Listening to God

Mark 7:31-37

Jesus says to the deaf man “Be opened.” The man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” We’re called through grace to hear and understand God speaking to us, and he empowers us to testify to that message by our words and actions.

 

One of the basic tenants of scripture is that God has revealed himself, that God has made himself known to us, that God speaks.  All through the Bible we see this phrase, “And God said…” God does speak, and we were made to have a relationship with him. He made us to love us, and he wants us to know him as well as he knows us. 

 

Now in order to know God, we need to talk to him, and he’s gotta talk to us. There must be communication going on. Without communication there is no relationship. The problem is communication can easily be misunderstood. We see that in our attempts at interactions with other people, and similarly, we see it in our attempts to interact with God. 

 

When my wife Donna speaks to me, I don’t always hear her. Beyond that, there are times I hear her, but I don’t hear the message she intended to convey. Sometimes there is (as they say) “selective hearing” going on. Like most couples over the years, though, hopefully we’ve gotten better at being able to hear and interpret what we’re saying to each other. An example would be when she says, “fine” that really means “don’t you dare.” The list of similar M-F translations can go on and on.

 

In a similar fashion, we don’t always hear or correctly interpret, what God is trying to convey to us. But through God’s grace and our attentiveness to him, our hearing him potentially gets better.

 

After 33 years of marriage, when Donna calls me on the phone, she doesn’t have to say, “Hi, this is Donna.”  I know her voice. She knows my voice. With God’s grace, we begin to be able to better recognize his voice, be it through a song on the radio, by cracking open our bible, and BANG, there’s a message waiting for us, or through a time when we hear a homily and we say, “Wow, he was speaking right to me.”

 

Right now, there are radio and TV waves going all through this church. They are real. Just because we can’t see them, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. But if we have a tuner, and we tune in a station with some degree of precision, we can gain reception of that station- we can hear the sound and get the picture. The key is tuning in.

This week, we heard of the passing of Burt Reynolds. Some of us might remember his Smoky and the Bandit movies, where he was racing across country with the help of friends and his Citizens Band (CB) radio.  Remember those? There was a whole lingo that went with that CB craze of the 70’s: “put the pedal to the medal”, “10-4 good buddy”. One of the phrases of that craze was, “Have you got your ears on”? - And that meant, “Are you tuned in?  Are you listening?” Well, that’s kinda the way it has been with God for 2000 years. In Luke we hear, “He who has ears ought to hear!” What he is saying is “You gotta be tuned in!”

 

Three reasons why being tuned in and listening to God is important: (I’m stealing these from Pastor Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame).

 

1) Listening proves we are children of God. It confirms our relationship with God. John 8:47: “Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God.” If we don’t have communication with God, we don’t have a relationship with God. This is the proverbial difference between “knowing God” and “knowing about God.”

 

I may say to a friend of mine that I know Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t really know him but I could say, “I know Big Ben.” He might then say to me in return, “Ah, what do you mean by that? “Well, I message him all the time. I tell him to throw more to his tight end Jesse James. James is on my fantasy football team.” Does he write back to you? “Well, no. I call him all the time.” Does Ben call back? No. Have you ever talked to Ben? No. Well, then you really don’t have a relationship with him. Well, what if Ben throws 3 TD passes to Jesse James today against the Browns, I can say, “Perhaps Ben partook of my football wisdom and followed my advice. My friend will say, nah, you’re no more than just a fan.

 

A lot of people are fans of God but they really don’t have a relationship with him. God wants us to be able to communicate with him. If we truly have a relationship with God, it proves we are in God’s family.

 

2) Listening to God protects us from mistakes. If we do actually listen to God on a daily basis, we find that he’ll warn us of some of the pot holes, some of the traps and bends in the road, and we save ourselves a lot of time enduring heartache and failure if we do things God’s way.

 

In Proverbs, we hear: Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, and everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” How many times has God spared us from an embarrassing situation or mistake and he does it through one word, “don’t” – we may interpret that don’t as our intuition, but it’s likely his voice whispering to us.

 

3) Listening to God produces success in life. And of course this isn’t to be interpreted as to how the world sees success – material gain, financial achievement or nothing goes wrong in our lives.  Success is being exactly what God made us to be – it’s the fulfillment, the meaning and purpose of living in the center of God’s will. In Psalm 32, we hear: “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”   Emphasis on the words “your life”.  There is in fact a best pathway for my life and it’s different from the pathway of anyone else’s life in the room.  How often do we get in trouble when we try to follow other people’s pathways?

 

If we listen to God, we know we have a relationship with him, (“My sheep hear my voice” Jesus said) we know that he will protect us from mistakes and we know that we will be on the right path.

 

We have a lot to pray about these days in petition form: from the things that weigh heavy on our hearts to those things that in the grand scheme of things don’t matter too much, like our sports teams and Jesse James’ three touchdowns today. But let us take time today to cultivate an open mind, to be tuned in to hear God’s voice through whatever medium he chooses today. I’d like to make a suggestion:

 

If you don’t have one already, might I suggest starting some form of spiritual journal for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it doesn’t need to be populated with entries every day that are in perfectly complete sentences. But just make note of what you are hearing and seeing. That activity, in and of itself, may help you to tune in a little more and develop a closer relationship with God than you have right now.

 

What would it contain? A scripture that spoke to you. Some wisdom that God seems to be whispering to you. A spoken word from someone at work, at play or from the pulpit that touched you, that speaks volumes to you. Questions that you have for God.  Temptations that you want to take to prayer. A dream that has risen up in you. Anything that you put down on paper or tablet, may be a conversation starter or continuer that may allow for more clarity and purpose for your life.

 

And so we pray today, Lord, we want a deeper relationship with you. We know that the answers we seek cannot be found anywhere else but in you. Teach us to slow down. Help us to “be opened”, to “put our ears on” to hear and distinguish your voice, that we may become your instruments to help bring everyone we meet closer to Jesus, and to your Kingdom. Amen!

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