“You look like you’ve got ants in your pants!” was the cry of the school teacher. She, luckily, wasn’t talking to me, but one of my classmates. No matter what this young man tried to do, he could just not sit still. He was constantly talking, fidgeting, making noise, getting up and walking around the classroom and generally being a distraction to everything that the teacher was trying to accomplish. It drove her nuts, yet he couldn’t seem to control it. He had to do something.
Since my move into ministry, and most recently into full time pastoring, I’ve been lucky enough to have conversations with many people about new and innovative ideas on what we should be doing as a church. Some of the suggestions are genuine, some are controversial, and others have been down right nutty. I truly have appreciated the conversations, and have had opportunity to even implement some of the suggestions.
But, this begs the question, which opportunities should a church, congregation, community, or believer pursue? We truly can’t do all of them. Often times, the sentiment is expressed that doing something is better than doing nothing. While at face value this appears to be true, I argue that it is rarely true when it comes to how God directs and leads.
One of the hardest things for me to do is be still. You’re most likely acquainted with the verse, “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46) It’s interesting, that in the context of this psalm, the author is describing how powerful our God truly is – calling him the, “Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (v. 11) This God we worship: causes wars to end through His supernatural might (v. 9); rattles the earth at the sound of His voice (v. 6); is our impenetrable fortress. (v. 7) In other words, our God wields a power than none can stand against.
But, why does He ask us to be still?
It is simply this, He wants to be out in front, with his mighty army, leading the way for us. He needs to clear the path for us. In Deuteronomy 7, God tells Moses that He will go before the Israelites into the Promised Land, clearing the way for them to inhabit it. He will fight the battles for them. In other words, He was saying, “Wait here until I ensure that the coast is clear.”
In the New Testament, Jesus’s final statements to His disciples echo this concept. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says:
And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. (Luke 24:49)
Jesus was essentially telling them, “Go and be still.” I can imagine the confusion they must have felt at this directive. Just go back and wait for the mystery to be revealed? If I were present, I would be begging Jesus to give it to me now, not later. Patience is not my strong suit.
Of course, the rest of the story is that Jesus made good on His promise and sent them the Holy Spirit. It is this entity, this indweller, that began to show them the things they should be doing. Notice what happened immediately following their full acceptance of the Holy Spirit into their lives. Acts 2 says that:
A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-46)
It was a full-on revival! These people couldn’t get enough of Jesus, and they wanted others to understand it to. So, this band of believers allowed God to permeate every aspect of their lives: academic, social, spiritual, food, clothing, finances, etc.
The early church was primed, and excited to do the work of God. But, how would they know what needed to be done? The Holy Spirit delivered each opportunity for the disciples to follow. Peter healed people and began preaching the gospel with great authority, even though he had no formal education. (Acts 3) They gained an audience with the influencers of their day, and began helping the destitute and the poor of their community (Acts 4). The list can go on and on. (Really, if you haven’t read the book of Acts recently, it is full of this stuff!) The Holy Spirit placed the opportunities before them, and they accepted the invitation to do ministry.
Now, I’m not saying that we just sit back and wait for God to drop everything into our lap during our weekly worship service. Being still must be done in a genuine attempt to be used by God. Often times, the danger is that being still can be used as an excuse for apathy. “The Spirit hasn’t moved me…” can be an easy out for just not wanting to do anything in service to God, His church, or our communities.
Being still means begging, pleading, and expecting God to put you into action. It requires humbleness and submission to anything He may call you to do. Being still is the preparation for action, not apathy.
Instead, we must model what the disciples were doing. Their model was simple:
- Join together in prayer and humbleness
- Wait for the Holy Spirit to ignite them
- Go out into their community
- Look for the opportunities presented by the Spirit
- Act on the opportunity
- Praise God
- Welcome new people into their church family
In my own life, I get fidgety in ministry. I want to do something to help ignite a movement. I want to create a program, plan an event, write a book, etc. that will help draw people to Christ. While all of these may be good ideas (although they’re a lot of work!), if they are not borne of the Holy Spirit, then my efforts will be exhausting and not very fruitful, because He has not cleared the way.
I’m trying more and more to adopt the methodology of the apostles. Wait for God’s Spirit to stir, look for His leading, act on His opportunities, and praise God that He allows me to be a small part of what He is doing in this world.
Of course, none of this is possible without prayer and communication with God. I need to spend more time on my knees asking for God to reveal the opportunities He has cleared the way for, rather than using my own feeble creativeness to generate my own.
My goal is to Be Still. How about you?