Few Christians dispute the need to listen to God, but Oswald Chambers wrote in the February 12 writing of My Utmost for His Highest that we frequently do not listen to God. ‘We don’t consciously and deliberately disobey God—we simply don’t listen to Him.’
Rather than to listen to God, Chambers goes further to say we prefer to listen to his servants. ‘We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don’t want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him that we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God’s servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, “Well that’s only your own idea, even though I don’t deny that what you said is probably God’s truth.”
Living like this places me in a precarious spiritual condition. If I refuse to listen to God and prefer to listen to others talk about him, I cannot guard against rule making tendencies like the yeast of the Pharisees that Jesus referred to in Matthew 16:5. I cannot truly grow in my relationship with Him.
If I will listen to God, I learn to protect myself from all sorts of false teaching, needless rules, religious fads, popular delusions, and worldly tendencies. When I tune my ears and mind to God, I can also hear Him speak through his legitimate and sincere servants and hear things I might otherwise miss. I’ve had the experience of a minister or friend sharing something with me that I just finished reading in the Word. That’s the rhythm of the Spirit. And if I will listen to Him, it happens all the time.
Listen to God in the Text.
Gordon Fee writes in Listening to the Spirit in the Text about the importance of prayer in exegesis. Without a prayerful connection with the Spirit when reading his Word, it is possible ‘to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God.” So I approach reading the Bible with prayer with the prayerful intention to listen to God.
Listen to God in the Application of his Word.
Frequently I approach the teachings of Jesus with the ‘what would Jesus do?’ approach. I create theoretical religious concepts disconnected from my relationship with him. If I will study His word, learn it, pray for understanding, and ask ‘Jesus, what do I do?’ then the Word will come alive for me. I must always remember that the Word comes alive though my relationship with Christ. Without the relationship or without awareness of the relationship, it will seem like just words on a page. I must always remember the need for prayer during study.
Paul commended the Berean Jews for possessing more noble character because after hearing his message with great eagerness. They examined the scriptures to measure the truth of his words. (Acts 17:11) The Bereans gave priority to the scriptures. They listened to God first. It is too easy to give priority to a favorite minister, writer, prayer partner, or teacher. Always listen to God first. If I will listen to God, he will direct me and show me his purpose for my life. Listen to God, and then obey.
An ongoing relationship with Jesus shields from anxiety, fear, fear of death, and excessive care, and by asking, Jesus what do I do, I can maintain an awareness and assurance of his constant presence.