How do I get the voices out of my head?

Published 1:22 pm Saturday, November 2, 2013

A long time ago in the land of Israel, there were many kings. There were good kings: kings like David, Solomon, Josiah and Hezekiah. But there were also bad kings: kings like Rehoboam, Jeroboam and Jehu. But perhaps one of the worst kings in all Israelite history was a king named Ahab.

Ahab was a cruel and greedy king. He once had a man killed just because he liked the looks of the man’s property, but the man wouldn’t sell.

But even worse, Ahab was a coward. He was completely powerless to the demands of his wife.  If she wanted a law passed, he passed it. If she wanted a man killed, he killed him. But what truly made Ahab a coward was that he allowed his wife to drive him away from his most important duty as king: leading the people to be faithful to God.

As you might imagine, God was not pleased with Ahab. So God sent a prophet, a man named Elijah, to criticize and command the king on God’s behalf. Elijah confronted the king with the error of his ways and commanded him to return himself and the people back to God.

Well, apparently Ahab wasn’t in a particularly “criticism-friendly” mood that day because he quickly put out a death warrant on Elijah.

Fearing for his life, Elijah fled the area. He began searching for God, hoping that God could save him from this disaster and tell him what to do next. Yet, no matter where he searched, or how far he traveled, Elijah could not find the Lord.

At one point, he felt a mighty rushing wind. But God was not in the wind.

Later he was shaken by an earthquake. But God was not in the earthquake.

Then he felt the intense blaze of a fire. But God was not in the fire.

Finally, in the midst of midst of mighty winds and massive earthquakes and blazing fires, Elijah heard a soft, gentle whisper. And God was in the whisper.

When I read this story in 1 Kings 19:1-18, I often find myself wondering: How did Elijah hear the whisper? All around him there are winds, fires and earthquakes. Yet somehow, he heard God whisper. How did he do it?

Ultimately, I think there is only one possible answer: he was listening.

The truth is, in each of our lives, God is speaking. We expect it to come in the form of a mighty wind or a massive earthquake. But more often than not, it’s in the form of a gentle whisper. And most of the time, the problem is: there’s too much noise for us to be able to hear it.

Each and every day, we intentionally surround ourselves with noise from dozens of sources. Sometimes, it’s exterior noise – like cell phones, television and radios. But many times, we use internal noise, such as distractions to keep ourselves occupied and free from boredom – like reading a book or daydreaming.

The problem is, with all of the noise in our lives, how can we ever expect to hear God whisper?  If we’re always trying to keep our minds stimulated, how can we ever even get to a place where, like Elijah, we’re ready to listen for God? How can we ever appreciate the beauty of God’s creation as we drive if we’re constantly talking on our cellphones? How can we expect to receive God’s guidance when it comes to being a better parent, spouse, or friend if we’re always inundated with “noise” from our computers, television, books, or work, and never truly being present in their presence? How could we ever hope to hear God speak to us in our prayers if we’re never willing to stop talking?

God is speaking. But are we listening? Are we finding moments to remove ourselves from the noise of our lives in order to search for God’s soft whisper?

This will be the focus of the final sermon in our “Country Style” series this Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church. We will listen to Zac Brown Band’s song, “Quiet Your Mind,” and explore some practical steps to reducing the noise in our lives that we might hear God’s voice.

Each day, there are so many voices, so many noises floating around in our heads. But there is only one that truly matters. This week, may you find the quiet in your life. May you find respite from the winds, earthquakes, and fires around you. And in the midst of it all, may you hear the gentle whisper of God.