Readers of the Bible often criticize the Pharisees and Sadducees for their beliefs, and the ways they demanded people to be like them. They usually only asked Jesus questions to entrap Him. Before He even said a word on any matter, their minds were already made up. They listened, not to hear, but to find fault.
The very wise King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun“, and that is still true about humankind. The faults we point out about those who wouldn’t listen to Jesus are still present in us today. Our belief systems based on our interpretations of the Bible and our chosen denominations may still be standing in the way of actually hearing Jesus as He speaks to us. It is possible for us to be like the Pharisees: listening, not to hear, but to build up our own points of argument.
Reading about the exchanges between them and Jesus, we may possibly feel sorry for them that they missed out on the great opportunity of fully experiencing the physical Jesus in their lives. They had belief systems that they held on to in spite of everything that was going on around them – events that were so huge that we still read about and discuss them over 2,000 years later. They listened, not to hear, but to object.
As Christians, we can be just like the Pharisees, believing that God will only speak to us through certain people at certain times, and in no other form; and as such, we only listen for Him through those ways that we accept. We can be so stubborn and closed off, boxing the Holy Spirit into very few channels, so that the words of life or direction that we need, and that may already be swirling around us, go unnoticed or unheeded.
If you’ve ever taken the time to read through the entire Bible, you’ll notice that God doesn’t choose only one way to speak to humans. His interactions with people are never predictable. He speaks one way with one person in one situation, and differently with another in the same situation. Although many have tried to box Him in, no person has ever succeeded. He does as He wills, and that’s just the way it is.
But isn’t it quite like humans to try to control something we can’t predict or direct? Each of us, in our own ways, might find that is what we try to do with God in our lives. We choose to ignore blatant signs, warnings, and words, all meant to give us direction. We don’t even say, “You talkin’ to me?“; because that would mean at least we heard the words. Instead we often say to ourselves, “That isn’t the way God speaks.” and brush off what was meant exactly for us.
Two decades into the Christian walk, I realize that this is true of me also. I still have to pray earnestly for ears to hear when God speaks to me, to actively listen when my spirit quickens within me to things that otherwise seem inconsequential. I cry out, “Lord, let me hear You.”
So very often that voice is still and small and easy to dismiss. Here are some practical things we can all do when we want to position ourselves to be more available to hearing God clearly. You don’t have to do all of them all at once. Choose the one/s that can be applied to the season you’re in:
1. Make more space for quiet – I can’t stress this enough. There are times we can make that space for quiet right where we are, but when that is’t possible, go for a long drive, a retreat, or time away from the normal.
2. Fasting – Giving up something for a specified period of time and praying during the time you would have been eating that food or doing that thing.
3. Music – You can hear the Holy Spirit during times of corporate worship, and during individual worship sessions.
4. Be quiet during prayer – sometimes we just talk too much, telling God all the things He already knows. Don’t do all the talking. Come to Him with a quiet spirit. Tell Him you are listening, and let your body language reflect that you actually are ready to listen; after all, prayer is a two way conversation.
5. Keep a written list of what you believe the Lord says to you – this is a way of showing that you are actively listening. It keeps you from forgetting. You can also write down your questions with each bullet point, and the prayer that comes to your mind for each.
6. Be expectant – Believe that God is already speaking and anticipate that as long as you pay attention, He will speak in unexpected ways.
7. Check your motivation – Why are you choosing to listen? Is it to be argumentative or is it because you want to do what He tells you?
8. Pray for a renewed mind – The Bible gives direction on how to make this switch in how you listen. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NASB1995).
Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list. You may already have ways that work for you that aren’t included on here, but reading this reminds you that you need to return to the ways that you know work for you.
Just as a parent changes the way they speak to a child as they grow, the Holy Spirit may choose different ways to speak with you as you mature from being a spiritual baby. Imagine if a growing child tells their parent to only speak to them in baby talk not matter how old they get! Don’t limit God to speaking to you only in the ways He has in the past. This might mean listening to people we don’t usually listen to, or talking to people we don’t usually have time for. As you expand your listening capability, anticipation that He will speak through anyone at anytime makes gives a boost of excitement to your life.
It’s time to listen up! Who knows what you could be missing out on when you don’t!
© Debbie Mendoza, May 2022
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