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