Gregory Dickow - What To Do When God Seems Silent
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Well, merry Christmas, happy Christmas, thank you for joining me today. Remember that name of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. You know God's with us right now. He's with you, he's with me, he's with our connection here. Right now, wherever you are, you're wrapped in the presence of God, and I want to spend a few cherished moments together on this great Christmas day to hear what God has to say to us. I want to encourage you to stay connected until the end for a very special Christmas-miracle prayer just for you. Check this out.
Luke chapter 1, verse 5, it says, "In the day of Herod, in the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a certain priest named Zacharias. He had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth". Now, these are the parents of john the baptist, as you know, and they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blameless in all his Word and requirements, and they had no child, though, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. In other words, they were old people, and it came about while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division.
You see, according to custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by law to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense, and the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering, and he could only be picked, the priest could only be picked once in their lifetime, and I want you to know you've been picked once for all time to be a part of God's family, to be a king and a priest in Christ, so the priest would go into the temple and make an animal sacrifice, shedding the blood of animals for the covering, or the atonement, of people's sin.
Once a year, in the Jewish tradition, that their sins had to be covered once a year through a sacrifice of an animal, but thank God Jesus did it once and for all and washed it all away, but in verse 11 it says that an angel of the Lord appeared to Zachariah, standing to the right of the altar of incense, and Zacharias was troubled when he saw him. Now, you would be troubled too because you have to understand the timing of this visitation of this angel, that 400 years have gone by, 400 years of silence between the book of Malachi, the last book of the old covenant, and this moment when this angel visits Zacharias, who is John the Baptist's father. "He said, 'Don't be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son, and you will give him the name John.'"
Now, these are called, this is so important, these are called the 400 years of silence, the 400 years of silence from the book of Malachi, the last book of the old covenant, until this moment In Luke chapter one, and I pray you get ahold of how significant this moment was. God's people had not heard from him for 400 years. Have you ever felt like that? It seems like heaven has been silent for 400 years? Four hundred years they had been waiting. Four hundred years they have been wondering. Four hundred years they had been afraid. For 400 years, they were questioning whether God would ever speak to them again. Have you ever felt like you're wondering, "Will God ever speak to me again"? And suddenly, Gabriel shows up and speaks to Zacharias, and listen to what he says. He says two vital things to him that God is speaking to us as well right now.
Number one, he says, "Do not be afraid". Well, that should be the first thing we realize that God always wants to say to us. Do not be afraid. The first message of the gospel was "Do not be afraid". Jesus coming into this world was to cause us to not be afraid, to deliver us from fear. Jesus coming into this world was perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear, and I want you to see that the first thing that this angel says to Zacharias is the first thing he's saying to you and me right now. Do not be afraid. No matter what's going on in this world, no matter how long it's been since you heard from God, do not be afraid.
And then notice what he says next. "Your prayer has been heard". Your prayer has been heard. This is so vital to understand. God's people have not heard from God for 400 years, but that doesn't mean God hasn't been listening, they might not have been hearing what God had to say to them, but he was listening to everything they had to pray. Do you realize that sometimes you feel like God is silent, but he's always listening. You might feel right now, "I don't feel like God's answering. I don't feel like God's speaking to me. I don't feel him. I can't smell him. I can't taste him. I can't touch him. I can't hear him". I want you to know something. He hears you. He's listening to you. The first thing he said was don't be afraid. The second thing he said was your prayer has been heard. I want you to know something. Your prayer has been heard. Those prayers in the middle of the night, those prayers when nobody's watching, those prayers that nobody else heard, God heard.
See, now we're striking oil here in God's Word. God is saying to you right now, don't be afraid. He's heard you. Don't be afraid. He's heard your prayer. Don't be afraid. Your prayer has made it to heaven. David said, "I love the Lord because he hears me". I want you to know something right now. He hears you. He's heard your prayers. He heard Zacharias's prayers. Heaven seems silent for 400 years, but God was listening. The voice might have been silent for 400 years, but God was still working. You might feel like God, "Where are you? Where is God? He's so far from me. I'm not holy enough. I'm not good enough. I'm not godly enough". But these people weren't even born again. As far as man goes, though, they were at the top of the list, but they hadn't heard from God for 400 years. So don't be thinking that it's because of something you've done wrong that God hasn't been speaking to you. God was listening to every prayer they prayed. God has listened to every prayer you prayed. Gabriel's word tells us, even when we don't hear God speaking, God is still listening.
And then he says to him, "You're gonna have a son, and you'll name him John". But I like this word. I like this verse. The name John means God is gracious. It's two words, really. Two words are "God" and "gracious". Those two words combine together: God is gracious. What Gabriel, the angel, is saying, "There's about to be an explosion of God's grace in this world, and John is going to pave the way to an explosion of God's grace that's gonna come through Jesus, God's mercy, God's forgiveness, God's power and his love". The angel says name him John. Nobody had ever been named John before at that time. Name him John, which means God is gracious.
Aren't you glad that he didn't tell him, "Name him Angry, 'cause I'm dang angry"? "Name him Disappointed, 'cause I'm disappointed in you. Name him I've Had Enough, 'cause you humans are driving me nuts". No, God didn't tell him to name him any of those things. The name that God gave him was God is gracious. That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of God that we have. Just when things seem to be going so bad in the world, God is gracious to us, and just when things seem to be going good now for Zacharias, all of a sudden in Luke chapter 1, verse 18, "Zacharias said to the angel, 'How shall I know this for certain? For I'm an old man and my wife is advanced in years.'" That might have sounded like a fancy way for him to say his wife was old, but it's never a good day when you describe your wife as old, or advanced in years.
Come on, somebody needs to say amen. Oh my. Boy, I wish Zacharias wouldn't have gone there, but let's look at what happens. Look at what happens when Zachariah starts limiting God with his words. Have you ever limited God with your words? Sometimes our words create a fence or a ceiling or a wall that prevents us from experiencing more. He says, "How am I supposed to know that this is gonna happen? I'm so old. I'm dying. I'm this, I'm that". Listen, I got just a word of wisdom for you. If an angel comes to you any time from now and announces something that's never happened before, I wanna encourage you, if that ever happens to you, don't ask questions. Just say amen, right? Questions sometimes get in the way of what God is trying to do in our lives and what God is trying to do in the world.
So watch this. It says, "So the angel answered and said to him", it's a powerful word, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I've been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news," he said. "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time". Wow. Kind of feels harsh, doesn't it? Gabriel is like, "You didn't believe my words. So guess what? Shut up now. You know what? For the next nine months, I don't wanna hear a peep out of you. Nobody's gonna hear a peep out of you". God is trying to show us something in this experience Zacharias is having. It seems kind of harsh at first, but here's the takeaway. God's grace, God's salvation, God's promises are going to happen through quietness and through trust.
What God wants to do in your life is gonna happen through quietness, through silence, through trust. It's what I call the miracles of silence. You see, God doesn't need our argument. He doesn't need our opinion. He doesn't need our two cents. Well, we all wanna give it, don't we? "How's this gonna happen? I'm too old. It's too late. It'll never happen". We all have our reasoning, but you see, God said, "Silence, a miracle is gonna happen in silence. Silence". I know that when we pray, there's power. I know when we speak God's Word, there's power, but I think we don't realize how powerful silence is sometimes. The miracle that God wants to do in Zacharias's life, it doesn't come from Zacharias's activity. It doesn't come from him being busy or from what he can say. God doesn't operate in busyness. He will bring his Word to pass.
And I want you to think about this. The greatest moment in history was about to happen. John was gonna be born. Then Jesus was gonna be born. The greatest moment in history was about to happen when God spoke, and every living thing could only watch and listen. When will we let God speak? When will we silence our own mouths full of doubt? When will when will we silence our voices of opposition and our voices of questioning, our voices of "It can't happen, and it can't be"? Miracles are gonna happen in our silence. Will you let God speak tonight? Will you silence your voice for a moment? Can we silence our differences? Can we silence our politics? Can we silence our opinions and let God work in the silence?
Zachariah shows us how life has a way of beating the wonder out of Christmas, beating the wonder out of life. You know, life is supposed to be a life of wonder and amazement, a life of being thrilled by the touch of God in our lives. Zacharias, not to be confused with Zacchaeus, who we've talked about for many weeks, Zacharias has lost his sense of wonder, and now he's had to go silent. Have you ever lost your sense of wonder? Maybe you've lost your sense of the awe of God. God wants to restore that to you, but he's gonna do it in your silent trust, not your loud activities. He's gonna restore your wonder. He's gonna restore your wow in your relationship with him.
That's something very powerful that is in this story, that even when Zacharias's faith falters, God's faith is enough. Even when your faith falters, God's faith is enough. Even when your faith in God and your faith in yourself falters, God's faith in himself and in you is enough. The Bible says when we ask God for something, don't ask in doubt, because you can't receive when you're doubting. That's why God did a favor for Zacharias by making him silent so that Zacharias could just receive this miracle quietly. God wants you to receive a miracle in your quiet moment, in the silence. Let's quiet our doubts. Let's quiet our fears, and let's trust God to move in our lives. It's not about our activity that gets God to move. It's about our trust, and silence creates an attitude and an atmosphere of trust.
That's what's gonna happen in this season of your life and in the New Year. That's what's going to happen if we just trust in the silence. Of course, there's always a place for us to speak God's Word, God's preaching, and speaking God's Word out of our mouths. Of course, there's a moment for that, but there is also a moment for silence. It's not just not speaking. It's an attitude. It's a spirit of trust, and it's a truth to cherish that God's promises are bigger than our responses. God's promises are bigger than our mistakes. God's promises are bigger than our words of doubt. That's why we should silence are words of doubt and let God show himself strong in our silent trust. I know sometimes you'll hear me preach about speaking God's Word, and we must, and there are times for that, but God also wants us to believe that his miracle power is at work when we're not saying anything, when we're not hearing anything but when we're trusting in silence.
How many times have we doubted God's promises? How many times have we fallen short? How many times have we chosen our way rather than God's? How many times have we known the right thing to do and not done it? Countless times is the answer, in case you're keeping score, gang. Countless times. But still God loves us, and still God uses us, and still God promises us a place in his glory. Yes, God's grace is truly bigger than our failures. God is still at work. God's saying, "You don't do the talking. I'm gonna do the talking," and he brings Jesus to the earth. The world is silent so that Jesus can speak. Man will be silent so that God can be heard. This is the beauty of Zacharias in this story.
What will you and I do in the silence? What will we do when things seem dark? That's the whole beauty of this moment, that's in the moments of darkness that God conducts his most stunning performances, that God in his grace doesn't need us to make it happen. Just trust and believe that even in our silence, God is working, God is moving, God's rearranging things. Right now, God's fixing things in your life, God's restoring things, God's getting you ready for the next season, the best days of your life, but it doesn't happen through a flurry of activities that we do to get God to respond to us or to get God to move. He's already moved, he's already done it, he's already provided it, and now he's waiting for us to simply be silent for a moment and trust him.
You see, what I love about worshiping God is the moments of silence. What I love about the season that we're in is we're learning that intimacy with Jesus is more than just telling God what we want or need, but it's really listening and leaning in to what's on his heart, leaning into his love for souls to hear and feel his heartbeat, his love for souls, his love for the church, his love for the poor, but the silent moments is when I have some of the greatest moments with God. Sometimes it's not just the moments of singing. Sometimes it's the moments of silence. I want you to take a moment right now with me in this quiet time together. I want to take this moment, and I want you to see what happens.
Sometimes we're afraid of silence. Please don't be, because Zacharias teaches us something here that is miraculous, that when our mouths are filled with doubt and worry and complaining and negativity, God is gonna cancel out the negative things in our lives until we come to a place where we speak as he speaks. I want you to know, right now, God is canceling out all the negative harvests that were coming your way. God is canceling out all the negative harvests that were coming my way. God's canceling out the bad seeds that have been sown in your life by others, the bad seeds that even you've sown in your life or I've sown in mine. What a gift that God would silent Zacharias so that he could do the talking, so that God could do the talking, so that Zacharias, with his words, could not destroy or defeat or get in the way of God's plan, that God proves that his plan can come to pass if we just trust him.
God's quiet in his work. It may seem like he's quiet in your mind, but he knows how to work in silence. He knows how to pull it all together while we're silent, while we're trusting, and while we're waiting for him to show up. You know, when Jesus comes to this earth 2,000 years ago, there wasn't anything you did to make that happen. It wasn't anything I did to bring it to pass. He did it because he was good and ready to do it, and I'm trusting now in the silence.
I'm not saying that there aren't places for us and moments for us to speak God's Word, of course, to pray powerful prayers, of course, but don't underestimate the times when you feel like God is being quiet and that you can barely speak, 'cause guess what? He's building something better. He's making you better in the quiet, in the hidden places of darkness as it says in 1 Kings chapter 6, verse 7, and the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone, finished at the quarry. That means underground, under the earth so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. It all happened underneath. You couldn't hear it in the temple, but it was happening underneath. You can't hear it in your life right now, but it's happening behind the scenes. You can't hear or feel or see God moving in your life, but he's doing it invisibly right now.
If you feel like heaven's been silent to you, you feel like your words are bouncing off the walls and not coming to pass, be at peace. Be still and know that he is God. Be still and trust. It means let go, relax, and let God fulfill his promise without your help. The hurrying, the worrying, the scurrying, the flurrying of activities, none of that makes it happen. It happens because God said it's gonna happen, because Jesus paid for it to happen, and like God told us in Jeremiah 33 in the Message Bible, "You'll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides. You'll sit back and enjoy the fruit, oh, how you'll enjoy those harvests"! 'Cause you'll sit back and trust.
I declare and prophesy over you, you will sit back and you will see the salvation of your God. You will see the harvest of the good and all that God has planned for your life. I declare and prophesy over you, God has silenced your bad seeds, God has silenced the bad seeds that have been sown in your life, God has silenced the bad harvest, God has silenced the accused. He has silenced the haters, he has silenced the fear, he has silenced the worry, he has silenced your past, he has silenced all those weapons formed against you that cannot and will not prosper, and there is an unleashing of heaven's harvest in your life, and all that God said he would do. All you have to do is say, I believe it 'cause you know he's well able to do exceeding abundantly above and beyond all that we can imagine, and if you can't even imagine anything right now, God is still able to do something out of nothing in your life and I declare it is happening now, in Jesus's name.
Listen to me. You didn't hear the gospel because of something you did. You heard it in a moment when you were finally silent and could hear it and listen. Now, if you're watching right now and you've never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, will you pray with me right now? And for all of you, I'm prophesying over you. The invisible power of God is working. Don't be afraid. God has heard your prayers. For those of you that have never known Jesus yet, never been sure you're going to heaven when you die, pray this, take a moment and pray this with me 'cause you will see the kingdom of God, the Bible says, and you will enter the kingdom of God when you're born again. Pray this right now:
Heavenly Father, I invite Jesus into my life as my Savior and Lord. I believe Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. I believe the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all my sin. From this moment forward, I'm a child of God. Say that. From this moment forward, I'm a child of God. In Jesus's name, amen.
Now, if you prayed that prayer, welcome to the family. Welcome home. I just send you big arms around you to embrace you today as your brother in Christ. I embrace you today as part of our family now. Congratulations. Let me help you grow in your relationship with God by sticking close together and staying connected, amen.