"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
What could be more important than correct listening? We only worship God to the degree that we hear Him speak. This is why there are injunctions throughout Scripture about hearing and listening. Jesus would frequently end a parable with the words, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Luke 8:8d). The psalmist said, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah" (Ps. 95:8a). This was echoed in Hebrews 3:8. There is also the warning in Hebrews 5:11, where the writer says, in effect," "I was getting ready to talk to you about Melchizedek, but I can't go on, seeing that I have many difficult things to say, and you are hard of hearing."
Isaiah said, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call you upon Him while He is near" (Isa. 55:6).
What we are talking about is the ability to recognize and respond to the Spirit's impulse. I consider this to be the highest level of spirituality that exists.
Are we able to see the work of the Holy Spirit? Would we recognize revival if we saw it or heard about it? If God poured out His Spirit in some unexpected place, would we still recognize Him? Do we know when God is speaking to us? Can we sense the way God is leading us? The spiritual ability to recognize the Spirit's impulse comes from listening to and hearing God.
I want to approach this subject from the general and then move on to the particular. By general, I mean knowing how to listen to God anywhere—at home, at work, on a train, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
It's very interesting that after Jesus addressed all seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, with the words, "Hear what the Spirit says," He then narrowed the invitation down to one person and said, "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20b).
Someone may protest, "My problem is getting God to listen to me like the psalmist in Psalm 4:1. That's where I am. I'm always asking God to hear me."
Maybe you feel like the people who said, "O God, we have fasted and you didn't even notice!" (see Isa. 58:3). It is possible to spend hours every day talking to God like this. But the problem is that it is we who are doing all the talking, all the thinking, all the groaning, and we shut God out. We think we are open to Him, when in fact, we are only talking to Him. And all the time, He may be wanting to communicate at the level we need, not at the level at which we're addressing Him. We want to talk about one thing, and God is saying, "That's not your problem; your problem is over here." We are looking in one direction, and He is trying to get us to look in another.
When someone develops a hearing problem, it doesn't usually happen overnight. It is a gradual and almost unnoticed event. And the same thing is true at the spiritual level: We hardly know it is happening. In the end, we have to be jolted and made to realize what has been going on. It's like not realizing we are asleep until we wake up.
There are two reasons why God has difficulty in getting us to listen to Him. The first is our inability to absorb or take in His counsel. Jesus said it like this: "I have yet many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). God has to deal with us where we are. The second reason why God has difficulty in getting us to listen to Him is that there is uncleansed sin within us as a result of not walking in the light. We say, "Lord, speak to me." God answers, "I did speak, but you wouldn't take it."
There are two kinds of listening: active listening and passive listening.
By passive listening, I mean when we suddenly, unexpectedly hear the voice of God without planning it or seeking it. If there is a combination of a good knowledge of God's Word plus obedience, then the ecstatic breakthrough may come. Hearing God in this way comes less frequently than hearing God as a result of active listening, but most of us want only passive listening. We want God to seek us out.
But passive hearing is not the primary way God speaks to us. He calls us to active listening: "Hear what the Sprit says...." Here are some prerequisites that need to be exercised (see Heb. 5:14, Phil 4:8) to develop active listening:
- Keep an open mind.
- Let go of your pride—be vulnerable.
- Be listening for His voice even if it involves rebuke.
- Deal with any impediment that goes against the Spirit.
- Obey the impulse of the Spirit, which we know leads to holiness and brings honor and glory to God.
Actively listening to God will enhance your worship and bring Him glory.
Adapted from Worshipping God by R. T. Kendall, copyright 2017, published by Charisma House; Charisma Media/Charisma House Book Group. This life-changing book gives insight into true worship and will bring you into deeper fellowship with the Godhead. To order your copy click on this link.
Prayer Power for the Week of Aug. 14, 2017
This week fully engage in whole-hearted worship and take time to listen to God's voice through His Word and His Spirit. Pray for our nation and its leaders as they face decisions regarding current threats from our enemies, economic concerns, natural disasters, administration issues and so on. Ask God to surround President Trump with wise counsel and give him the godly wisdom he needs to lead the nation. Remember our allies, our military and our children as they return to school. Read: Rev. 3:20; Phil. 4:8.