Are you a good listener? I don’t find many people who describe themselves that way. That’s probably because listening is a developed skill. It doesn’t come easy. It takes hard work to actively listen to another person. But if you and I, as well as the entire church universal, fosters and nurtures the ability to listen, then we just might encounter the glorious.
The last Sunday before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the 40 days of Lent, leading up to Easter) is traditionally celebrated for an event found in the New Testament Gospels as the Transfiguration of Jesus. In this event, the glory of God shines brightly on Jesus to the degree that he is changed, transfigured, before Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:2-12). This encounter on the mountain is meant to prepare us today, all these centuries later, for the listening posture we are to have for the six weeks of Lent.
The voice of God the Father spoke on the mountain in the presence of the disciples and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” Listen to Jesus. Every word he speaks is to be heard. We are not to be distracted from hearing and listening well to all that Jesus says to us. Perhaps we need to still ourselves, break away, enter a time of solitude, and confess that we have not listened well. We cannot have ministry for God until we adopt the assignment of hearing the Lord. Perhaps some confession is in order:
Great God of the Transfiguration, you meet me in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary moments of life. I seek you in the valleys and on the mountaintops. Yet I admit that too often my eyes are blind to your glorious presence, and my ears are too often deaf to your call. When you reach out to me through the cries of people in need, I’m too busy to listen. Forgive me, I pray, and set me free to hear your voice so that I may love and serve you in the lives of people who desperately need to experience you, Jesus. Amen.
If we want to listen to Jesus as individuals, and as ministry organizations and churches, we need to take the following stances toward listening:
Listening must be a priority.
Unless listening is a top tier value for you, it won’t matter how loud God speaks – you won’t be able to hear. In other words, you need to put yourself in a position to listen. Leave multi-tasking for some other endeavor. Listening is important enough to focus all your faculties on hearing what God has to say to you.
“The Lord came and called, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10, NLT)
Jesus said, “Let the person who has ears, hear.” (Matthew 11:15, CEB)
Listening requires us to stop talking.
Most of us are better at talking than listening. We have no problem expressing our thoughts, opinions, and sharing our experiences. But talking needs to take a back seat to listening. You’ve got to determine that you will not interrupt God with what you believe he’s got to hear from you.
“Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving].” (James 1:19, AMP)
“Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5, CSB)
Listening happens in a distraction-free mind.
Its not only important to set-aside a consistent time and place to meet with God, it’s also necessary to be able to hear God in the middle of noise. If we cultivate the skill of listening in times of solitude and silence, then we will learn to distinguish God’s voice in a sea of other voices crying-out. Like the mother who can discern her baby’s cry in a room full of other voices, so spending extended time with God enables us to discern his still small voice, even when there is chaos all around.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 11:15, ESV)
“Don’t stop listening to correction, my child, or you will forget what you have already learned.” (Proverbs 19:27, NCV)
Listening involves regular reading.
The Bible is God’s self-revealing of his basic character, nature, and purposes. If we are to listen well, it will involve a daily regular regimen of reading God’s Word in a slow, meditative, contemplative way. We learn to listen because listening is a skill. That skill will only be fully developed for the Christian through consistent listening to God through the text of Holy Scripture.
Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock.” (Matthew 7:24, GW)
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Luke 11:28, NIV)
Enlightenment, awaking to God, comes from taking a posture of listening well to the words and ways of Jesus. Living in the light of Christ’s shining self on the mountain top can be experienced as we adopt hearing him as a high value. Today, and every day, is to be a day of listening to Jesus. Allowing his words to meld with our inner person results in loving actions for the sake of the church and the world.
How can you incorporate listening into the life of your church?
Do you allow for extended times of silence to hear from God?
What do think would happen if you made listening to Jesus, and not talking, a high value in leadership meetings?
Is Scripture read in all your gatherings? Is it read slowly so that everyone can listen well?