We live in a world of constant noise. All around us we are being inundated with messages and sounds and distractions. Even conservative studies estimate that the average adolescent spends over 8 1/2 hours a day with media. It is important to note that adolescents may be setting the curve in the amount of time spent with media, however, most age groups aren’t much different. We are constantly filling our minds and our thoughts with images and sounds and ideas. While some of these ideas may be helpful or productive, we must admit that many of the ideas are more of a distraction to what is most important instead of a prompting towards a more holistic life. We are filling our minds with more and more stuff, which raises an important question that must be asked, are we giving God a chance to speak? Can God speak to use through the midst of constant images that bombard our thoughts every single day?
On one level the answer is obviously yes, God can speak to us through the midst of the noise. He is God, and God can do whatever he wants to do. We can never put a limit on God’s power. However, we must also admit that with the constant bombardment of noise and sound it does limit our ability to hear from God. God’s voice is strong, but often our ears and minds have problems deciphering the voice of God from all of the other competing voices we listen to. It is interesting that even Jesus, who had an intimate relationship with his father, had to find time to get away by himself and get away from the noises and distractions to spend time with his father and hear from God. If Jesus needs to, what makes us think we are any different?
1 Kings 19 recounts a story from the life of Elijah. Elijah has just come off of one of his greatest victories with his battle on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal. Elijah had set up a contest between Yahweh and Baal to see who could light the fire on the altar. The prophets of Baal tried for hours to get Baal to respond and light the fire, but nothing happened. However, when Elijah cried out to Yahweh, God answered in such a resounding way that he lit not only the sacrifice on the altar but the altar and the surrounding ground as well. There was no doubt, Yahweh God was the real God.
Elijah’s victory was short lived though. Jezebel, the queen of Israel, was furious over the defeat of Baal and vowed to kill Elijah, and so Elijah ran. He ran for 40 days out into the wilderness and finally ended up on the Mountain of God, Mt. Horeb. While on the mountain, looking for God, God tells Elijah to stand at the mouth of a cave because God is going to pass by. While Elijah is standing there a great wind comes by, but God is not in the wind. Then a great earthquake shakes the mountain, but God is not in the earthquake. The earthquake is followed by a fire, but God is not in the fire. And after the fire a sound of sheer silence. At that moment, Elijah covers his mouth with his coat and moves out of the cave. Elijah has been in the presence of and heard the voice of the Lord and he’s ready to listen.
There are two interesting points to this story. First, Elijah has to travel off by himself for 40 days before he is in a position to hear from God. God had been speaking to him all along, especially at Mt. Carmel, however, there was so much noise around Elijah that he could not fully hear the voice of the Lord. It was only when he had gotten off by himself that he was ready to listen. Second, God speaks in the silence. We often think of God speaking in a momentous way. That God will speak and the earth will shake and the sky will stand still and everyone will notice. Yet when Elijah is on Mt. Horeb, God doesn’t speak in the wind, or the fire, or the earthquake, instead, God speaks in the sound of sheer silence. It’s a voice that could easily be missed among the noises and distractions of life, but when Elijah stopped to listen, he was moved by the presence of God and covered his face because he knew it was holy ground.
I wonder, how many times do I miss the voice of God because I’m too distracted by other things. I have so many competing voices, so much extra noise in my life that it seems to drowned out the sound of sheer silence as God is trying to speak to me. I find it so easy to spend time watching the football game, or listening to the radio, or mindlessly surfing the internet and yet I find it difficult to spend twenty minutes, or even ten minutes, in quiet time listening for the voice of God. None of us would ever want to be in a relationship with our spouse or children where we fail to talk to them or listen to them, yet we find it so difficult to spend ten minutes a day listening to and hearing from our Creator, our Redeemer, our Friend. Meanwhile our faith does not grow because we are not spending the time to nurture it and feed it.
When Paul is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith, he encourages Timothy to spend time growing in Christ. “Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life, and the life to come.”(1 Timothy 4:7b-8) It’s interesting, we would all admit that taking care of ourselves physically is important, however, Paul reminds us that taking care of ourselves spiritually is even more important. What is more important than spending time with God? What is more important than getting rid of the noise and allowing God to speak? What is more important than getting rid the distractions that numb our minds everyday day and spending 10-20 quality minuets alone with God, listening for his voice, giving him a chance to speak. It’s not a difficult task, it’s simply having the motivation to turn off the noise and distractions and sit down with our bible and spend time in prayer and bible reading seeking the voice of God.
We all know it’s important, the question is, will we be dedicated enough to do it?