I was recently a part of a think tank at work. We were in a room and had to solve a problem that the business is facing. After we redefined what the real problem was, it was time to find the solution. Our group let people speak and when there were good ideas, we write them down. After we decided on a solution we came up with what that would look like. The room beside us didn’t get anywhere on their problem because two guys wouldn’t listen to any ideas but their own. People offered compromises, but neither budged. The rest of their group suffered because of their inability to listen to what the other was saying.
As Christians, we can’t let pride stand in our way. It blinds us from correction God sends and becomes a roadblock in our walk with God. Listening to God is important, and so is listening to the people He puts into our lives that speak His words to us. It may not always be what we want to hear, but if we are wise, we’ll put our pride away to listen. All of my life, God has used people to speak to me. Life would have been much harder if I hadn’t learned to listen a long time ago. Consider who God has put in your life to speak to you. Have you been listening or pushing them away?
Here are some Bible verses on listening.
1. Listen to what is wise and try to understand it.
Proverbs 2:2 GNT
2. If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.
Proverbs 15:31 NLT
3. Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.
James 1:19 GNT
4. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation. But those who don’t listen with open hearts will lose what little they think they have!
Mark 4:25 TPT
5. “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield (listen) to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
James 3:17 NLT
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One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, help us to hear your voice more clearly, and give us the courage to do what you say.” That prayer prompted my son to say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice before. Is He speaking?” I told him that God is always speaking. It’s up to us to find a quiet place and listen. I then explained that God rarely speaks to us audibly. He usually speaks to us through the Bible or He whispers in our heart.
One of the times God spoke audibly was in 1 Samuel 3. Samuel was just a boy and lived in the Temple with Eli the priest. In the middle of the night, God called to Samuel. He thought Eli had called him, so he went into the room where Eli was sleeping to ask what he wanted. Eli told him that he hadn’t called him and sent him back to bed. This happened three times before Eli figured out what was going on. He then sent him back with instructions should he hear the voice again.
Verse 10 says, “And the Lord came and called as before, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel replied, ‘Speak, your servant is listening.’” As I told my son, I believe that God is always speaking to us. It’s up to each one of us to listen. Just like you have to learn to actively listen to someone, we have to purposefully listen for God’s voice. When you open the Bible, pray, “Speak, your servant is listening.” Do it when you pray as well, then give God Time to speak.
We live in such a busy world that we rarely take the time to slow down and listen. The same voice that spoke billions of galaxies into existence wants to speak to you today. Any relationship requires two way communication. God isn’t looking for someone who will follow a bunch of rules. He’s looking for someone to speak with. That’s why christianity isn’t about a bunch of regulations, even thought we’ve made it that. It’s about having a relationship. All relationships rise and fall on communication. Yours and God’s is no different.
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When I’m going through a certification at work, part of what I’m graded on is my ability to accept, receive and implement feedback. After I finish my part, I have to stand in front of a room of my peers and get feedback publicly. One of the hardest things to do is to not respond with, “But I did that,” or “My intent was…” Even if I disagree with the corrections, I have to come back the next day and implement them into my presentation. When I’m done with that one, the process starts over.
I can tell you that this process of receiving corrections and having to implement them has made me better at my job. It’s not easy to hear someone offer corrections to what you do. It’s even more difficult to change what you do based on their feedback. However, I’ve learned that advice given from another perspective is often what I need to get to my next level. If I keep doing things the way I’ve always done them, I’ll never improve.
King Solomon, the wisest person to ever live, understood this. Even though he had more understanding than anyone on the planet, he still valued advice and correction. In Proverbs 19:20 he penned, “Take good counsel and accept correction— that’s the way to live wisely and well” (MSG). You are never too smart, too wise or too good that you won’t need counsel or correction. Those who hear it, accept it and implement it will live wisely and well.
How well do you receive advice or correction? I can tell you it doesn’t come natural to us, but it is something we each need to adopt into our lives. Some of the greatest leaders I’ve worked for routinely stopped their process to invite advice or correction. They didn’t pretend to have it all figured out, nor did they continue down a path because that was what was successful last time. Inviting other people to give us advice, without explaining our reasoning back, accepting their advice and implementing will be difficult, but it’s the path to living well.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were pouring your heart out to someone and then noticed they weren’t listening? I’ve learned from experience that it’s pretty hurtful and rude. I’ve been accused of not listening on more than one occasion. I even went to a training once to teach me how to be an active listener. They taught me that I need to make eye contact, lean in to the conversation, nod my head and make some noises to suggest that I agree. It turns out that it takes a lot of work to listen.
What I’ve found out is that when people think you’re not listening to them, they quit telling you things. They quit having deep discussions, and sometimes they quit talking to you all together. Imagine if you had those feelings toward God. There are times where we are in a deep struggle, and we’re pouring out our heart to Him, but it feels like He’s not listening. Our prayers seem to fall flat and never get past the ceiling. It happens to all of us.
David was one who constantly cried out to God for help and told Him everything on his mind. In Psalm 116:2 he reminds us, “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” (NLT) He found out that God is an active listener who leans into our prayers to listen. He gives us His undivided attention when we cry out to Him. We no longer have to worry that He isn’t listening or doesn’t hear us.
When you pour out your heart to God, He’s actively listening to you. He doesn’t get distracted or zone out. Even if it doesn’t feel your prayers are going past the ceiling, God is there in the room with you. As the Psalmist wrote, He bends down to hear you. He leans into the space where you are so you can feel His presence and know He’s there hearing every word. Where man fails to pay attention, God never does. You can pray as long as you have breath knowing that God hears every word and intent of the heart.
Last night after church, I spent some time chatting with my pastor’s wife. Every time I have a conversation with her, I walk away thinking, “Wow! That was a lot of wisdom.” She often shares her thoughts on what they’ve learned in decades of ministry. When it comes to learning, you can go out and do it the hard way or you can find someone who’s been there and done that and listen. I try to soak in as much as I can when I’m around her because I know the best way to get wisdom is to be around wise people.
Most of us don’t take the time to stop and listen to others who have gone on ahead of us. We think we know the best way and that their way is outdated. The truth is, the trail of life is the same, just the scenery has changed. People are still people and do what they’ve done for centuries. Those who are older than us or who have gone down paths that we’re on have wisdom to share, but we rarely want to hear it.
I like to talk. Ok I love to talk and I’m not afraid to strike up an hour long conversation with a complete stranger. What I’m not great at is listening. I’m not sure how many of us really are. What I’ve learned is that listening is more important than talking especially when someone is trying to pour out wisdom into your life. It’s difficult for me to stay quiet and to not try to jump in when someone else is talking. I’ve noticed that when I do that, the conversation leaves it’s original intention and heads down bunny trails.
I don’t think bunny trails are bad, but when I cause them, I miss out on valuable insight from someone willing to give it. James 1:19 tells us we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. There’s a saying in sales that I love. It says, “No one ever listened themselves out of a sale.” Our mouths are what get us in trouble and keep us from learning. James understood that. He followed that verse up with the thoughts that it’s not enough to just listen. We have to go do what we’ve learned after we’ve listened.
Applying wisdom is another difficult thing. We have the mentality that our way is the right way. We think, “That was good for their path, but this is good for my path.” We have to learn how to take the wisdom that someone gives us and then apply it to our lives in a way that keeps us from learning the hard way. I’ve learned plenty of lessons from the School of Hard Knocks. I prefer the School of Shut Up, Listen and Learn. It’s a lot less painful.
Solomon said, “If you want to be wise, walk with the wise” in Proverbs 13:20. To me, that means we need to spend time with those who have more wisdom than we do. Take time today to think of someone in your life who has tried to give you wisdom, but you’ve failed to listen to or have distracted the conversation. Find a way to sit and spend an hour or so with them on a regular basis. Take notes on the conversation and write down questions instead of interrupting them. Your life will become better for it and I can attest that it will be a lot less painful.
I heard a joke last night that I want to share. There was an older man who went to the doctor. He told the doctor that he thought his wife was going deaf. The doctor thought for a minute and then told him how to test it. So the man went home eager to try what the doctor had told him. He got about 20 feet away from his wife with her back to him and asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” She didn’t reply so he moved closer. He asked again and got the same result. He moved closer still and asked again. With no reply again, he moved about 5 feet away from her and asked. This time she answered in an agitated voice and said, “For the fourth time, we’re having lasagne!”
I think that’s how we are with God a lot of the time. We keep asking questions and think he is deaf to our prayers. We ask over and over again with no reply. We start to believe that God doesn’t hear us or that He doesn’t care. Neither is the case. Too often, we are the ones who are deaf (or blind) to His answers. We are the ones who are too far away to hear Him speaking to us. The problem is we don’t move closer to hear Him. We end up moving further away because we think He doesn’t care.
If you think God is deaf to your prayers or isn’t answering you, move closer and ask again. James 4:8 tells us, “Come close to God and God will come close to you.” It doesn’t say, “When God comes close to you, you come close to God.” The first move is yours. We are the ones who have to take a step closer to God first. So how do you do that? It’s the same way you would get closer to anyone else you have a relationship with.
The first thing you need to do is make time for Him and then spend time with Him. Anyone that you are close friends with, you spend time with. That’s how you get close with someone. You carve out time from your busy schedule according to how important they are to you. The more important it is to spend time getting to know them, the more time you will create for them. How important is God to you based on that? Have you given Him much time lately? The good news is you can start carving out time today.
Another thing you do with someone you want to be closer to is communicate with them. Communication with Him is as simple as talking. He’s with you wherever you are waiting to Hear from you. He doesn’t want to just hear all your requests. He wants you to open up and talk to Him. Share with Him your darkest secrets, hidden fears and unrealistic hopes. That’s a sign of being close with someone. He wants to listen and reply, but you need to move closer to hear Him.
I know these aren’t the only steps to moving closer to God, but if you do them, they will get you closer than you are now. The good news is that your moves toward God are doubled because He is moving closer to you. I like that. It’s a two for one deal and all you have to do is take a step. Soon enough you will hear (or see) His replies. He’s been talking this whole time, you just haven’t been close enough to hear.
What steps have you taken that others can take to move closer to God? I’d love to hear about them.