SILENCE OF GOD
A call for agonising and preserving prayer.
Have you ever wondered about the silence of God? Did it bother you any time when God seemed to be absolutely silent and heaven is like an impenetrable brazen vault above the earth? How can we understand the silence of God?
Call On Him
The first thing to remember is that God is silent towards anyone who is silent towards Him. There are billions in the world today who have never had the privilege to know and experience God in their lives. God is Omnipotent and loving. But tragically, they do not know Him. God is Omnipresent and He knows all the human plights. But He seems to be unconcerned. He seems to remain far from all human predicaments. When a tragedy occurs, people shout: "Where is God?", "Is there a God out there?", "If God is there, what is He doing?" The Bible tells us that God intervenes in human lives only when man calls upon Him. If a person ignores God, God will ignore him. If someone rejects Him, He will be rejected by God (Hos.4:6). If anyone calls upon God, God will answer him. "God is near to all who call upon Him; who call upon Him in truth" (Psa. 145:18). "Ask and receive; ask not, receive not" is the Biblical conditioning (Matt.7:7; Jas.4:2). God never forces His way into the life of any one. If any one reading these lines did not have an opportunity to know and experience God, maybe, that person has never called upon God in sincerity and in truth. Such a person is advised to pause for a minute, kneel down and call upon God through Christ our Lord, for pardon and for peace, and it will work like magic; a flow of God's grace will flood into such a life bringing pardon and peace. These are available just for the asking. Avail it and give glory to God; to Him alone belongs all glory and honour. But there are occasions in the lives of well meaning believers who call upon Him when God seems to be silent and it often perplexes people. Some are dejected and become despondent. Others are tempted to quit praying; and therefore we need to look into the Word of God to get an explanation about such occasions.
The classical example of the silence of God is found in the life of our Lord Himself. We know that Jesus always lived close to the Father while here on earth and He could boldly say at the tomb of Lazarus, "And I know that Thou hearest Me always" (Jn. 11:42). What a confidence! Truly this can be the confidence of every child of God who lives and prays in the will of God. But then, look at our Lord when He was crying on that cruel cross. Heaven was silent. There was no response from God the Father. Of course, we know the reason. There on that cross Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was representing the sinful humanity. Until the sin problem was dealt with, Heaven was silent. But thanks be to God. On the third day He rose again victorious. And the sin problem was once for all dealt with. To day heaven is open to any repenting sinner!
In the life of a believer it is possible that sin can block the way to God. Listen to what the prophet has to say. "Behold the Lord's hand is not short that it cannot save; neither is His ear dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear (Isa.59:1,2). There are ever so many besetting sins (Heb.12:l) and presumptuous sins (Psa.19:13) which might creep into our lives unawares and block the way to God. If a praying believer experiences the silence of God, it is time for such a person to let the Spirit of God search our hearts to see if there be any wicked way in us and let Him lead us to everlasting ways (Psa.139:23,24). Silence of God will be broken and God will become once again active in our lives. But sin has to be identified, confessed and rejected before this can happen.
The people of Israel were witnessing mighty acts of God until they reached the small city of Ai. There they experienced a lamentable failure. Achan had sinned. Listen to what the Lord said to a praying Joshua. "Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? Israel has sinned..." (Josh.7:l0, 11). No amount of praying can rectify the situation. Sin has to be identified and dealt with before God can act again on our behalf. Just one disobedience and Adam lost the garden. Just one sin and Saul lost his kingship. Just one sin, Ananias and Sapphira lost their lives! Remember: God takes sin seriously and He cannot be a partner where sin is concealed. Has God been silent in your life, in spite of your many prayers? Search your heart to see if any sin blockage is in your life. Confess and reject it. Make restitution, if necessary (cf. Lk.19:8; Phil.18) and see how God will become once again active in your life. Listen to the prophetic word. "I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face" (Hos.5:15).
Path To Glory
Another conspicuous silence of God is witnessed in Acts 7 where the first martyr of the Christian church witnessed martyrdom. Here was Stephen mightily defending his faith before a furious crowd. Should we not expect God to defend His servant on such an occasion? Where is the God of the book of Daniel? Is He not any more at work in that fashion? We are told in Acts 7 that, as Stephen looked up, he saw the Son of man standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56). Why was He a silent spectator this time? Three times in the book of Acts, prison doors were opened miraculously (Acts 5:19; 12:10; 16:26). But the book of Acts closes with a closed prison door. What happened now? Are we to think that the age of miracles slowly came to an end towards the end of the book of Acts? God forbid. If the age of miracles were to come to an end at that time, how are we to understand the reference to Elijah in James 5:17? Any student of Scripture will agree that the passage teaches that, if one prayed like Elijah, miracles will indeed take place today. If that is so, how are we to understand the many martyrdoms in the history of the Christian Church? Truly, our question is: "Why was God silent when the Staines were burnt alive?
Thanks be to God for the scriptural revelation. Scriptures tell us that these are occasions when God is giving a higher calling to the ones concerned. Suffering for Christ is seen in the Scripture as a gift to the believer (Phil. 1:29). Suffering is the only path to glory. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim.2: 12). In other words, our Lord is preparing a set of bureaucrats to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom. Those who qualify themselves are the ones who suffer for Christ now here on earth. To categorise every suffering of a believer as the result of sin is one of the tricks of the devil so that believers will shudder and refrain from suffering for Christ. The greatest saint of India is Sadhu Sunder Singh. He is also called "the apostle of the bleeding feet." Yes, indeed, the greatest saints are the ones who suffered the most. Today we need men and women who will choose the path of suffering and who will bear their crosses daily, knowing that big dividends await them. An aptly given title of a book is Peril by Choice. It is the biography of a western missionary who went into one of the remotest tribes of Amazon.
We need to remember, when we suffer, we are not alone. Listen to what the prophet says. "In all their afflictions, he was afflicted..." (Isa. 63.9). Yes, indeed, there is a new dimension in the sufferings of a believer in Christ. Paul graphically pictures the same in Colossians 1:24 when he says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." So, when a believer suffers, it has eternal repercussions. Remember what the prophet Zephaniah says in 3: 17b. "He is silently planning for you in His love" (a paraphrase). Silence of God is a welcome thing on such occasions and one must be able to rejoice over it.
There is yet another kind of apparent silence of God. We read about it in the 10th chapter of Daniel. In vv.2 & 3 Daniel was in deep waters for twenty one days. He was not able to eat properly and we may surmise he was not sleeping properly either. He went to God in prayer and there seemed to be an absolute silence on the part of God. It was quite unusual for a person like Daniel. To Him answers to prayers came instantly almost every time. But this time it was different! He was able to sense it immediately. After twenty one long days the silence was broken. Daniel was told what went on behind the scene. Here we have a great insight into what is happening in the spiritual world today. Daniel was told in vv.12 & 13 that there was a satanic hindrance blocking the way that answer could not reach him.
This is happening even today. Whenever a saint of God, who lives and prays in the will of God, is praying, God sends His angels with answers. It is recorded for us twice in the book of Acts in relation to the opening of the jail (Acts 5:19; 12:7). But if there is satanic blockage, angels cannot come through.
One of the greatest secrets about the spiritual warfare is that God cannot fight with the devil! God cannot; because God and Satan are not equals. While God is infinite and Almighty, Satan is finite and is a creature .If God would fight him, the next moment he is destroyed. When God became man in Christ our Lord, He taught us to love our enemies. Would He Himself destroy His enemy? Satan knows that God is infinitely good and that is why he is behaving the way he does today. Satan has free access into the presence of God today (Job 1 :6;2:1; Zech.3:1). Today the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn.5:19).
While God cannot fight with the devil, we can. We too are created beings. And with the power of God in us, we can indeed fight and defeat the devil. In fact, we are asked to do so (Jas.4:7). Christ became a man in Jesus and, by His death, He defeated and disarmed the devil (Col.2:15). But Satan has not accepted defeat as yet. He is still fighting (1 Pet.4:8). In Ephesians6, where we have the teaching on spiritual warfare, we are told that we wrestle against principalities and powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places (v.12). Unless we wrestle, Satan has the victory. We are told in v.18 that the only activity of a spiritual warrior is prayer. After having put on the whole armour of God, the only activity a spiritual warrior is involved in is persevering prayer; praying with all prayers and supplications. If we fail here, we fail in our responsibility. Imagine well uniformed nurses standing in a busy casualty ward doing nothing! This is what a non-praying believer does today. But look at Daniel. He was striving in prayer for all those twenty one days. If Daniel had not persevered for those three weeks in instant prayers, answer would not have reached him.
Of course, a day is coming when Satan will be chained (Rev.20: 1, 2) and later sent to His eternal destiny (Rev.20: 10). Till then, Satan will hinder God's work here on earth (cf 1 Thess.2:18).
Satanic hindrance is usually found when we begin to pray for spiritual things; salvation of souls, for example. Satan is not very much bothered when God answers our prayers for physical and material needs. After all, it is the Lord who fills the bellies of the people of the world with His treasures (Psa.17:14).
The author of these lines started his life as a Bible Translator in a remote village in the Nilgiris and the family simply trusted God day -to-day for their physical needs. Though far removed from all contacts with fellow believers, the family never ever lacked anything needed for their survival there. It was indeed re-living the life of Elijah being fed by ravens. There in the mission station stands a three storied concrete building, two stories of which is 700 sq. ft., and was completed in just thirty days! It has a granite inscription, which reads: "This building stands witnessing the fact that God of Elijah lives." No information was sent out about the building project. No prayer request was shared among close friends. In that isolated village, unknown to any man anywhere, the concrete building came just as a direct, tangible, undeniable answer to prayer; praying eight to ten hours daily for over six months; fruition came just in one month, April 1986. Promises from the Word were converted into a concrete building! It was meant to be a hostel building for the tribal children. All that I wanted to do was to prove that the God who fed Elijah is still very much alive and active in this world today.
Sixteen years back, a viral fever left the author semi-paralysed, being unable to walk or to do any strenuous work, in which condition he remains today, away from the mission field. With five children of his own, all studying at that time, the family was fed literally by manna every day. (Manna means "What!"). Now the youngest one completed B.E in May. They never needed to shed a drop of tear before God or before man to meet their physical needs, even though huge medical bills came in between. But when it comes to praying for souls, situation is different. There is struggle. There is agony. There are tears. Answers are not easy to come. Satanic hindrance is heavy. The strong man has to be bound before he can be plundered (Matt. 12:29).
Many of us reading these lines would have experienced marvellous answers to prayer, praying for mundane things. That is the way the Lord teaches us to pray. But if our prayers are limited to things pertaining to this earth only, we have missed the mark. Paul says, "of all the people we are to be pitied" (1 Cor. 15:19). Unless we enter into spiritual warfare, we are not being obedient to the voice of the Spirit of God, as found in Romans15:30 &31 where Paul says, "strive with me in prayer." Striving in prayer means agonising in prayer. That is how the same word is translated in Luke 22:44. This is something which the Spirit of God will teach a believer who has committed his/her life to prayer. When we realise that it is a command to be obeyed regularly, how many of us stand guilty before God as disobedient children! Not entering into conscious spiritual warfare is the greatest sin of well meaning believers today (1 Sam. 12:23). And God seems to be silent. May we take heed to the voice of the Lord through the prophet. "You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves. And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa.62:6, 7).
In Luke18:7 our Lord told us that He expects His elect to call on Him night and day. If only our leaders had read this verse! If only they taught the people and obeyed this! Listen to what the Psalmist has to say. "Oh, that my people would listen to Me. That Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hands against their adversaries. Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him" (Psa. 81:13-15). Like the Moravians of old, let all well meaning churches in our nation start chain prayers and all-night prayers. Let us call upon Him until He rends heaven and comes down (Isa.64:1). Which He surely will! He is a God who hides Himself (Isa.45:15). But He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isa.64:4b). We discuss "Why Christ hasn't won India?" The answer is not found elsewhere! Let us accept the fact that we failed God in India. Let us devote ourselves to prayer (Col.4:2). Let us encourage others to pray. What happened in S .Korea during the last century can and must happen in India now. Work of the Lord can only progress if we remove satanic hindrances by our agonising and persevering prayers like that of Daniel. Biographies of great prayer warriors illustrate this truth very clearly. All our evangelistic activities without this kind of prayer is cultivation without water! May we strive in prayer and see that satanic hindrances are removed that God can freely work His will in our lives and in the lives of our countrymen whose salvation He desires (2 Pet.3:9). To His name be all glory.