Stop, Look, and Listen
By David Berg
The Lord is trying to teach you to make decisions. One of the main principles involved in reaching a decision is: Don't start talking--pray. God likes you to give Him a little honor. Prayer is not just getting down on your knees and speaking your piece, but it's letting God speak His, too.--And waiting until He answers. You've got to get not only in prayer, but you've got to get in the Spirit. And if you do, He'll tell each one of you what you're supposed to do.
You need to learn to talk to the Lord, and how to listen most of all. It's not up to the King to try to go chasing His subjects around screaming and hollering at them to try to get them to do what He wants. You come to Him with quietness and respect, and you sincerely and in trembling present your petition, and you wait silently to get the answer. You have to fear, respect, and reverence the Lord, and treat Him like the king He is. I think sometimes Spirit-filled people can become so familiar with the Spirit and the Lord that sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. The Lord is so sweet and so close to you, you don't respect Him like you ought to.
Unless we know by faith that we're doing the right thing, even if we are doing the right thing, it is a sin--because we're not sure it's right. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). Some of the old-line denominations know more about prayer than you do. We get so busy with Bible prophecy, witnessing, memorizing, etc., but if you don't know how to pray, you've got the letter of the law rather than the Spirit. I don't care how many gifts you have--if you don't keep in touch with the Lord all the time, you're in trouble.
But you don't have to be down on your hands and knees praying frantically to be heard. Prayer is something you're doing all the time, no matter what else you're doing. You can't wait until you're through doing this or that, and then pray. It's like thinking on your feet.
I once asked my grandfather what the secret of his speaking success was, and he said, "I just get so full of my subject beforehand, and when I get in front of the audience I speak right out of my heart." That's the secret of prayer. When did he fill his heart? He filled his mind and heart with the things he needed to know before he got up to speak. "Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). Fill up your heart and you won't have any trouble knowing what to say, or what to do.
There are times you're in action and you can't get quiet; you've got to pray as you go. It's like the soldier preparing for battle--there had better be a quiet time. Any soldier in his right mind is going to pray before and during the battle. But in the Lord's battle, you're going to get most of your tactics ahead of time. Like Patton--I believe he got most of his inspiration from the Lord. He ran largely by inspiration. He'd plan way ahead what his tactics and strategy were going to be. Then during the battle, sometimes he'd make split-second decisions and change plans. But mostly it was just like he had found out ahead of time.
I don't see how you can hear the Lord when you're making so much racket. Clear back in Huntington Beach I talked to you about this. I said, "You guys remind me of Samuel in reverse. When he heard the Lord in the quiet of the night, he said, 'Speak, Lord, Thy servant heareth!' (1 Samuel 3:9). But the way most people pray is, 'Hear, Lord, thy servant speaketh.'"
Many Christians are more concerned in having God hear what they have to say than they are in hearing what God has to say. They're trying to put their program across on God and get Him to sign His name to their program. I heard someone say one time, "Are you willing, not to present your program to God for His signature, not even to be presented with God's program for you for your signature--but are you willing to sign a blank sheet of paper and let God fill it in without your even knowing what His program is going to be?"
All this running around and machinery--if you don't look out, if you keep this up, you'll be just like the little girl said about the kitty: "Mama, the kitty's gone to sleep and left its engine running!" You may run around and still be asleep spiritually, and you may not be getting anywhere--"as one that beateth the air" (1 Corinthians 9:26).
Unless you get quiet and try to seek the Lord, how are you ever going to get anything from the Lord? I'm fully convinced I've gotten more from the Lord alone and quiet than any other way. Because He can talk to you alone, and you can give Him your full attention and the reverence due Him--and you're listening. If you're in a room full of people and the TV is on--if they keep raising their voices and drowning out the TV--no matter how loud the volume is, you won't get what it has to say. And the Lord, unlike TV, will just shut up if you don't listen.
You ought to read what it has to say in the Bible. Anybody can make a racket--anybody can dance, sing, scream "Jesus saves" and shout "Hallelujah." But it takes study to be quiet. You've got to really make an effort to be quiet.
I was a very quiet little boy--afraid of people, introverted, shy. Maybe that's why I heard so much from the Lord. I was always going around by myself alone, and I was always hearing all kinds of things. And I know now, it was the Lord Himself teaching me. I loved to be alone. Only in recent years have I learned to enjoy the fellowship of others.
I love to be alone with the Lord because you can hear God so clearly when you're alone and quiet. The Lord speaks in a still, small, very definite, very firm, but very loving voice--but if you're too noisy, you're not going to hear it.
You know, you can be alone out in the woods, and think you've got to go out to pray alone--but when you get there, you scream at the top of your voice. Well, you're alone, but defeating the purpose of being alone. You're yelling so loud, you can't hear the Lord. God's not deaf. You have to wait a while and see if He's going to answer your prayer: stop and be quiet and wait for the answer. You can be your own distraction.
If you really want to hear Him, He'll talk to you. The only time you can hear is when you sit down and get quiet. God doesn't usually scream. By the time God starts screaming at you, it's too late. When it gets to the point He has to yell over your racket to be heard by you, He's probably so mad, it's too late.
Lord help us to get quiet before Him and listen. If you don't have some quiet time with the Lord, I don't know how you can operate. I get most of my information from the Lord, alone in the quiet of the night when everything is absolutely still and it's completely without distraction. If I wake up in the night and can't go back to sleep, I usually figure that's what it's for. But if you can't sleep, maybe God wants you to pray. As soon as I get prayed up, I go right back to sleep.
Most of the things I get from the Lord, nobody knows I'm praying; it's just between me and the Lord. "Go into thy closet and shut the door, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:6). Now there's a time for public prayer, when you pray together in a group--a time to unite you hearts together before the Lord. And if the whole congregation will get quiet, God will even speak there.
In our early days in Huntington Beach, people could not believe it when they saw 50 people standing around holding hands in a circle, not even speaking a word--just waiting. We did this every day, and God answered, because we just stood there and insisted on hearing from Him. And believe me, He talked wonderfully! We used to get message after message through new converts. Some would walk in so full of the Spirit, prophesying--marvelous!
We'd have a class, then we'd pray--and prayer wasn't screaming at God. We'd hold hands and praise the Lord a little bit--prime the pump, please Him by praising Him--like coming before the King and salaaming, and then you stay on your knees, shut up, and see what He has to say. That's the way it usually works.
I think for you personally, it's a little dangerous to wait until things start stirring in the morning. You can't just depend on united prayer sessions. Sometimes there aren't any. You're going to have to get quiet by yourself--somewhere, somehow, sometime--if you're going to hear from the Lord.
You have to play it by ear, and it had better be your ear and the Lord's music. I guess to some Christians, playing it by ear means getting God's ear--trying to yell at God and shove their program across. I know very little. I just have to ask the Lord. And He's the one who has to tell you what to do.
If you just can't possibly get alone with the Lord sometimes, at least you can get quiet in a group and listen. How many quiet times do you have, studying to be quiet? "In quietness and confidence shall your strength be" (Isaiah 30:15). Do you know what "confidence" means? It's faith. The very fact that you keep quiet shows you have faith. It shows you're expecting God to do something, and not trying to do it yourself.
If you don't know what to do, stop everything. Get quiet and wait for God to do something. The worst thing in the world you can do is to keep on going when you don't know what to do. That was King Saul's mistake. It absolutely lost him the kingdom, because he kept right on moving even after he didn't know what to do. He figured he had to just keep busy and keep going no matter what.
Getting quiet before the Lord shows you have faith that God is going to handle the situation--that He's going to take care of things. It shows you trust the Lord. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3). If you're not trusting, you're going to be in confusion all the time.
Here's a nice little poem for you:
When we're trusting, we're not heard to fret.
When we're fretting, we're not trusting yet.
If you're in a big stew, confused and worrying and fretting and fuming, you're not trusting. You don't have the faith you ought to have. Trusting is a picture of complete rest, peace and quiet of mind, heart, and spirit. The body may have to continue working, but your attitude and spirit are calm.
That's why you can have peace in the midst of storm--calm in the eye of the hurricane. I've told you about the picture that won the contest and illustrated peace. Most of the artists handed in quiet, calm, pastoral scenes--absolute total quiet. That's a form of peace. But the hardest kind of peace to have is the picture that won the award. That was a picture of this roaring, raging cataract--a river in all its foaming and fury. But on a little branch right above, overhanging the raging current, there was a beautiful little nest with a tiny bird sitting there, peacefully singing away in spite of the storm. That's when your faith gets tested: In the midst of the storm. Quietness is a sign of faith.
Good night, man! Moses had from two to six million people sitting out in the middle of the desert waiting on him, tearing their hair out, wondering, "What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? Where are we going? What are we going to do?" And what does Moses do? He takes off for the top of the mountain and sits up there with the Lord for 80 days straight.
What if he had been fretting all the time. "What if something happens? I have to get back. What if Aaron makes a golden calf"--which he did. And when Moses did get upset and break the tablets, he had to go back and stay another 40 days to get quiet again. What good did it do for him to get upset--he just had to get quiet again to hear from the Lord. He might as well have come down and taken it quietly and calmly. It would have saved him another 40 days up there.
Jesus, on the eve of His ministry, goes out and, some people would say, wastes 40 days and nights in the wilderness by Himself, and it seemed like He spent much of the time with the Devil. He had to lick the Devil first. If you don't get alone with the Lord and lick the Devil first, you might as well forget it.
I wonder how much of that 120 years it took Noah to build the Ark, he spent praying. He must have spent some time, or he couldn't have gotten all those directions on how to build that boat. God probably gave him the exact specifications for every inch of the boat. It had never even rained before. But he just went calmly about his business building the Ark. He could have gotten feverish, thinking rain was coming any minute, and just slapped it together. But he went calmly along for 120 years working on that boat.
Good night, you'd think you were spending a lot of time preparing if you just spent 120 days at it! It sure showed Noah had faith.
That's why they say farmers make the best missionaries, because they don't expect everything in one day. They have a lot of patience in the long process of waiting for the plants to grow, or the animals to produce. The farmer just has to trust that the Lord will make them grow and not worry about it. God does the biggest part of the job. He sends the rain. He makes it grow. All the farmer is there for is to supervise things. If there's any picture of a quiet type of personality, it's the farmer. The city folks make fun of the farmers. But if the farmers didn't take it slow, they'd go crazy, like the city people. The farmer's motto is "Go slow"!
The farmer is a perfect example of faith and patience. That's why so few people want to live on the farm. Because it takes too much dependence on God. There's not much they can do--they have to leave it all up to God. They're moving off the farms in droves. God's too much in control. It's too quiet out there--they call it too dead--no action, they say. But if they would get up on the top of one of those hills, they'd hear a lot going on. Watch the storm, look at the trees, watch the animals, listen to the thunder. Usually the action is very quiet and doesn't make a lot of commotion.
Some people have to be in motion all the time--they've got to be doing something. And I think one reason is, they don't want to think. That's why they have so many amusements.
That's why cities are such a curse. They're totally man-made environments--hardly a blade of grass, and where you can't see the stars or the sun or moon or the sky. So people get entirely away from God. Screeching, screaming subways, and horrible noise of traffic. There's much more deafness among city children than country children, because they live in an atmosphere of constant noise.--Whereas country children have very keen hearing.
If you live in an atmosphere of spiritual and physical confusion, you'll develop a hardness against the voice of God, because you have to develop a deafness against all the noises around you. Then you can't even hear the Lord. But if you live in quiet and peace and calm and stillness, you'll find your ears really becoming very keen and sharp. We should take a lesson from the farmer. City people become dull of hearing and hardened of heart.
Think of the years Abraham spent out in the fields watching flocks. No wonder he heard from the Lord: He had time to listen. Lord forgive us. We get so busy. If you're too busy to pray, you're too busy. If you're too busy to get alone with God and pray, you're too busy. What if the servant said to the king, "I'm sorry, I can't come and listen to your orders today; I'm too busy out serving you".
The most important job you have is listening to the King--to stop, look and listen--or you're going to get run over! That's the greatest danger: all this feverish activity. This is the greatest temptation of workers for the Lord.
The following was a poem written by my mother:
I was longing to serve the Master,
But alas, I was laid aside
From the busy field of workers
In the harvest field so wide
They were few, yes, few in number
And I could not understand
Why I should be left inactive:
It was not as I had planned.
I was longing to serve the Master
And the need indeed was great.
For me it was easy to labor
But oh, it was hard to wait,
To lie quite still and be silent
While the song was borne to my ear
From the busy field of workers
In the harvest field so dear.
I was longing to serve, just to serve the Master,
But He led to a desert place
And there as we stopped and rested
His eyes looked down in my face,
So full of tender reproaching
They filled me with sad surprise.
Did He think I had grudged my service
Or counted it sacrifice?
Oh, Master, I long to serve, just to serve thee,
There are so few at the best,
Let me off to the fields, I pleaded,
I care not to stay and rest.
I knelt at His feet imploring,
I gazed in His face above.
My child, He said, don't you know
Your service is nothing without your love?
I was longing to serve, to serve my Master,
Oh, this was my one fond thought,
For this I was ever pleading
As His footstool in prayer I sought,
But there in that lonely desert
Apart from the busy scene
It dawned on me slowly and clearly
Where my great mistake had been.
My mind was so full of service, just service,
I had drifted from Him apart,
And He longed for the sweet communion,
That union of heart with heart.
Well, I sought and I found forgiveness,
While mine eyes with pain were dim.
And now, though His work is still precious,
The first place is kept for Him!
--Virginia Brandt Berg (1886-1968)
I'll never forget how we got away one time to actually hear from the Lord, to hear God speak through my mother. They had all kinds of confusion of tongues, but no interpreter. So we went up into the mountains to listen to the Lord. And they got to praying and shouting and talking in tongues, and on and on they went, and all of a sudden the Lord began to speak. He said something like: Behold the Bridegroom is at the door, and He has bestowed upon you the gifts, and you're so busy playing with them like toys, you have forgotten the Bridegroom. Like the father coming home with gifts for his children. The kids grab the presents, forget to kiss their father and greet him, and sit down on the floor and start playing with the toys.
There are a lot of Christians that do this very same thing--they start playing with the things of God and neglect God Himself. Or like that little story about the bedroom slippers: The little girl who took her fellowship time with her father to make him bedroom slippers for his birthday, and nearly broke his heart. God may appreciate the bedroom slippers you're making for Him, but He'd rather have you. And in fact, you'll probably make a hell of a mess out of them if you neglect Him.
One of the biggest lessons you're going to have to learn is to wait for the Lord to work. I know times when I didn't listen to the Lord, and the only way He could get me to look up was to get me flat on my back where that was the only direction I could look--straight up.
My mother used to give her testimony of getting so busy with the Lord's work that the Lord had to slap her down with a malignant cancer so she'd have to give Him her full attention.
God will not take second place even to His service. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:3,5). That is probably the greatest mistake of sincere Christians: to make a god of God's service. All this action, all this noise, beating the air, holding a service--and so little of God.
We used to sing this little song:
Let go and let God have His wonderful way.
Let go and let God have His way;
He'll fill with His Spirit and keep day by day.
Let go and let God have His way.
It's a lot easier for you to just let God do it. And you show you're letting go by getting quiet before the Lord. You show that you have faith by stopping your own activity and waiting for God to work. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). "Study to be quiet" (1 Thessalonians 4:11). "In quietness and confidence shall your strength be" (Isaiah 30:15). "Let all the world keep silence before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20). There was even silence in heaven on occasion.
Someone just handed me this little poem:
I Didn't Have Time
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't have time to pray.
Problems just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task.
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask!"
I tried to come in to God's presence
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
"Why, child, you didn't knock!"
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on, gray and bleak.
I wondered why God didn't show me.
He said, "But you didn't seek."
I woke up early this morning,
And paused before entering the day,
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray!
One day when Martin Luther and his co-worker Melanchthon had a particularly strenuous and busy day ahead, Melanchthon suggested that they cut their prayer time together at the beginning of the day in half. Luther refused vehemently, and insisted that instead of their regular two hours in prayer, they would today have to spend four hours in the presence of the Lord because they had so much to do!
When Moses was a real smart young man of 40 and really thought he knew how to do the job, he made a hell of a mess out of it, and he had to run for his life. It took God 40 years to straighten him out and show him he had to depend on Him.
Hurry is a sign you're afraid you're going to be late--which means you have fear, which means you haven't got faith. If you're late, take it easy. Trust the Lord. One reason we hurry when we're late is because it was probably our own fault and we don't want to have to suffer the consequences. That's pride. You don't want people to know you were really late.
Another reason you hurry is that you're not trusting the Lord. You're afraid if you don't get there, you're going to miss something. You can't trust God that He's able to hold up the whole world or stop the sun like Joshua had Him do.
I'll never forget when I was rushing around trying to get the train, and the Lord warned me that if I kept up this nervous and physical strain, I would kill myself. So I put it in the Lord's hands to stop the train, and I relaxed and took my time. After I got on the train I sat there for 40 minutes wondering why the always punctual train did not leave the station. I finally asked the Lord, and He told me, "You didn't tell Me you wanted to leave yet."
"The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." Just relax; slow down; don't rush; don't be hasty. Squeeze, don't jerk, and the Lord will slow everything else down for you if necessary. No use trying to kill yourself. You've got to learn to rest in the Lord--and take it easier.
Look at all the examples of patience in the Bible: Job, Moses, and David. David spent 24 years working under that old blunderbuss, King Saul, and the Lord really taught him from looking at Saul. Saul got uptight and tried to do things in his own strength, and he found he wasn't strong enough. David learned you have to let God do everything--and wait for Him.
But slow it down! Stop ... Look ... Listen. Wait for the Lord. Especially if you don't know what to do and haven't heard from the Lord yet.
Where did John the Baptist show up from--the big city of Jerusalem? Is that where he got his education, his anointing, his great power? No! He came out of the desert, out of the woods, out of the wilderness. So he'd have time to get away from the mob and hear from the Lord. And when he came, he sure had something to say.
Jesus spent 30 years of His life in preparation, and only a little over three years in His public ministry. We're in such a hurry. If we don't give our outgoing teams any other preparation, let's at least teach them how to get their orders from the Lord.
You don't hear much about John the Beloved, just a little about him being with the Lord, etc. John wrote the Gospel of John; it must have taken some time with the Lord to do it. But his greatest masterpiece, the book of Revelation, was written by the Lord in exile on an island. His biggest work was just letting God do all the directing and all the showing and the whole shebang. Let's slow it down. Stop ... Look ... Listen. Or you're going to get run over.
The world is always in a hurry. That's the Devil's own machinery: to speed up the world--anything to make everything move faster. God is never in a hurry. The world is still revolving the same rate every day since He created it. God hasn't speeded up the seasons or the years any. Man is speeding it up--hell-bent for destruction. Slow it down. Squeeze--don't jerk. But most of all, stop, look, listen, and wait. You see signs like this at dangerous places, crossings, intersections, places of crisis--an interruption of your routine, an interruption of your way, your road, your highway. Otherwise you might get out there and get hit by an express train.
But you say, "I don't have time to stop and to look and to listen." If you don't, you may never make it. Better late than never! Which is easier: to try to beat the train, to try to plow through the train, jump over the train, or just to stop, watch it go by, wait another couple of minutes and it'll be out of your way and you can go peacefully on your way? Trying to force the situation and push your way through just won't work.
I've found out that no matter what I do, the Lord's work will go on; life will go on. If it's God's work, nothing will stop it. Praise the Lord? So it doesn't pay to rush around and fret and fume and try to get someplace to do something when you're supposed to be waiting on the Lord to find out for sure just where He wants you to be and what He wants you to do.
The Lord is trying to teach you to make decisions. The first step is to ask the Lord. God likes you to give Him a little honor. Prayer is not just getting down and speaking your piece, but most of all letting God speak His piece, and waiting in quietness and confidence until He answers. You've got to know you can't do it, and be desperate for God's answer, and stop everything else, and listen.
Getting quiet before the Lord shows you have faith that God is going to handle the situation. He's going to take care of things. Take time to hear from God, and He'll take the time to straighten out the problem. Your feverish activity is nothing, your service is nothing, if you don't give the King your attention, your love, your time, your communion.
If you're hurrying and rushing around, fretting, and impatient, you'll never be able to focus your full attention--your eyes, your ears, your mind, your heart--on the Lord for the solution to the problem, the answer to the question, the best decision for the situation. If you stop, look, and listen, and wait in communion with Him--when you have learned to do this, and to get His answer, you will have learned how to make decisions. You will have learned to pray, and will have become one of God's leaders. "He gives the very best to them, who leave the choices up to Him."