Are you a good listener?
Are you a good listener? How would the people who know you best answer that question? How would God answer that question? Yes, that’s right; we don’t just speak to God, but God speaks to us! The question is, are we listening?
Listening is not always easy; it takes effort, attention and selflessness. We can be lacking in any or all of those three, and when we fail to listen to those who want our ear, our relationships suffer, including our relationship with God.
So what might keep us from listening to anyone, even God? I thought of at least four things; you can probably add more:
We’re uninterested in what the other person has to say. Do you care about what God has to say to you?
We don’t care enough about the other person to listen to them. Do you care enough about God to take time to listen to Him?
We’re too selfish to be concerned about what anyone else has to say. Are you too wrapped up in yourself to listen to God?
We’re distracted with other things and are not fully present. Are you too distracted to listen to God?
We would never want anyone, especially God, to think that we’re uninterested and uncaring, or too selfish and distracted to listen to Him; but when we don’t take time to let Him speak to us, we communicate that.
Remember the story of Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary? Mary sat at Jesus feet to listen to Him teach, but Martha was too distracted by her housework to listen to Him. When she complained to Jesus that Mary wasn’t helping her around the house, Jesus said: 42 …few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42
Mary chose to listen to Jesus! We must choose to listen to God! There are lots of choices we can make in life, but listening to Him is far better than anything else we might choose. Will you make that choice? Why is it so important that we listen to Him? Because we want to seek His righteousness (Matthew 6:33); we want to be transformed and to seek His will for our lives (Romans 12:2)!
Most people give little thought to hearing from God until they are facing a critical decision or overwhelming despair. But a key test to know whether we really want to hear from God or to receive His guidance is to ask: How often do I pursue God’s guidance when I’m not searching for life direction or facing a crisis? In other words, am I really interested in knowing more about who God is, or how I become a more committed Christ follower?
Don’t you think that the reason Mary sat at Jesus’ feet was because she wanted to hear what He had to say, to learn more from Him, to more fully understand what He wanted from her as a follower? Don’t you think that is why Jesus said to Martha, “what she has chosen is better?”
When we are really interested in listening to God, we will be asking questions beyond our personal needs. Questions like: How can I love more deeply; how can I forgive more graciously; how can I live more honorably as a Believer? How can I be filled with joy even when life’s circumstances aren’t so good? How can I produce good fruit in my life? How can I be contagious and passionate in sharing the Gospel? Who can I disciple to a deeper level in their faith journey? Where can I serve to make an impression and leave a mark for Jesus Christ?
Are these questions that you are asking? Are you listening for the answers He is ready to provide?
God speaks to us in four primary ways…
1) Listen for God to speak as you study His Word. (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible “trains us in righteousness.” It teaches us who God is, His desire to be in relationship with us, and the way He made that possible through Jesus Christ. As we read His Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will discover God-honoring life principles that will lead us to the answers we seek. This is the way God most often speaks to us in our time.
2) Listen for God to speak as you pray. (Proverbs 8:34). Prayer is not just you talking to God; it is God talking to you! When we get quiet, still and pray, God will speak to us in discernible impressions of the heart, bringing to mind a scriptural truth, bringing to mind a person we might encourage or minster to. Are you willing to be still and listen for God to speak to you?
3. Listen for God to speak in your circumstances. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28. The original text reads more like: “We know that God causes all things to work for good…”. When we are paying attention to what is happening in our lives, we can expect to hear God speak and see Him work, no matter our circumstances! To do that, we can’t be overwhelmed by our circumstances. Will you listen for God to speak in your circumstances?
4. Listen for God to speak through other believers. (Proverbs 12:15; Ephesians 4:15). God not only speaks to us, but He speaks through us! God can and will use fellow believers to speak to us and confirm what God has revealed to us in His Word. When you offer or receive advice, make sure it matches up with His Word. Are you listening for God to speak through other Christ-Followers?
For much more, click here to listen to Best Practices - Part 6 - The Practice of Listening.