Be Still and know that I am God

Posted on 27 March 2008

Evangel 16:2 (Summer 1998)

Be Still and know that I am God

Evangel 16:2 (Summer 1998)

Evangelical and Exhausted

I recently received a newsletter from friends in central Europe. It spoke of Christian believers there as ‘keen, committed - and tired. . . [and of] dryness and a longing for renewal’. Such a phenomenon is clearly not unique to central Europe since a friend from within the Housechurch movement in England spoke to me about the exhaustion and depression that many leaders within his grouping were experiencing. A Deacon’s Meeting I was chairing just a few days ago echoed to the chorus of, ‘Oh no! Not more meetings’.

  Everywhere I go in Christian circles, I encounter similar phenomena; frenetic (and often inefficient) activity, ever new strategies to achieve ‘success’ (however that is defined), Christian leaders mentoring ‘busyness’ as next to godliness . . . and (often) clutching at each successive and ephemeral trend in the hope that renewal (and rest!) results.

A mirror-image of the World

The shocking thing, however, is that when I look out of my evangelical ghetto at the world outside I find that the church is merely a reflection of that world. The driven-ness and personal bankruptcy of the world has become the driven-ness and spiritual bankruptcy of the church.

Be still

But the Bible says, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10) and, not infrequently, many of us sing these sentiments as a chorus. Sadly, however, the point is usually missed! If we think about what we are singing at all (and sometimes I suspect we don’t!) we seem to assume that it is a call to have a less ‘bouncy’ time of worship or an invitation to empty our minds so that God can, as we hope, fill them.

  Neither of these activities is altogether inappropriate of course. However, in the context of Psalm 46 and where the world is in tumultuous chaos, the call to ‘Be still’ is a reminder that it is God’s world, a world in which he will be exalted and a world in which his followers arenot to ape the frenetic cosmos but to confidently and calmly leave the ‘doing’ to him.

Finding Quiet in an Active Life

Evangelicalism has always been an activists’ creed and biblically so! But there is an incipient danger which lies at its heart. It can, all too easily, lead us to forget; to forget that the work is the LORD’s and that our lack of ‘success’ may be the result of his inscrutable inactivity not our failure of technique or endeavour. We may forget, too, that biblical faith is a relationship and that relationships are often best served by simply being together; a ‘being’ that may involve no activity at all (not even ‘prayer’!).

To discover this place of quiet and calm (especially in the midst of a busy life) is not easy. Guilt is a hard task-master and our inactivity one of guilt’s most effective weapons. Others will often be ready to add their own voices. Several years ago I was involved in a particular Christian convention which required of me activity that would make it absolutely impossible to sustain a biblically ordered life-style. When I refused, it was quickly pointed out, ‘But others are doing it’. Firmly but, I hope, graciously, I had to point out that whatever others might be doing I could not conscientiously do so! But how easy to have given in to the ‘moral’ pressure.

Achieving more by doing less

It is, of course, one of the paradoxes of church history (or is it a paradox?) that some of the most effective believers have been those who were not constantly active. Paul, we know, spent a long period in ‘retreat’ (as Jesus had himself sought to do). Many other sub-apostolic examples could be give; Benedict, Francis of Assisi, some of the Orthodox fathers and, among evangelicals, Fanny Crosby and Frances Ridley Havergal.

  Perhaps, then, the blessing we so much seek from God will come not through doing more but in doing less. Could this be God’s way; not least because thereby the glory is most obviously his own?