Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

This past week my husband of nearly 35 years and I were able to get away for a few days and travel down to Valdez. It was a spontaneous, unplanned, and amazingly beneficial break from the daily duties, work, and problems hovering like a drone over our lives, family, and hearts. This past week my husband of nearly 35 years and I were able to get away for a few days and travel down to Valdez. It was a spontaneous, unplanned, and amazingly beneficial break from the daily duties, work, and problems hovering like a drone over our lives, family, and hearts. 

I think most Alaskans feel this way. Summers seem to fly by so quickly. Alaskans, for the most part, are busier in the few short summer months than at any other time of the year. Though I am not oblivious to the fact that one cannot merely drive away from serious issues, sufferings, or needs of self or others, I did find solace, peace, beauty, and times of refreshing in my soul while ruminating on the majesty, power, love, and goodness of God. It can be much easier to “hear” that still, small voice while sitting at the base of a mountain range with no one else in sight. Jesus even spoke about times when He needed to climb the mountain and get away from the noise and the crowds chasing Him continuously. He wanted to hear His Father’s voice. I wanted to hear His voice as well.

It is a crucial lesson to learn and remember however — one doesn’t drop their sufferings or their deepest petitions by just moving, running, or attempting to escape through distancing or isolating themselves. We all need to get away and find times of refreshing in His presence. All of us are able to hear God’s voice. We wouldn’t be saved otherwise. He called you to Himself, and you responded and were born anew. 

Jesus described this God-given ability when He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27-28. There is also great consolation in another truth Jesus spoke. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.” John 10:5.  

But too many Believers are more aware of or consider how bad their hearing is as they compare themselves to others they admire. There may be a degree of truth to that. If one of us refuses to think upon the things that are pure, of good report, and so on; one can create their own spiritual noise pollution. Almost like a battle within the mind. One minute they refuse to cease thinking on what they see, hear, taste, or feel — and the next minute they ask, “Why is God not speaking to me like He said He would?”

Spiritual pollution is caustic to the heart. This is so important – the heart to hear is more important than our ability to hear. Why? Because God will take responsibility to be heard whenever He finds someone who truly desires to hear. 

There are countless examples of this truth in the Bible. Remember Zacchaeus? He was shorter in height and was in the middle of a huge crowd. He was the chief tax collector and a very wealthy man in Jericho. He was despised of the people, and probably felt extremely unworthy to have an audience with the King. If I close my eyes, I can picture him pressing through the crowd — probably getting spat upon, knocked around, and called terrible names. But the noise was deafening, even more so due to his short stature. This is an example of how the ability to hear (in this case literally) is not as vital as the heart to hear. Jesus looked straight up into that fig tree and commanded Zacchaeus to come down immediately. Jesus invited Himself for dinner at this “sinner’s” house. His life was changed forever, beginning with repentance and “heart surgery.” In verse 9 of Luke 19 Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Humility is the heart condition that attracts God’s ear to your voice and your situation. Humble hearts hear well.

On our little vacation we were awed by the beauty of God’s creation every hour of the day. We spent countless hours at a pond full of rotting salmon just watching and taking pictures of a magnificent grizzly bear. She was not far away, and it was incredible to watch her dig up the old salmon and eat non-stop. We have the bug bites to prove it. But I took away much more than bites, incredible adventures, and relaxation from that trip. The sufferings I mentioned earlier did not cease when I merely “relocated.” My heart was famished to hear answers. To receive guidance, courage, and wisdom from above – rather than just earthly wisdom — extended to me daily.

We often treat prayer like a vending machine. We put in our efforts, requests, petitions, and time hoping to receive back what we asked. We pray, God responds. If you boil it all down, that is often how the Church has prayed for centuries. However, that is not the big picture, nor the complete heart of our loving Father. Prayer is an expression of a relationship and escaping a relationship does not improve true love and communication any more than this partially true method of receiving our answers. That is because God’s desire for us is so much deeper than making sure we can pay our electric bill. Yes, that is important. But as we have learned in the past two months of rumination, His desire is to transform His people into His likeness. That includes the proper use of authority and power. Our desires must be His. How quickly we forget, “I die daily.” “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.” 

Jesus arms us with purpose by giving us a promise instead of the answer. That way, we learn how to believe and trust Him before the answer comes. We learn how to “exercise” His will in the situations that are contrary to His promise. We co-labor with Christ. 

Jesus was constantly training His disciples unto this end. That is why He taught them to speak to a mountain for it to be removed. Jesus led them into storms to see if they truly believed what they had been taught and confessed. It is how we are being trained as His Body to bring and enforce and His will upon the earth. Many give up way too soon. They would rather build a cabin by their “mountain” and learn to tolerate it—rather than by faith and legal spiritual authority speak to it and cast it away. 

Faith affects our thoughts, and our thoughts affect our faith. Winning the battle over the mind is vital. But faith doesn’t come from the mind, it comes from the heart. The Word says, “By faith we understand…” It is not the other way around. When our minds are renewed, our faith affects our circumstances, challenges, and suffering in much the same way the banks of those rivers we sat by affected the water rushing past. It provides a course defined by divine purpose. And a divine purpose and renewed mind is able to consider realms of possibility that are not natural like building a cabin, but supernatural. If the Lord did not intend for us to rule and reign with Him, He would just move the mountains Himself before we even asked. He would clear a path for us so we never felt pain, long-suffering, or patient endurance.

How do you think your thoughts and prayers would change if nothing were impossible, if there were no regrets haunting you from your past, if you had unlimited resources to accomplish your purpose on earth? Faith does just that! It removes the perceived boundaries and obstacles we have become so accustomed to. Rather than redecorating your cabin at the base of your problems—your mountains—we need to call to remembrance what has already been freely given in Christ. 

The most painful and yet glorious learning experience we will ever face is this: Are our prayers “selfish,” designed to give us greater comfort, bigger homes, newer cars, better jobs, even a life of never suffering? Or are they spoken out of a heart that has realized it is His purposes, His plans, and His eternal glory that are what He is searching for? We must never forget – when we received Christ, we died. The lives we now live are to do the will of the Father, to see His Kingdom come, to set the captives free, and to be ambassadors to a country where our true citizenship lies.

I learned a lot while enjoying the silence of the mountains, the rivers, and the cliffs of the Southern Alaskan coast. I am eternally grateful for that time, and for all I learned while there. I am ready to move some mountains. And before I do anything, my prayer will be, “Not my will be done Father, but Thy will be done.”

Ruminate on that.