A prophetic look at the day in which we live
Finding God in a thin silence is a reference from 1 Kings 19:11,12 where Elijah is longing to see God. He has experienced some victories as a prophet but then felt the ‘aloneness’ of passivity, rejection and active opposition. Driven into the wilderness, feeling despondent, he discovers that in the midst of storms, earthquakes and fire God can be found, but He is not revealed in these tempestuous occurrences but in the ‘thin silence’. The thin silence is a call to find that place in the midst of turmoil, for that is where God can be found.
Since being called to market ministry I have step out of the daily oversight and involvement in the local church. A major outcome is that I have been able to focus more on God’s advancing Kingdom in relation to this age. Such a focus has caused me to see the gospel at work in a global capacity rather than individual and local.
For me the change of focus has looked like this: instead of studying Scripture with the aim of bringing edification, exhortation and comfort to a local fellowship I have been ‘studying’ the events of this age in light of Scripture to see God’s activity now in this age.
Initially, I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I lost sight of the fact that God is still God and, like Elijah, I became melancholy and despondent. Seeing the worlds demise without the revelation of the gospel and God’s activity in it will lead to despair, but when we see the Kingdom advancing we can cry out with the host of heaven, holy is the Lord, just and right are His ways (cf Deut 32:3,4).
For many years I misunderstood the unique relationship between the Church and The Kingdom, something that is prevalent today. I was in a church recently where the preacher began by telling us how he was about to “preach the Kingdom”, then he went on to preach about his organisational church as if it were the Kingdom. Because the church can be identified physically – that is, we can form organisational structures that we call church, thus giving us a sense of control – and because The Kingdom seems more nebulous – that is, we can see its effect if we have insight, but we cannot structure it nor control it (Lk 17:20,21; Rom 14:17) – we exchange God’s Kingdom, which is His rule, for our church structure, which we control.
Though it is usually unspoken, most churches feel that if people are in attendance and in good standing within their particular church, then those people are undoubtedly ‘saved’. The aim of evangelism is to get people into churches and so the church is preached rather than he gospel of the Kingdom. However, in the Gospels and Acts it was always the gospel of the Kingdom that was preached (Mat 4:23; Act 2:25). When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus he did not say, unless you are born again you will not enter the church! He said that to be born again to gain entry into The Kingdom.
Within our cloistered church environments we interact with likeminded people. This can limit perspective and, depending on our ‘perceived success’, produce self-congratulatory opinions that idolatrously conform God to the image of our religious expression. Put another way, we view our activities and success as being the purpose of God’s Kingdom. If we feel ‘unsuccessful’ then we seek for the ‘key’ to transform us into the successes we feel God wants us to be.
When we step outside of our systemic religious forms; when we refrain from seeking God’s stamp of approval on our activities; when our prayers move away from seeking for His Spirit to reveal how our church or ministry might be successful; we will see the world from a different perspective and seek for God’s hand to be revealed.
God’s hand is His activity, that which he is doing, and His presence is always revealed in his purpose. I think this is an important distinction today, because we tend to seek His presence as an experience rather than seek Him where he can be found. And God is always found in His advancing Kingdom.
In contrast to “Thy Kingdom come” churches boast of their buildings, or the congregant size, or a particular sphere of influence, or the amazing meetings they hold. Like cocks in a hen house, they primp and preen purporting their own ministry is proof of God’s moving hand on the earth, while the chicken coup is being destroyed by every ravenous beast as God’s actual work is being revealed.
[Part II Where is God? After Elijah’s demonstration of God’s power (1King 18), rather than a mighty revival; instead of becoming the pastor of a great church; or the advisor to the king, Elijah was threatened with death. He laments to God that he alone remains true to the covenant and yet he is an outcast of Israel rather than leading as the prophet of God….]