Sometimes waiting is the most strategic ministry move you can make. A well-known and loved Bible verse explains,
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
The Hebrew word that is translated “still” literally means to stop fighting; to relax and withdraw. Some translations say “cease striving.” The term paints a portrait of a surrendered life. The historic context of Psalm 46 is that Judah (Israel’s southern region) is on the brink of war. The psalmist also calmly reminds the Judeans and their king that,
God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid (vv 1-2a).
This message was originally intended to encourage Judah’s King Hezekiah to relax in the presence of God. Leadership often involves pressure filled situations like this, doesn’t it? Hezekiah was struggling with the temptation to agree to a political alliance with the neighboring pagan kings of Assyria or Egypt. He was also being pressured into reuniting with his backstabbing relatives in Samaria (2 Kings 19:14-19). The stakes were high because Hezekiah’s army was tiny by comparison to any of his neighboring enemies.
Some of you will likely be frustrated by this admonition to do nothing. Pastoral passivism is not how you roll. I get it…really, I do. I am wired the same way. Driven people like us do not like to be still or to wait. In fact, I’m not sure which one I like less. Waiting in line, for example, feels like wasting time to me. Stillness seems to be uniquely suited for those who are unable or unwilling to move forward.
The Message paraphrases Psalm 46:10 in a compelling way, “Step out of the traffic.” Traffic is especially annoying to the driven because it slows us down. We have places to go, people to see, battles to win.
The stillness that King Hezekiah was practicing was an intentional time-out. Israel’s head coach was consulting with the team’s real owner – Yahweh. He just needed some time to find out what the right game plan was.
King Hezekiah was surrounded by the many voices of counsel, each with a unique plan of action – Sennacherib’s intimidating voice, Isaiah’s strong prophetic voice, the psalmist’s poetic musical voice, as well as many other friends, family and advisors. The smartest thing he did was to heed the psalmist’s advice to stop and pray.
People were looking to Hezekiah for a decision and he was looking to God for direction.
If this trailblazing king slipped and fell, everybody would pay for it. Instead, Hezekiah put on the brakes until he heard from God. He literally stopped (Shabbat; aka Sabbath) and waited for God to lead him. Hezekiah ended up refusing the unholy alliances. He decided to surrender to Yahweh instead of his pagan neighbors, who would have certainly imposed a life of idolatry and slavery on them.
Sabbath-stillness may seem like a lack of progress initially, but it is a strategic lack of movement until the direction is clear.
How you practice the discipline of stillness is as unique as you are. Stillness is not necessarily lack of physical motion – like a game of freeze-tag. My best prayer times are while I’m walking, jogging or hiking. Driven leaders are multi-taskers by nature, so be creative in how you apply this to your busy life.
Why is it so hard for us to wait on God?
What are some ways you have personally practiced stillness?