We are obsessed with hearing ourselves talk. So much chatter happens about so many things that we rarely even remember much of what we said; and many of those words are uttered before we even think. But, from a biblical perspective, the church and Christians must have the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be quiet. When being quiet is required, it is to be for the purpose of listening. Listening is a lost art and a forgotten ability in our day and age. People can be so concerned to express their opinions and say what they want to say that the virtue of listening is not at all valued. However, God puts a premium on taking the stance of listening. There is a proverb that says, “Where words are many, sin is not absent; but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
One of the reasons that listening is not well-practiced is that we esteem being busy and constant activity to the degree that taking the time for silence long enough to listen is not recognized as being of value to us. But if the church is to hear the voice of God, we Christians must be still and silent long enough to listen to what he is trying to say to us.
We might even be uncomfortable with silence, and seek to fill any quiet space with noise so as to not have to deal with what is really going on inside of us. I have a friend (I’ll call him Elmer) who recently spent eighteen hours in complete silence without any talking whatsoever in order to listen to God. You maybe believe that Elmer must be a monkish sort of introvert who likes that kind of thing. No, he is actually an extrovert who lives in the inner city and comes from a large family. Elmer simply came to the point of understanding that he was so busy moving from one thing to another, and constantly talking to the point that he was drowning-out the voice of the Lord. Here is what Elmer said about his time of silence: “Those eighteen hours of silence were the loudest hours I have ever experienced. My mind was so noisy and so filled with stuff that it nearly drove me nuts. But after many hours passed, as the noise started to fade away, I could begin to hear the still small voice of God.” Elmer discovered that he was a person who kept pushing his agenda on God. After his fast from talking, he determined to start grafting times of solitude and silence into his everyday life, even if for only ten minutes, so he could listen to what God wants rather than tell God what to do.
If we want to hear God speak to us, we must take the same approach as the boy Samuel and say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:16). And, then, we must be quiet and listen. Any fool can babble on about his/her gripes and opinions. But in the Bible human speech is generally viewed as being overrated. Instead, silence and solitude, listening and learning are the virtues practiced by Jesus; the kingdom of God cannot operate without them.
Therefore, we must take up the shield of faith with which to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one who wants to keep us trapped in either a cycle of constant chatter without listening, or continual silence without acting upon what we hear from God. We must be quiet for the purpose of listening to God. Then, when we hear him speak, we must act in faith to say and do what he calls us to.
Church ministry that does not practice silence and solitude is not worth much because it is running programs based upon human ingenuity and ideas without distilling them through the slow and steady process of silent prayerful meditation upon God’s Word. There is no substitute.