For Advent: “Be Still and Know”

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Feeling Stressed Out?

Christmas season is a busy time, especially for a church music ministry.  There are new seasonal songs to learn, programs to produce, extra rehearsals to attend, plus Christmas Eve and other special events.  All of this is in addition to your other life responsibilities.

The pressure-to-perform can be stressful. The sheer volume of “busyness” can deplete your physical energy.  You end up feeling overwhelmed, worn out, distracted and even disconnected from God.

Not only is this unhealthy, but it’s antithetical to the reason for the season!

Ideally, the spiritual practices of Advent offer us an opportunity to hit the reset button and receive refreshing from the Lord.

But how do you do that, practically speaking?

In this post I’d like to share a very specific spiritual practice I’ve recently uncovered that has been personally revitalizing. And you can do it too, in as little as five minutes a day.

First, let me tell you how I got there – it’s not pretty.

Broken and Forced To Take a Timeout

At the time I was preparing to write this article I was your typical busy church music director/worship leader. Getting ready for the Christmas music season, lots of programs with plenty of moving parts and problems to solve. But we have good systems and great volunteers and I felt more-or-less on top of it.

Then things went from busy-but-managable to catastrophic-and-shutdown.

On a Monday morning, while out on a jog, I fell and broke my arm badly. It required an ambulance, hospitalization, major surgery, and then I had complications after that from the surgery. The whole thing knocked me completely out of commission. I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t do anything “productive”.

Of course, I found this very frustrating. And I asked the Lord – Why this? Why now?

And I felt this answer in my spirit; “I want you to be still, and know that I am God.”

This was not the first time I had felt a special nudge to be more serious about pursuing this instruction from Psalm 46 verse 10.

Now let me be clear, I’m not saying “God broke my arm.” What I felt was a sense of peace and redemptive purpose in my suffering and setback.

That morning the Lord gave me an idea, and at the end of this post I’ll share a step-by-step method I’ve been using since then to “be still and know.”

First let me share why this is important.

Personal Worship: Building a Personal History With God

“Be still and know” is an invitation to intimate relationship with the Almighty.  It is quite simply, taking time to practice His presence and build a personal history with God. It is “personal worship,” just you and God, one-on-one.   

A lifestyle of personal worship is vital for worship leaders.

Why? Well, there are at least two benefits.

First, time in God’s presence changes and transforms our hearts, and fills us with His Spirit. Time seeking after God’s presence was David’s secret sauce and what endeared him to the Lord as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). You and I can do the same when we imitate David as our role model (Isaiah 55:4).

Second, we minister from the overflow of what we put in our spirit. You can not lead people where you have not gone yourself. You can’t teach what you do not know. You can’t give away what you have not received. Your impact as a leader is built upon the foundation of being the right kind of person.

Jesus said it this way:

“For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:33-35, AMP).

“The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, AMP).

Wesleyan Roots of Personal Worship

The practice of personal worship might ring familiar with the Wesleyan movement and vision. John Wesley practiced “personal worship” by getting alone with God and seeking His presence.

Consider Wesley’s method to “be still and know” with his emphasis on prayer, meditation, and contemplation:

Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: only God is here. In His presence I am open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights: “Lord, is it not thy word? If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God. Thou hast said ‘If any be willing to do Thy will, he shall know.’ I am willing to do, let me know Thy will.” I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and then the writings whereby being dead, yet they speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach.

(The Works of John Wesley 1896, 3rd edition, Baker, Grand Rapids 5.3, as quoted in An Old Testament Theology, By Bruce K. Waltke, p.82 Harper Collins)

What Wesley did, you and I can do.

A Method to “Be Still and Know”

So, for a dedicated season of time, I’ve committed to a daily practice of  “being still”  and “knowing God,” using Psalm 46 as the framework.

It’s simple.  Study Psalm 46 every day during your “be still” season. Consider reading it from different translations on different days (you can find almost every translation possible at BibleGateway.com).

This can take as little as five minutes, but go longer if you desire. My average time is about 12-17 minutes.

“Be Still” Step By Step

  1. Like Wesley, get in a quiet place alone with God.
  2. Each day, read Psalm 46 out loud.
  3. Pause in silent reflection or prayer for 60 seconds after each section marked by “Selah” (after verse 3, verse 7 and verse 11). I use a timer app to ring after 60 seconds.
  4. Meditate on an aspect of what the text is saying during each “Selah”. (“Selah” is translated as “musical interlude, pause, contemplate.”)
  5. Take extra time to sit in silence at the end of the Psalm, seeking specifically to “know God.” This is the most important aspect of the exercise.
  6. Finally, write down or record any insights you may have from the experience at the end of your time.

My Results So Far

In general, each day I journal about three insights or revelations and write about 200 to 300 words. Here are two examples.

1. Psalm 46 is a bold declaration of trust.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the “… whole world is falling apart” 

Throughout it’s eleven verses, Psalm 46 assures us of God’s dependability as our protector no matter how chaotic the situation.

2. In the midst of war, he instructs, “be still and know that I am God.”

To grow deeper in this idea of “be still,” I sat completely silent and still with the desire to just “know God.” Then I heard music. Heavenly music, beyond anything I had ever heard or imagined before. It was surround sound, an orchestra – not just one, but multiple orchestras and rock bands and every conceivable combination of instruments and styles. A cacophony of praise with soaring solos and angelic choirs – then a single soaring note. Woven throughout were various interpretations of  the phrase “Holy, Holy, Holy,” some vocal, some just instrumental.

It was awe inspiring.

Conclusion.

Taking the time to “be still and know” is one of the best investments you can make in your spiritual life. For me, it’s been amazing and encouraging. My prayer is that you too will build your personal history with God, and discover the joy of His presence when you determine to “be still and know.”

Question for you:

How do you practice “personal worship?”

What do you do to “be still” and know?

I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts!

Image attribution: Fuse / Thinkstock

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Rob Still is Director of Music and Worship at Hendersonville First United Methodist Church, where he helped launch the contemporary worship ministry. Previously he served as Pastor of Worship and Arts at Music Row’s Belmont Church, Nashville TN, overseeing a ministry of over 250 musicians, singers, and worship leaders. He teaches at conferences and extensively on the mission field in eastern Europe – and blogs at RobStill.com.

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