Himself for what lie ahead. Then I think about Jesus' words in Matthew 6 and verse 6, words to you and me, “When you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” That's a beautiful statement that encourages and helps us in our quiet time, in our prayer life, to recognize how important it is to simply be alone with God. But we cannot be alone with God when people always know where we are. Sometimes we need to, like Jesus, get away from the crowds and be by ourselves so that we can refocus our lives on what is most important. And so if we ever really want to know who God is it is necessary at times to spend lots of quality and quiet time with Him. And that's number 3. There is something more important than always being with people. But then the 4th thing that might help us to be still before God is to “Close Our Eyes.” You know, open eyes are easily distracted, aren't they? Open eyes see far too much evil in this world. Open eyes see all the things that are wrong, all of the negative stuff that this world has to offer. Sometimes it's good that we simply close our eyes and shut out all of that bad stuff around us. Recently my father-in-law passed away. For the last 9 years of his life he was blind, he couldn't see. And as he became blind he realized that his eyesight was gone and he told me one day, he said, “Bret, I can now see the world from my heart.” His blindness gave him a new perspective on the world. He could now see the world from his heart, perhaps the way God wanted him to see it. He had closed eyes. I think about Isaiah, over in Isaiah chapter 6 and verse 1. In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up. In that vision, with his eyes perhaps closed, Isaiah saw God exalted, reining and ruling throughout the world. Some of our best views of God come, perhaps, when our eyes are closed and it is then that we can be still before Him. And so that is number 4, there is something more important than always seeing with our eyes. But then the 5th thing that might help us as we think about being still before God is that we “Listen for God's Voice.” When we do these first 4 things, when we turn it off, and go away, and close our eyes, and just say no, it is then that we are now ready to hear from God. Oh, not in an audible way as we hear His voice from heaven but yet in a way that understands and appreciates what He is trying to communicate to us. Yes, we do these first 4 things God has our attention, doesn't He? Oh I love the story of Elijah, which is told over in 1st Kings chapter 19 beginning with verse 11. Elijah, through God's power, has just defeated 850 false prophets of Baal and Ashera, but he runs away. He fears for his life. Ahab and Jezebel are out to get him and he doesn't know what to do so he runs to a cave, there in the side of a mountain, and he’s hiding from them. But he cannot escape from God. God knows exactly where he is. And so we find these words, in 1st Kings 19 beginning with verse 11. God said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his cloak and he went out and stood at the entrance of the cave and behold there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah was looking for some answers to the problems in his life in the big things of the world, but yet he did not find it. But when he heard the low whisper, or the still small voice of God, he heard from God and he went out and God had something very important to share with him. And likewise, when we cannot find the answers to the big things in life maybe it's time to be found in the cleft of God's hand and to listen for His low whisper and the still small voice. And so that's number 5, there is something more important than limiting God in what He is able to do with us. You know, when we do these 5 things I believe that we now have the opportunity to know God, and to know who He is, and what He is doing in this world. And perhaps that can be summarized by this short video clip. Take just a couple of moments to watch.
One of the aspects about my job is that it requires quite a bit of time driving down the road, and sometimes the road gets long and weary. My eyes get tired and I look forward to reaching my destination. But as I'm driving along the road I sometimes see a sign up ahead that reads, rest area - 1 mile. Oh, I look forward to those rest areas. I pull off. I get out of the car, walk around, stretch my legs and take a break. And then I'm able to get back into the car refreshed and renewed for the long journey. But you know we all need a break in life, don't we? Sometimes the stresses, the anxieties of this world are just too great to bear. They are overwhelming and hard to overcome. I think about the words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 11, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy with burden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Oh, that's good news, that Jesus takes the burdens in our life and He gives us a break. He takes the stresses and the anxieties of this world away so that we can rest and relax in Him and be renewed for the far journey. Oh look up ahead, there's a sign, a place to pull over. You know I think it's about time that I take a break, and I hope you will too.
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Well, once we now know something about being still before God we can move on to part 2 of our verse for the day, Psalm 46 and verse 10. Let me remind us what it says; “Be still and know that I am God.” Again, how can we know that God is God? Well, again let me offer 5 things for our consideration. Number 1, that we begin to “See God from a Different Perspective.” I don't know about you but I have many preconceived ideas of God. I read the Bible that God is a God of love, and compassion, and forgiveness, and full of grace, and a host of other things. And I come to look for God in those things in my life. But maybe it's good that we look for God in ways that we don't expect. I think about that familiar story in Luke chapter 15. The young son takes his inheritance and he goes away to a foreign land and spends it foolishly. But he comes to his senses and realizes that he would have it better even as his father's servant back home. And so he goes home. But in the meantime the father, who represents God in this story, every single day goes out, looks as far as he can down the road anticipating the return of his son. And finally on that day when he comes home the father runs out, and he greets him, he embraces and kisses him, and brings him back into the village. And do you remember what happens? He kills the fatted calf and he invites all of the villagers to come and have a party with him. He celebrates because this, his son who was lost, is now found. Now, here's my point. Can you envision God as one who throws a party, and who celebrates, and who rejoices? Perhaps that's a different perspective for us to think about when we envision God. But that's point number 1 for us to consider, it's important to keep God fresh in our minds. The 2nd thing that would help us to know and to understand God is to “Trust His Love.” To trust His love. You know the greatest thing that I could ever know, the greatest thing you could ever know, is this. God loves me. God loves you, more than you will ever know. His love for you is immense. His love for you and me is beyond description. We look at Matthew chapter 6 and verse 25. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink. Nor about your body, what you will put on. Is life not more than food and the body, more than clothing?” And the obvious answer to those questions is absolutely yes. And because of God's love for us there is no reason to be anxious. There is no reason to worry about any of those things that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Then Jesus goes on in that same passage to point out that there is no need to worry about anything in this world. Because if God takes care of the flowers of the field, which He does, and if He sees about the birds of the air, which He does, then don't you think He will see about you and me as well? And so no matter what concerns your life today God already has it covered. He already has a solution. He knows what is best and therefore we trust God's love. And that's number 2, it's important to replace our anxiety with God's love. But then the 3rd way we can know more about God's love for us is simply to “Rest in His Presence.” When I think about who God is I realize that He is right here in this room with me. He knows where I am. I can never escape His presence. He's always right here. I love those words from Psalm 121. “The Lord is your shade on your right-hand. The sun will not strike you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from evil. He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever more.” You know, when I think about that passage of Scripture I realize that God is never farther away than my right hand. And wherever I go God's presence is right there. Wherever you go you cannot escape God's presence. He is never farther than just right there. And that's comforting to know, isn't it? And because of that we can rest in His presence. And that's number 3; it is important to know that God is always with us. The 4th thing that helps us to know about God is that we “Count our Blessings.” I don't know about you but sometimes when I pray I do more asking than I do thanking. And I come to my prayer life with God with a list of things I want Him to see about, a list of things for Him to do or a list of people for Him to help. And I forget to thank God. But when I do remember to thank Him I often times will say a prayer nothing but thanking, and acknowledging, and expressing my appreciation for what He's already done. When I do that I always come away with a deeper appreciation of God's goodness. Psalm 107 verse 1 reads like this: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” And that's number 4, it is important to tell God thank you. But then the final thing that helps us to understand and appreciate God is simply to “Watch God Work.” And for me the best example of that is Psalm number 8. In about 9 verses there the psalmist describes the work and the activity of God. But he begins and he ends that Psalm the very same way, with these words, “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” And then in those verses in the middle he writes about man a little bit less than the angels. He writes about all of the beasts of the field, and the birds that fly in the heavens, and the fish that swim in the seas, and everything throughout His creation. And he says, “God your name is majestic and holy because of everything you’ve done.” Think about the ways in which God has worked in your life. We have a saying sometimes that goes like this, well that's a God thing. And when we say that we say it because God has done something unusual or outstanding, something that we did not expect, and the only way it happened was because God was responsible for it. It was a God thing. Oh, I really believe that if we are still long enough, and if we pay attention close enough then we will see God do some amazing things, not only in our lives but also throughout His world. And that is number 5, it is important to always be amazed at God's work in this world. Now those are 5 things that help me understand and appreciate more about who God is and what He does in this world. And maybe today your desire is the same as mine, and that is to see and to know that God is God. In fact, that is one of the most important things that we will ever experience in life. But let us remember it may only happen when we learn to be still before God. Today, why not remember Psalm 46 verse 10 and put it into practice in your life; “Be still and know that I am God.”