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Listen or talk?

April 22, 2013

Reading 1 Samuel 3: 1 – 10)

My experience of listening to God. Not very good at it. When I do pray I usually make sure that God has to listen to me. God so clearly spoke to people in the Bible. Maybe he clearly spoke to me when my faith in him was new.

Two overwhelming emotions when I sit in quietness to listen to God:

  1. I hope God speaks to me – I NEED God to speak to me
  2. I hope God DOESN’T speak to me – I may not like what he says

So I start talking to God again instead

As I have hinted I don’t regard myself as a specialist in this field, but as we spend a few weeks looking at this it will be no harm to treat today as preliminary comments on the subject. Hopefully we can pull things together more over the next few weeks. And maybe the round the houses route to this talk shows you and I have greater potential to listen to God than we think, much as I am convinced I need to get a whole lot better.

Let’s start with a very basic question. Why do we listen to God? Why should you or I even try? We don’t need to get deep on this. The answer is that God speaks. Whatever my weak human experience of listening to God, I will go out on a limb and announce this for all I am worth. God speaks. He always has done. He still does. How we listen may require a lot of work from us. But God is I am convinced longing to speak to us much more than any of us could be prepared to listen. So if nothing else let us determine to take that message away and wrestle with it this week, to work out how we make the theory a reality.

The thought that occurred to me, and that we will cover here, is that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit clearly spoke in scripture. There is good Biblical reason for hanging on to this belief.

If we think that we rarely hear God’s word for us, then the feeling is not new. Our reading in 1 Samuel underlines this. It talks about a time when messages from the Lord were very rare. The inference is that people had got so bad at listening that God had actually stopped talking. Where were the prophets? Where were the visions?

Oh yes the religious stuff still carried on. But the young priests were utterly wicked, greedy womanisers. While their father Eli turns a blind eye. Ironically when we get to our story he is described as almost blind. In fact God has sent a prophet to challenge Eli and his sons but to no avail. So God started talking less.

And it took a boy to change that. A young boy called Samuel, whose grateful mother had given her son into God’s service. Samuel heard a voice that he did not know. Twice. Trouble was Eli – God’s priest did not recognise the voice either. It’s a thought that perhaps we need to take on board. Maybe God is speaking to us. We’re just not hearing him. Maybe we refuse. Maybe we’re drowning him out with so many other things. Maybe we dislike so much what he is saying to us that we have blocked Him out. There are none so deaf as those who WILL NOT hear.

God had some terrible plans for Eli’s family. He had huge plans for Samuel and for the people of Israel. This young boy was to become God’s spokesman to his people and a king maker. What is God calling you and I to do? Maybe it takes a childlike faith to hear him. Is there a willingness in our lives to say “I am your servant and I’m listening”.

Of course we know that Jesus spoke. We have 4 books dedicated to his life and teaching. But it is worth reminding ourselves that Jesus did not give up speaking when he did his disappearing act from this earth. Yes he spoke through his people but it seems there were times that were so crucial that only Jesus could bring the message.

Firstly in Acts chapter 9 we read about Saul travelling to Damascus with the express intention of persecuting as many of these troublesome Jesus followers as he could. Bang! Saul is pulled up by a blinding light and a voice that said “I am Jesus who you are persecuting”. Saul’s astonished companions heard a voice. But when Paul later talked about this event he was blunt that he had met with Jesus. And Jesus spoke words to him which transformed his life – completely. Saul swapped sides. Jesus may speak to us quietly a word of encouragement, but Saul reminds us that Jesus can speak pretty loud to us when he needs to get our attention and drastic action is required.

Move on forward to the book of Revelation. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples comes face to face with the risen Lord Jesus in all His magnificence. Thrown to the floor by the power of His voice and the sheer glory of His appearance. Jesus speaks “Don’t be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the living one who died. Look I am alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys to death and the grave.” When our hearts are filled with fear Jesus says “Don’t be afraid”. Look at who I am. Look at what I have done. Is there anything that you think I cannot handle?! Wrong!

And God the Holy Spirit speaks too. It is one of my pet hates when people call the Holy Spirit “IT”. He is God. He is a person. He has a voice. He speaks. In Acts 13, with no dressing it up, we are told that as the people fasted and prayed the Holy Spirit SAID “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the work I have for them. If we need guidance as a church, in the right attitude of listening, God the Holy Spirit will guide us. He will show us the people who are to fulfil the tasks needed among us and out in our world. He will guide us in the work we do for God.

So why should we listen to God? Because He has things he wants to say to us. If we think that God does not speak to us, don’t we need to ask ourselves why? Even the religious people of Samuel’s day were deaf to God’s voice.

What are our expectations of the ways God will speak to us? Are we open to the miraculous? Are we open to the mundane? How can we say we can’t hear God when we have his word in our hands? Do we expect the voice of God to come to us easily, or do we accept that it will involve struggle for us, time spent in his printed word, time in prayer, time listening to His voice?

Like I said , I’d like to be better at listening to God. Am I prepared to count the cost, take out the world’s earphones and LISTEN?




From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. There seems to be a connection with unresolved trauma and the ability to hear God’s voice or sense Jesus’ presence. I am finding that an integration of brain research and biblical theology is bringing about some results in this area. A few days ago I prayed with a student in a way that I have not prayed for a long time. I had an irrational resistance to praying in such an ‘open’ way, but the results undeniably brought my student closer to Jesus. I have a second student who wants to move forward with ‘Immanuel Prayer’ and also wants to meet over the summer. Like you, the transition to listening is hard. What I find as an academic is that the transition from third to second person is hard. I often transition to teaching about Jesus rather than talking with him.

    Also, thank you for blogging. I feel a bit closer to you as I read what you have written. It comes at a good time because I am saddened by not being able to bring my family to the UK this summer. Opportunities have opened up here to present the gospel at a children’s camp and also present a paper at a national conference on Spiritual Formation in children. Emotionally, though I was rather looking forward to being in Plympton.

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