Stop, Look, and LISTEN! The Art of Listening
In earlier blogs I have written about the power of being in God’s “Rest” as outlined in Hebrews 3. The formula is simple, for it is written on signs at railroad crossings: Stop, Look, & Listen. Often we need to just stop what we are doing, look for the answers and look to God to reveal those answers, and listen for His small voice, the voice of the Holy Spirit to tell us the answers to which we so desperately seek. The hardest part of the formula comes after those three steps, for being “obedient” to what we have seen and heard is the key to its success. We then have to be the “doers” of the word, “doers” of the revelation for it to be completed.
If we want to equip the saints for the works of service, we need to teach the saints how to “listen”. There is so much “noise” around our lives today, we have lost the art of fine tune listening. We play music on our IPads, our Iphones, our computers, our stereos or surround sound wired rooms. We don’t hear honking horns when in the car due to the volume of our radios. I can be typing this article while having the television on watching a sports event while wearing headsets listening to music. We call it “multi-tasking”, and somehow through it all, we have lost the art of focusing on one item, on one sound, on one message. I know a lot of songs by tune, but not by lyrics because I do not listen close enough to catch the lyrics.
One of the assets of having a wife is she demands that I listen to her. In the early years of our marriage she would often say, “You aren’t listening to me. You didn’t hear what I said,” even though I was looking at her and heard every word she had spoken, but somehow the “message” of what she said was lost or didn’t register.
We are great at telling others what we think, but fail to stop and really listen to them. That is the way most of us do prayer. We think prayer is petitioning God, pleading with God, telling him about our day, what we need, what we think He should do for us, or what we think is the answer to solutions that we want Him to bless. We don’t think of prayer as the art of listening. Maybe we shouldn’t speak until we hear something! For example: Let’s say we have been asked to pray for the Christians being persecuted by Muslim extremists in Africa. How should we pray? Particularly if I know little of Africa, its culture, the Muslim faith, or the clash of extremism there? I can do a generic prayer asking for God to save them, protect them, and bless them, or I can just sit and listen and pray, “Holy Spirit reveal to me what is on Your heart, being led by Your Spirit, then just sit and listen and say nothing until told. Prayer is just communicating with God, and communicating requires speaking and listening. We need to learn how to listen.
If we teach the saints to listen, then they can go directly to the source, the Holy Spirit, for answers. We may not have the answers, but “all things are possible in Christ Jesus who strengthens us.” He has the answers; let’s allow him to tell them to us. We just need to be obedient then to what he has said and revealed.
Jesus’ prayer life was built around listening. Often he would STOP what he was doing and go into seclusion away from his disciples and the crowd who demanded so much from him. He would then LOOK to his Father, seeking his will in all maters, and He would LISTEN to His Father’s directions. He would be obedient. Jesus often knew what lay ahead because the Father revealed it to him in these times of stopping, looking, and listening. He knew his life’s mission, the Cross, before it physically happened, and discussed it with his disciples, and was obedient to that revelation. Once revealed, all things led to the cross: He had LOOKED to His Father and LISTENED to the revelation given, and was OBEDIENT to the point of death. He had mastered the art of listening.
Jesus, as a human, learned to listen to people, to hear their cries, hear their pleas, hear their hearts, hear their requests, hear exactly the message they were trying to convey. On the contrary his disciples did not perfect the art of listening until after Pentecost for they often floundered, failed, and wabbled in their faith. After Pentecost they learned to LOOK to the Jesus for answers, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them while they just LISTENED, and then became OBEDIENT to what had been revealed. Jesus, while a human, taught his disciples the art of listening, equipping them for after his ascension. He then sent the Holy Spirit to “teach them all things” if they were willing to listen, and the 12 disciples became the 12 apostles because of the equipping Jesus did when on earth.
We need to equip the younger saints in the Lord for the works of service, and teaching them the art of listening, which a key component. Let’s not be so quick as to give them books, nor tapes, nor video, etc. on topics they need, but give them the Word, the Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them through His Word. We need not do the teaching, the Holy Spirit will; we need to “equip” the saints with the art of listening. With them, we need to model how to STOP what we are doing in our multi-tasking busy lives, LOOK to Jesus for everything, LISTEN to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and then be OBEDIENT to what we have seen and heard, our revelation. By doing it WITH other believers, our faith increases, so does theirs, and we are equipping them for their spiritual journey, to eventually stand away from us, not be dependent on our faith, but become dependent on the voice of the Holy Spirit.