But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (Is 40:31)
About fifteen years ago I was beginning to learn to hear God. It was a long and difficult process of training myself to be quiet in my soul. Hearing God, I think, is like trying to listen to the creek run right outside the crack of your window while inside the house, there's the noise of other sounds like the hum of the TV, people talking, pots and pans banging, and babies whining. Sometimes when we come to the Lord and attempt to hear Him, all we hear are the loud rantings of our soul. Our soul carries on a multitude of conversations, much like a J.S. Bach Prelude where two or three strands of melody sing simultaneously. The mind wants to talk about work and the heart wants to talk about people and your stomach wants to talk about food and your nerves whats to talk about problems. They all open their mouths at the same time and issue forth deluges of loud, random thoughts. None of the those voices is God's voice.
Sometimes you have to wait for a long time before these voices die down, before you can enter a peacefulness that is truly quiet. It may take an hour before you are truly quiet. Are you willing to wait?
Madame Guyon wrote these lines in a poem, Holy Solitude:
Away from the world and the noise
Silence, like the night!
She's not describing a silence of your surroundings but a silence of the soul. When the soul quiets down into a state of "silence like the night," you are blessed indeed.
When I first got saved, God changed me. The most noticeable change was that my depression, which had hovered over me like a dark cloud, lifted. For the first time in years, I actually noticed that the sky was blue and the rays of the sun were enjoyable. What made all that difference was that the Holy Spirit came and began to fellowship with me.
This is perhaps the most wonderful benefit in following Christ - the fellowship of the Holy Spirit!
Jesus promisedthe coming of the Holy Spirit. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. (John 15:26)
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "the Comforter" and "the Spirit of Truth" in this verse. He is indeed the Comforter! His Presence is very comforting. His words are often very liberating and enlightening. His fellowship with you is satisfying. It fulfills the deepest longing for relationship.
Sometimes, a person's presence is very grating. You walk away completely agitated. Not so the Holy Spirit. When He comes, He brings the spring wind and rain. He takes away your stress. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the most comforting Presence on earth.
When I expereinced the wonderful Person of the Holy Spirit, it was like I found a heart-to-heart friend! Benny Hinn described in his book, Good Morning, Holy Spirit, how when he first received the Holy Spirit, he'd wake up and say, "Good Morning, Holy Spirit!" The most electrifying, beautiful presence would come. He'd lie in bed and feel God's presence.
What I experienced was not so much His Presence but His voice. I talked to Him all day long and He talked to me too. He often told me what to do - little things, like, "Clean up the toothpaste in the sink," or "Why don't you return your professor's books from last semester," or "Rinse that rice one more time..."
I was a teenager who had a rebellious streak. As much as I rejoiced over hearing God's voice and enjoyed His leadership over my life, my flesh rebelled against it. One day, when the Holy Spirit was gently nudging me to do something, I said, "God, please don't tell me what to do. My life is filled with people telling me what to do. I don't want to have to heed one more voice."
How I would give anything to take those words back! How I wished countless times that I responded differently! I must have hurt His feelings. I felt the warm glow of His Presence retreat, and He was silent. He did not argue or reason with me. He simply let me have my way.
The Holy Spirit is not a bully. He does not force His voice upon you, or lord over you like a demanding authority figure. He is gentle. This quality is foreign in a world of competitiveness and social darwinism. It is incomprehensible to people who believe that "nice guys finish last."
After those harsh words, God's spirit retreated from me for almost three years. For three years, I could not hear God. For three years, I struggled desperately to find Him. For three years, I fasted and prayed to find Him, but with merely a few moments of glory. For three years, the word of the Lord was scarce!
Without the Spirit of Truth near, you live in a state of semi-darkness. Without light, your life is like a tug boat on the gray waters of the open sea. There's a lot of commotion, but little direction. Life looked so busy and productive on the outside, but there was no sight of True North.
I am very thankful for those three years though. During that time, I knew I would do anything, give up anything, waste everything, in order to hear God again. His sweet fellowship was so important to me. A song goes,
Don't know what you got till it's gone
Don't know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It's just this song
And it ain't easy to get back
Takes so long...
Yep. That's exactly it. Grace left me, and I was left with as much chance to hear God as the masses without grace... It was time for me to develop some God-hearing skills.
After those three years I decided it was necessary to learned to hear God little by painstakingly little. One day about five years later, I asked God, "what is the secret to a successful Christian's walk?"
He was so good to tell me this, and I want to share it with you.
He said, "The secret to walking with the Lord is to wait for Him. Everyday, in every situation, in every season of life, learn to wait for the Lord."
That was a God-conversation I will never forget. I was so happy to gather this manna from His mouth. I rejoiced over this manna, brandishing it like a kid with a trophy. The secret to our walk with God is to wait upon Him! I proclaimed to my friends. Unfortunately, I really didn't know what that meant.
Now I understand a sliver more. Waiting for the Lord is not merely something symbolic, etheral, poetic - whatever you want to call it. It is a literal process!!! When you are waiting for something, you sit there quietly and wait. This morning we went to a restaurant where we waited for AN HOUR for the food to come out! We did not get up and go run errands, walk the streets and come back, or harass the waitress about our food. We simply waited, knowing that it will come.
Same thing with God. Life is the 21st century is wrought with activities, programs, and things to do. Gone are the days when people sat on the porch and simply drank lemonade and meditated. Gone are the days when people kept a journal. Gone are the days when people look forward to Saturday afternoons when they can curl up and read a book.
Since time is of the essence, the best way to show God that you really mean business is to give Him huge chunks of time. Not merely enough time to tell Him how you feel, what you're believing for, what you're thankful for, what you're interceding for. If you truly love God, you'd want to set aside time to be with Him.
This is the difference between a servant and a son. A servant wants his reward for being pleasing and righteous. A son wants to be His Dad.
You just sit there and say nothing. You just there and enjoy the quiet. You sit there and feel His Spirit. You have no agenda and very few words. All you offer is your ears and your open heart. You just sit there and enjoy this time put aside just for the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes the best time to do that is in the early mornings, before anybody else gets up. When it's still dark outside, and the house is cold and dark...that's the best time to seek the Lord. All the energy of life from the day before has died down and your soul is fresh; your spirit is on high alert. You sit in a lighted place so you can read, and you wait for the Lord to show you where to read in the Bible. You wait for the Lord to show you what to study. You come to Him with no agenda, simply a pen and paper, and your Bible, and you come quietly, hungry to learn, eager to please Him. He is pleased most, not when we do great works for Him, or when we speak great Truths for Him, but simply when we come, like a son who still admires his Dad and wants to spend all his time with Him.
Everytime I go visit my parents, I am highly encouraged. We don't really talk about the Lord a lot, although both of my parents are Christians. Our walks with the Lord has become so private that it borderlines secrecy. I look forward to getting up early in the mornings to tiptoe into the kitchen and make coffee and wait upon the Lord. I sign off early the night before, looking forward to getting up to a house that is quiet and dark!
But the next morning, tiptoeing up the stairs into the kitchen, I bump into my mom who is curled up in a chair under a blanket, praying softly. The light was off. I go into the living room and bump into my dad, who is sitting on the carpeted floor in front of the couch, also under a blanket, silently praying. Wow. I felt like I've been found out!
Feeling trapped, I go out the door. "Where are you going?" Dad stirs.
"I'm going to McDonald's to get coffee," I say to Dad.
It was 4AM and the street lights were dimly lit and the sky was still black and snow blanketed the roads lightly, like confectionary sugar. It was cold in my car as I drove down the road, following my Garmin to find the nearest McDonalds. I looked forward to ordering a coffee and sitting in my car to seek the Lord. I looked forward to this dark hour, where as I sought Him in my spirit, I will also get to see the soft light of the morning crescendo into daylight. This is the most precious time of the day. I am glad I can give this time to the Lord. I am also really glad that my mom and dad feel the same way...