Submitting to Jesus in Silence, Solitude and Simplicity

Summary: The four spiritual disciplines of submission, silence, solitude, and simplicity help us grow closer to Jesus and live for God’s Kingdom in the short time we have to live.


seven In my last post, I described how the Holy Spirit is involved in worship. In this post, I talk about the most untried disciplines of our time.

Have you played the quiet game with noisy children? You challenge them my saying, “Let’s see who can be quiet the longest.” It doesn’t go well. Many kids think it’s more fun to break the silence followed by laughter from everyone else.

The four disciplines of submission, silence, solitude, and simplicity teach us more about Jesus and us then many of the disciplines. But most Christians leave them untried. Let’s talk about these powerful spiritual disciplines and how they can help us grow in Christ.

Disciplines Left Untried and Unwanted

These four disciplines prove difficult for most Christians. We live in a noisy world. And when it’s not noisy, we create background noises from music to white noise. But if we will ever learn to use this disciplines, they will benefit us tremendously.

The disciplines of submission, silence, solitude, and simplicity chip away at our culture and the norms of our society. Perhaps that’s one reason many people do not practice them, but they stretch us and make us grow as Christians.

If you find these disciplines hard to practice, they may be the most empowering disciplines for you. Let’s not be Christians who never try these spiritual disciplines to see their worth. Every Christian should try to practice submission, sentence, solitude, and simplicity.

Submission for Humility

We in the United States have the biggest problem with submission. We think we know what’s best. Our rugged individuality gets in the way of biblical reliance upon one another. That’s why this discipline is vital to our growth in Jesus.

We don’t want to practice the discipline of submission. We want our own way. We think we know best. But that’s not the case. Even among other people we may not have the best course of action or the right road to take.

Submission must first be to Jesus. He must be the Lord of our lives in everything, Vicki the throne of our heart. If He is not, we cannot call Him Lord. We volunteer our allegiance and submit to Him.

When I became a minister in my denomination, I put myself under the leadership of others. In some contexts, I am the leader. In other contexts, I am a follower. For instance, I am the leader of the church I pastor. But I follow my presbyter, our district and national officials. The only reason I would have to violate that submission is if they clearly are wrong biblically.

Think about the contexts for submission in your life. You submit to Jesus first and foremost. He is your King and Leader. What He says goes. You can rationalize it by saying He knows what’s best for you always. But it’s more cut and dried than that. He does not have to earn the right to be your Lord. He is your Lord.

In your human relationships, there are also rules of submission. You submit to godly parents, pastors and elders in your church, and, in your work, to your boss. God has placed these people in your life to direct you. Hopefully, they had godly wisdom and your best interests in mind.

Submitting to people in your these contexts teaches you to be humble. It also helps you to not always get your own way, or to have to decide what to do. Richard Foster lists this as a freedom of the discipline of submission.

When Jesus says to do something, you don’t have to think about it. You just do it because you can always trust Him and His judgment. In human contexts, this implicit trust may not always exist. People can err in their judgment, prospective, and perception. The only authority above there is is Jesus and God’s Word.

The spiritual discipline of submission gives us liberty to trust Jesus and others under His authority. It also teaches us humility, that we are not always right. It gives us an opportunity to seek the counsel of others. If you don’t practice submission, you are at risk for folly and the full responsibility and weight of God’s judgment.

Transformative Silence

We live in a world, and culture in the United States, that is very noisy. Everywhere we turn there are advertisements wanting us to listen to them, people with differing opinions, and our own thoughts. If we are not careful, it’s impossible to hear God’s voice.

As Christians God’s voice is all that matters. He brings wisdom and clarity to our life. He helps us stay on the right path. He guides us and is our Good Shepherd. We must listen to His voice. But how can we hear Jesus when we listen to the other voices?

I had a friend in Bible College who practiced part of this discipline and it threw us off. For three days he refused to speak. He put a sign on his shirt that explained he was practicing silence and not speaking.

He also prayed in a way that I had not experienced before. When he was called on to pray, he would bow his head, saying, “Jesus,” and then there would be silence for almost a minute. He was waiting to hear Jesus before he spoke. It was powerful!

We are so used to the noise around us that we can’t stand the silence. If nothing is making noise, we create. Even more, we had noisy thoughts, noisy minds, And It leads to a messy lifestyle and decision-making process.

If ever we needed to practice the discipline of silence, now is the time. The discipline of silence has two phases. The first phase is the noise inside of us. It’s the hurried thoughts, busy schedules, and noise we make imposing on others. The other phase of silence has to do with the world around us. There are two ways to practice silence.

First, begin with your thoughts and speech. Practice silence by ordering your thoughts, taking control of your mind, and taking captive oevery thought to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5). Do as my friend in college did, don’t speak for a designated time. Quiet yourself and cut down on some of the waste.

Second, order your world as much as you can. Go a day or two without creating your own noise with music and other noise in the background. When I was in seminary, a group of students went to a Catholic monastery to practice silence. As Unnerving they said the practice was, it had benefits.

I did not get to go on those trips. But when we practice silence, we can hear Jesus’ voice clearly. We do not struggle to listen to Him as much as we do in the world. In one sense, silence and submission go hand-in-hand. We cannot practice submission if we speak before we listen (James 1:19).

Silence allows us to order our thoughts and our world. It teaches us to listen before we speak. We can read our Bibles without interruption. And we can submit to our Lord Jesus.

Reenergizing Solitude

People who talk and write about solitude usually combine it with silence. The two disciplines go together well. But I wanted to split them up to show you how solitude is its own discipline.

Jesus practiced solitude throughout the Gospels. He used the time to commune with the Father, to pray without interruption, and to prepare for each day of full ministry. We notice all the big He did throw out each day. And we are so impressed with that.

But what we don’t notice is the verse or two here and there that tell us what fueled His days. We skip over the verses about solitude to get to the accounts of incredible miracles and teaching. But Jesus focused on the Father to have the strength and energy for ministry.

If Jesus did this, why should we think we can do great things for God without it? Jesus is our example and everything. This includes solitude, getting away from the noise, people, events, and everything else that keeps us from staying focused on Jesus.

Even our busy schedules, overbooking every day, and being around everything that draws us away from Him keeps us from Him. The discipline of solitude helps us to get away from those things for a while to focus on Jesus and get rid of the clutter of our lives.

The Simple Things in Life

Our lives are so busy, full of things that are not crucial, and waste our time. Considering the Bible tells us the most important thing on earth in our time is souls. They are the only thing you can take to heaven with you.

Our busy schedules keep us from having a moment of spare time to do what matters for eternity. All the stuff we buy gives us so many things to do. We could never use everything. Kids get a ton of toys but can’t play with all of them. They discard many toys for their few favorite ones.

We complicate our lives with all kinds of things and events that we don’t focus on Jesus as much. Practicing simplicity gets us back to the basics, helps us maintain our focus on Jesus, and puts eternal things ahead of everything else.

We have less worldliness in our lives, from the shows we never get to watch to the things we buy we can’t possibly use. How much of our money, time, effort, and involvement could the Lord redirect into Kingdom living?

So, practicing simplicity in every area of our life helps us see people as Jesus sees them. It gives us time for the things Jesus expects of us. And it keeps us from presuming upon tomorrow, as if we have no mortality (James James 4:13-18). This little time God gives us in our lives we can devote to Jesus.

Growth Challenge

Which one of these spiritual disciplines do you struggle with? Would any of these disciplines draw you closer to Jesus? Try one or more of these disciplines for a short time to see if they help you walk with Jesus and maintain an eternal Kingdom perspective.

Up Next

Now that we have discussed submission, silence, solitude, and simplicity, we will move on to address the spiritual discipline of evangelism in several posts.

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