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Standing Still

In our Western society’s approach to life, it seems like there is always too much to do, too many places to go, too many emails to answer, Etc. Yet God tells us in the pages of the Bible that there is a time to stand still. When should we do that—and why?

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For Further Consideration

Here is a link to a sermon on faith from our site.

If you want a quick look at other scriptures about being still, check out this site.

Transcription

We just finished a series called Time Management for Christians. The inspiration for it came from my own situation and that of others, where we are all inundated with innumerable emails, text messages, social media hits, voicemails, etcetera – so much so, we become overwhelmed, lose sight of what’s really important, or simply forget appointments and promises made – and yet there is a serious need to get things done in a timely manner. There’s also, for Christians, a time to simply stand still, however. I didn’t mention that in the series because it was the other side of the coin. But today, we’re going to think about standing still. We’ll just juxtapose the series on how to get things done today with the Christian concept of standing still.

So, what do you mean by that – standing still? Well, probably the most famous example of standing still in the Bible occurs when Israel went out of Egypt. God told them to paint lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their huts, and those that did were saved when the death angel passed over and killed all the firstborn of Egypt. And after this terrifying event, the Egyptians were so frightened that they gave the now-freed Hebrews their jewelry, and gold, and animals, and anything to get rid of them. And the Hebrews left with what the King James calls “a high hand.” But then, when they learned that Pharaoh had changed his mind, and sent his vast army after them, they became a fearful mob, blaming Moses for their plight. It look, for all the world, like they were about to be slaughtered – run down by the fierce horses and chariots of the Pharaoh. Let’s pick that up in Exodus 14:9.

Exodus 14:9 – The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses, and chariots, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them by the sea, by Pihahiroth, in front of Baalzephon. When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They also said to Moses, “Is it because are were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is it not what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” So they were panicky and afraid – not behaving well. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians, whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you. You have only to be silent.

So biblical standing still means waiting for a miracle, or an intervention from God. Every intervention from God is a miracle, but some aren’t recognized as such. Of course, we know how that all came out. God opened up the Red Sea, Israel passed through dry shod, Pharaoh’s entire army followed the Israelites into the Red Sea – a tactical error of serious magnitude and rather ironic. They should have stood still, too. They should have stayed on the bank, but they were driven by their blood lust. And they forgot that there were walls of water way, way over their heads on both sides. Think about it. Would you do that? That’s a good lesson for us. Bad motives can produce dangerous results. All Israel had to do, once on the other side, was stand still and watch. So that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about watching what God does in our lives, especially when we’re helpless.

So let’s talk next about when to stand still. Well, One of the ways is what happened to them. The way was blocked. They had no where to go. So they needed a miracle to go forward. Now, here’s the thing about that situation. They should have known a miracle was about to happen. And why do I say that? Well, in Exodus 3:16, it says God said:

Exodus 3:16 – Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, “The LORD – the God of your fathers, the god of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob – has appeared to me saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt. And I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.”

So God told these people what He was going to do when push came to shove. When the chariots approached, they didn’t believe it. They didn’t have faith. And still, God did a miracle, in spite of a lack of faith. You know, Jesus didn’t tell us we had to have perfect faith. He said, “If you have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed” – which He said was the smallest of all seeds – “that’s still enough to move a mountain.” So God told these people He was going to save them, but they didn’t believe it. They didn’t have the faith needed. And God still did a miracle, in spite of a lack of faith. Why? Because He promised.

Now, most of the things that we ask God for, we’re told in the Bible, He’s going to give us. So He’s promised. And we can have faith in that. So that’s one big area – when the way is blocked, when we know where we need to go, but we can’t get there because of obstacles.

Here’s the second one: when we don’t know what to do. Well, when is that? Well, actually, it’s all the time. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what it means to be poor in spirit. Poverty of spirit is a state in which a person knows they are impoverished when it comes to spiritual things and spiritual reality, and they need God’s influence to understand God and His ways living in our lives. So God says that the spiritual world is diametrically opposite to ours, and so we think it’s one way, and it’s really something else. So what we have to come to do is just understand that we really don’t know what to do, and we always need to ask God for help.

David said in Psalms 143:8:

Psalms 143:8 – Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the I should go, for to You I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to You for refuge. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. That’s an interesting statement there – “on level ground” – isn’t it? We talk about having boots on the ground today. That’s what David was saying. He was a soldier. So he needed to have God’s Spirit lead him all the time – when His boots are on the ground – you know, when we’re mixing it up, when we’re busy at work, and doing God’s work – all the time.

Okay, so that’s a second way – when we don’t know what to do. And here’s a third: when we know what to do, but we’re too weak to do it. Is that a time to stand still? No, I tricked you, actually. When we know what to do, we need to get up and do it. Right? A lot of us think that it’s time to sit down when we’re too weak to do what we know to do, and that’s not true.

In the story of David and Goliath, we see the entire army of Israel stymied by a giant. And every day, the giant would come out and challenge someone to fight him. And everyone knew what needed to be done, but they were all too fearful to do it. There’s really an interesting biblical reference that makes it plain. It’s in 1 Samuel 14:6. Jonathan was spying out a Philistine encampment. It says he was in a crease between two crags.

1 Samuel 14:6-11 – And he said to his young armor bearer, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised.” That’s what they called the Philistines, because they were not circumcised like the Hebrews. “It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” So he believed God could do whatever He wanted. And his armor bearer said to him, “Hey, I’m with you all the way, man. Just do what you want to do, and behold, I’m right behind you. I’ve got your back.” And then Jonathan said, “We’re going to cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. And if they say to us, ‘Wait until we come up to you,’ then we will stand in our place, and we will not go down to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be a sign for us.” So you got that?  If they say, “Wait till we come,” then we’re just going to stay there. But, if they say, “Come to us,” then we’re going to go there and go through them, because that’s God’s signal that they’re ours. So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. Now we’re to the point that I wanted to mention to you. And the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of their holes, where they have hidden themselves. That’s how they viewed the Israelites, because of how the Israelite army would hide from Goliath and not face him. They thought they were a bunch of sniveling cowards – like little rats or mice that hide in the cracks of the earth. So, okay back, now, to David and Goliath.

The king, Saul, and all his men knew what needed to be done, but they were all too weak and faithless to do it. So this young guy, David, said he would go fight the giant. And he was too small to wear Saul’s armor – Saul was a great big guy – so he went out with a leather sling and five smooth stones in a pouch that he gathered for that purpose in the brook Kidron. He didn’t even have a sword. But he did know what to do. And he believed God would be with him, and we all know the story. Everyone in Israel believed Goliath was too big to hit, and David believed, because of God, that he was too big to miss.

Okay, so that’s three points. When else do we need to stand still? Well, when we’ve done all we can and it’s not enough.

In the movie, Facing the Giants – one of my favorite movies – it’s produced by that church in Georgia that’s made several movies – there’s a private Christian school football coach, who is struggling with his failure as a coach. Every day he would see a man from the church come in the school and walk down the hallway praying over each locker and the young person who used it. One day he approached the coach, told him he knew he was struggling, encouraged him not to give up, and the coach said, “I’ve been praying for help, but nothing has happened.” And the man told him a story about two farmers who were in a drought situation. They both prayed for rain. One of them also went out and prepared his fields to receive the rain – that is, he planted a crop. And he asked the coach, “Which one do you think God blessed?” And he said, “Well, the one who prepared.” And the man said, “So you have prayed. Now you need to go prepare to receive it.” So the coach, then, went out and took measures to rally his team and prepare them to win. I’m not going to tell you how it turns out, because you should watch the movie

So, here’s the point: quite often, we think praying is all we can do. It’s amazing the number of church people that come to me that need psychological help – they’re hoping to take advantage of my counseling service – but they haven’t done anything. And I’ve noticed most of the time, when people who aren’t in the church come to me, they’ve taken a number of steps to try to resolve their issues. Anyway, it is necessary to do all we can do, as well as to pray. And quite often, that’s not the case.

There’s an example of this in the Bible about the right way to do this that gets my attention. And that was the threat by the Assyrian spokesperson of Sennacherib, the Assyrian, to King Hezekiah, king of Judah. The Assyrians had taken the nation of Israel, and were headed step-by-step toward Jerusalem. And their king, Sennacherib, sent his emissary, the Rabshakeh, to Jerusalem. And the Rabshakeh, we’re told, sat outside the city wall and talked up to the people on the wall. And he said, “Don’t listen to your king, Hezekiah. He tells you your God is going to save you. But where all the gods of all the other nations we’ve already taken? No, if you resist, you’re all as good as dead. But, if you come out now and give up, we’ll treat you well.” So he was practicing psychological warfare on the population, as well as the leadership. And we’re told he also sent a letter to Hezekiah. Let’s pick it up there in 2 Kings 19.

2 Kings 19:14-19 – Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it. And Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. So he turned it around so God could see it and laid it out for Him. And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God – You alone – of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear. Open Your eyes, O LORD, and see. And hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste to the nations of their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood and stone. Therefore, they are destroyed. So now, O LORD, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You, O LORD, are God alone.

No one had been able to save themselves from the Assyrians. And the Assyrians’ path was littered with corpses and ravished cities and villages all the way from Nineveh to Jerusalem. Hezekiah had prepared for the siege as best he could. There was nothing else he could do, except for this prayer. That was it. Life or death was in God’s hands. So what do you think happened? Well, in 2 Kings 19:35, it says:

V-35 – And that night, the angel of the LORD went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand people in the camp of the Assyrians. And when the people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies

Just let that sink in for a minute – 185,000 people. We live in a city of about a quarter of a million, so that would have been more than half the people in this town. Do you think God loves irony? Listen to this:

V-36-37 – Then Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed and went home and lived in Nineveh. And as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch, his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon, his son, reigned in his place.

I mean, He broke the back of the Assyrians that night. And no Jew, no king, had to lift a finger. God took care of business.

Okay, I have one more thing…I’m sure there are other ways and other times when it’s good to stand still, but the last one I have for you is this one. And that is, when it’s time to worship God. You’ll notice in the previous four situations, all of them could have been resolved by beseeching God for wisdom and help, and when they were resolved, that’s why. So we can stand still when we need to talk to God about problems, like Hezekiah did. And, again, in our lives, when would that be? Well, when the way is blocked, when we don’t know what to do, when we’ve done all we can and it’s still not enough, and when it’s time to worship God – which is this one – always.

Now, I think it’s important to understand that there is time to do that, but I want you to think about the fact that there are certain things that underlie standing still. One of them is faith – believing that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Those are Paul’s words out of the book of Hebrews. God is and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Sometimes, He’s even a rewarder of those who don’t seek Him diligently. You know, He’s a generous God.

Secondly, underlying the standing still thing, is to know that God always knows what to do when we seldom do. If we don’t know what to do, standing still is a good thing. It prevents us from making a mistake, doesn’t it? So God always knows what to do.

A few years ago, when we left our former church and its ministry, we wondered what to do regarding a congregation. Our group had some money. We had a place to meet. We were with few people, but there were some of us. But no matter what we did, it seemed, it only got smaller. I wondered if that was really what God wanted until I realized that all of us in that group were so stressed by financial and other issues that we would not have had time to take care of anybody else. I also realized that there was no lack of places in town for people to attend our kind of church. Maybe God was telling us there were enough of those already, and that He had enough of them already. Then I wondered if that wasn’t just an excuse I’d conjured. But someone in our group had promoted a study of a course on spiritual gifts, and the program posed the question: What if you don’t have some of the things you need to grow your group – like somebody to play the piano, or you don’t have a pastor, or you don’t have a place to meet that’s big enough, or whatever? And they said, “Well, what that means is, that God doesn’t think you need that right now. So I started to realize that I had a ministry I needed to take care of. So I stopped worrying and just enjoyed our little group, such as it was, while putting everything I had into LifeResource Ministries. So there’s a case where God knew what to do and I didn’t. I just had to learn by watching.

Thirdly, underlying standing still, is the belief that God cares about us as individuals. Jesus told the anxious people of His time, “Don’t fret about tomorrow and what you’re going to eat, and what you’re going to wear. God has fed and clothed the animals and He’ll take care of you. He knows every sparrow that falls, and you’re much more important than any sparrow. So don’t worry about it.” Sometimes, it’s just time to stand still on those things and let those things take care of themselves – or let God take care of them for us.

And fourthly, God always acts – and He does it in our long-term best interest – even if we don’t see it. Looking back, I see that, if God has answered my prayer to grow our little congregation, we would have all been stressed beyond measure – at least, looking at the circumstances that we had to look at at that time, it seems that way to me. It kind of reminds of that Garth Brooks song about being thankful for unanswered prayers. Sometimes, we ask God for stuff, but we don’t really know what we’re asking for, and it’s not a part of His long-term plan. So we make plans and God laughs.

So, if we have faith, if we believe knows best, if we understand that He always acts or refrains from acting, in our best interest, then that’s a leg up on when to stand still.

Okay, don’t forget to leave us a comment on the Website or our Facebook page or on Twitter. Until next time, this is Bill Jacobs for LifeResource Ministries, serving children, families and the Church of God.