I have just finished reading a great book by Donald S. Whitney titled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. In the book, Whitney lists ten different spiritual disciplines that is attributed with godliness. Two disciplines really stood out to me: the disciplines of silence and solitude. Dave Earley also told of another discipline called the discipline of slowing down one’s life. These three together could be called the disciplines of rest.
Christians should be the most rested individuals on earth. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB). Rest…is that something that we truly possess? It seems to me that we run around always in a hurry but never finding our destination. In this brief article, I would like to examine these little known disciplines of rest. You may say, “I can’t rest.” With younger and younger adults being diagnosed with stress-related illnesses, you can’t afford NOT to find rest.
Discipline of Silence
Whitney writes, “The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought. Sometimes silence is observed in order to read, write, pray, and so on” (Whitney, 184). We have become a culture of noise. Noise…noise…NOISE!!! We are surrounded by it. Once I was at church studying for the message for the following Sunday. I took a break and entered the sanctuary. I sat in one of the pews. It was amazing. I had no awesome experience from above. I did not have a glorious epiphany of any sort. I just sat and relished in the beauty of silence. It was so bizarre to my ears that my ears actually started ringing due to the absolute silence.
We focus so much on communication. We teach people how to pray. But do we teach people how to listen? When Elijah went to Mount Horeb to hear a word from the Lord, God did not speak in a tornado or by thunder but by a still quiet whisper. Maybe the reason we do not hear from God the way we wish is due to the fact that we do not shut our mouths enough to hear from God. Have you ever spoken to a person who asks you fifty questions before you have a chance to answer one? I feel that we treat God the same way. We are always talking desiring noise. Maybe it is time for us to hush and hear from God.
Discipline of Solitude
Whitney describes the discipline of solitude as, “Solitude is the Spiritual Discipline of voluntarily and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes” (Whitney, 184). Whitney goes on to describe that silence and solitude are complementary disciplines…sometimes practiced together. Jesus practiced this discipline more than we might expect. Matthew records that when times were tough, Jesus alone to pray. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was” (Matthew 12:14-16, NASB). Did Jesus simply escape due to the pressure? No. When Jesus’ time came to be arrested, He did not escape and hide. He faced His arrest and death head-on. Rather, Jesus used this time to commune with the Father in a powerful way.
Many times when the heat is on, we take the mentality of forging on without taking time to gather our thoughts or seek the Lord’s will. This was not the case with Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, needed time with the Father during the heat of the battle. If Jesus did, how much more do you and I? But, Jesus did not only seek solitude in the difficult moments. He also sought private time with the Father during good times. John writes, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15, NASB). This was a time when the populace loved Jesus. They were so enamored with Jesus that they wanted to place Him in a role as their king. Isn’t this great? Wouldn’t this be a momentum boost? The most important thing to ask, was this God’s will? During the good times, Jesus went away to seek the Father’s will. Again, if Jesus the Son of God needed to do this, how much more do you and I?
There may need to be some special planning in order to help you find solitude. It may be that you and your spouse can take turns watching the kids. Maybe the mom will need an hour to herself to pray while the dad watches the kids and vice versa. Maybe when you are on vacation, you can take some time to get away to be with God. Perhaps, you can swing by the park for a few minutes after work. The main thing is to get away for awhile. It does not have to be a long period of time…just a period of time.
Discipline of Slowing Down
Dave Earley mentions this discipline in one of his videos for Liberty University. The discipline basically entails that one gets back to the basics of one’s life. The person does not take on anything that is not considered essential. This will mean that you will have to use a word that you hate….”No.” Oh the horror!!! Not every invitation and not every favor needs to be accepted. WHAT??? I thought you pastors said yes to every person who needed a favor!!! This is a principle that I am still learning. The problem is that we, too often, take on things in our lives that God never willed for our lives. Our society is addicted to busyness. Maybe the reason you are so stressed is that you are doing more than God desires for you. In church, 10% of the people do 100% of the work. Maybe if you are not helping in the church, you ought to be. Your lack of responsibility may be burdening those who are working. If you are one of the 10%, maybe you ought to pray to see what God wants you to do and what He does not want you to do. Maybe it is extra-curricular activities. You may have accepted too many roles at work or helping out recreational clubs. Sometimes our play can become work.
There is a little known commandment that is rarely kept any longer. It is one of the Ten Commandments. “See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:29-30, NASB). God gave us a day of rest. Why? God knows how we need to rest physically, mentally, and spiritually in Him. As with other issues in the Bible, we do not hurt God by breaking His commandments. We only hurt ourselves.
These three disciplines of rest–silence, solitude, and slowing down–can be of great benefit to you and your family. Our society is speeding up at a rapid pace. Businesses push harder than ever before in a market that is even more competitive. There is very little you can do about society and business. But, you hold great power and control in the way you live your life. Will you submit to God’s ways and find rest for your soul? As the old saying goes, we need to let go and let God take over.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Brian Chilton
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
Whitney, Donald S., Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991).