In this session we will examine steps #4 and #5 in the process of spiritual maturity as we pursue the goal of godliness - what all Christians should be striving for.
In the last session we concluded that simplifying our lives helps us achieve greater intimacy with God. This is so because:
- Removing the clutter leaves more time to be with God.
- Being with or closer to God enables Him to mold us into the character of Christ.
So today we will review the 4th step in our journey to Christian maturity, the virtue of stillness, and its companion virtue and 5th step, solitude.
Slowing the pace
Doug Harvey was a defenseman who played for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1950's and 60's. He was a great hockey player because he could single-handedly change the pace of the game.
For example, he could speed it up by making a one-man rush into the opposing team's zone with the puck, or he could slow it down by holding on to the puck in his own defensive area. As a defenseman, he did not score a lot of goals but he could change the rhythm of the game which often gave his teammates a lift and frustrated his opponents.
Speaking of rhythm, on a scale of 1 (very slow) to 10 (super fast), what rhythm would you say that your overall life is at? 1 - 10? Here is another question, what speed do you think it needs to be at in order to develop godliness/spiritual maturity? The Psalmist explains at what speed we learn the most about God and come to resemble Him. You will note that the writer breaks up this psalm by repeating the word "SELAH" three times. Selah means to stop/cease/pause.
With this repeated instruction he is saying to the reader, "stop, pause and let this sink in." In this psalm, he describes the upheaval of nature; the assault of enemies; and the violence of war. Now faced with these level of 10-speed type of events, God says to man, stop, pause, and consider that God is in control, He is with us and protects us:
1God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
- Psalm 46:1-3
He begins by saying that despite natural disasters, godly people know that God will help them, no need to panic.
6The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
- Psalm 46:6-7
Despite the attacks of all kinds (enemies, disease, financial ruin, etc.) God is still able to protect His people.
8Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
11The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
- Psalm 46:8-11
Even at times of war! Godly people are told to stop, cease striving, be quiet, do nothing. This is the opposite reaction that is normal - with our lives moving at the 8-10 level it never crosses our mind to simply stop! - Most of us cannot or will not do this.
As a consequence, we miss an opportunity to deepen our knowledge of God. Simplifying our lives draws us near to God, being still when we are close enables us to know Him better. If you cannot discipline (there is that #1 step again)... discipline yourself to be still, you may know about God, but you cannot know Him personally.
To know Him is the beginning of our transformation into becoming like Him. When we are still before God, the Holy Spirit is able to reveal and clarify the meaning and application of God's Word as it pertains to our own lives. This understanding is what changes our character into the image of His character. As we truly grasp what He is saying in His Word, our minds and character are slowly becoming more like Christ's mind and character:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- John 1:14
Now the Word becomes flesh once again but this time in our flesh, not the flesh of the baby Jesus. So, what do we mean by stillness? A few things.
- Not talking to God, but quietly listening.
- Not worrying but simply trusting.
- Not constantly reviewing our needs and fears but giving them over to God without instructions. He already knows, He does not need clarification.
- Not figuring out the answers and proper solutions but simply waiting on God patiently.
- Not working on or out our perfection but accepting God's imputed perfection in Christ.
Our goal is not the stillness of the body (we are not monks), it is stillness of the heart when facing or near God.
Be still and know that I am God.
- Psalm 46:10
The question that arises next is, "How do we cultivate stillness and the answer to that is the 5th step to spiritual maturity - solitude. Just as simplicity enables intimacy, solitude facilitates stillness.
In his book, Swindoll says,
"People rarely learn something while in a crowd."
Purposefully keeping busy and cramming every single moment with activity is a sign of fear and insecurity. Jesus was always busy, always in demand but always made time to be alone (solitude) with the Father so He could listen. Do not be afraid of being alone and still - it is uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar. Realize that purposeful solitude is an investment in your spiritual development.
Here are some suggestions on cultivating stillness through solitude:
- Pick a time and place when and where you can be alone for 30 minutes. Bring a notebook and pen.
- Let your mind run to empty out all thoughts concerning family, work, problems, plans and projects. Do this until you are quiet of mind.
- Write down what you think as a way of dialoguing with God - a kind of private spiritual diary. Let this be your way of practicing the state of solitude so that you can become comfortable in solitude and thus begin to reap the rewards that are found only there.
- On a scale of 1 (very slow) to 10 (super fast), how would you rate the pace of your life? Are you satisfied with the pace and why?
- In your opinion what is the number one factor that determines the pace of your life? What/who should be the primary factor?
- With all the encouragements and proofs of God's care, why do you think so many believers do not turn to Him in time of need? Why is this so?
- What stops you from being alone with God?
- Have the group stop all discussion and movement for 10 minutes and let each write down any thoughts that occur during that time. Share with the group when time is up.
Note: This silent exercise needs to be done by all groups at the same time. Leave 10 minutes at the end of the session for feedback.