Solitude, Silence, and Fasting

Steve Arterburn

At times in our lives we all have wilderness experiences’times when we face despair and feel alone in the world.  Elijah was a prophet in the Bible who had a literal wilderness experience.   His time in the wilderness forced him to practice three spiritual disciplines that freed him from his dependence on the world and encouraged him instead to depend on God.  We might learn from his example.

The first discipline Elijah practiced was solitude:  and it served at least two purposes.  It protected him from King Ahab who wanted to kill him.  And it provided an opportunity for him to deepen his faith, to draw closer to God. Next, Elijah’s wilderness experience gave him a time to practice silence, which allowed him to listen for God’s voice. And finally, Elijah practiced a form of fasting.  Strictly speaking he didn’t abstain from food, but his food was controlled by God’s special provision.  Periodically, God would send ravens carrying food for Elijah to eat.  In this way, Elijah learned to trust God to provide for his daily needs.

A wilderness experience can play an important role in our spiritual growth.  Are you going through one now?  Don’t miss what it might be offering you.  Like Elijah, withdrawing from your normal routine will remove you from distraction and lead to an intimacy with God.  Silence allows you to listen to God. And fasting teaches you to depend on God to provide for you.

Proverbs

Steve Arterburn

Common sense’the idea sounds so folksy and simple.  Oddly enough, however, we seem to have less and less of it.  Perhaps it’s because we’re too busy or distant to learn from our parents and grandparents.  And just as common sense is rare, godly wisdom is also hard to find.  

We all have priorities, whether we’re aware of them or not.  So it’s never a question of having priorities, but rather of straightening them out.  A big part of your spiritual renewal involves sorting out your priorities in accordance with God’s will.  Need help?

The book of Proverbs is all about establishing priorities that please God.  As your priorities become a reflection of God’s will, your spiritual growth will progress.

Another aspect of wisdom is setting personal boundaries regarding how and when to say no.  In Proverbs, you’ll discover a large number of situations where saying no is the wisest option’in family situations, sexual situations, monetary situations, and business situations.

In addition, this invaluable book will provide sound advice for building healthy relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Here you’re called to be consistent, tactful, and to use discipline.  

Wisdom is a rare commodity these days.  But as God’s man, you cannot live well without it.  I’ll leave you with the key verse of Proverbs, and I hope you will search out the other treasures that can be found in this great book.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  Only fools despise wisdom and discipline (1:7).

Overcoming Expectations

Steve Arterburn

One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you.  The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige.  It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.  

Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life?  How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God?  Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.

What do people expect of you?  What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you?  Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations.  When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you.  In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.   

Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’  Is your life busy?  Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids?  Follow the example of Jesus.  Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.