This week, my thoughts are about the importance of listening to God, and how I don’t do it often enough. The Bible has a lot to say about listening. The prophet Elijah had to listen to hear God’s voice:
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.—1 Kings 19:11,12
In this story, God doesn’t speak in the loud and impressive things. He speaks in the stillness. He speaks to the one who is patient enough to wait until the storm has passed and listen for His whisper. Now look at what James says about listening:
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…—James 1:19
I think most of us would have to admit that we do the exact opposite of what this verse says most of the time. We are quick to speak, and slow to listen. I need to work on this. Proverbs says it’s foolish to get these things out of order:
To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.—Proverbs 18:13
I’ve been thinking about this because of how often in this busy Christmas season I am in situations where I’m supposed to be the one talking. That’s what pastors do, after all. We teach and preach. We open our mouths and the words come out. And ideally, they are God’s Words. At least, that’s what Peter says:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. –1 Peter 4:10,22
It’s a high calling, to speak the very words of God. How do we know what God wants to say? The answer is: We listen. We read. We pray. This is why busy seasons are dangerous for pastors, because there’s the very real possibility that we’ll talk more than we listen. That we’ll find ourselves in a position of needing to speak for God when we haven’t heard from God. (For example, when we sit down to write a Thursday Thoughts and realize that between Advent sermons and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and all the rest, we have absolutely no more wisdom to share with anybody). When that happens, we need to have the humility to admit that it’s time to shut our mouths and open our ears.
In light of all that, this article is half as long as usual, because I’m simply out of words for the week. Please pray for me, that I will take time to listen to God in this season, and hear clearly from Him. I’ll do the same for you. May it be His voice we hear above all the noises of the world this Christmas.
The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”—1 Samuel 3:10