Listening to God

Conversations with God
Listening to God
May 15, 2015

Jill ***** does SIGN LANGUAGE for first 30 seconds of message!!

Do you know what Jill said?  She gave you a really important message, but if you don’t know sign language, then you have no clue what she was trying to tell you.

She told you John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

That’s one of the most memorized scriptures, yet, you didn’t know what she was telling you.  Why not?  Of course, if you studied sign language, you would, but you don’t!  We’ve been looking at prayer, at ways we communicate with God, and today, I want to look at an important aspect of prayer, one we often miss out on.

If you wanted to have a relationship with someone, you would get to know them.  You would communicate with them.  We talk and more than talk, we must listen.  The greatest test of our listening skills comes when we meet people.  How many times do we walk away after meeting someone and we have absolutely no clue what their name is?  Yes, we have a lot on our minds, but we also don’t do a very good job of listening.

So, today, we’re going to talk about listening.  And you will have a final exam towards the end of the message.  So, listen up!

The hope for today is we will leave here and have a couple of ideas or strategies on how we can better listen to God.  Too often we struggle with hearing God.  Sometimes it comes in the way we pray and sometimes it happens in the way we listen.

For example, we have prayers where we really don’t expect an immediate answer from God.  The past 2 weeks, Joshua and Zachary had a number of AP exams, and Joshua has a final one tomorrow.  When I pray for them, I’m asking God to help them with memory, with recall, with patience.  I’m not asking God to change the grade.  Just do your best without getting blown away.  Those are prayers I pray during the time I know they are in the exams.

Other prayers, we want an immediate response.  Should I or shouldn’t I enter a business deal, prayers about healing, about family, and so on.  So, how do we hear God, when most of the time, we tell God what we want, then, when we are done, we don’t give God the chance to respond, because we hang up!  Then we’re frustrated that God doesn’t talk to us.  Or does He?  But . . . we’re not listening.

So, let’s get some clues from a child!  We’re going to look at 1 Samuel 3 ~

1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli.  And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place.

3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!”

5 and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  But Eli said, “I did not call; lie down again.”  So he went and lay down.

6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time.  And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.

9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if God calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’”  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

So, what can we learn from this story about young Samuel and hearing the Lord for the first time?  I noticed a few things about this story.

Now, Samuel was sleeping.  That’s hardly the way I want you to listen to God, but what’s important is where Samuel was.  Where was Samuel when he heard God speaking to him?  He was in the Temple of the Lord where the Ark was.

As you’ve gotten to know me over the years, I try to pick up on details in some of the Bible stories we read . . . and this one is interesting as well.  All the Bible needed to tell us was Samuel was sleeping, but God goes into more detail and tells us where he was sleeping.  Why is this important?

Because this was sacred space.  It was the Temple, it was sacred.  But what strikes me is if we want to hear God, and we can hear God everywhere and anywhere . . . but do we have a sacred space where we’re comfortable and we can hear God when He speaks to us?  Is there a place in your home, at work, in the park . . . wherever it is.  Have you developed a place which is a sacred place for you?

The point is this – – – – if you want to hear God when He speaks to you, you need to be close to God.  James 4:8 tells us “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  There’s an entire theology we could build surrounding this very theme.  It’s God’s call to you and I to come to Him.  It’s repeated over and over in the Bible.  We must take action.

For example, I have been guilty of this many times.  Debbie wants to talk to me.  We’re in the same room, but I begin to do some stuff.  If I’m watching sports, she knows, I won’t hear her.  I’m too distracted.  Sometimes she starts talking to me, and because I’m task oriented, and believe I can multi-task – – – I’ll start doing the dishes, which is near the television, which is on.  And all at the same time, I’m telling Debbie to continue talking and she says “NO!”  And I wonder why, while I’m saying “WHAT!”

Now, let me give you a quick distinction between hearing and listening.  I hear Debbie, but I’m not listening to Debbie.  We hear noise, but it doesn’t mean we are listening and allowing the words in.

Why does Debbie get frustrated with me?  Because she knows my attention isn’t focused on her.  I could have walked into another room, I’m not listening to her.

In the same way . . . If you want to hear God’s voice; if you want to know His will — — then you need to be near Him, and be open to listening to Him.

This means we need to find our sacred space so we can have our private time of worship with God.  It means we sit or stand or lay down, whatever position works for you.  Hands folded, hands open, hands raised, eyes open, eyes closed.  None of it matters to God, as long as we are talking and listening to Him.  It’s important to spend that quality time with God.

Another thing we see in the story of Samuel is something I don’t want to see, either.  There will be times when listening to God does not fit in your schedule, but when He calls you, you better wake up.

In verse 8 – – we read ~

8 And the Lord called Samuel again the third time.  And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.

Most of you who know me, know I tend to be a night owl, and do not believe times like 3 or 4 A.M. even exist.  Once I go to sleep, I don’t want to be disturbed.  But notice this is the 3rd time God has called Samuel during the night.  I would not have been happy to get out of bed.

Now, God doesn’t sleep, so this isn’t a concern to Him.  But what I learn from this is the point that God often calls us at inconvenient times.  It’s not always on our timing.  It’s on His timing.

God calls us to do things which don’t always – –
fit our schedule
fit our agenda
fit our ideas of what should be done

God calls us to do what is right, not what is popular.  God calls us to follow spiritual laws, not human laws, but more on that next week.

So, remember, God may call at any time, even during the night, and it means we need to take the time to listen and respond to His calling.

Another point from this story is what Samuel does in verses 9-10.  We read ~
9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if He calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’”  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”

This may sound a little strange, because I think we assume this.  God will speak when God speaks.  But notice Samuel said, “SPEAK!”  Now, do I need to give God permission to speak?  Absolutely not!  But I need to show God I am ready to listen.

How often do we call out to God, but we don’t wait for an answer.  We need to tell the Lord, SPEAK!  I’m ready to listen, I want to listen.  But even that takes discipline.  It’s not easy to do what we read in Psalm 46 ~
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God is the one calling us to be still and know that He is God!  The word to know in Hebrew takes us beyond simple knowing.  It’s a much more intimate knowing.  I would use it to say I intimately know someone.  That’s what God wants for us when it comes to our relationship with Him.

And when we know someone intimately, we are much more apt to understand and not feel like we are left in the dark.

Okay, now here comes your test . . . I hope you’re ready!  If you know the answer, don’t shout it out!  Give everyone a moment to calculate the answer in their head.

You’re driving a bus and go east 2 miles, and turn south and go 1 mile.  9 passengers board the bus.  After going 1 more mile, 4 passengers are dropped off – – 2 more passengers board the bus.  At the end of the shift the odometer indicates the bus traveled 84 miles and 121 passengers boarded the bus.  Here’s the question.  How old is the bus driver?   Pause

I didn’t give you a lot of help.  But I did give you the answer right at the beginning of this brain-teaser.  How old is the bus driver?  The key to determine the answer was listening.  Not getting absorbed in all of the periphery . . . which is easy to do.

The same is true in prayer.  We try to listen to God, but we become absorbed in many of the distractions.  And we end up not really hearing and listening to what the Lord is telling us.

As God told the Psalmist . . . Be still and know that I am God!  We struggle with settling down / quieting ourselves before God.  When we do that – we have a much better opportunity to hear and listen to God, and better understand His will.

By the way, the very first thing I said was “YOU” are the bus driver.  So, however old you are, that’s the age of the bus driver!

Next week, we will continue to talk about listening to God.

For now, Remember these points . . .

Are you near God?  Do you have a sacred space so you can listen to God?

Are we open to God’s timing over our timing?

Are we giving God permission to speak to us?  Are we open to hearing / listening to  Him?

Are you ready for a new adventure?  A new way of relating to God?

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