Lessons in Listening

 “This is my Son, whom I love.

Listen to Him!”

Mark 9:7

Listening does not come naturally for most of us.  Our educational system provides numerous opportunities to attend classes on speaking.  I cannot recall ever hearing about a class designed to teach us to listen.  James recognized this weakness and in his epistle states that we are to be “quick to listen, and slow to speak.”  (James 1:19)  If we are deficient in our ability to listen to others, how much more so does this affect our ability to listen to Christ?

Some years ago, I was exploring the topic of listening to Christ with a small group. For several months we agreed to set apart a certain time each day initially in prayer, then with an open Bible, and wait on the Lord.  Each of us were asking for directions in a specific area of our lives.  Over the period of three months time, everyone had the impression that the Lord had led them to a specific answer.  For some, it was a leading to a specific scripture.  For others, the leading was a thought or impression made on their mind.  As Elijah experienced long ago, it was not in the earthquake, wind or fire, but in a gentle whisper through an idea impressed on their minds or through the scripture. 

Since we are so clearly commanded to listen to our Lord, it is vital that we take the necessary steps in our lives that would enable this to happen.  In his book, “Intimacy with the Almighty,” Charles Swindoll uses four words that illustrate how intimacy occurs. They are as follows:  simplicity, solitude, silence and surrender.  It has been helpful to me to use these words in the context of listening to Christ. 

Listening to our Lord begins with simplicity.  I do not have time to either seek or listen to Him in the midst of a hurried lifestyle.  He will not raise His voice nor will He shout to get my attention.  I must first choose to set aside not just 7 minutes a day, but an extended time if I want His communication. This will require saying “No” to other events and desires in order to have solitude with Him. 

Solitude implies that one is alone with God.  It is also an unhurried time, in which one is not checking the clock periodically to see if it is time for another commitment.  It is in a place without distractions or interruptions.  The focus of our hearts and minds should be on the Lord Himself and His word, not diluted by carrying on any other activity.  It is in this solitude that we can experience silence. 

If I am silent before the Lord, it is because He has calmed my fears, and removed my anxieties.  All my concerns have been brought to Him in prayer.  I have cast all my care upon Him. (I Peter 5:7)  All other thoughts must be quieted, as He will not compete with other voices.  Our attitude must be that of David as he wrote in Psalm 27:4.  “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”  It is in this silent atmosphere that we can bring our enquiry and listen for His direction in a position of surrender. 

In surrender we place ourselves at His disposal to do His will.  It is the attitude of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8.  “Here am I, Send me.”  It is in this abandonment to Him that we also proclaim our desire to hear from our Lord.  We want to know what He wants us to do for the express purpose of obedience to His will. 

Several years ago, I was in a situation where I needed clear direction from the Lord.  It involved a ministry need that would require two hours weekly for an indefinite period of time.  With my already busy schedule I was reluctant to make a commitment but realized that I needed to seek the Lord’s will.  In solitude, in silence, and in surrender I placed the situation before Him.  Within the next few minutes I was led to several scriptures that definitely confirmed that I was to make this commitment to serve.  Since that time, it has not been  convenient to make myself available to that ministry. Despite the difficulties, however, I have His peace in my heart as I know assuredly that I am in His will. 

One of my favorite scriptures is the account of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35.  Jesus appeared to them on the way, walking with them and asking them questions.  When their eyes were opened to see Him as their Lord, “they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Verse 32)  It was not when they talked, but when He talked that their hearts were burning.  This same Jesus desires to talk with us as well.  We can experience this same burning of heart when we listen to Him.  It is my prayer that as the disciples of old, your hearts will burn within you as you listen to Him in simplicity, solitude, silence, and surrender. 

In Christ, Richard Spann

 

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