How Are You Listening?

How many Bible classes have you attended? How many sermons have you heard? Are you gaining anything from them? Are you growing, as Peter exhorts in 2 Peter 3:18, in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Spiritual growth is one of the fundamental issues of Christian discipleship. While discipleship involves much more than listening to others teach or preach, it can be a vital part of our walk with the Lord. Hopefully the following thoughts will enhance our listening skills and, thereby, improve the climate for spiritual growth.

Carefully consider how you listen. This is what Jesus told His disciples in Luke 8:18, following the Parable of the Sower. How we listen reflects what kind of soil we are. Also, when Ezra stood before Israel to read the Law of Moses they all stood up (Nehemiah 8:5), signifying their respect and singleness of purpose. When we open our Bibles to study we need to show proper respect. One way this is done is to clear our minds of this world’s cares and focus on listening to the Word of God.

Listen with an open heart. Paul commended the Thessalonians saints for accepting the word preached to them for what it actually was, the Word of God (2:13). The inspired mandate for Gospel preachers is to, “preach the Word, being prepared in season and out of season in order to correct, rebuke, and encourage. (2 Timothy 4:2) When this is done the listener’s duty is to hear the message for what it is— God’s Word being preached. The attitude of the Berean’s is our model in this regard. Acts 17:11 states that these saints received the message with great eagerness!

Listen with an analytical mind. Acts 17:11 also says that the Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. We must be discerning listeners! A helpful practice in this regard is to take notes. These should assist you in your studies as you spend some time in God’s Book outside of class or the assembly. This has a two-fold value. First, you will be able to make a careful study as to the veracity of what is being taught. Second, your faith is made stronger through personal study. Spiritual growth requires more than being present when the Word of God is being preached or taught. In fact, thinking that we will grow in the Lord without spending time in diligent study is like trying to tone up our bodies by watching exercise videos.

Listen with a yielded spirit. We must be ready to make personal application of God’s Word to our lives. The Scriptures are God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. If the preacher or teacher does his job and I leave the assembly without being taught, rebuked, corrected, or trained in righteousness, might not this be an indication that I need to examine how I am listening?

Listen in view of the vastness of eternity. We must listen with a view towards things eternal. The Word of God not only equips us for life, it prepares for what is to come. It is by Christ’s Word that we will be judged in the end. (John 12:48) Therefore, we must be careful how we are listening!

© Bill Williams

July 16, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Leadership, Life, Preaching, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How Are You Listening?

  1. Jeff Slater says:

    Good stuff, Bill.

    When I arrived here in Ashland, the first sermon series I preached was called Pulpit & Pew. I talked about the preacher I intended to be, but I also had a sermon on the kind of listeners I intended for them to be.

    I don’t think we always stop to consider how important it is to really listen.

  2. Greg England says:

    In my 29th year of preaching, I’ve not quite figured this out, but my observation has been that people develop a theology based on several factors, but mainly what they heard growing up and what seems to be most comfortable to them. Then they reach a point in life where, no matter what you say, how well you say it and how accurately you support it, they simply are no longer teachable! Of course, there are exceptions to this, but those execptions seem to always belong to other churches!

  3. Bill says:

    Jeff- Great selection with your first sermon at Ashland! I once heard a preacher named Richard Rogers speak from the “pastoral epistles” about what the preacher “owes” his church. Sounds like you did something similar. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this with us!
    __________

    Greg- As always, I appreciate your perspective on things. I guess the fact that I’ve only been in the preaching ministry for a about 26 years gives me an advantage: I’ve not yet had enough time to grow so cynical. (tongue in cheek, sort of)
    Your comment about people ceasing to be “teachable” just breaks my heart. Granted, there are some, far too many to be sure, that suffer from “mind freeze”, but not everyone does. Still, we must not allow the congregations we serve to become infected with the spiritual dwarfism virus they carry. Someone has said that the preaching ministry involves comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Those who refuse to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, thus expanding their thinking, should not hear their preacher proclaim “peace, peace” when there is no peace. If people have grown complacent, content or callused to the truth they need to be confronted with this reality: If you are not growing you are dieing! (Illustration: muscles that are not used atrophy; there is no such thing as the status quo, when it comes to spiritual life!)

    When small minded people crowd men with big ideas out of the pulpit the church is plagued with the same sort of grasshopperism that caused a generation to perish in the desert. May this never be! May those who fill the pulpit preach the word in season and out of season!

    My father-in-law, who served as a deacon, vocational missionary and spiritual shepherd for many years, was growing spiritually as long as he lived. In fact, late in his life he began to really study the Bible for himself and grew by leaps and bounds. There are many things that contributed to this. One of the chief factors involved in his continued growth was the fact that he stayed very much involved in the lives of younger people. He truly was plugged in, turned on and tuned in to what was happening in his world. I’ll never forget his response after he and his fellow shepherds read Lynn Anderson’s “Navigating the Winds of Change” in 1996ish. He walked into a meeting and said without equivocation, “Brethren, we need to make some changes.”

    Now, with respect to the exceptions always seeming to belong to other churches, I’d have to agree with you on that observation. We do not, in my estimation, tolerate for long people who challenge our traditional understanding of “things”. This is to our detriment and shame.

    Blessings in Christ,

    -bill

  4. k.reyes says:

    Dear Bill,

    As just a humble ‘sojourner’ on The Way, I thank you for the penetrating question: How am I listening? It reminded me to seek out a little book I had bought entitled “Listening Prayer” by Joanne Hillman. We all often fall prey to the busyness of life and the world around us. How lovely to have an ‘oasis’ in the desert to refresh us, renew us, and to re-convict our hearts when needed. Keep up the good work!
    Peace,
    K. Reyes

  5. Greg England says:

    Didn’t mean to be such a cynical person! I was talking w/ a friend just last night about how I long for the day when I’m out of church “leadership” and can be just a guy who encourages others. That’s where my heart is, to be an encourager! There is a former elder at our church who is my hero and mentor. He has such a teachable spirit and is always learning … always teaching us from his experience and insight. But over the nearly 30 years I’ve been preaching, I’ve seen very few people allow their hearts to be radically changed by preaching or teaching. God, in mercy, does change a heart through circumstances and experiences … including mine.

    Your father-in-law was a wise man. I hope to be wise some day.

  6. Bill says:

    Thanks for your humble, sojourner comments, K.Reyes! I really like the idea of taking time away from the busyness of life to practice “listening prayer”. I’m feeling a need in my life for some of this.

    Well, Greg, I didn’t mean for my sort-of-tongue-in-cheek comment to plow into you. You are such an encourager here. It just makes me sad when someone who is clearly gifted with words as you are is so frustrated by those who have ears, but refuse to hear. What to do? What to do?

    It reminds me of the famous Water Gate quote. It was something like: When small men cast long shadows, these are dark days for our nation.

    Grace to you,

    -bill

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