Whats That Noise 24April2020

What’s That Noise?

She wasn’t being sarcastic or defiant as she approached me following my sermon. She appeared to be determined, a bit troubled, somewhat tense as her question unfolded, “You mentioned that God spoke to you, how does that happen? I don’t hear God speaking to me so how do you recognize His voice?”

It was an excellent question and a common complaint that I heard as a pastor over the years. It is a battleground on which many people are defeated and the result of their downfall shows up in many ways. Joyless; like a dry brook because lack of rain robbed the brook of its voice and there is silence in the forest; an absence of that beautiful sound as cascading water sings is way over the rocks. Barrenness; like the fig tree that Jesus cursed because it advertised but fail to deliver its precious fruit. Aimless; like a listless ship, sails hanging limp unable to catch the wind, rudder swinging left, then right. Deadness; like a lethargic flag hanging at half-mask. The list is endless and incriminating. When you fair to hear His voice, you soon begin to make things up or retreat to, “I heard someone say…” Your Christian pilgrimage becomes a second hand story; not personal, fresh, alive.

Tony Evans tells the story of a Native American who visited New York City for the first time. As he and a friend walked down a bustling street alive with a concoction of sight and sounds, he stopped and inquired, “Did you hear that?” Puzzled, since they were surrounded by a symphony of sounds, his friend replied, “What? Hear what?” The Native American replied, “Cricket. I heard a cricket.” A hasty search quickly located the foreigner, who seemed out of place in a concrete jungle, hiding in a discreet location. His unique chirp was unheard by most of the pedestrians but not to one whose ear was in tune with his distinctive sound. Everyone around was amazed at the discovery and, of course, wanted to know how he heard the sound a creepy-crawler in the midst of all the city noise. He smiled and replied, “You hear what you are accustomed to hear. It reminded me of home.”

As stories go, I am not sure that NYC incident actually happened but the telling resonates with truth. A basic discipline that is missing in the lifestyle of so many Christ followers is a trained and listening ear. We live in such a busy and noisy world that hearing the voice of He who speaks softly is most difficult. What is the solution? Where do I begin?

We must learn to quite the noise! Of course, this applies to the demanding sounds and voices that surround us in most any given moment in time. That is a relative easy task to achieve; make the choice and turn things OFF! Moms! Please don’t lock you’re your children in a closet, though I am sure that idea has crossed your mind. You must be creative and seek another solution. The noise that accompanies us every day can become deafening, however, the external and obvious noise is not the problem that shrieks the loudest. We must develop the discipline to turn off the noises that are within our heads; the noises that plays like an endless and monotonous soundtrack. Many negative voices are accusing ones, “You are a terrible parent. You are not worthy. God doesn’t love you. You are a loser. You are not important to God!” ETC. ETC. Then, there are other annoying voices; “You have so much to do today. Jesus understands if you don’t have time for Him. One day will not make any difference. You will have more time next week. Don’t take this Christian-stuff so seriously! You’re human after all.” ETC. ETC. How do I turn off this mess going on in my mind?

voices in your head will definitely prevent you from hearing a cricket in a busy city but worse than that, they drown out the whisper of God. So, how do I deal with the noise swirling inside my head? It’s like an never-ending, pointless pinball game! This will be a difficult challenge because many of the voices have been with you for a long time and they have strong ties to who you are, or think you are. y are deeply embedded roommates, not just an occasional guest. Bidding them “good bye” is difficult, but doable.

In the new book, “No Ordinary Dog,” Will Chesney shares his agonizing story in pursuit of becoming a Navy SEAL, a demanding process requiring months of ceaselessly pain and agony that eliminates the majority of seemingly qualified candidates. In his class of 168 prospects, only 22 graduated. By his own admission he was not a gifted athlete, or an outdoors person, not a hunter or Boy Scout. However, he succeeded when many more qualified than he “rang the bell,” signaling the message, “I quit! I’ve had enough. I surrender.” How did that happen? Hours of agonizing pain, deprived of sleep, mentally and verbally abused, pushed to the edge of exhaustion and mental collapse; in the middle of physical pain; lying in frigid surf battling hyperthermia, covered with sand while an instructor yelled in his face; cursing, demeaning him as a weak, unfit specimen of humanity, unqualified to be a Navy SEAL, a looser who needed to end the agony and just quit! Yet, he did not quit while men more physically qualified than he chose clean, dry clothes, a warm blanket, coffee and a hot meal. How? He learned to mentally retreat to a “happy place” and thus survived to repeat the process until be succeeded to graduate from BUD/S and receive the Navy SEAL Trident insignia signifying exclusive membership. Noise on the outside will eventually fall silent. It’s that space between your ears that you must guard and garrison or you will lose the battle. You know, “mind over matter.” If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter! He learned to silence the noise that surrounded him and the voices in his head. And, so must we.

The battle in our mind is a constant conflict with the enemy as we seek to gain the high ground. The noises and voices in your head will defeat and neutralize you if you battle from the lowlands. You must get out of the muck or you will get stuck! Climb higher and by that I mean; first, understand there is a battle for your mind and then, take command of the battlefield. It is the only way to win the battle. Learn to stop the noise that drowns out the voice of the Shepherd!

So, my reply to her probing question surprised both her and me, “How do you recognize the voice of your child in a crowd? I mean twenty kids can cry out, ‘Mommy’ and you know the voice of your child. How?” Like a sunrise making its way above the horizon, a slight smile began to sneak across the outside of her face as surprise dawned on the inside. “I guess,” she replied, “because I know the sound of their voice and I have heard it many times.” Bingo! Intimacy. Familiarity. You hear what your ear is trained to hear. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) I am not a musician so I am aware that when a musical soundtrack is played, there are notes, sounds and tones, which I do not hear because my ear is not trained to hear them. I have read that when two shepherds stop for a conversation their sheepfolds will intermingle. When they finish their chatting, upon departing they speak and each sheep responds to the voice of his shepherd. I know nothing about sheep but I admire the shepherds that lead them and the dogs that herd them, but reliable sources corroborate that it is indeed a factual occurrence. Shepherd. Sheep. One speaks and the other responds. Really, it is a simple process. The difficulty resides, not in the Shepherds voice, but in training the ear of the sheep to listen.

The noise around us is an easy distraction to eliminate. It just requires identification, a choice and decisive action. However, it takes years of discipline to drown out the voices in your head. START today. You will not be able to hear a cricket in NYC overnight but when you learn to quieten the noises in your head, be still, and train your ears to listen; then it will happen; a whisper, a simple admonition, an embrace and then a conversation.

The Shepherd will speak and you will hear His voice. Once you hear His voice you will be amazed, astounded, then addicted. You will never forget the sound of His voice because there is no other voice that compares.

Ldw 25April2020