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Disciplines For Sabbath-Rest (3): Silence And Solitude 30 MAY 2021 | TRADITIONAL SERVICE | REV EDMUND DE SOUZA

SERMON SERIES | DISCIPLINES FOR SABBATH-REST (3)

Silence And Solitude

30 MAY 2021 | TRADITIONAL SERVICE

Rev Edmund De Souza

Scripture Passage: Mark 1:35-39 (NIV)

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Summary | Habakkuk wrote, “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him” (Hab. 2:20), reminding us that there is a place for silence and quietness before God, acknowledging who God is and listening as God speaks to us. In this year of Sabbath-Rest, we want to make time to Rest, Reflect and Renew ourselves. One way we can do this is through the Discipline of Silence and Solitude.

What is the discipline of silence and solitude? We associate solitude with getting away from people and distractions. This allows us to spend time with the Lord. Silence is about being quiet and being still before the Lord, listening to His voice. Silence is not simply the absence of speech. It involves the stilling of our thoughts, so that we can hear God clearly. As we spend time with the Lord, God ministers to us and we experience rest and renewal.

Our lives tend to be full of chatter and filled with busyness. We are engaged on our phones and social media, connecting with others and busy with work. In our hectic lives, our inner voices drown out the voice of God. In order to hear His voice and to build our relationship with Him, we need to learn to be still. We hear what we are tuned into. Therefore, we need to develop this discipline of silence and solitude so that we can hear God speaking to us.

Jesus knew the importance of silence and solitude. Our Lord spent much time with His Abba Father in silence and solitude. Mark 1:12-13 describes the forty days Jesus stayed in the desert before the start of His ministry. He knew He needed strength to fulfil His Father’s plans and as He spent the time of solitude in the desert, He was ministered to. In the midst of His busy ministry, He frequently spent time in solitude (Mark 1:35). This was an example He set for His disciples. Once when they were so busy that they had no time to eat, the disciples were invited to withdraw to a place of solitude where they could find rest (Mark 6:31-32). This practice was adopted by many early Christians such as the Desert Fathers who withdrew to the desert to live a life of solitude. A prime example was St Anthony, who sold off all his wealth and lived a life consecrated to seeking God. His life was characterised by holiness and miracles, inspiring many to live similar lives in monasteries. Though we do not need to practise silence and solitude to such an extreme, we nevertheless need this discipline in order to have a closer relationship with God.

How do we practise silence and solitude? Although this may sound like a contradiction, silence and solitude can be practised in the midst of people and noise. As Robert Foster states: “Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. Crowds, or the lack of them, have little to do with this inward attentiveness.” Brother Lawrence, who lived in the 17th century, found silence and solitude in the midst of work. As he worked, he calmed himself and focussed on God. He communed with God as his hands were busy with work. So also our spirits can be still even as we go about our daily chores. However, in general, this is not easy to practise and we should set aside time and space to practise silence and solitude. Three possible ways of doing so are:

  1. Daily devotions – the most common way is to set aside a daily quiet time to read His Word and to spend time in prayer.
  2. Pause through the day – It could be at lunch break in the office, or sitting on a park bench or after housework/cooking. We can have these short pauses to commune with God.
  3. Retreats of a day or longer – these are extended periods for reflection, re-evaluating one’s life, and re-orientating ourselves.

Four steps that we can take as we practise the Discipline of Silence and Solitude:

  1. Set aside a fixed time: many prefer the morning before the start of the day’s activities. Regardless of the time we choose, cultivating a habit so that we instinctively spend time with God is a step we can all take.
  2. Seek out a quiet place: away from distraction, we will be able to hear the Lord more clearly. Put aside electronic devices or anything else that hinders focus on the Lord.
  3. Still yourself in God’s presence: take a few deep breaths, calm yourself and release your concerns. Commit the time to God and centre on Jesus.
  4. Seek the Lord through reading God’s Word: listen to His voice through His Word. Read slowly, pausing to allow the Word to speak to you. “Silence means nothing other than waiting for God's Word …” (Bonhoeffer).

In silence and solitude, God will refresh, energise, strengthen and guide us as we spend time with Him.

(Sermon notes by Angela Goh)

PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS

1. Jesus saw the importance of silence and solitude and cultivated this discipline even as was busy ministering to the crowds. Do you think this is just as important for us today?

2. When you think about your devotional times with the Lord, do you find it challenging to be still and sense the promptings of the Spirit? What are some steps you can take to enhance your times of silence and solitude?

3. What do you think are some benefits of extended times (a day or longer) of Silence and Solitude?