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 Netherland-born professor and author (1932-1996), wrote Making All Things New and The Way of the Heart. These single-sitting books give insights into everyday obstacles to spiritual disciplines and personal growth. Nouwen is right. Gaining ground with spiritual growth and building a Kingdom perspective requires (1) wholehearted desire and (2) gritty determination. A Christian may desire to grow and become more Christlike. This desire to bear our cross and follow Jesus comes from steady re-commitment. However, this noble ambition is accosted from every side by physical and spiritual interference. Spiritual growth to Christlikeness is hamstrung by worry-filled distractions, incessant disruptions and persistent disturbances that seem urgent, at first, but dim in importance with retrospect. Therefore, personal devotion is about committed passion plus unswerving determination. Consider the following:
Absurdity and Deafness. Absurdity comes from a Latin stem (surdus) or “hearing”. Surdus, within the word absurdity, implies purpose-less activity from noise-induced deafness. Picture someone with “hearing loss” from insignificant busyness. Lives, cluttered with meaningless activity, creates deafens our spiritual senses to God’s voice. Rather than pick-up our cross(es) 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).
Obedience and Listening. Obedience (audire) also has Latin roots related to “hearing”. Audire, within the word obedient, implies effective listening resulting in purpose-filled action. As the root implies, hearing God’s voice (audire) causes us to follow His direction obediently. In a focused manner that manages persistent hysteria, believers listen to and obediently follow the Spirit’s leading. The psalmist, in Psalm 46 below, remains focused and obedient despite paralyzing fear, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides and more:
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 “a song of holy confidence”. Martin Luther’s classic hymn, A Might Fortress, was inspired by Psalm 46. For our devotion today, Psalm 46 is the battle cry of focused stillness and determination that to “listen and hear” our God.
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). I need to guard this quiet place and time to receive God’s leading. I am a victim of my own self-imposed deafness. Without space, it is impossible for me to listen and obey (audire) God’s Spirit to shape me and lead me in Christlikeness.