"You are permitted to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them." Matthew 13:11,12 (NLT)
In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read what is known as the "Schema" which says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one."
God commands His people to pay attention! The Lord speaks and He calls His children to listen. Jesus says,
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)
Jesus says, "proceeds" and not "proceeded"! God continues to speak to the believer and so the believer must continue to listen.
The apostle Paul in his introduction to spiritual gifts explains that God is not a "mute idol" but that He is the living God who continues to communicate with His people in many different ways (see 1 Cor. 12-14).
Why does God speak to us?
There are many reasons why God speaks to us, but from Matthew 13 we see that Jesus wants believers to know "the secrets of heaven" (vs 11) and to have this knowledge "in abundance" (vs 12) so that they "might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn" so that God "would heal them" (vs 15). Jesus says that those who truly listen will produce "a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (vs 23). In the context we see that Jesus is talking about receiving spiritual revelation of the Kingdom so that it grows in our lives and influences our lives through and through (see also Matthew 13:31-33).
Hearing or listening?
There is a difference between hearing and truly listening. To hear is to perceive but to listen is to understand and respond. Many believers hear God speaking to them through the Bible, through sermons, through the Church, etc. but are stunted in their spiritual growth. Christians attend conferences and hear the most amazing sermons but still remain "babes in Christ." Why is that?
The reason that many believers are not growing spiritually and not coming to wholeness in Christ is primarily because they are not truly listening to God!
Luke gives us even more insight to what it means to truly listen to God:
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:15
A true listener hears, understands, retains and perseveres so that a crop is produced! If we want to produce a crop then we will need to listen to God.
How do we truly listen?
- Ask - ask the Lord to give you ears to hear! (Is. 55:6; 1 Cor. 2:9-14)
- Be alert - be attentive to God speaking to you throughout your day and night (dreams)
- Position yourself to hear - read the Bible, listen to sermons, etc
- Have an open heart - listen to receive and understand
- Have a teachable spirit - allow God to challenge and change your thinking (Isaiah 55:8)
- Remember what God says to you - retain and meditate on what God has said to you by praying it over your life and repeating it (Psalm 1:2; 119:15)
- Apply God's Word to your life - act on what God says to you by faith
- Persevere - continue to act on God's Word to you even if you don't see immediate results
- Expect a crop - believe you will receive what God has spoken to you
How do you train your listening skills?
I have discovered that those who struggle to listen in the natural also struggle to listen to God! Use your everyday relationships to train your listening skills. Here are a few tips:
- Don't do all the talking - "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak" James 1:19
- Pay attention - don't think about other things or what you are going to say next whilst you are "listening"
- Ask questions - make sure you really understand what the other person is communicating to you. Don't assume you know what the person is saying and where the person is going with what s/he is saying.
- Repeat what you have understood to the person speaking to you. Don't say "aha" or the like when you haven't understood or to be polite whilst your mind is somewhere else. It's dishonest and not "owning up" to not knowing something is pride.
- After your conversation, check what you can still remember of what the other person told you.
Practice in the natural what you want to grow in spiritually!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Rev. 3:22