I take a spiritual growth assessment a couple of times a year to get a snapshot of where I am. It helps me to visualize the different aspects of my disciplines, see where I’m gaining ground and where I’m losing ground. I’ve noticed when certain disciplines, like listening in my prayer time, are low, there are fewer experiences with God. There’s a direct correlation between my listening to His voice and experiencing His power and presence in my life. If I want more of it, I have to make time to listen instead of just talking through that time to Him about my needs. Listening is a great way to honor God’s presence.
In 1 Samuel 3, Eli was the High Priest of Israel. He was their spiritual leader, but the first verse says, “Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon” (NLT). The reason why the messages and visions were rare is because Eli had quit honoring God’s presence. He no longer slept in the tabernacle tending to the candlestick, he allowed his sons to steal God’s offerings and turned a blind eye to their promiscuity. God had enough of it and spoke to Samuel a prophetic message of how He was going to remove Eli and his sons from their positions.
In Matthew 13:57-58 it says, “Then Jesus told them, ‘A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.’ And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.” Our belief and honor have a lot to do with how much we experience the power of God in our life. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard God’s voice or experienced Him in a real way, take a close examination of your life. Are you honoring Him in all aspects of your life? Have you been relaxed on your spiritual disciplines? When we honor God, He shows up in our life in real ways.
In the early 2000’s I became a NASCAR fan. I had watched several races with some friends and fell in love with the strategies involved in winning a race. After watching several races, my friend told me I needed to pick a driver and a team. I decided I like the number 16 Roush-Fenway Ford driven by Greg Biffle. A while later we got tickets to a race weekend and enjoyed the spectacle that was put on. They said Biffle was going to sign autographs on race day, but you had to get there early to get tickets. Traffic prevented that. I watched him sign autographs with several others who didn’t get tickets. I then positioned myself behind the trailer he was signing in. When he came out, I was the only one back there. He signed my hat, got in his golf cart and drove away. None of those other spectators got his autograph because they stayed out front.
1 Samuel 3:1-3 says, “The word of the LORD was rare and precious in those days; visions [that is, new revelations of divine truth] were not widespread.Yet it happened at that time, as Eli was lying down in his own place…and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was” (AMP). I love this story because it points out a truth we so often miss. Eli stayed in his own place and Samuel was staying in the sanctuary. Samuel knew where the presence of God was at the time, and he positioned himself to hear from Him. When God spoke to Samuel, it took Eli a while to understand what was going on because he had been more concerned about his own comfort than hearing from God. He was waiting for God to come to him instead of positioning himself close to God.
James 4:8 tell us, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT). There are many times when I wonder where God is and why I haven’t heard from Him. I think we all go through that. Instead of questioning where God is, I’ve learned to question where I am. Have I positioned myself to hear from Him? Am I doing things that draw me closer to Him or am I just sitting around waiting on Him? If it’s been a while since you’ve heard from God, look at where you’ve positioned yourself. Are you in a quiet place in silence waiting on Him? Are you spending time digesting Scripture? God has promised to draw close to us after we draw close to Him. Think back to the things you were doing when you felt His presence most. Are you doing those things still? If so, have they become routine? God’s desire is to meet with us and to speak with us. We must be willing to get in a position and place to hear from Him though.
I’m the type of person who likes to do things my own way. Once I get an idea in my head of how to do something, I quit listening to others on how they think I should do it, and I start making my way. I’ve been known to fall flat on my face, a few times, but I still keep going. I can tell you that it’s not until I’m all out of options in trying to do things my way that I’m ready to listen to anyone, including God. He, like others, is speaking to me often, trying to help me, but it’s me who refuses to listen. I’m too busy trying to figure things out myself, so I’m not ready to listen. It’s a good thing He is patient. He waits until I’m ready to listen, which is usually when I’m at my rope’s end, and then He guides me back. If only I were ready to listen earlier, it would save a lot of heartache, pain and time.
In 1 Samuel, Eli was the priest. His son’s were also priests, but they were acting like heathen. They were disrespectful of God’s offerings and their position. Eli knew it and softly rebuked them, but didn’t remove them from their office. 1 Samuel 2:25 says, “But they were too far gone in disobedience and refused to listen” (MSG). A prophet came and rebuked Eli telling him that God was going to take the priesthood from him because he hadn’t done anything about it. He still didn’t do anything about his sons. Some time passes and then in chapter 3 it starts out talking about Samuel serving the Lord. It then says, “This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen.” I believe the Word of God was rarely heard because they weren’t ready to listen.
You know the story of how God called out to Samuel 3 times, and 3 times he went to Eli. It was Eli’s advice to the boy I want us to take to heart today. Verse 10 says, “Then GOD came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Samuel answered, ‘Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” I believe God is trying to speak to us during these difficult times, but too many of us aren’t ready to listen. We’re busy arguing over things that don’t matter in light of eternity, yet God is patiently waiting for us. We have the choice to keep trying to do things our way, or we can stand before God and say, “Speak, Lord. I’m your servant, ready to listen.” We don’t have to wait until we’re at the end of our rope or until we’re out of options to listen. God is ready to speak to us the moment we’re ready to listen.