Don’t give God a busy signal, Merrell tells Chapel

November 27, 2018 / by / 1 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

You know how it goes.

It’s a busy day within a busy week. Your to-do list is filled with appointments and responsibilities, maybe even some items that should have been completed yesterday. You feel as if you barely have time to look up – except, of course, to look at your cell phone, which might contain yet more information that requires your immediate attention.

But when Ron Merrell, Teaching Pastor of Heights Church in Prescott, addressed Chapel on Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena, he had a simple response to all that commotion:

Ron Merrell of Heights Church in Prescott was the final Chapel speaker of the fall semester. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

Where is God on that list?

Without giving away his topic, Merrell began his talk with a moment of silence, just to get the audience in the proper frame of mind. He repeated that exercise halfway through and noted, “You’ll notice right away how almost awkward it feels.”

We too often don’t slow down and pay attention to what God is telling us and showing us, Merrell pointed out – and pointed at himself as well.

“I’m a huge people pleaser,” he said. “And if I don’t watch it, then I spend the great part of my day or my week or my month doing just what everyone else wants me to do, often to the neglect of really even knowing what God wanted me to do.”

Missing, he added, is any sign of asking God, “Did I do anything today that You had on my list?”

To illustrate his point, he cited several passages from the first chapter of Mark. Jesus had to-do lists, too – casting out demons, healing the sick – but still took the time after a particularly grueling day to summon the hope and strength that only God can provide.

Mark 1:35:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.

“That is not my first reaction when I’ve had a long day,” Merrell said, noting that students will face a lot of days like that in the remainder of the fall semester. “It probably isn’t going to be your first reaction when you’re going into the next couple of weeks that you’re going into. It isn’t to get up when it’s still dark and carve out some time to be alone, to be still and to be quiet and to listen to your heavenly Daddy.”

When our minds are elsewhere, he said, it’s easy to miss “the whisper of God, the quiet voice of God.”

Then he told a moving, this-can’t-be-a-coincidence story.

Years ago, Merrell’s father died – far too soon, at age 48 from a heart attack. Merrell said he still was in a daze weeks later when he took part in a youth camp with 2,000 participants.

He didn’t want to be there.

It just so happened that Merrell kept encountering a camper from a different group – he dubbed him “Tight Pants” because of the style he wore. Even as their paths kept crossing, nothing was said between them.

When Merrell felt a tug from God to talk to the boy, he still resisted. They wound up sitting next to each other at a chapel service, and he still didn’t want to do it … but told God that he would talk to him if they bumped into each other again. Then they did, literally, at a campfire – the boy accidentally bumped him. It was their fifth encounter.

Remembering what he had promised God, Merrell asked the boy if there was anything for which he wanted prayers. Lo and behold, he learned that the young camper’s father also had died recently.

On the exact same day as Merrell’s dad.

The distraught boy also was in a daze. He didn’t want to be at the camp, either.

No coincidence, indeed.

“God loves to do that,” Merrell said, “But we’ve got to slow down and tune in to not miss Him and what He has and who He has on your list for today. Don’t … miss … it.”

Instead, we rely too often on other people to help us climb out of an abyss. The problem with that, Merrell noted, is that “the world is filled with people who literally want to suck the life out of us. … The more empty you are, the more needy you are.”

He urged his listeners to look for “life-giving people,” but it all should start with prayer. Again, just look at the example Jesus set.

“When is the last time that you’ve been really quiet? When’s the last time that you’ve carved out even just five or 10 minutes to turn off anything digital, to get away from other people and just invite God to search you?” Merrell asked.

Looking to the world for that peace is just busywork.

● For a replay of Chapel, including the music by the Worship team, click here.

● Next week: The final Chapel of the semester will be a Christmas celebration.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or

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One Response
  1. DeVonte

    It is possible to spend time with God and yourself while finding success. Logic and spiritual wisdom have conflict in our minds. Meaning, for some reason, it is difficult for us to pursue things that will bring us joy, satisfaction, and good then make time for God. If your ambitions rise and your duties become arduous, your mind will tell you this is all you can handle; when in fact God can aid you with more and wants you to bring Him along. The speaker talked about taking time to shut everything out and listen to God. He gave examples of Jesus, going away from people for hours at a time to be with God alone. I will make it a point, to go away at some time of the day, without expectations, and just be still.

    May.28.2019 at 7:46 pm
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