MARK: Slow Down is one of those rare songs where the mood of the music and the lyric work together to really convey an emotion. There's a real struggle going on because you know that you're "going too fast" but you "don't want to let go." How many of us, like the narrator of the song, know that we're living life at such a hectic pace that we can't even admit we're in the wrong race to begin with? The only true way out is to trust God. The "so help me God" makes the song in a lot of ways. There's a real humanity there - a desperation bordering on frustration. So many of our prayers are little more than cries of desperation, but God still hears them.
This song was a cool example of our producer Howard Benson pushing us lyrically on this record. There were several cases where we would normally get the lyrics to a certain point and say "good enough". But Howard wouldn't let us settle. Mac was literally in the vocal booth working out the lyrics to this song right before he sang his vocal part. All the hard work really paid off with a truly convincing lyric.
MAC: The idea of Slow Down comes from the scripture verse ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). This is so hard to do in our culture, in western society, when we have so much going on and so many things contributing to the fight against resting, against being still, and against having a relationship with God, against things of faith. There are a lot of songs on this record about struggle, and this song is a prayer that says when I’m getting caught up in the rat race of life and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing, and even getting caught up in good things like ministry or an important relationship that sometimes draw our attention away from God. So the prayer is God I need you to tell me to slow down and I need you to help me slow down. But the chorus is an honest cry that sometimes I don’t want to take the time to stop and be still, yet it ends with a plea that I can’t do this on my own so please help me God.
QUESTION: Do you get ministered to by your own songs? Does God speak to you through your own songs, and if so is it when you first write them or when you perform them?
MAC: It’s definitely both! I can imagine singing Slow Down from stage one night and God will speak to me again through the song but in a way putting these words onto paper is therapy for me-writing a song is like going to counselling! A lot of times God does it without me even knowing it. I just want to write a good song, but God has a habit of speaking into my life through that song. On stage, I want to be singing songs that are real. I don’t want to be singing about something I don’t know about or haven’t experienced. So I’m ministered to sometimes directly by the song itself, and sometimes by being encouraged as I see the way the song affects other people.
QUESTION: Do you think that people who aren’t as creative as you miss out on the therapy of writing songs?
MAC: I suppose they could, but maybe they receive that outlet in other ways such as a relationship with someone, or by a word of encouragement or support that someone shares with them.
Slowing it down
Perhaps one of the greatest curses of the age we live in is busy-ness. We get so wrapped up in living live at one hundred miles an hour, that we often leave no room or no time for stillness and quietness. The heart of this song and this devotion is the verse from Psalm 46:10 that says: ‘Be still and know that I am God’. In the Hebrew words God is literally ordering us to ‘hang limply’ and discover Him intimately. He’s saying that in order to really get close and personal with Him we’ll need to put our body, mind and spirit in a truly still place. On another instance God says: “Be still before the Lord! Zechariah 2:13, and the Hebrew word here is literally an order to shut up! Silence, or Be Quiet, would be the closest modern equivalents
Now you might have been encouraged to quicken up the pace of your Christian journey on occasions, but here are commands from the Lord Almighty to ‘chill out’, to relax, and to meet Him in the stillness and the quietness. One of the most important things about being quiet and still is that you are creating an atmosphere for listening. In order to go quicker, sometimes we need to slow down first. In order to say something meaningful, we need to be silent first. In order to positively interact with others, we need to spend time alone with God first. Remember that a place of relaxation is a place of revelation.
Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?
Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
But you say, ‘I can’t help it.
I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’ Jeremiah 2:25, The Message
SAMUEL IS SLOWING DOWN AND HEARS FROM GOD
Read 1 Samuel 3
Samuel’s mother had dedicated her son to the service of the Lord and had given him into the care of Eli the High Priest. We read that:
In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. 1 Samuel 3:1, NIV
In other words, people were not at all used to hearing from God. Revelations were few and far between. That’s actually a bit of an understatement because in the whole period of the Judges--about 300 years or so--there were only 2 prophets and 5 revelations. Yet in this encounter God calls out to Samuel in a way that He hadn’t done for centuries. At this time Samuel was probably about 12 years of age, and was acting as the eyes for the old priest Eli who had failing sight. In the middle of the night though, it wasn’t his eyes that were worrying Samuel, instead he must have begun to think that his ears were playing tricks on him. Even more astounding, we are told that Samuel did not yet know the LORD. In other words, Samuel had no direct experience of God because he hadn’t encountered God personally.
Can you put yourself in this scene? You are just dozing off and a voice wakes you up. Are you scared? Confused? Annoyed? Inquisitive? Or do you just roll over, put the pillow over your head and go back to your dreams? Hold on a minute, perhaps the voice is a dream in the first place?
Three times God calls out to Samuel and three times Samuel thinks that it is Eli the priest who is calling him. Each time, eager to please, Samuel responds to the voice and goes over to Eli. It isn’t until the third time that Eli realises exactly what’s going on. Eli suggests that when God calls again Samuel should respond with these words: “Yes, your servant is listening.”
The story of God calling Samuel teaches us a few important lessons for life. Firstly God calls people by name-remember that names are important, and God wants to call you by name.
Secondly, you can mistake God’s voice for a human one- so sometimes you need another person to tell you that it’s God speaking. Thirdly, and most importantly in this devotion- A large slice of peace, stillness and quiet really helps when listening to God.
The most important thing however is to realise that you will miss hearing the voice of God if you are too busy, too preoccupied and too busy listening to a million and one other distractions. Samuel was calm and resting when God spoke to him. First of all Samuel didn’t realise it was God but he was ready to answer and make himself available. He ended up in a servant relationship with God in a way that Eli the priests sons never ever did. Samuel became so captivated and excited by the word of God that eventually his own words and God’s word became virtually the same thing.
IF IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR JESUS…
Jesus made a habit of going off to a quiet place to pray and to meet with His heavenly Father. Read these examples from Matthew’s gospel:
In the desert (4:1-11)
On his own in a solitary place (14:13)
On a mountainside by himself (14:23)
The Transfiguration, with Peter, James and John (17:1)
In the Garden of Gethsemane (26:36 )
IF YOU FIND A PLACE TO SLOW DOWN IT WILL BE…
A place to discover identity
Let God speak to you and tell you who you really are. God will show you that you are His son, one of His flock, a royal subject, a precious child… and so much more. Imagine God speaking out loud to you and calling you by name. What would he say? What other encouraging names from the Bible would he call you?
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
Rom. 8:14, NLT
A place to discover protection
Get used to discovering God’s peace and security when you listen to His voice.
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.
Heb. 4:16, NLT
The word for ‘help’, that the writer to the Hebrews uses is the same word used in Acts 27 to describe the ropes that hold a ship together in a storm. God can calm the storm and He can hold us together in the storm. Allow God to speak to you when you need protection and hear His voice of comfort.
A place to discover provision
When you begin to hear God’s voice in the stillness you will begin to lose burdens and worries. Ask God to take away your hurts and your concerns, get ready to see Him provide for you.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Phil. 4:6 NLT
Just like you’d go to the local supermarket to stock up on food, or you’d go to the cinema for the latest blockbuster, get used to going to God and letting Him provide for you.
Old School Third Day- Listen to ‘Still Listening’ from Come Together.
Written by Pastor Nigel James