Sometimes you only get 4 words.

Sometimes it feels like God is quiet. I want paragraphs of conversation and tweet length thoughts don’t even come through. It’s during these moments that I tend to run into people that tell me God is talking entire phone books of information to them.

Like the guy I’ve mentioned before who played a song at church in Birmingham. I asked him if he wrote it. He said, “No, God did.” Fantastic. That didn’t feel condescending at all. My friend is a musician and sometimes people will tell him, “God gave me this song for you.” The songs are usually horrible and my friend thinks to himself, “God probably gave it to you because he didn’t want it. Angels prefer to sing good songs.”

But there are moments of quietness in our lives and its interesting to see in the Bible that other people had similar moments.

In 1 Samuel 23, David and his men are hiding from Saul when they hear that the Philistines are attacking Keilah. Against the wishes of his men, David leads his army into Keilah to defeat the Philistines. Saul figures that with David and his men tired from their battle and trapped inside the walls of Keilah, now is the perfect time to attack. David learns of Saul’s plans and tells his priest, “Bring the ephod.” He cries out:

“O Lord, God of Israel, your servant has heard definitely that Saul plans to come to Keilah and destroy the town on account of me. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me to him? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, God of Israel, tell your servant.”

Sometimes I feel guilty about asking God specific questions but David is detailed here. God’s answer to the question will Saul come down?

“He will.”

The verse continues “Again David asked, ‘Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men to Saul?’”

God’s answer?

“They will.”

Forget for a moment that certain death is marching toward David. Forget that the people he’s just saved are going to turn him over as soon as that certain death arrives.

At this point in the story there are 600 adrenaline drunk, battle beaten men trapped inside the walls of a city that is not their own. The streets were littered with the dead, the doors and windows of every home shut.

David reaches out to God for a message. Surely God has some deep, possibly detailed thoughts about this situation. Surely he has instructions for David.

But all God does to break that silence is give David four words. He will. They will. So often I demand more words than that from God just to motivate myself to get out of bed. David had four. With four words he had to motivate 600 men to flee. Have you ever tried to motivate six people to choose a restaurant for dinner?

Verse 12 ends “And the Lord said, “They will.” Verse 13 begins with “So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place.”

Where was the analysis? Between verse 12 and 13, where was the wrestling and triple checking and months of prayer? There wasn’t any. In the space of a verse, David left and in doing so saved the lives of his men and the entire city, for the second time.

Next time I find myself asking God for detailed instructions I should instead ask him for the wisdom to hear the four words he does give me and the courage to act on them.

We’ve talked about the quietness of God before on this blog, is that something you can relate to?

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  1. says

    Absolutely. I often feel led to do something but just know one part of the goal. God leaves out a lot of the details probably so I will trust Him more. However, I want a full itinerary down to the minute of what’s about to unfold. It’s like I want God to schedule appointments with my assistant that I can pencil into my planner only to change it later. But God doesn’t work that way. Probably because He’s better than that.

    • cassie says

      David I fully agree with what you said. I’m in the same boat, I just want details details and details. But like you said he’s better than that.

  2. says

    God tends to reveal Himself in a visual way to me, using very few words, but beautiful imagery.

    In fact, the most powerful “conversation” I ever had with God had no words, just a scene in my mind.

  3. says

    That’s just a LITTLE convicting. I’ve spent my entire life saying:
    “Are you sure, God.”
    “No, but are you SUREEEEE.”
    “Maybe I need to rephrase to make sure you understand what I am saying.”

    I think it comes (for me) from growing up in the church and having it pounded into my head the importance of being in step with what God is saying and the damnation that will take place if you make a misstep. That’d be irredeemable, right? So we live in this fear that we’ve got to be perfect. Except we know we aren’t perfect. And what I’ve been finding is that there’s so much more grace than I know. My heart is to obey God. So, I just take steps and if somehow I make a stupid move, there’s grace for it.

    • Jerry Grim says

      Holly, being perfect means (in translation) to be whole. As long as we don’t deny our faults, we are being wholly ourselves. The enemy wants us to think we’re at fault if we are not perfect. My experience has been that I need to put one foot out (in faith) BEFORE I get the next directive.

  4. says

    About 3 years ago, I hit a ceiling career-wise. Up until about a month ago, I thought God wasn’t speaking to me about what I should do. Now I realize that He was speaking to me the whole time. He was saying, “Wait”. That’s all, “Wait.” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, so I wasn’t listening for it. Now some things have changed and I have a MUCH better chance of advancing because I waited. I waited for His timing and not my own.

  5. says

    He sure can be quiet, but I question how close I was listening. Also, was I patient in waiting for a response? The answers to those questions don’t shin the light towards me though. He is quiet, but maybe it’s to get my attention.

  6. says

    My quietest times with God are usually right before a big storm. Or a big joy. Either way, big. I try to hunker down during those times and make sure I am just doing the next right thing. Either way, God will be on it, so I am ok. (This is, as you know, so much easier to say than DO.)

  7. says

    TOTALLY! I’ve been waiting in the silence on a particular issue for over a year now, and when I say waiting I mean crying out to God to give me something – some sense of what He has in store, of what is to be the next step. I’ve cried, I’ve surrendered, I’ve picked it back up. I’ve yelled, I’ve told God I’m mad at Him, and I’ve begged for patience. Over and over, as I’ve poured out my heart and my sorrow, I’ve felt a single, solitary word pressing against my spirit.


    It sometimes seems cruel, but I know He is not cruel. He will.

    I just need to wait.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • says

      I’ve been doing the same thing, only for 15 years. He just gave me 3 words–Give me Jesus. I took a leap of faith based on those 3 little words and it didn’t make everything better–it blew up–but I’m hanging on to them because that’s all I’ve got right now. I will pray for you. I know what’s it’s like to beg and cry and get angry and get tired.

  8. Shari Campa says

    Can’t wait to share this with others. I work as a spiritual director and so often people come seeking insight with some profoundly detailed directive…often it is just as you describe – He will. But that feels like “not enough,” or requires actions we would rather not take, so those words are discarded and God is accused of being silent and absent. Good stuff.

  9. Kevin says

    There are two things I’ve been asking God for in terms of physical healing. It’s been about 15 months, and still no answer. I’ve seen Him answer me in regards to other areas. I’ve felt promptings from Him that I’ve obeyed during that time and I was abundantly blessed. Now not only is He not answering, but He is asking me to do something that seems almost too big for me to handle.

    I’ve felt Him asking me to do this same thing for a few months now. I’ve sort of had a crisis of confidence as to if it’s really the Holy Spirit or not. In the last couple weeks every time I pray about wanting God to increase my faith…to increase my confidence in His power and plan for my life, He has countered me with one sentence.

    “Trust Me”

    It’s tough…I don’t understand why He has given me blessings in one area and chosen to withhold such a crucial one as physical healing. But I think I’ve come to the place where unless I step out in faith and obey fully–regardless of whether He answers, regardless of how much pain there is–then I will miss what it has that He wants to do with my life.

    It’s this paralysis-by-analysis that I’ve been dealing with in terms of listening to God. I’ve read numerous books, immersed myself in testimonies of people who have very real and practical relationships with the Holy Spirit, and consumed verses and sermons dealing with this topic. They all lead me to the same idea. Just trust.

    • says

      And it is in that trust that you will find your healing.
      I love the place where you are right now. It’s time to be obedient and just trust.

  10. says

    Sometimes I think I’ve written volumes on God’s silence, and even though I write & question & pray for His voice, I know that He is always talking. It’s truly up to me to quiet my soul, lean in, and hear Him.

  11. says

    Yes, this post definitely sounds familiar to me. Thanks for writing it. I cannot resist telling you that God spoke a very short phrase to me once that I still cherish….”You’re My chucklberry.”….In the voice of Val Kilmer from the movie Tombstone. Yep, God did an impression for me. I am THAT special. Ha!
    Susie –

  12. Ashley Walters says

    We had this exact conversation in my Bible study this morning. Thanks for phrasing it so well.

  13. says

    First of all, I laughed so hard at your songwriter friends! Classic. “God probably gave it to you because he didn’t want it. Angels prefer to sing good songs.” Haha!

    I’ve learned that God speaks to my heart, but then it’s up to me to make it happen. Just like the story you told, David was given an answer, but not the how. So what did he do? He kept moving. For so many years, I’d sit on my duff and wait and whine and wait and cry when it didn’t happen. Now, I’m learning to keep moving while I wait to see my answers come.

  14. Cherabim says

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

    I so needed to read that. I’ve just been having a conversation with my pastor about not being motivated at work. Spot on once again Mr Acuff.

  15. Statchmo says

    Most often-heard message from God to me: “Just WHO do you think you’re talking to?!” Second most-heard message: “Shhhhhhh.”

  16. Claudia says

    Sometimes, He trusts that we are mature enough and faithful enough to just step out and move. Although there are times that He is almost audible with words, there seem just as many others that He says, “You’re a big girl. I made you and gave you a brain. My power and my Spirit are in you. Now go and do. I’m not going to slap your hand if you make a mistake. I’m here and I love you.”

  17. Jess says

    I just started reading the bible and just finished this particular story. Thank you for sharing this as it opens up a whole new understanding for me

  18. Yvette says

    The blog was a blessing and reading that other believers have been there or are there, too, is encouraging. I needed this.

  19. Renee says

    I realized recently that sometimes God doesn’t have a preference of what you do but instead leaves it in your hands to make a choice. For me, those are the biggest faith exercises of all. I’m the “hit me over the head and tell me exactly what to do” type of girl.

  20. Sergio says

    I was reminding my students the other day (I teach a Religion class at a private high school) that God always responds to us. The problem is that sometimes we don’t hear Him because there’s so much noise in lives, sometimes we only hear part of the response, and sometimes we don’t like the response so we ignore it in hopes that we’ll soon hear what we want to hear.

  21. says

    Jon this spoke to me. I went through a divorce that crushed my spirit. I cried out to God and begged Him for help. For peace. For anything.
    He gave me a peace that I could not explain. He did not speak to me with words like he did to David – but He overwhelmed me with peace. It was warm, it was beautiful – and did not come from me. So grateful.

    Thank you for this.

  22. says

    too funny..”My friend is a musician and sometimes people will tell him, “God gave me this song for you.” The songs are usually horrible and my friend thinks to himself, “God probably gave it to you because he didn’t want it. Angels prefer to sing good songs.”

  23. says

    Here’s God’s will for you:

    “Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”

    Here’s God’s answer to your refusal to do so:

    “Your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.”

  24. Ray says

    Something we may be missing – God spoke to David. David didn’t “feel impressed” that Saul was going to attack, he didn’t “feel like God was telling him” that the people of the city would turn them over, he didn’t “sense that God was saying” to leave the city. God sent sound waves to David’s ear which formed the Hebrew words “He will” and “They wil”.

    When God spoke to people in the Bible, He spoke to them. If you hear audible words from heaven you can trust it and act on it. If you read it in the Bible you can take it to the bank. The thoughts in your head? Not so much.

    Here’s a link to a sermon from Voddie Baucham that really cuts through a lot of the mumbo-jumbo in mondern Christianity on finding God’s will –

  25. says

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  26. says

    oh, yes indeed. Jon, I love how you draw us in with humor and then smack us upside the head with some really deep and challenging thought.

    Sometimes when I feel like I’m not hearing from God, the problem is I’m not actually listening. But yeah, other times He’s quiet because He’s already told me what I need to know. Amen.


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