Summary: A series of sermons based on Richard Foster’s book "Celebration of Discipline." A top 10 book for any Christian!
CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE: SOLITUDE
There is great value in being in solitude. I hope that I can convince you of this today. I do not know if you realize this or not, but Jesus used solitude much during His life and ministry. He did not get by Himself in order to get away from people, but I think to hear the Divine whisper mcuh better. Here are some places we find Jesus in solitude:
(1) Jesus began His ministry with 40 days alone in the desert, Matthew 4:1-11
(2) Before He chose the 12 disciples, Luke 6:12
(3) When He received the news of His cousin John the Baptist’s death, Matthew 14:13
(4) After the feeding of the 5000, Matthew 14:23
(5) Following the healing of a leper, Luke 5:16
(6) Before the Transfiguration, Matthew 17:1-9
(7) Before His arrest, trial, and execution on the cross, Matthew 26:36-46
READ MATTHEW 26:36-46
I. SOLITUDE AND SILENCE
Without silence, there is no solitude. These two things, silence and solitude, are as connected and inseparable as peanut butter and jelly, the beach and sunburn, and on a more serious note… faith and works. There is an old proverb which reads, “all those who open their mouths, close their eyes.” The purpose of silence and solitude is so that you can see and hear. It is silence rather than noise. If you are talking, your ability to listen stops. Silence is an art which is lost among us, even James saw that no man can control his tongue; and he saw that if anyone did, they’d be perfect! Silence is an important part of the discipline of solitude. Perhaps it is the book of Ecclesiastes which teaches us the best when it says, “[there is] a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
The Discipline of solitude is two fold. First, there is the aspect to it where we speak when we need to speak and we are silent when we need to be silent. It is keeping a tight reign on your tongue. It is recognizing when you should say something or not. Second, there is the aspect of valuing those times (and creating times) when you can be by yourself for the purpose of being able to hear God’s voice. In the hustle and bustle of the day, you may not be able to hear God’s voice until you quiet yourself and are alone to hear Him.
Have you taken the time to be silent? Have you taken the time to be by yourself? If you look back on your past week, was there any time you spent alone with God? Was there any time when you spoke out of turn or spoke when you shouldn’t have? Do people say you talk too much? When was the last time you were alone… not lonely, but alone?
II. THE BENEFITS OF SOLITUDE
In trying to convince you of the value of this discipline, I should not neglect to mention the benefits and rewards of such effort.
First, we will have a greater trust in God and in His control. One reason we feel we can hardly remain silent or have time in solitude is that we feel helpless and out of control. We are accustomed to relying on words to manage ourselves and control others. We need words to defend ourselves in some situations, especially those that attack our reputation or our faith. If we are silent, who will be in control? If we take time out to be alone, who will take charge of all the busyness we are accustomed to doing? Who will fix the problems of the day if we are not running here and there and everywhere? When we are silent and allow ourselves into a practice of solitude, we allow the Lord to be in control. The Lord will speak for us and the Lord will act for us. The Lord will be in control and we will allow Him to direct us as He sees fit. We will allow Him to be the Lord of our lives.
Second, the fruit of solitude is also sensitivity and compassion for others. Thomas Merton once said, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them… solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.” And why is this true? Because in solitude we find God and He fills us with His love and compassion and Spirit and it affects our outward life. I think this is why Jesus retreated by Himself so much, He was filling Himself back up with God’s love and power and glory so that He could again love people He came in contact with. He retreated to be close to God without the distraction of other people.