Back in the Day
Back in the day, I went to a management seminar of some type. I cannot remember the details. It had to do with sales and negotiation I am sure, but one thing stuck with me was the piece on good communication, specifically listening.
Most of us do not really communicate all that well mostly because we do not listen with the same focus as when we speak. Instead of listening to someone we pause and formulate our response to the other person based what we half hear them say. If it is a passionate discussion, we will have OUR answer before the other person has finished speaking. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to tell them what we know to be right we cannot wait for them to finish, we simply interrupt them with our “Solution”. At best, we utilize “selective listening” hearing only what fits with our desires.
In that seminar, I learned that listening was not a passive response but an active exercise. It is one of those things I do not always get right. Usually, it is my pride and impatience that prevents me from actively listing. It gets worse in a crowd. But this morning… the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to actively listening to God… and not just listening but obeying.
How I Study
I do not have a specific order to my study except for one thing. Before I start I pray. One of the things I always ask for is that the Holy Spirit guide me in my study. I ask that my ears may be open to hearing, my eyes open to see and my heart open to receive the teachings of God’s Word. From there I start my wake up and study.
This morning I began with “Utmost for His Highest”. Today was about “The Devotion of Hearing” and the reference verse was 1Samuel 1:10
“And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”
As I read that verse and the subsequent devotional I was humbled… I reflected on my prayer this morning and I thought about all my requests and whether I was hearing God… But do I stop and listen… Do I focus one God and wait for His reply or do I simply move on. Do I believe that He will answer?
I read 1Samuel 3:1-14 and reflected on the passage. Three times Samuel heard someone calling his name and he assumed it was Eli. He went to Eli and saying, what do you want Eli, and Eli did not know what Samuel was talking about and he sent him back to bed… until the third time. Then Eli got it. In verse 9 he said…
“Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.” (ESV)
Samuel listened to Eli and responded in obedience… and this stuck with me this morning, but I went to other passage both from Chambers’ devotional for today and some K-Love Encouraging Word verses. As I studied the passages I saw this thread that ran through them. They all spoke of my relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I read John 15 and Romans 15 and I ended up back at 1Samuel 3.
John 15 “I am the True Vine”
Christ tells His disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches… I am a branch… Then in Verse 4 and 5 He says…
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (ESV)
Abide was a word that I thought I knew, but I felt this compulsion to look it up in my Bible definitions. It was a long definition… but for me this morning it boiled down to this… to survive, live in reference to state or condition to remain as one.” And that one to whom I must cling is the Spirit of God in me. Without Him I am just a dead branch. Without Him I can do nothing.
I continued through Chapter 15 and in verses 12-17 I was reminded of the desire of Jesus in this….
“12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (ESV)
This passage is so powerful. Jesus desires my friendship… and if I am a true friend I will listen and I will show that I listen by obeying His commands… I did not choose Him, but He chose me.
But this passage began with verse 12-13
“12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (ESV)
We know what Jesus did for us… He died so we might live… The one who created the heavens and the earth gave His life for me that my sins might be washed away… It is beyond my human reasoning to understand that. When I ponder that I am taken back to the beginning of John 1:1-5
“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (ESV)
He died for me…
I considered all this and it was a bit overwhelming. I looked at another verse from earlier in the week. It was in Romans 15:1-7
1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV)
What does all this have to do with Listening?
By now you might be wondering what all this must have to do with listening. Well for me God reveals His desires for me. And If I am really listing and I believe that He has called me to be His friend… His Child… What better way to show that I really am listening than to obey.
Obedience is not always easy. It is easy to listen… half way. You hear what the person is saying or your version of their thoughts, but do you really listen closely enough that you take them to heart and act on them.
I look back on Romans 15:1-3
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” (ESV)
When you think about it sometimes the Holy Spirit will give us a little nudge that seems unimportant to us; something as simple as offering a word of encouragement to someone. Sometimes it will be something more difficult to do.
I know I have received those words of encouragement at the oddest times and I am sure the person sharing them did not realize how they lifted my spirits. Other times it may be harder truths. Things that may hurt or anger someone, but they must be shared too.
Look at 1Samuel. In chapter 3 he was given a hard message to deliver to his mentor Eli. When Samuel finally heard God the message he was given would be a difficult lesson for a grown man to deliver and he was just a boy. But he did as God commanded and He told Eli what God had told him. Basically, God was angry with Eli. In verses 12-14 he was very clear…
“12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
That is a tough message… but Samuel delivered it and watched it play out.
I pray every day that I can obey and that I can follow the example of Christ Jesus and listen and obey. That I can listen and obey the words of Jesus in John 15:12
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus loved me enough to share the truth with me in Love. If I am really listening to His Word I must do the same. I cannot pick and choose what to do… that is selective listening…