Next Steps

Have you ever driven past a billboard that had too much information on it to read as you drove by? It’s as if they expected you to slow down long enough to read all that they had to say. What a crazy thought! We live in a world of speed and distraction. Technology helps our lives speed up to 100 mph, accomplishing more and more in our limited time. It’s why we get frustrated when there are three cars in the fast food drive-thru or when we have to wait 45 seconds for something to heat up in the microwave. It’s also why our phones are constantly with us, notifying us, drawing us in, creating a haze of white noise around us that precludes us from ever being quiet. We live in a world of speed and distraction, which is why we don’t hear God like we want to.

In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah has an encounter with God on a holy mountain in the desert.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13

Did you catch that? God wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. He wasn’t in the big, the bold, the brash, the loud. God was in the quiet, the gentle, the whisper. Many times God speaks to us in a whisper, not because He’s not strong enough to shout over the distractions in our lives, but because He wants us to slow down long enough to connect with our souls, and our souls are a very quiet place. If you want to hear God, slow down enough to hear the whisper of God.

QUESTION: How are you slowing down on a regular basis to hear the whisper of God? If you’re not, how can you do that this week?

I recently heard two conflicting pieces of marriage advice. The first one said that every time you talk to your spouse on the phone, you finish by saying “I love you.” The second piece of advice said that this was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard.  Not coincidentally, the giver of the first piece of advice has been happily in his first marriage for decades now. The second giver has been married four times. You’re only as wise as the people you listen to.

In 2 Chronicles 10 the new king of Israel has a critical choice to make. The world-renowned king Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam is about to ascend to the throne. At the coronation the people of Israel come to Rehoboam with a request: ease the burden of taxes and labor that your father Solomon has laid on us. Work with us, and we’ll be your loyal subjects. What to do? Is working with the people he’s called to lead being magnanimous or showing weakness? Rehoboam gets two conflicting pieces of advice. The first comes from his father’s advisors, who tell him to give a little at the beginning to win the support of the people. But Rehoboam goes in a different direction.

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? 

The king answered [the people] harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 2 Chronicles 10:8-9, 13-14

Rehoboam chose to listen to his high school buddies and paid the price: his kingdom split into two and never united back together. Who are you choosing to listen to? Who is speaking into your life? Whose advice do you actually heed? Make sure you choose the right people, because you are only as wise as the people you choose to listen to.

Maybe it was a party you knew you shouldn’t have gone to. Perhaps it was a marriage everyone told you was doomed from the start but you were going to prove them wrong. Maybe it was a financial decision that led you into ruin. We all have regrets, we all have mistakes, we all have parts of our life that we wish we could do over again. When we look at the greatest regret of King David’s life, we find a life-changing truth:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her (2 Samuel 11:1-3). 

Did you catch where David was? Where he wasn’t supposed to be. David was supposed to be at war with his men. That was his place. That was his responsibility. Either through entitlement, fatigue or overconfidence, David stayed home. David wasn’t where he was supposed to be, and it led to one of the greatest regrets of his life: his affair with Bathsheba, the murder of her husband and the death of their first child together.

So where are you currently where you shouldn’t be? Are there friends influencing you that you know don’t have the best intentions for you? Is there a relationship with someone of the opposite gender at work that is currently innocent but still not appropriate for a married person like you? Are you stretched financially and in danger of one big expense knocking your feet out from underneath you? If you’re in a place where you shouldn’t be, get out as soon as possible. You’re greatest regrets come when you’re not where you’re supposed to be.

Years ago my wife and I took a vacation down to the Gulf Coast and did something we’d always wanted to do: parasailing. After being at the beach and enjoying the water for a few days, we ventured several hundred feet above the ocean to see if the view looked any different from up top, and boy did it.

Besides the almost deafening quiet of sailing 400 feet above the water, my wife and I were at the same time transfixed and horrified by what we saw: jellyfish. Millions and millions of jellyfish, all near the surface, just pass the waves, an invisible barrier of pain waiting for hapless swimmers who ventured too far. Needless to say, my wife stayed by the pool for the rest of the week.

In 2 Kings 6 the prophet Elisha is under attack by the enemies of Israel. Trapped in a city and surrounded by an army, Elisha still remains unnaturally calm. Finally he lets his servant in on a little secret:

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17

Are we like the servant, ignorant to the spiritual forces around us, naively playing in the surf with hidden dangers just out of reach? Or are we like Elisha, aware of the devil’s schemes and actively engaged in the spiritual war around us? Whether you see it or not, the spiritual world surrounds you. If you want to stop being a victim and start being a victor, look at your world from a higher perspective, see the battle waging around you, and join the fight with the weapons given to you.