Friday, July 31, 2015

The Ministry of Silence

 (by Kerry Patton)
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! 
Psalm 141:3-4
Thumper, that single-toothed cotton tail rabbit in the 1942 animated Disney film “Bambi” finds himself being corrected by his mother after he makes a comical observation at Bambi’s expense: “Thumper, what did your father say only this morning?” To which Thumper makes his embarrassed reply: “If you can’t say something nice…d..don’t say nothing at all.”  He of course should have said: “…don’t say anything at all.”  The result is that we can savor the humorous double negative he expresses in which he effectively states: “If you can’t say something nice…say it anyhow!”  Silence…Not saying anything at all. 

Silence is a powerful tool for both good and evil.  Silence is good when the tongue is held rather than taking the easy shot and injuring with a hurtful word.  Silence is good when we are in the presence of a suffering, or grieving brother or sister, and the truth is – there are no words to say.  It is often in our silent presence, praying, holding the hand, grieving with, and interceding while another is hurting that we may administer the most help in a time of need.  It is wisdom to know if, and when silence is needed

Silence is a weapon of harm though when we withhold the encouraging word; when the word of correction or counsel is needed, but for reasons of pride, guilt, or frustration we do not speak.  Silence is not good when a word of forgiveness is due and we withhold it out of spite, or as a punishment of payback.  The discerning follower of Christ comes to know his or her own tendency toward silence, or away from it, and seek the wisdom of the Lord in dealing with it in life.

Spiritual silence can be, if unmonitored, very dangerous.  This week, we’ve explored the loudness of our spiritual life conversation.  We’ve talked about the importance of whispering, shouting, and conversing normally – as it were, in context of how we live our Christian witness, share our faith, and communicate the spiritual elements of the Christian faith; necessary for salvation from sin.  I’ve encouraged you to “speak” loudly at times, softly at others, and faithfully in normal tones as we go about the hours and days of our lives.  So where does silence fit in to our Christian witness?

Particularly in the realm of communicating our faith, evangelizing the lost, and rescuing the perishing, we are encouraged to speak…but to do so at the unction of the Holy Spirit.  From my Methodist roots I remember reading of Mr. John Wesley’s words on the seasons of the heart.  He suggested, and rightly so I believe, that there are seasons of the heart – times when we are receptive, and likewise times when we are not receptive to words of the Gospel…particularly when the lost are being counseled.  He encouraged the Christian evangelist/disciple to be watchful for those seasons in the lives of those to whom he or she desired to lead to Jesus.  To ignore those seasons would make no sense…just as it would make no sense to plant a crop during the harsh biting of winter, but to wait until spring. 

The ministry of silence is a wisdom; a self-control that is exerted upon the self that restrains our effort and speaking until we are released by the Spirit to do so.  We then, seeing the need arising, wait until the Lord’s timing is proven and then sow the seeds of his word into the soil of the heart that he has prepared. 

What is the danger of silence in this context?  Actually, and tragically, the condition of silence is what has become the normative existence of the average Christian.  Many live their entire lives never having led a single individual into relationship with Jesus.  Silence is perpetuated by a fear of failure or rejection; it is often rooted not in attentiveness to the timing of the Holy Spirit, but in a lack of preparation.  Effectively, even when we know something should be said, we have nothing to say, so we speak not.  We remain silent.  Silence then can become a major weapon Satan uses against the Kingdom of God when he hinders the believer from either properly exercising it, or convinces the believer that silence is to be his or her normal state of being. 


Almighty God, I pray that you teach me the discipline of silence.  Help me to learn how and when to speak, and how and when to not speak.  Create in my heart that ministering spirit that is content not to strike back when harmed, but is compelled to speak when the time is right.  Set me on fire that I might burn brightly for you when it is time to burn…to break silence and be your messenger or mouthpiece. And give me peace; grant me contentment to wait upon your signal when it is time to act.  Teach me about silence in life and living I pray.  Amen.

Devotional Archive