Silent Times with Jesus
“Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).
In a certain college in days of old, a special feature of the daily life of the household was the morning and evening “silent time.” Both at the opening and closing of the day, there was a brief period, marked by the strokes of a bell, in which all the house was quiet. Every pupil is in their room. There was no conversation. No step was heard in the corridors. The whole great house, with its thronging life, was as quiet as if all its hundreds of inhabitants were sleeping. There was no positively prescribed way of spending these silent minutes in the rooms; but it was understood that all whose hearts were so inclined would devote the time to devotional reading, meditation, and prayer. At least, the intention of establishing this period of quiet time as part of the daily life of the school was to give opportunity for such devotional exercises; and by its solemn hush, it was meant to suggest the fitness, the helpfulness, and the need of such times of communion with God. The bell that called for silence also called for thought and prayer, and even the most indifferent could not help being affected by its continual recurrence.
Every true Christian life needs its daily “silent times” – when all is still; when the busy activity of other hours ceases; and when the heart, in holy hush, communes with God. One of the greatest needs in Christian life in these days is more devotion. Ours is not an age of prayer so much as it is an age of work. The tendency is to action rather than to worship; and to busy toil, rather than to quiet sitting at the Savior’s feet to commune with Him. The keynote of our present Christian life is consecration, which is understood to mean dedication to active service. On every hand, we are incited to work. Our zeal is stirred by every inspiring incentive. The calls to duty come to us from a thousand earnest voices.
And this is good! There is little fear that we shall ever grow too earnest in working for our Master, or that our enthusiasm in His service shall ever become too intense. We are set on earth to toil for the world’s good and for God’s glory. The day’s heat is not to draw us from our active duty. Until death comes as God’s messenger to call us from toil, we are not to seek to be free from Christian service. Devotion is not all; Peter wished to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration so that he might go back no more to the cold, sin-stricken world below. But no! Down at the mountain’s base, human suffering and sorrow were waiting for the coming of the Healer; and the Master and His disciples had to leave the rapture of heavenly communion, and hasten down to carry healing and comfort. Such is always the case. While we enjoy the blessedness of communion with God in our closet, there comes in at our closed doors – breaking upon our ears – the cries of human need and sorrow outside. Amid the raptures of devotion, we hear the calls of duty waiting without. We should never allow our ecstasies of spiritual enjoyment to make us forgetful of the needs of others around us. Even the Mount of Transfiguration must not hold us away from ministry.
The truest pious life is one whose devotion gives food and strength for service. The way to spiritual health lies in the paths of consecrated activity. It is related in the legend of Francesca that although she was unwearied in her devotions – yet if, during her prayers, she was summoned away by any domestic duty; she would close her book cheerfully, saying that a wife and a mother, when called upon, must leave her God at the altar and find Him in the responsibilities of her home.
Yet the other side is just as true. Before there can be a strong, vigorous, healthy tree that is able to bear much fruit, stand the storm, and endure the heat and cold; there must be a well-planted and well-nourished root. Likewise, before there can be a prosperous, noble, enduring Christian life in the presence of the world – a life that is safe in temptation, unshaken in trials, full of good fruits, and perennial and unfading in its growth – there must be a close walk with God in secret. We must receive from God before we can give to others, for we have nothing of our own with which to feed people’s hunger or quench their thirst. We are only empty vessels at the best, and we must wait to be filled before we have anything to carry to those who are in need. We must listen at heaven’s gates before we can go out to sing the heavenly songs in the ears of human weariness and sorrow. Our lips must be touched with a coal from God’s altar before we can become God’s messengers to human beings. We must lie much upon Christ’s bosom before our poor earthly lives can be filled with the spirit of Christ, and made to shine in the transfigured beauty of His blessed life. Devotion is never meant to displace duty; it often brings new duties to our hands, but it fits us for all activity.
In order to receive this preparation for usefulness and service, we all need to get into the course of our lives many quiet hours, when we sit alone with Christ in personal communion with Him – listening to His voice, renewing our wasted strength from His fullness, and being transformed in character by looking into His face. Busy men need such quiet periods of spiritual communion; for their days of toil, care, and struggle tend to wear out the fiber of their spiritual life, and exhaust their inner strength. Earnest women need such silent times, for there are many things in their daily domestic life and social life to exhaust their supplies of grace. The care of their children; the very routine of their home-life; the thousand little things that test their patience, vex their spirits, and tend to break their calm; the influences of much of their social life, with its manifold temptations to artificialness, insincerity, formality, unreality, frivolity, idleness, vanity, and worldliness – amidst all these distracting, dissipating, secularizing influences, every earnest woman needs to get into her life at least one quiet hour every day, when, like Mary, she can wait at the feet of Jesus, and have her own soul calmed and fed.
Preachers, teachers, and Christian workers all need the same. How can men stand in the Lord’s house to speak His words to the people, unless they have first waited at Christ’s feet to get their message? How can anyone teach others the truths of life, without having been freshly taught by God? How can anyone bear heavenly gifts to needy souls, if they have not been at the Lord’s treasure-house to get these gifts?
In speaking of the danger of incessant Christian activity without a corresponding secret life with God, one writer says, “The very obvious peril is that the vitality of holiness may be exhausted by inward decay through the lack of an increase of its devotional spirit, proportioned to the expansion of its active forces. Individual experience may become shallow for the lack of meditative habits and much communion with God. Activity can never sustain itself. Withdraw the vital force which animates and propels it – and it falls like a dead arm. We cannot, then, too keenly feel – each one for himself – that a still and secret life with God must energize all holy duty, as vigor in every fiber of the body must come from the strong, calm, faithful beat of the heart.”
A Christian man of intense business enterprise and activity was laid aside by sickness. He who would never pause his labors was compelled to come to a dead halt. His restless limbs were stretched motionless upon the bed. He was so weak that he could scarcely utter a word. Speaking to a friend about the contrast between his condition now, and when he had been driving his immense business, he said, “Now I am growing. I have been running my soul thin by my activity. Now I am growing in the knowledge of myself and of some things which most intimately concern me.” No doubt there are many of us who are running our souls thin by our incessant action, without finding quiet hours for feeding and waiting upon God.
Blessed, then, is sickness or sorrow or any experience that compels us to stop, that takes the work out of our hands for a little season, and that empties our hearts of their thousand cares, and turns them toward God to be taught by Him.
But why should we wait for sickness or sorrow to compel these necessary quiet hours into our lives? Would it not be far better for us to train ourselves to go apart each day for a little season from the noisy and chilling world, in order to look into God’s face and into our own hearts, to learn the things we need so much to learn, and to draw secret strength and life from the fountain of life in God?
With these sacred “silent times” in every day of toil and struggle, we shall always be strong and “prepared unto every good work.” Waiting thus upon God, we shall daily renew our wasted strength, and be able to run and not be weary, to walk and not be faint, and to mount up with wings as eagles in bold spiritual flights.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections on this article in the Comments below! I’d love to hear them.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
photo by Mark Lopez | Lightstock.com
This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on my website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.