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  • Paul Reich

Be Still and Know that I am God

Learn the renewing value of spending regular time with your Heavenly Father.

 

Photo by Swati Kedia on Unsplash

 

During very busy seasons of life and ministry where most of my attention has to be given to other priorities, I've decided it best to post articles that I have previously written for other purposes. The first half of the post below is taken from a short article I wrote for a faith feature in a local newspaper in 2001. For purposes of this post, I added the Making it Practical portion.

 

Living about AD 251-356, Anthony of Egypt was one of the first Christian hermits to choose seclusion from ordinary society for a life of prayer and solitude in the desert. Upon hearing a message on Christ’s command to the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor, Anthony felt called to literally apply this command to his own life. At the age of twenty he gave away all his earthly possessions including an estate he inherited when his parents died two years prior. He kept only a small sum for the benefit of his younger sister whom he entrusted to a company of pious virgins.


Anthony then retreated to the deserts of Egypt for a life of prayer and meditation. Athanasius recorded Anthony’s biography in a book called Vita Antonii (Life of Anthony). Because of Athanasius’ biography, Anthony became one of the best-known desert abbas (spiritual fathers). Many sought out Anthony for his counsel, wisdom, and prayers. He inspired many conversions to Christ.


The advice given by the desert fathers was often recorded and passed on to others in the form of anecdotes. Following is one such anecdote about Anthony.

Once the great St. Anthony was relaxing with his disciples outside his hut when a hunter came by. The hunter was surprised and mildly shocked and rebuked Anthony for taking it easy. It was not his idea of what a monk should be doing. But Anthony said, “Bend your bow and shoot an arrow.” And the hunter did so. “Bend it again and shoot another,” said Anthony. And the hunter did, again and again. The hunter finally said, “Abba Anthony, if I keep my bow always stretched, it will break.” ”So it is with the monk,” replied Anthony. “If we push ourselves beyond measure we will break; it is right from time to time to relax our efforts.”[1]

In all likelihood, God hasn’t called you to a life of monastic seclusion, but He does call you to withdraw from the distractions of life to spend time with Him. The Psalmist understood this when he wrote, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Mary understood this when she took time to sit at the feet of Jesus while her sister Martha was distracted with many preparations (Luke 10:38-42). Even Jesus, Himself, took regular time apart from the pressures of ministry to spend time with His Heavenly Father (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12).


You too, need to relax your bow or you’ll break. Take time to come apart in solitude and prayer before you come apart in personal ruin. Learn the renewing value of spending regular time with your Heavenly Father. “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).


Making it Practical


All of life is built on important rhythms. The cycles of day and night and the four seasons of the year are all built around the clockwork dependability of the orbits of the earth and moon in relationship to the sun. These daily and yearly cycles provide natural rhythms for activity and rest, not only for mankind but for all creation.


The purpose of rest cycles is renewal. Physical exercise stresses the body's muscles and cardiovascular system to increase strength and capacity, but periods of rest are vital for tissues to repair and the body's energy to rejuvenate. Muscles need both to contract and relax. Both the brain and body need a break from stress or breakdown can occur. Relationally, we need times with people and times of solitude. Spiritual health also requires cycles of giving to others in service and receiving renewed strength from God in time spent with Him.


In this day of technological convenience, rechargeable batteries dominate our lives. They power our cellphones, iPads, laptops, shop tools, garden tools, and increasingly even our cars. They all need to be recharged on a regular basis to enable our communication, our productivity, and our transportation. In the same way, our spiritual, psychological, social, and physical batteries all need recharging. Establishing regular rhythms of activity and rest in each area of life is vital to maintaining a healthy and flourishing life.


For many, the most neglected area of their lives is their spiritual life. As with the necessary physical cycles of work and rest, it is essential to have spiritual cycles that renew and nourish your inner man. I have found daily, weekly, and annual practices to be most helpful for me.

  • Daily times of solitude for prayer, Bible reading, and meditation help me to deepen my walk with God, refocus my mind, repurpose my will, re-energize my passion, and recharge my spiritual batteries.

  • Weekly church attendance and regular fellowship with other believers, either in a small group setting or one-on-one, allows me to participate in the corporate life of the church. In these settings, I experience renewal through times of corporate worship and prayer, preaching, testimonies, encouragement, the insightful perspective of others, and from the many and varied ways that fellow believers exercise their spiritual gifts for the edification of the church.

  • Annually, I find that making time for personal retreating, engaging in periods of prayer and fasting, or giving focused attention to studying topics relevant to my own personal life (not just preparation for preaching and teaching) are especially nurturing to my spiritual walk.

When I neglect these practices, I can sense the negative impact on my spiritual vitality. When I engage in these practices, I experience an inner renewal and receive fresh strength to face the many challenges of life, relationships, responsibilities, and ministry.


How about you? Is the battery of your spiritual life running low or even on empty? Metaphorically speaking, has the power tool of your spiritual life ground to halt or has your spiritual cellphone given you a low battery warning? Perhaps, it's time for a recharge. Perhaps, you need to establish a regular cycle for recharging your spiritual batteries to keep you vibrant, functioning, and flourishing in the purposes for which God has called you.


Relax your bow and take a break before you break. Holistically, this may require changes in other priorities and practices - work and relaxation, relational engagement and solitude, diet and exercise, responsibilities and recreation, and more. As you make the necessary changes, be sure and make spiritual renewal a priority, knowing that in the midst of life's many pressures and troubles, you have a powerful and faithful God who is your very present help, your refuge, and your strength (Psalm 46:1-9). Therefore, you can let go, relax, cease striving, and take regular time to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).


REFERENCES


[1] The sayings of the desert fathers are collected in various works. I failed to record the source for this quote that I included in my article written in 2001. However, the same saying can be found word-for-word in the more recent work by William J. Bausch, An Anthology of Saints. (Twenty-Third Publications, 2012), 43.


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sharon
26 okt. 2022

This is so good and I should read it every week. It is too easy for me to neglect the nurture of my soul. Thankfully, God has wired me with dashboard lights that let me know when my battery is getting low. I'm so grateful for His generous willingness to meet me every time I seek His presence. Thank you, Paul, for this reminder and for the nuggets from your own life.

I am still praying for you and Lynn as you navigate through her illness. Blessings.

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