Slowing Down

Recently while praying and reflecting a phrase came to me, “The virtue of slowing down.” In my experience there is great virtue in slowing down. As someone who has long had a tendency to be too ‘busy’ I appreciate this virtue. I have learned that I need to be internally reflective to hear His voice. I have had many experiences of Jesus presence and I have had words of knowledge for others hundreds of times, usually in the context of worship. Yet in my own walk with Jesus whether I get off somewhere quiet or internally tune my heart in the midst of busyness, it is in intentionally slowing down and looking to Him that I am more conscious of His presence and receive His direction.

An example in scripture is the encounter Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Jesus slowed down. He sent His disciples off to get food and He sat by a well patiently waiting for the appointment He had with this woman – a meeting His father had arranged. In the end He described this encounter flowing from doing His Father’s will as spiritual food that nourished Him (Jn. 4:32-34).

We may be tempted to discount this as happening because it was Jesus. Yet He calls us to this same process. He wants us to meet with Him and that is a choice we regularly have before us. It is the testimony of scripture and history that hearing His voice and knowing His presence is generally rooted in an intentional pursuit of His presence. There are many examples in scripture of Jesus getting alone to be with His Father. The famous Brother Lawrence encountered Jesus in his day to day activities in the kitchen. Jeanne Guyon spoke and wrote of this as available to all believers. Some of the leaders her book, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ great influenced include John Wesley, Watchmen Nee and John Wimber and the Vineyard movement. There are a multitude of others but these serve to illustrate the ‘Virtue of Slowing Down.’ While not using the phrase, this is what Guyon advocated – an intentional focus on Jesus and encountering His presence.  

The idea is well captured in some lines from a song by Jason Upton, “If the present is a place that my future will define I want to slow things down and take a little time. Can you help me do it Jesus?” So, if we want to experience the ‘Virtue of Slowing Down’ let’s ask Jesus to help us. He will.

6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. Philippians 4:6-8 (NKJV)

3  You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

A Hammer and an Awkward Nail by Jason Upton

Out of the Heart

Our conduct, our words and actions, flow from what has taken root in our heart. This is why we have the well-known encouragement and warning in Proverbs.

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

Jesus also addressed the need to guard our hearts.  

33  “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 (NKJV)

Jesus focus on our words and their source but the application is broader as He contrasts good and evil ‘things’ coming out of our hearts. In the only Psalm we have by Moses we have a succinct summation of how we keep or guard our hearts.  

12  So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NKJV)

The New American Standard Bible translates the latter phrase of this verse a bit differently.

12  So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (NASB)

Inherent in the common Hebrew verb bôʾ (gain/present) is the idea of both gaining and presenting. If we gain a heart of wisdom we can then present it to the Lord at the end of our days. The focus is on numbering our days to develop a wise heart. When we number our days we pay attention to how we invest our time and energy. Paul captured the concept in Ephesians 5:15-16 when he addressed the need to walk circumspectly and use our time wisely.

Given we do not know how many days we have on the earth we are wise if we number them. At my age I know I have many more days behind me then I do ahead of me and I want to be a good steward of my time. That doesn’t mean spending every waking moment praying or reading the scriptures. It does mean keeping at the forefront of my mind that I need to walk close to His heart throughout the day. It means allowing my heart to be drawn into intercession throughout the day. It means I need to be sensitive to His leading and calling and recognize that any relationship I engage in, however fleeting, I am an ambassador for Jesus, a representative of the King.

Now Moments

There are ‘now’ moments in each of our lives. I know there was a time in my life when I thought I needed now moments like the one Moses had at the burning bush.

3  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” Exodus 3:3 (NKJV)  

I still pray for significant encounters with Him and have had some over the years. At the same time I have previously written on the danger of missing the spiritual while looking for the supernatural. I think that is true of now moments. While these moments of choice are sometimes dramatic and obvious, usually they are times of simply choosing to respond to His prompting to engage in a conversation, contact a person, and sit with Him and His word or something similar. Yet these now moments of being faithful shape our lives.

While the now moment for Moses was very obvious that is generally not what happens. In the gospels we read the stories of some who responded to their now opportunities to follow a dusty itinerant Rabbi (Matt. 4:18-22) and examples of others who gave Jesus reasons why ‘now’ was not a good time to respond and follow Him (Lk. 9:57-62). As we reflect on the now moments in our lives we can consider the factors that led to our conversion and moments that have shaped our walk. Like now moments in scripture some may have had dramatic encounters while others will have had seemingly mundane experiences that led to conversion and shaped a lifestyle. 

I know my own commitment to follow Jesus was not dramatic. I had a ‘now’ moment in a cancer diagnosis a few days before my wedding at age 23. This led to a reflection on my belief system and a decision to read the scriptures. Yet, while people were praying for me I never made a real commitment until age 25. There was nothing dramatic, no flashing lights. Simply a series of responses in various now moments.

Once I began to walk with Jesus there were many now moments of being at the right place at the right time. Meeting key people and in the moment making decisions to continue godly relationships, some of which have now lasted decades. A commonality in my experience was an inner nudge, a sense of the need to respond to something or someone. I believe sensitivity to these nudges comes from faithfully pursuing His presence and purpose.

I remember a key relationship in my life came from responding to a sense to call someone I had met and go and visit her. She later told me of the spiritual significance of what had happened and what she discerned in the spirit realm. I was aware of none of these things. I just knew obedience was important and so responded to His inner nudge to get to know this wise and godly older woman who became a friend and mentor.

I don’t know what ‘now’ is like for each of us. I do know that it is important to focus on His leading, seek to be found faithful and ask for His help in responding properly to the opportunities He provides. To deepen this feel free to join me in something I regularly pray, “Help me to discern and engage in the opportunities You provide.” Faithfully seeking and trusting Him advances His kingdom in the earth and prioritizes the spiritual over the supernatural.