Slow Down to Speed Up

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 20:17 Ye shall not [need] to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye [still], and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem:

God’s call to us today is to stand still because the battle is the Lord’s. He calls us to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. These are the words which were given by the prophet when the Moabites came in their hordes to attack the city of Jerusalem. We are as much surrounded today by the enemy, and it is beyond us to be able to meet it. We see how humanity and professed Christianity around us is continually crumbling under the pressure of the enemy. Perilous times surround us which it is beyond our ability to do anything about.

In these last days we are in peril more than at any other time.

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

If I would stop there you would be tempted to say, Well, this is the natural condition of an unregenerated people. But who is He talking about here? These are people who have

2 Timothy 3:5 …a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

All the characteristics described here we would expect in those who are unbelievers. But these are people who make a profession. Never before in earth’s history was there such a condition when those who made a profession of godliness were so out of control – incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. The spiritual nature of true Christianity is such that it would not participate in anything like this. But today we are in such a situation; and you just have to see it in the demonstration of the disobedient nature of those who claim to be Christians – they are disobedient to God. You see them in their homes, and the children are disobedient to their parents. We were children ourselves, and what was our generation like? Were we obedient to our parents? In her time Sr. White wrote about the children of her day being unruly and out of control. How are the children today? It says that they are disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection. O how that is rampant today. This is true even within Adventism. “Without natural affection” applies also to them. They even have a church in America for homosexuals. This is the predicament in which God’s people find themselves today. That kind of atmosphere surrounding us is poisonous and has a dulling effect upon our spirituality. This is a peril that surrounds us today; and to be able to meet this peril and conquer it is beyond us. We had better admit to that.

I have had to admit to that myself, because I have seen that even in my desire to follow God exactly I have been affected by some of these things, and I have had to confess it. I have had to weep before the Lord, because this insidious influence affects the mind.

The army against the faithful is indeed similar to the army that threatened Judah in the time of Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 20:1 It came to pass after this also, [that] the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them [other] beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.

This was a multitudinous army, not just one country, not just the Moabites. There were also the Ammonites and others as well besides them. They were there to fight against Jerusalem, which, under Jehoshaphat, was seeking to be faithful. This was Jehoshaphat’s prayer:

2 Chronicles 20:12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes [are] upon thee.

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know what to do anymore? in your family? in your personal life? You are striving to stand up for truth and there is such a barrage of opposition that you just don’t know what to do. This is the prayer of Jehoshaphat, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon Thee, O God.

We have been contemplating for some time now the circumstances and the preparation for the close of probation. We are living in a time when even amongst those who profess to be believers in the sanctuary message people are saying that it is impossible to become perfect. The new theology is very explicit on that. “You will not become perfect and sinless until Jesus changes your body.” This is what is being taught. Yes, indeed, it looks so deplorably impossible to live a perfectly sinless life today. And that is why that doctrine is being put forth. Our task of reaching perfection of character is our task to prepare for the close of probation; because when probation closes, what does Jesus say? “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still.” There has to be a people on earth who are reflecting perfectly in their character the character of Jesus. He will not come until He sees Himself perfectly reflected among His people.

So the urgency that is upon the true believer is one of reaching that perfection, because we see so many imperfect characteristics about us that it nearly distracts us. I’ll never forget the words of one who was close in relationship to me in my family, “This doctrine of perfection is so destructive.” And it is, to some degree, if we do not understand the truth on the subject.

The Spirit of Prophecy shows us this seemingly impossible task that lies before us – to reach perfection. Sr. White talks here about two errors:

The first [error], already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy. {SC 59.4}

Here was Jehoshaphat with the army of Jerusalem, crying to God and saying, Oh dear, this is impossible. And as the onslaughts of the enemy upon our soul are so heavy, to come into consideration that we could be perfect and sinless is exactly the same scenario.

The Lord’s Battle

To hasten the victory, to hasten perfection in our life, there is only one path, and it is written of here. The prophet is there to send the answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer:

2 Chronicles 20:15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle [is] not yours, but God’s. … 17 Ye shall not [need] to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye [still], and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD [will be] with you.

Impossible? Don’t be afraid. Impossible to reach perfection because the perilous times in which we live are so heavy upon us? It’s beyond us and we cry to God, “You have said we are to be righteous, we are to stand before You without fault. We can’t achieve it, Lord!” Well, the battle is not yours, says the Lord. We try to battle, to conquer sin, and to keep God’s commandments, and if we are trying to do it on our own, we will miserably fail. We will be conquered. But notice what is written here. It says, Stand ye still. What was meant by that?

2 Chronicles 20:20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. 21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy [endureth] for ever. 22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. 23 For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy [them]: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another. 24 And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they [were] dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.

I love this statement, They all fought with each other. That is what will happen at the end of the world – they will all fight with each other. They will destroy each other. It is exactly the same. And in the meantime, all those who raise up their shackles against us, if we want to be loyal and faithful, we have nothing to fear. What is meant with “standing still,” according to this? It doesn’t mean that you do nothing. Because what did God tell them to do? “To morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.” Oh yes, we must do something; and to stand still is not to be inactive. It simply means something else.

God was the strength of Judah in this crisis, and He is the strength of His people today. We are not to trust in princes, or to set men in the place of God. We are to remember that human beings are fallible and erring, and that He who has all power is our strong tower of defense. In every emergency we are to feel that the battle is His. His resources are limitless, and apparent impossibilities will make the victory all the greater. {CC 217.5} 

The reliance of Jehoshaphat upon his army was futile. We cannot rely upon the human army. We cannot rely upon, and put our trust in, princes, or set men in the place of God. We are to remember that human beings are fallible. So in this battle for righteousness against the enemy surrounding us with these perils, we are to depend upon the resources which are limitless – the resources of heaven – and apparent impossibilities, as it was manifested there, will make the victory all the greater.

Look at that, they all killed each other, and they were all there lying dead; and God’s people were doing something. What were they doing? They went out to meet them with songs, praising the Lord, with reliance on the power of God. And God made the impossibility a greater sense of victory than if they would have fought without His help. Therefore to stand still did not mean to do nothing, but to move as God directed – to listen and to wait for counsel.

Psalm 37:5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring [it] to pass. 6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:

Rest in the Lord, and what? Wait patiently for Him. Wait for Him; trust Him by casting your dependence upon Him, but not in inaction.

They do not surrender the soul to be guided and controlled by the divine agencies. {DA 672.1} 

That is what is needed – we must surrender the soul to be controlled by the divine agencies.

We cannot use the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is to use us. Through the Spirit God works in His people “to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13. But many will not submit to this. They want to manage themselves. This is why they do not receive the heavenly gift. Only to those who wait humbly upon God, who watch for His guidance and grace, is the Spirit given. The power of God awaits their demand and reception. This promised blessing, claimed by faith, brings all other blessings in its train. It is given according to the riches of the grace of Christ, and He is ready to supply every soul according to the capacity to receive. {Ibid.

In our quest to reach perfection, what are we to do? The battle is not ours, but we are not to do nothing. There is an instruction that God gives us as to what we should do; and in the story of Jehoshaphat He told them, “Go with the army, and then wait on the Lord. Stand still, you will see the salvation of the Lord.” So they went to the battle with the army, but with a choir in front of the army. Have you ever heard an army going to war with a choir in front of it? That was because the battle was the Lord’s. This object lesson is for us in our battle in these last days. Yes, we are to do something – we are to wait for the guidance and grace that the Spirit will give us. And as we wait upon the Lord, He will bring forth our righteousness as the light. He will bring forth the righteousness. He will produce the holiness in us, as we do what He instructs us to do.

Jesus says, “Abide in Me.” These words convey the idea of rest, stability, confidence. Again He invites, “Come unto Me, . . . and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. The words of the psalmist express the same thought: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” And Isaiah gives the assurance, “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Psalm 37:7; Isaiah 30:15. This rest is not found in inactivity; {SC 71.1}

It is not found there. He is not saying, Be inactive.

…for in the Saviour’s invitation the promise of rest is united with the call to labor: “Take My yoke upon you: . . . and ye shall find rest.” Matthew 11:29. The heart that rests most fully upon Christ will be most earnest and active in labor for Him. {Ibid.}

Interesting paradox. The more you rest the more energy you will have to do the labour of the Lord and to follow His directions, so that He will bring forth thy righteousness, to be able to stand, and when probation closes, to be without sin. It is in our quest to reach this perfection so that we may hasten the coming of Jesus. We are to hasten the coming of Jesus by what kind of persons we are. We are to hasten the coming of Jesus by hastening our character development; because He is waiting for us to have a righteous character. The counsel is, Yes, you must conquer, but the battle, though, is the Lord’s.

In the understanding of God in relation to this battle, we are told:

But like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and no delay. {DA 32.1}

Interesting. No haste and yet no delay. We often think, “If I stand still something is going to go slow. I’ve got to move. I’ve got to act!” God knows no haste and no delay. That is what is meant by the followings words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 30:15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:

But of course, as He always has a problem with many Christians and many Jews, He then says:

Isaiah 30:15 …and ye would not.

You see a problem in front of you, so you tackle it… and you fail. You are restless; you are not at rest and peace. You are always active, always going on with it, and there is no victory with that kind of restlessness. So He says, “If you want to gain the victory (and He has shown us how to do it in the story of Jehoshaphat and Jerusalem), then you must stand still. Just do what I say, and the battle isn’t yours. Rest in Me. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”

The great work which has been committed to our hands cannot be best carried forward in excitement and confusion. {ST, February 2, 1882 par. 10} 

That is what He meant by “Stand still.” Be calm.

That calm deliberation so essential to sound judgment can often be best secured in some quiet retreat where the thoughtful mind and pure heart can be prompted by the still, small voice. {Ibid.}

So what must we do to follow God’s direction in this warfare? To slow down, and take time. To find calm deliberation, to enter into the frame of mind of God Himself, who knows no haste and no delay. To take time to let God impact our mind, so that the thoughtful mind and pure heart can then be prompted by the still, small voice. Slow down so you can do that.

To carry forward a work, a very important work, with excitement and confusion, what does that actually do? Does that hasten things at all?

Making Haste Slowly

What follows is a counsel which Sr. White gave in reference to the mother, because she has a very important work to do. What is written in regards to her?

Children should be kept as free from excitement as possible; therefore the mother must be calm and unhurried, free from all excitement and nervous haste. {CG 216.3}

“Oh dear, I’ve got so much to do. There is so much to do and I’ve got to train my children correctly…” and all this kind of thing is overbearing on a mother’s mind, and she is under a nervous excitement, a nervous haste.

This is a school of discipline to herself as well as to the child. While teaching the little ones the lesson of self-denial, she is educating herself to be a pattern to her children. While with tender interest she is working the soil of their hearts, that she may subdue the natural sinful inclinations, she is cultivating in her own words and in her own deportment the graces of the Spirit. {Ibid.}

“That calm deliberation so essential to sound judgment can often be best secured in some quiet retreat where the thoughtful mind and pure heart can be prompted by the still, small voice.” It will have an effect on my character. And indeed, this activity of standing still inside of myself, by resting in God, by slowing down and spending time there so that I can follow His directions correctly, is what is meant by the following words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 28:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

To believe in Jesus Christ is to enter into the haven of rest, into a state of quietness and restfulness, standing still and following upon the instructions that are heard from that still, small voice. Can you hear a still, small voice in the hustle and bustle of haste? Impossible. So Scripture tells you that those who believe in Him shall not make haste.

God is not the author of confusion, but of order and progress. Let those who desire to advance His kingdom make haste slowly and build intelligently. Let no one rush on with a stumbling supposition that means must be invested to make a display. {PM 189.2}

To make haste slowly – slowing down to speed up. In our character building we have to hurry and grow. God is going to cut short His work in righteousness, but not in a restless, nervous haste. God’s people will in their faith to Him make no haste. This is a strange paradox. How can I hasten my progress by stopping and standing still? How can I slow down and yet speed up? How is that possible? How can I make haste slowly? How does this actually work in practice?

There are those who are quick to see and grasp ideas in advance. {Educational Messenger, March 19, 1909 par. 18}

You have certain people who always have a foresight, and ahead of time they say, Oh, I have to do this; like crossing your bridges before you get to them. They have this quick ability, but what don’t they do?

But they do not weigh every point and apply their ideas in a way that produces the best results. They are heedless; they do not work in the wisdom of God. Such need to make haste slowly in forming their opinions, lest they should be obliged to retrace their steps. {Ibid.}

If you move forward and you suddenly discover that in your hurry you’ve gone in the wrong direction, have you made progress? Not at all, you have to retrace your steps, and you have delayed. You know what it’s like, if you’re traveling along and you’ve turned down the wrong side road, you wanted to get somewhere at a certain point in time, and now you’ve just delayed yourself and you can’t get to that point at the time you intended. So stop and take time so that you don’t have to retrace your steps.

If they are not careful, their course will be uneven and uncertain. They will fail to make straight paths for their feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. They will surely lead away those who admire their flashes and brilliancy, unless they determine to know why they know the things they claim to know. They should be careful how they order their steps. They should pray much, fearing to make mistakes. Unless they walk guardedly, they will be losers. {Ibid.}

If you make mistakes, does that slow you down? Obviously. If you go down the wrong path, you’re going to have to come back. Here is the reason why we must stand still and wait before we move, so that we will make fewer mistakes and we don’t have to retrace our steps. That is how this slowing down to speed up is put into practice.

Sr. White is here writing to a brother who is just such a person. He has strong convictions, strong ideas, and he pushes them:

Now, my brother, I have a request to make of you, which is to make haste slowly. I do not want you to connect with these elements. You are a man of very set, determined traits of character, and when things go contrary to your ideas you are greatly disturbed. Your life course has been opened before me. You have had a wrestling life, and when your course has been questioned or opposed, you have been trained by course of circumstances to push just as hard to make your plans a success as that you were opposed. This element of character still exists with you, and it is a dangerous element to you and others to be brought into your religious life, because you may in some things be inclined to push when you may not have the Lord back of you to push with you. I know that the Lord can use you as His instrument, if you will be passive in His hands. He can make you a conqueror, if you are willing to submit to the light. {20MR 365.2}

Passive – that’s a strange word to people who want to get moving. “Passive? No. We’ve got to move!” We must be passive in the hands of the Lord, then the Lord will push, and the Lord’s battle will give the victory. So it is that the wisdom of slowing down to speed up comes to a full appreciation.

Haste makes waste, is an old adage that is often true. Hurry and speed are great illusions. Contradictory as it may seem, slowing down may be the best way to speed up. Slow down to decrease errors, to achieve accuracy, to reduce mistakes. Slow down and finish one thing, and then move on to the next, rather than attempting to juggle a dozen unfinished tasks at the same time. Slow down and try to understand people and situations so you won’t jump to impulsive conclusions. Slow down and savour the beauty and wonder of life, rather than racing through it and missing the joy of living. Slow down and wait upon the Lord. Often the best thing you can do, is to do nothing until more light has revealed the way that you should go. {Wilfred A. Peterson, The Art of Slowing Down}

Wonderful, isn’t it? That is a wonderful summary of what we have been reading in God’s word. As we are to hasten the coming of Jesus by hastening our character development, here is another dimension to hasten it – by slowing down and listening for guidance, and not making any more mistakes to slow us down.

It is my prayer that we will be governed by such a reality in our life.

Amen.

Posted on March 9, 2017, in Divine Service Sermons, Sermons by John Thiel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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