Monday, January 25, 2016

Elijah Part Two: Solitude

Sermon notes from 01/24/2016 at The Spring Church . . . .

 Read 1 Kings 17:2-6

Life-Lesson:   God wants us to practice time alone with Him.

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.  Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. – D. Bonhoeffer in Life Together

Solitude is time alone with God in order to draw close to him and prepare for the future.  That time may be daily or more extended, chosen or forced.

THE PROBLEM       we live in a busy, shallow age

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.  The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths.  They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world.  

A life marked by depth can only be cultivated in protracted periods of time spent in solitude, quietness, and obscurity – concepts foreign to those who live their lives at the speed of light.  What I have in mind is brief periods of time when we deliberately slow down and meet, alone, with our God.                      - Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

THE PRINCIPLE      – entering into God’s rest

The Sabbath and God’s rest:  God modeled for us in Creation and in the Law the need for rest and refreshment. 

 Jesus Christ modeled for us a life that regularly sought out solitude with the Father.  Jesus had the most important mission of any man who ever lived, yet he took time to come aside in solitude.

The example of Jesus:   Matt. 4:1-11             The Temptation of Christ

                                       Lk. 6:12                   The choosing of the Twelve

                                       Matt. 14:13              Dealing with grief

                                       Mark 1:35                Morning habit

                                       Mark 6:31                After preaching and healing mission

                                       Lk. 5:16                   After healing a leper

                                       Matt. 26:36-46         Before his toughest challenge

Our secret place             Matt. 6:6                  Rejuvenation takes place there

Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength, before going out to face the world again.  "Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still," is a wise and healing counsel; but how can it be followed in this day of the newspaper, the telephone, the radio and television? These modern playthings, like pet tiger cubs, have grown so large and dangerous that they threaten to devour us all. What was intended to be a blessing has become a positive curse. No spot is now safe from the world's intrusion. The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today. What the world will do about it is their problem. Apparently the masses want it the way it is, and the majority of Christians are so completely conformed to this present age that they, too, want things the way they are. They may be annoyed a bit by the clamor and by the goldfish-bowl existence they live, but apparently they are not annoyed enough to do anything about it.  - Tozer

THE PLACE – your consistent place to be with the Lord

Not a fancy place.  Somewhere you can meet alone with God.

Enter into His rest with on open Bible to hear the Lord.  He will speak to your mind and spirit.

We are so tied up with other things we miss time with God.  And we miss Him speaking to our spirits.  – Tony Evans

THE PURPOSE - to get a fresh word from God that he may develop you for the new

challenges ahead

Before you go to Mt. Carmel, you better go by the brook. – Tony Evans

 Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God's Word is able to speak into the deepest parts of our lives.  We get alone with him to quiet and submit our soul to Him with an open Bible and a life open to the Spirit of God, who is able to take the Word and speak deeply into our lives.  

Isaiah 50:4 tells us that God can refresh the weary person with a word morning by morning.

A person who is highly gifted needs to pray more than anyone.  You develop intimacy with your heavenly Father.  You develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  You know His Word by reading the Bible.  You know His ways by spending time with Him.  – R. T. Kendall

 Sometimes solitude comes as a result of a forced season of waiting.  This can happen due to sickness, the death of a family member, the loss of a job or church, and a relocation.

Robert Clinton, former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, studied the lives of 200 Christian leaders through history, looking for patterns of how God shaped them.  He discovered that many leaders go through seasons of forced solitude.  During these times God is often working deeply within the person, teaching them deep lessons about the Lord, developing their prayer life and faith, and expanding their vision.

Hudson Taylor experienced such a time when at the age of 26 he had to leave China due to illness.  He spent the next four years in England recovering, during which he expanded his medical studies and worked on translating the New Testament into the Ningpo dialect.  His biographer writes,

Here began the discipline that was to lengthen out, little as Hudson Taylor expected it, until he was ready for the wider vision that was yet to dawn upon him.  Four years were to elapse - quiet, hidden years - in which little apparently was to be accomplished, while God was doing the real, the inner work which was to bear fruit not in Ningpo only but in every part of China.

When those years were over, God had birthed in Hudson the dream not only to return to China as one missionary - but to found what would become the China Inland Mission.
Years later, at age 42, Hudson experienced a fall on a ship that left him partially paralyzed, leaving him bedridden for months.  All he could do was lie in bed and rejoice in God.  His biographer shares how he chose to trust God, pray to Him, take joy in the Lord during those months: Certain it is that from that quiet room, that room of suffering, sprang all the larger growth of the China Inland Mission.  A little bed with four posts was now the sphere to which Hudson Taylor found himself restricted. . . .  Between the posts at the foot of the bed hung a map - though he hardly needed it - a map of China.  And round about him day and night was the Presence to which he had fullest access in the Name of Jesus.

Sometimes God puts His people in seasons of waiting and solitude in order to draw them close to Himself and prepare them for the future.
Swindoll and Farrar write about such times:

One of God’s favorite methods of preparing us for something great is to send us into the shadows to wait.  Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects.  The Bible makes that principle plain from cover to cover.

God prepares servants most often through extended periods of waiting, designed to hone skills and break wills, to shape character and give depth.  While He works, we wait.  God prepares us during times when the whole world seems to be going on without us.  He patiently, deliberately, steadily, molds us in the shadows, so that we might be properly prepared for later years when He chooses to use us in the spotlight.   - Charles Swindoll

I have yet to see a man used by God who did not taste of “the season of non-events.”  It may be a long season in your life, but it is a temporary season.  I think Joshua and Caleb would tell us that it was worth the wait, and that they had become better men because of their disappointments and delays.  Even forty years is temporary when God is at work in your life.  It’s the preparation that is necessary for the promotion. – Steve Farrar

What happens in solitude with God?

1.         God sifts our motives.

2.         God purifies our hearts.

3.         God reminds us of things we forgot.

4.         God becomes more real to us than our problems.

5.         God fills us with new strength and encouragement.

6.         God focuses our priorities.

7.         God gives us new insights and direction.
8.         God brings us back to our first love.

 Read Elijah Part One here

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