Hear and Heed (Listening to God and to Others)

 

In the Old Testament God’s people heard Him speak – Heard His Words…

Through the ministry of the prophets

In the constant retelling of the major stories of Israel’s history

The Scriptures being read as a community on the Sabbath

During meals at home led by the home’s spiritual leader

Special festivals when they returned to Jerusalem and the temple

And yet, time after time, they walked away from the truths that they knew and the God that they worshipped

They heard the word but did not heed the word

Hear – to perceive by the ear

Hear – to be informed

Hear – to pay attention

Heed – to give careful attention to

Heed – to have regard for as you live life

Heed – to notice and observe, applying the truth to your life

Because they head and did not heed , the vast majority of the people failed to recognize the fulfillment of all the prophetic promises of a Messiah in the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus

In the New Testament God’s people witnessed God in their midst in the person of a very real, visible, Jesus

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Pharisees knew God’s written Word and yet totally missed the fulfillment of that Word in the Living Word Jesus

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

They heard but don’t heed

Multitudes heard Jesus speak and saw all that He did and yet only 120 were waiting in the upper room for the promise of the Father – the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and power

They heard but don’t heed

Even His closest disciples did not always believe and have faith even when they saw Him alive, raised from the dead

Matthew 28:17 “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.”

The heard but did not heed

Today, there are many who say they believe but their lifestyle states otherwise

They hear – they even know – but they do not heed / It has not made a difference in their lives or the way that they live

92% of Americans say that they celebrate Christmas

96% of Christians and 81% of non-Christians

73% of Americans say that Jesus was born to a virgin

81% believe He lay in a manger

75% say the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

74% believe an angel appeared to shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus

80% of Americans say that they are Christians

45% of those say that they are born again

50% of those who say they are born again do not meet the born again definition or standard

17% of all those who say they are believers attend church on a Sunday

There is a clear and substantial disconnect between say and do

Hear and heed….

There is a Bible example of just the opposite, however …

Luke 1:26-38 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

Mary heard the Word and heeded it … it totally changed the direction of her life and the direction of the world

So, are we hearers only or do we heed the Words we hear and thus become doers of the Word

Do we hear and heed all that we hear

Or do we apply and live out only the parts we like… if any

Are our lives being transformed and constantly changed by the things we are hearing, reading, and learning?

Or are we just better educated and more knowledgable?

Are we different today than we were at this time last year (2016)?

These are “hear and heed” questions….

Just a thought…

BUT THERE IS A SECOND THOUGHT I WANT TO EXPLORE…

Jesus, the Living Word, spoke the Word as He listened, from His heart, to the Father

John 8:38a “I speak of what I have seen with my Father,…”

John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.”

And, Jesus listened carefully to what His disciples were saying to each other and what they were thinking

Often correcting them and expanding their understanding

Jesus listened to the religion of His day – he knew His enemy

And, Jesus listened to the culture He lived in and the social situation people were living with

He was aware of generations, cultural norms, issues being faced…

Jesus not only heard what was being said by:

His Father

His disciples

His religion

His culture

His generation

But what He heard made a difference in the way He approached each and every situation

He heeded – applied – what He heard so He could relate and be relevant to those listening

Speaking directly to people’s hearts and their current life situations

Jesus was a good listener…

For us to have an influence where we live and work

For us to impact people that we connect with – relate to – on a daily basis we need to become good listeners….

We need to hear what people are saying

But not just hear – we need to listen with our hearts and heed their words

Changing what we say and how we say it because we “heed” what we hear…

We listen with our hearts and feel what they feel

This is what I would call “Spirit-led listening”…

This is when we demonstrate that we are truly seeking to understand people

Not simply change their point of view

This is when we create a safe environment that allows them to open up at a deeper level

Where we enable people to reach a place where they feel genuinely understood and accepted

And thus free to share who they are and where they are at in life and in their spiritual journey

Spirit-led listening sends a message that says, “I accept and respect you”

In a self-centered, what’s-in-it-for-me kind of world, Spirit-led listening will cause you to really stand out

Think about it: When was the last time you were listened to in a nonjudgmental, agenda-free, compassionate way?

And then, having really heard and heeded what the other person is saying – you can then speak ONLY what you heard the Holy Spirit saying to speak into the situation / sharing

This leads to Spirit-led conversations and dialogue

This is important:

I am not suggesting that we simply nod and murmurs “Uh-huh, uh-huh” again and again

The kind of listening I’m talking about is anything but passive

It is a sensitive but assertive quest to truly understand someone else

It requires you to probe, explore, and reflect back what you have been hearing

It needs you to work at understanding what the person is thinking, feeling, believing

Truly understand what has been revealed to you and is being revealed to you by them and by the Holy Spirit at the same time

This kind of listening seeks to discover people’s stories

To learn what interests them

To understand what turns their crank

To see where they are “at” in life

To know how they approach life

Only after you have demonstrated that you are a ‘safe person’ will most people eventually come to share their struggles, their doubts, and even their beliefs and unbeliefs about God

The quality of your listening skills powerfully affects your potential to increase the quality and the quantity of your spiritual conversations

THE ART OF LISTENING – TEST TIME

Please be real and honest with yourself

No one else needs to see your test results but you

Most of you over-estimate your listening skills and conversational / relational health

So, let’s test your listening abilities… WHEN OTHERS ARE TALKING TO ME…

I find myself finishing their sentences

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

2. I give my opinions before hearing them out

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

3. I give my opinions before being asked for them (being asked: “What do you think”)

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

4. I get restless and impatient

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

5. I lose track of what is being said

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

6. I fidget with objects

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

7. I mentally rehearse what I’m going to say next

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

8. I take control of the conversation

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

9. I am suspicious of hidden agendas

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

10. I interrupt with frequent comments and questions

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

11. I try to immediately diagnose their problems

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

12.I worry / think about how to respond instead of intensely listening

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

13. I tell them how to fix their problems

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

14. I listen briefly and then begin talking

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

15. I tend to contradict what is being said

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

16. I misinterpreter what has been said

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

17. I answer / speak before gaining real understanding

___ rarely     ___ occasionally     ___ often       ___ usually

If you answered “often” or “usually” to 3 or more of these questions

If you answered “occasionally” to 8 or more of these questions

You could benefit dramatically by improving your listening skills… learning to “heed”

Applying this to evangelism – sharing your faith – here are some practical hints that will help us share more effectively at Christmas when people are really open to talking…

Mistakes we make:

1> Hijacking the conversation

Steering the conversation in the direction you think it should go to achieve your goal of sharing Jesus

If they are “lost” and I am “found” it seems reasonable that I should do most of the talking

However, all you then have is a monologue and not a spiritual conversation

Really you are “lost” in the setting or situation because:

You have no idea of their real needs as you didn’t listen well or long

No idea of what God is already doing in their life

In past years… people used to listen their way into the Kingdom

Today … people are more apt to observe and talk their way into the Kingdom

Most true Christians know how to present the Gospel of the Kingdom

But are lost when it comes to having open, spiritual conversations

If people are not coming to us to have spiritual conversations on our terms

We must go to them and give up our need to control the conversation

Seek to understand before you seek to be understood

2> Exceeding the speed limit

Don’t go too fast – dumping all the information on anyone who shows the slightest interest in spiritual things

Because we often don’t listen / heed then we race ahead giving more information than the other person can handle

If we oversupply people with spiritual truth, we can kill the demand

When it comes to spiritual conversations often more is less, and less is more

Galatians 5:25 “…keep in step with the Spirit.”

When we go too fast and exceed the speed limit of the Spirit we are getting ahead of the Spirit’s work

Spirit-led listening requires that we listen to the still small voice of the Spirit as we listen to others

And Sprit-led conversations arise out of what you heard as you listened to both the person and the Holy Spirit

If we are Holy Spirit sensitive then He can then slow us down or speed us up

3> Failing to see and observe the signals

Sometimes we proceed when we should stop

And, other times, we stop when it is really time to go

And, sometimes we move ahead recklessly when we should have exercised caution

Ecclesiastes 8:6a “There is a proper time and procedure for every matter”

CONCLUSION:

If we are not listening with one ear inclined toward heaven and the other ear trained on the person in front of us, we will run stop signs, miss divine opportunities, or even wreck a few relationships along the way

Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers before listening – that is his/her folly and his/her shame.”

So, as we continue in the Christmas season … learn to hear and heed

And, as we enter into a new year of walking with Jesus (2018) it would be good to set a goal of learning to listen better – both to the Holy Spirit and to the people we relate to and meet

Learning to create a safe environment for people to be themselves and ask spiritual questions as they continue they journey towards Jesus and salvation