PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Be Still…and think the thoughts of God!” (By: Ron Woodrum)
In Psalm 46:10 we are told…”Be still and know that I am God.” The Psalmist is saying that it is critical for the Christian to slow down long enough to focus our minds, hearts, minds, and souls upon God…upon knowing Him. That is the key to knowing and experiencing God in all His fullness in our lives! J.I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God, points out that first of all we need to know “about” God. He writes: “Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. As it would be cruel to take an Amazonian tribesman and fly him to London, and put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about God, whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, and painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded…with no sense of direction, and no understanding of what surrounds you. You can waste your life and lose your soul“. But he continues on that “knowing about God is not enough. We need to take the next step. We turn our knowledge about God into to knowledge of God”. How? Through experiencing Him through Christ and the salvation He has provided. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and knowledge of His Word. “We must turn each truth that we learn of Him into meditation that leads to praise and practice of the presence of God through Christ.” It takes both. Dr. John Mackey, when President of Princeton Seminary, in its more evangelical days, said “Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action. But reflection without commitment is paralysis of action“. How true. The Christian life is centered on doctrine that fills the mind, and then duty that is lived out of that mindset. James Orr, in his book The Christian View of God and His World, says ” If there is a religion in the world that exists around teaching truth it is the religion of Jesus Christ. Pagan religions kept doctrine at the minimal. It put emphasis on ritual…when the Church did not emphasize doctrine first, followed by devotion and duty it tended to become weak, ineffective, and unwholesome!” Henry Blamares, in his book The Christian Mind, emphasizes this same approach. He says, “The Christian Mind has succumbed to the secular drift of the world in its thinking, with a degree of weakness and nerve lessness unmatched in Christian history! As a thinking being the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization“. That has spelled disaster for the impact of the Church on the world.
T.S. Eliot, in his magnificent poem Choruses from the Rock, (which the entire poem is a commentary on the failure of the Church to impact our world), points out that part of the problem is that we have settled for secular knowledge instead of spiritual, and it has been the ruin of the Christian and the Church. He writes:
“Our endless cycles of ideas and action
Endless inventions, endless experiment
Brings knowledge of motion, but not stillness
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence
Knowledge of words, but IGNORANCE OF THE WORD.
All this knowledge brings us closer to ignorance
All this ignorance closer to death
Nearer to death, but no nearer to God.
WHERE IS THE LIFE WE HAVE LOST IN THE LIVING?”
That is the Christian’s address today. So knowledgeable about everything. Enjoying all the inventions and experiences our brave new world offers. But in it all we have lost everything we have deemed important and spiritual! How do we get it back? Where do we go from here? Eliot’s poem gives some great direction. But even truth can come from some unexpected sources. Another modern poet has pointed us in the right direction. Don Henley wrote a poem that later became a popular song. It spoke to both the needs of the world and the Church, if we have ears to listen. He wrote in Learn to Be Still, these words:
“It’s Another Day In Paradise
As you stumble to your bed.
You’d give anything to silence
The voices ringing in your head.
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill
You thought you would be satisfied…
But you never will…
Til you learn to be still!
We are like sheep without a shepherd
We don’t know how to be alone
We wander around this desert
And wind up following the wrong gods home!
But the flock cries out for another
And they keep answering the bell
And another starry-eyed messiah
Meets their violent farewell-
We must learn to be still!
There are so many contradictions
In all the messages we send-
We keep asking…
How do I get out of here?
Where do I fit in?
While the world is torn and shaking…
And we find our heart is breaking…
It’s waiting for us to awaken…
And someday we will…
LEARN TO BE STILL!”
Until then…we as Christians will keep chasing our tails…going in circles…with the circles getting ever smaller…as we become more shallow and itrelevant to our world. We need to “be still…focus our minds, hearts, spirits, souls upon God, His Son, and His Word, and that knowledge will transform us, and those we encounter in our world”. When asked about his great discoveries in the world of astronomy, German Astronomer Johanness Kepler said, “I was just thinking the thoughts of God after Him!” That may just be the key that will keep us from “losing the life…in the living!”
The Danish theologian Soren Kirkegaard wrote a beautiful prayer that can hit at the heart of our issues today. I hated having to read his works in Christian Doctrine Class, during the section on Contemporary Theology. But reviewing some of his words can give us some convicting perspective. He wrote:
“Father in Heaven! What is a human being without Thee! What is all that one knows, vast accumulation though it may be, but a chipped fragment if one does not know Thee! What is all striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half-finished work if one does not know Thee! You art the One Thing and Who Art All! So, may Thou give to the intellect wisdom to comprehend that One Thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills the Only One Thing. In prosperity may Thou grant perseverance to will One Thing; amid distractions, collectiveness to will One Thing; in suffering, patience to will the One Thing. Oh, Thou that givest both the beginning and completion, may Thou early, at the dawn of day, give the young person the resolution to will the One Thing. As our day wanes, may Thou give to the Older person a renewed remembrance of the first resolution, that the first may be like the last, and the last like the first, in possession of a life that has indeed willed the One Thing! But alas it has not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is being placed between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So, in this time of repentance may Thou give the courage once again to will the One Thing”. Be still…think the thoughts of God…really know Him and as you know Him…through His Son Jesus… that is the One Thing!