The first parable in Matthew 13 tells us of the sower and the seed. We recognize that God is the sower and the seed is His Word. It is important for us to have a heart that is open and ready to hear a word from God that comes from His Word. The question, though, is how do we develop that kind of listening heart? How do we listen to God? Most of us as Christians want to be the “good soil” that bears fruit, but I think that we might struggle with the “how.” Let me offer some suggestions at this point.
1. Set Listening as a Priority.
We prioritize most everything in our lives. If I have a favorite TV program I like to watch, if my kids are involved in sports, if I have a job – I prioritize all of these things. For some reason, though, we don’t prioritize spending time with God. Learning to listen to God is an art, so it starts with developing the skill. We know we should listen to God, but do we discipline ourselves to do so? Probably not.
Therefore, prioritize and personalize listening to God. Understand that it is a critical part of us knowing Him and experiencing Him in our lives. If you don’t hear God, you can’t respond to Him. It is probably why so many don’t pray and look to worship as a means of entertainment than engagement. We do not get anything out of it because we do not hear God speak.
Consider these verses:
Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God
John 10:4 My sheep follow him because they recognize his voice
Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings; For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.
I like this quote from D. L. Moody: “If you have so much business to attend to that you have no time to pray, depend upon it, you have more business on hand than God ever intended you should have.”
2. Develop a Receptive Mind.
The good soil of the sower was soil that had been plowed and cultivated. For us as believers, the idea is that of discipline and preparation. All soil that is to be planted has to be tilled in some way. For those who are not yet believers, it is the Holy Spirit who speaks and draws people to Christ. For us as believers, it means that we prepare ourselves to hear from God.
The Sunday sermon is not something that we only think about between 11:30 and noon. It is something that should be affecting us throughout the week. If we are taking the principles we learn in the sermon and in our small groups and applying them to our daily lives, we are cultivating hearts that are receptive. If you never think about spiritual things outside of Sunday morning or never spend time alone with God in prayer, your heart starts to get hard or your heart turns more to the cares of the world than those of Christ.
3. Determine to be Obedient in Advance.
What many of us do when it comes to listening and obeying God is that we make the decision on obeying only after we have heard the biblical terms of that obedience. If it doesn’t set well with us, we then choose not to obey. When we follow that pattern of life, we become the hard soil that has the Word stolen from it or we become the shallow soil that rejoices until life gets difficult.
The secret to hearing God is deciding that you are going to obey Him even before you hear Him. It is coming into the worship experience with a decision that what is learned today is the command for your life. The good soil can be seen as a willing heart – an obedient heart. It is easy to plow because it is ready to receive. The opinions of the world, our friends, political correctness, or the cause of the day often persuade us more than does God’s Word. What we have to determine is that we will listen REGARDLESS. Hearing God is easy, but what God has to say to us through His Word oftentimes is not.
If you are serious about listening to God, work on a few commitments this week.
1. Don’t let stuff get it the way of you worshiping with other believers every week.
2. Take time out daily to pray and read a small portion of Scripture – at least 5-10 minutes a day.
3. Commit to memorizing 1 verse of Scripture a week – just 1.
4. When you listen to the Sunday sermon, seek to answer these 3 questions:
What does this passage say?
What does this passage mean?
What does this passage mean to me?
We all need to be good listeners. I am thankful that God still speaks to the open heart.