(August 6, 2017) Tim Edwards brings a timely word based on 2 Kings 2: 1-8…
Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes in all our lives there are moments, days, weeks or even lengthy seasons where we struggle to understand what is going on, what to do about it.
As a pastor I have many conversations every week with a variety of people (and not only from my own church) – guess what I am seeing at the moment? Some tough times. I’m very aware that there are large numbers of people who are currently walking through difficult times.
Yes, life can be tough!
The reality is that that life can be tough, is tough, even for great Christians! And I am more and more convinced every day that we as humans, on our own and in our own limited capacity, have no answers at all to help us through the messiness of life.
Our search for purpose, meaning, security, stability, relationships and love is just not found in the things we as humans tend to value and count and attempt to accumulate – money, possessions, power, position, politics, business or anything else for that matter. None of it helps.
So we know that life can be tough. And we know that we don’t have the answers in and of ourselves.
Surely then, this is all the more reason for us to look to God for his love, guidance, strength and direction – to call out to God for his peace and restoration.
Recently I reminded our own people that the name of the season we are in right now as a church is one of Personal Restoration.
We need God to restore us, reshape us; we need to hold onto God and allow him to mold us and remake us. It is time to be hungry for God to live in and through us, to change us and enable us to change the world around us.
And I hear you say, ‘Sure, no worries, I’m up for some personal restoration – but how and where do I start?’
As I thought about this, something in 2 Kings 2:1-8 – something really simple and straight-forward that I believe can help all of us break through caught my attention. It was part of the story of Elijah the prophet and Elisha his young servant, trainee and mentee who was about to assume his master’s mantle and role (Do read the whole eight verses).
‘When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal’ (v1).
‘The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet”’ (v3).
‘The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet”’ (v5).
‘Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on’ (v6).
Elisha’s response to his tough season
The relationship between the two men is so strong that Elisha doesn’t want to be apart from Elijah but rather wants to follow him everywhere.
But he also knows that there is an approaching difficulty; a season where he will not be able to spend time with his master, because Elijah will no longer be with him on earth.
And we find that two separate groups of people take it on themselves to remind young Elisha of the impending difficulty – you do know that your master is not going to be around for much longer, don’t you?
Don’t you just love it when people around you like to remind you of the tough time you’re facing! Look instead at Elisha’s response to his tough season; an impending difficult moment – ‘Yes I do know, but please be quiet.’
He doesn’t pretend the tough time isn’t happening; he doesn’t stick his head in the sand and ignore it; in fact he immediately recognises and acknowledges the situation but chooses to respond differently; he walks a pathway which is unexpected – he chooses to stop and think – and to be quiet.
The word Elisha used is chashah – ‘to hush!’ Various versions use different phraseology, all of which make the lesson plain: Yes, I do know but…
- ‘Let’s not talk about it right now.’
- ‘Say no more.’
- ‘Keep silent.’
- ‘Be still.’
- ‘Hold your peace.’
Being quiet when life is challenging
Elisha in effect is saying, ‘But let’s just pause and take a minute to think it through before we do anything; let’s respond and not react; let’s not let the facts get in the way of the truth. Yes we realise this might hurt, but over and above that, we know that God has this all in his control.’
Incidentally, it might not necessarily be a situation of loss, grief, pain or suffering that is currently causing discomfort – it may simply be a season of change, family structure alteration, relocation of home or job – anything which is different to what was.
Want to know how to handle life’s tough seasons and what to do when you find yourself in a challenging position? Be quiet!
I’m reminded of Psalm 46: 10, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ We’re encouraged to stop, pause, be calm, think, pray, to be still and know that he is God!
When I first felt God’s call into ministry – Nicki and I went together as a young couple (not even engaged yet) to see our pastor back then to talk through what we were feeling. His precious wisdom was simply – ‘Don’t rush, don’t do anything; “Be still and know that I am God”.’
Christianity – the counter-cultural walk
We want to go at things quickly. We want it done and finished tomorrow. We want answers now. And we want to talk about everything and tell everyone every detail.
We live in a world of oversharing with a decreasing understanding of wisdom and patience and timing. No wonder we are in a mess! We think: ‘But this is happening all around us and we need to do something now!’
Yes, I know … but in keeping with the reality of being still and knowing that God is God, let’s be counter-cultural and –
- Not talk about it right now
- Say no more
- Keep silent for a moment
- Be still
- Hold our peace!
Where do I get such counter-cultural thoughts from? Psalm 46! That encouraging psalm that reminds we have an answer in the midst of life’s tough situations, beginning with the reality that ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …’
In this brief 11-verse psalm, Selah is declared three times – after verses 3, 7 and 11. Selah – ‘pause and calmly think about’ or ‘take time to think about what you have just heard’ – is viewed by biblical scholars as a musical notation, a helpful suggestion in singing worshipful psalms. To me this whole helpful psalm encouragingly demonstrates how being still, being at peace works.
Okay then, how do we actually start being still? Four things to remember –
1. Hand it all over to God
Part of our learning journey is remembering to hand things over to God and not try to do it all ourselves. We are not able to carry the weight; we are not designed to be able to do that. We need to hand it over to God, we need to let go.
The poem Broken Toys is very true…
As children bring their broken toys,
With tears for us to mend;
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because he was my friend.
But then instead of leaving him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help, with ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried,
‘How could you be so slow?’
‘My child,’ he said, ‘what could I do?
You never did let go…’
2. Connect with your church family
We all have to learn again and again the importance of the concept of the body of Christ, the family of God. This group of people, you and I, who together believe in God must chose to stand together as one – even in difficult times.
Think of Paul’s words that he wrote while still in gaol, literally in chains, and encouraged Christians to ‘stand firm in one spirit, contending as one person…’ (Philippians 1:27).
This is a huge principle of God, repeated throughout scripture in a variety of ways – 1 Corinthians 12 for example, reminding us that we are all many parts of one body – the body of Christ.
How do we walk through the tough times? Think like one body – lean on one another. Help, care, share as a family. Now I know that natural family is not easy, let alone spiritual family – but don’t give up! God has not given up on us, so how dare we give up on him and what he has given us through the body?
Philippians 4 teaches us to pray about everything! It will lead to peace – yet we just don’t seem to get it. I encourage everyone to focus on prayer. Come to prayer meetings, pray on your own, pray with family and friends.
Prayers don’t have to be long and impressive, full of big words – they just need to be real, open and honest, talking to God about life and change and where you are at and how you are going.
4. Don’t make excuses
I recall driving into town about ten years ago when we noticed a huge new sign that made us all literally laugh out loud – a billboard set up by the council declaring that they wanted to make Geelong a ‘Butt-Free City.’
Obviously they were referring to cigarette butts, but it made me think about the fact that there are a lot of ‘Big Buts’ in life that get in our way!
- I know I should do that but…
- I think I heard God tell me to do this, but…
- I really shouldn’t say this to that person, but…
There are too many big buts in our lives and they are damaging!
In this season of personal restoration and our understanding of stillness, being quiet and letting God be God – we must have a look at our big buts and remove them from our lives! Removing the obstacles is a key to growth.
There is so much for us to learn through the challenges of life – we have the opportunity to change, and grow, and develop and nothing must stand in the way of this if God has planned and ordained it!
We will deal best with difficulty in our lives when we be quiet – when we stop rushing around and trying to solve everything in our strength and start being quiet and listening to him, being still and really knowing that he is indeed God!
Use this moment to pause and reflect (Selah) and let God speak to you about whatever is on your mind right now – whatever it is that you are dealing with and walking through.