Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Slow Me Down Lord
Text: Psalm 46:10
Dr. Alex Tang
When I was young, my father drove us from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in his Holden Prefect. It took us 15 hours. In 12 hours, today we can reach London from Singapore. When I came to JB from KL in 1981, it took us 8 hours to drive. Last week, a friend of mine drove from KL to JB in two and half-hours. He has 3 speeding tickets to prove it. With a good tailwind, the MAS flight I was on from Senai reached Subang in half an hour. Took me 3 hours to reach my meeting in Ampang Puteri Hospital though. Don’t you think the world is going faster and faster. Don’t you think time is also speeding up? It’s already August 2000. Where has the year gone? Don’t you wish that the world would slow down a bit? Just enough for us to catch our breath. And that’s the topic for tonight’s sermon “Slow Us Down, Lord”. The text is from Psalm 46:10
Psalm 46 is a Psalm of encouragement. It is said of Martin Luther that when he hear of any discouraging news, he will say, come let us sing the 46th Psalm.
v.1 starts with a promise and a statement – God is our refuge
present help in trouble
and ends with v.11 Almighty God is with us
God of Jacob is our fortress
v.2-4 earthquakes, mountains fall into the sea, tsunamis and giant waves – natural disasters that bring fear and destruction. But no fear.
v.4-7 river flows under Jerusalem. Jerusalem never has a river, unlike Thebes, Damascus, Nineveh and Babylon. It represents the Holy Spirit, which is living water- the continual outpouring of refreshing and sustaining blessings of God, which makes the City of God like the Garden of Eden.
v.8-9 the judgement of the Lord – desolation he brings, end of wars and destruction of weapons.
Hence Psalm 46 starts with a statement of God. Then natural disasters and man made disasters with the promised river of God, sandwiched in between.
then come v.10. when God talks directly to us.
v.10 has an action, be still, a promise of revelation and two consequences, God is exalted among the nations and in the earth.
I. Be Still.
still – hpry rãphãh (raw-faw) – abate, cease, draw (toward evening), be faint, let alone( go, down). be slack, be still.
It is the same word Mark used when Jesus stilled the storm.
Mk 4:39 Jesus stills the storm. And He links it to faith.
Isn’t our life like a storm. We are always in a hurry. A million and one things to do. We resolve one crisis and another one appears.
To be still is an action. It is not lack of action. We have to work to be still. We have to want to be still. It does not come naturally. The areas we must work to be still are:
our mind is very noisy. Have you noticed that there are many voices in our head, talking and arguing all the time? Even when we sleep the voices and talking continues. That’s our thoughts. The Zen Buddhist describes our mind as a ‘monkey mind’. It’s like a monkey, swinging from tree and tree non-stop.
Our emotions are also hyperactive. Our moods swing from joy to anger in a blink of an eye. We are happy. We are moody. We are upbeat. We are depressed. The feelings never stop.
We are one of the most hyperactive people. Never before in the whole history of the earth has so much been done by so many people in so short a time. There is more information in a single copy of our Straits Times today that a person in the 17th Century is exposed to in his lifetime. We have our work, our family, our hobbies, our church duties, and our chauffeur duties that at the end of the day, we just collapse.
Why are we so busy, have you even ask yourself? Why are we attempting to achieve so much? Why do we allow so much distraction in our lives?
Pascal has the answer. We allow distraction because we are afraid to be alone. When we are alone, we have to face ourselves. And when we face ourselves, we discover emptiness inside ourselves. Only God can fill this emptiness. And we do not like that. So we cover that emptiness by distraction, by busyness, by hyperactivity, anything except to be alone and still.
II. To Know God
But God commanded us to be still. It is only in stillness can we know God.
(a) Listening to the small still voice. I King 19:11-13. Elijah had just had a powerful power encounter on Mount Carmel. He called down fire from heaven and rain. He has commanded the killing of 450 prophets of Baal. And he is running for his life from Jezebel. How did God speak to him?
(b) His Word
To know God we need to know His word. We need to internalise His word. Where Scripture describe the truths, we must respond to them. Where Scripture describe the impact of Jesus Christ on people, we must allow Him to impact our lives as well.
(c) the transforming power of prayer
Know – (ry yada (yaw-dah) = familiar, to have knowledge of, to be intimate with Gen 4:1
So God wants to be known by us. It is God calling to us in love. God is the one who calls us to Him. God is the one who calls us in love.
Do you feel a hunger for love? Feeling a hunger that nothing can fill. You may look for this satisfaction in your spouse or friend, but no matter how close you are, there will still not be enough. You may look for it in being rich. But not matter how rich you are; the hunger is still there. You may be famous or be a superachiver but when it is all done, you know how empty it is. This is because there is a space in us that can only be filled by God. That only by knowing God, that drawing into a closer relationship with Him can we really be satisfied. That is why God wants us to know Him. We can only be complete in Him. That is why we are called to spiritual maturity.
III. God shall be exalted.
(a) among the nations
(i) transformed person
(ii) transformed church community
(iii) transformed society
A good example of a man transformed by God and the transformed society is William Wilberforce of Great Britain. Os Guiness called him ‘a man who changed his times’. William Wilberforce is a member of the House of Commons and is a close friend of John Wesley. In winter and spring of 1784-85, he underwent a deep drawn out experience of conversion or rather a rededication or rediscovery of Christ at the age of twenty-five. He described it as the ‘great change’. Because of this great change, he resolved to do two ‘great objects’.
The first was the abolition of the slave trade. Two hundred years ago, Britain was the world’s leading slave-trading nation. After twenty years of hard work, the House of Commons debated and passed the bill to abolish the slave trade on February 23, 1807. This was described as the greatest moral achievement of the British people.
The other ‘object’ was the reformation of manners. In 18th Century England, the trendsetters were not the pop stars but the nobility- the Lords and Barons. It was fashionable to be immoral. The mass poverty, drunkenness, political corruption in high places and child labor was rampant. So Wilberforce revived the Society for Reformation of Manners, targeting the nobility. Wilberforce made goodness fashionable. This reformation of manners grows into Victorian virtues. Late 18th Century is famous for its loose morals and corrupt public office. The 19th Century, British public life became famous for its emphasis on character, moral, justice and British business for its integrity.
Such is the influence of a transformed man, a man who knows God. Because of this man, God is exalted in all the nations.
(b) in the earth
God is also the mighty creator. Those who have seen the majesty of the Alps, thundering Niagara Falls and the awesome Grand Canyon will agree that God is a mighty creator, worthy to be praised. But sadly, man has destroyed many of His handiwork. As we speak, earth’s natural resources are being depleted, wasted. Wetlands are drained. Animals are hunted to extinction. In our love for shark fin soup, even the sharks are on the endangered list.
(i) protect earth’s ecology
A man or woman who know God will know of His love for nature and we have to work to preserve our environment. God is exalted in the earth.
Lessons for us
1. Slow Down.
We need to slow down to know the Lord. Most growth takes place in the quiet. It is in the quietness of the soil than the seed germinate and grow. It is in the quietness of the womb that the baby develops. It is in our quietness and stillness that our spiritual growth develops. No matter how much we do for the Lord. No matter how much of the Bible we have studied. True spiritual growth to spiritual maturity takes place in the stillness when we are in the presence of the Lord.
Ours is a fast paced society and we cannot change that. But there are two things we can do:
(a) We can simplify our lives. Go for a simple lifestyle.
(b) Learn to say ‘no’. Stick to the important things in life and say no to others. Is it so important to sit in that committee? Is it so important to be member of that organisation? Is it so important buying that big house? Is it so important that our children need to attend so many tuition classes? In 1979, Billy Graham told a startled audience in London that if he has to live his life again, he would take on few engagements. He said that the level of activity was high, but the quality low. He needed more time to deepen the quality of his Christian ministry.
2. Quiet Time.
We need to take time to be alone with God. To be silent and still before Him so that we can know Him. We have to make a decision to have this time. Otherwise we will not have the time. Other things will crowd out this time alone with God. It is our quiet time. It may be ten minutes a day or fifteen minutes or half-hour or an hour. During this time, we can pray, read the bible or just rest in the Lord.
Let me end by an illustration. v. 4 speak of a river flowing under the city of God. Our life is also like a busy river, like the river Nile or the Yangtse River. There are many boats and ferries and cargo barges floating back and forth. This is our thoughts and our emotions and our activities. It is a very busy river. We are very aware of the boats. Often we forget the river the boats are on. The river is the Spirit of God. In Him we live, and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) God wants us to slow the traffic down so that we become aware of the river. To drink from the refreshing water of life. To dive deep into its stillness. To know God.
Slow Me Down, Lord
Slow me down, Lord,
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the external reach
Give me, amidst the confusion of the day, the calmness of
the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the
soothing music of the singing streams that live in my
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations – of slowing
down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat
a dog, to smile at a child, to read a few lines from a
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots deep
into the soil of life’s enduring values, that I may grow
toward my greater destiny.
Remind me that each day that the race is not always to the swift;
that there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look forward to the towering oak and know that it grew
great and strong because it grew slowly and well.
Soli Deo Gloria
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