But first and most importantly seek [aim at, strive after] His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:33-34, Amplified Bible (AMP)
Henri Nouwen, a Netherlands-born professor and author (1932-1996), wrote Making All Things New and The Way of the Heart. These single-sitting books examine setbacks to spiritual discipline and personal growth. Nouwen suggests that spiritual growth requires (1) wholehearted desire and (2) gritty determination. Christians who desire to grow and become Christlike must, with gritty re-commitment, bear their crosses. Noble ambitions are constantly under attack! Spiritual growth to Christlikeness is hamstrung by worry-filled distractions, incessant disruptions and persistent disturbances. Interruptions which, at first, seem urgent, shrink from importance in hindsight. Nouwen concludes that personal devotion is built on committed passion and unswerving determination.
Deafness and Absurdity. Our English words “absurdity” and “deafness” are linked to the Latin root “surdus”. In absurdity, Surdus paints the picture of pointless action suffocated by deafness. Spiritual disciplines and growth, overwhelmed by meaningless activity, are deaf to God’s guidance. Rather than pick-up our cross in Christlikeness, absurd worries and insecurities make us deaf the tone of God’s voice and oblivious to His still, small voice (1 Kgs 19:9-13).
Hearing and Obedience. Our English words “obedience” and “hearing” are linked to the Latin root “audire”. Audire, within the word “obedient”, implies purpose-filled action from attuned hearing. Hearing God’s voice causes us to follow Him obediently. With focus that sees through the veil of distraction, believers listen to and obediently follow God’s Spirit. The psalmist, in Psalm 46 below, remains focused and “still” in the face of paralyzing fear, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and landslides.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10, NIV, emphasis added)
Charles Spurgeon referred to Psalm 46 as his “song of holy confidence”. Martin Luther’s classic hymn, A Might Fortress, was inspired by Psalm 46. For our devotion today, Psalm 46 is my battle cry of focused stillness and determination that to hear and obey my God despite the clamor, chaos and catastrophes that try to derail my spiritual discipline and personal growth.
Preaching to myself… I need to put-on my game face every morning. I need to peel away clutter and silence intrusions. I need to give interruptions a “time-out”. Perhaps this means turning-off my cellphone for 30-minutes. I need to create time and space to listen (audire) and still the deafness of absurdity (surdus) I need to guard a quiet space and time to receive God’s leading. I am a victim of my own self-imposed deafness. Protecting this space, I can to hear and obey (audire) God’s Spirit and allow Him to shape me in Christlikeness.