RICHMOND, Va. – Don’t just do something; stand there.
Better yet, kneel there. Be there.
It’s easy to switch the verbs in the old, accusatory challenge to do something – anything – rather than stand around. Lots of preachers, speakers and writers invert the familiar phrase to encourage us to slow down and be still. But it’s hard for us action-oriented Americans to stop and just be. Inaction, even for a moment, seems lazy, unproductive, even weird. We should be multitasking.
Stillness? It’s a little scary.
Yet stillness is where we meet God. To be His heart, His hands and His voice – IMB’s overarching theme for 2012 – we must lay aside the sound and fury of our ceaseless activities, our personal priorities and our very selves to encounter Him. We need His heart to make a difference in the world, not our divided, selfish hearts. His hands do the healing, not our powerless hands. His voice cuts to the core of searching souls, not our meaningless chatter.
“… If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,” Jesus says. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it” (Matthew 16:24, 25).
There’s plenty of positive action cited in that statement: come, take up, follow, save. Before any of that can happen, however, first there’s a negative action, an “inaction,” so to speak: deny self.
If you’re planning to attend the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans June 19-20, I recommend a visit to the IMB exhibit. This year it won’t be a media extravaganza or a place to socialize and pick up lots of free stuff. It will be, in essence, a tent – a place of prayer. There, you will find four stations where you will have the opportunity to deny yourself, to take up your cross, to follow Jesus and to lose your life for Him.
When you emerge, you’ll find visual representations of the thousands of people groups throughout the world who have yet to hear the name of Jesus, much less His loving offer of salvation. They wait for someone with God’s heart, hands and voice to come to them with the joyful news. He longs to send someone. Maybe you are that someone.
But you need to spend time in the tent first – whether it be a physical place or an inner one.
Psalm 46:10 is my favorite mission verse: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Stop. Listen. Know. Be. Only then can you act in obedience – no matter the cost. Only then will you know His power.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is global correspondent for the International Mission Board (IMB). Visit “WorldView Conversation,” the blog related to this column, at http://worldviewconversation.blogspot.com/. Listen to an audio version at http://media1.imbresources.org/files/154/15420/15420-84831.mp3.)