First Mennonite Church
January 10, 2021
A Resolution to Listen
Any parent would be comforted to hear their child tell them of a situation where she (the child) remembered the advice her parents had given her. “So and so was happening with my friends and then I remembered what you told me to do in such a situation.” We are grateful when our children listen to us at the moment we speak to them or even when in their minds they hear our voices guiding them on what to do in a given situation. When children act upon the advice, wisdom, and guidance of their parents, they reflect the principles that govern their homes. If the child is from a Christian home, that child is likely to embody the godly values and principles practiced at home.
We are children of God and, as such, we depend on God for guidance and wisdom to live our lives. So, here is the question: How do we hear the voice of God? How do we discern what God is trying to tell us, even in the mundane activities in our daily lives or in the events that take place around us?
First, we must remember that God spoke to his people in the past. It is very interesting that the most important prayer the Israelites wereto pray was actually the call to hear, to listen and to obey the commandments of the Lord. The morning and evening prayer of the Jews is the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5). Israel was called to listen, to hear, and to heed the voice of God.
When Jesus came, he also emphasized the importance of listening. In the gospel according to Mark, chapter four, where Jesus gives his parable, we read:
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen!”
Jesus was emphatic about the importance of listening what he was about to say.At the end of the parable, Jesus reiterated the importance of paying close attention to his words.
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” And again, in verse 23, at the end of another parable, Jesus says,
23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,”
Let me pause here for a second. I am fully aware that two of our church family members are Deaf. Therefore, I want to clarify that the call Jesus makes here about listening, hearing, and considering carefully, can also means “to diligently focus the mind and heart” to what Jesus says. Focusing the mind and heart is particularly important for us, especially because we do not belong to an oral culture as was Jesus’ where information was communicated orally, but we belong to a culture of the written word; thus, we mostly get our information by reading.
Today, I would like to invite you to resolve this year to reinforce your ability to listen. This resolution is absolutely important in light of the current social tendency of talking over the other. These days, people have little patience or desire to listen to the other, yet, they want others to hear what they have to say. So, let us resolve first, to develop the discipline of listening when someone is talking with us. This practice will enrich and deepen our relationships with those we care the most. It will help us understand the perspective of the other, even if we would not agree with it.
Secondly and most importantly, let us learn to hear the voice of God. Let work out our spiritual sensitivity to the voice of God. Our lives will be enriched and filled with light when we strive to hear the voice of God speaking to us. We will be able to see and interpret our lives and the events that surround us in the light of God’s will.
God has spoken and continues to speak today. And when he does in any form or place, he certainly speaks into our personal lives. That is because God does not speak in a vacuum or void, but speaks to people and particularly those with whom he has a living relationship. It is clear to us that God speaks to us primarily through his Word. Thus, the importance not only of being familiar with it, but being saturated by it. This requires reading it, memorizing scripture verses, meditating on its meaning, allowing it to illumine our daily lives, and sharing it. Just as we do with our children to whom we do not cease to give advice and are constantly reminding them on what we believe is right or wrong, God also wants to do with us. Knowing the Word of God is essential for godly living. In knowing the word of God we gain wisdom that is from above (James 3:17). In knowing the words of Jesus we have the best chances of “becoming blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” So we could shine among it like stars in the skyas we hold firmly to the word of life, says Paul in Philippians two, verses 15 and 16.
At the beginning I said that we hear God’s voice primarily through his written word. Familiarization with it is essential in order to inform our decisions for daily life. But God speaks to us through other means as well. And this is where we often have difficulty figuring out what God might be telling to us. You might know that the Hebrew is a language written with consonants only. There are no vowels. My name would spelled P S T R. And if it were not for a context, you can think is means “pester,” “poster,” “posture,” or any word other than my name. And that is the difficulty we have when God speaks to us through events around us. Those events will only give us the consonants of what God might be telling us. We need to interpret them and put them in the context of our relationship with him. Therefore, one might wonder, what might God be telling me when someone I love dies or when I witnesses of some act of kindness or when something or someone makes my blood run hot? What might God be telling us when someone we know loses their job? There will also be times or days when nothing extraordinary happens. The hours would go by and we go through our day or week without much that calls our attention happens. How do we hear the voice of God in the humdrum of such a day? Did the Lord go silent? The truth is he did not.
On the other hand, it is not difficult to see God’s words confirmed before our eyes when we see the light of a new day or hear the innocent voice of a child. In cases as such we are hear the Lord’s voice telling us he loves us or that he wants us to be like little children. In the same way, it is not difficult to figure out that God’s words are true when the consequences of sin catches up with the unrepentant soul. But what might God be telling us when a child is diagnosed with a dreadful disease? Or, what might God be telling us when the admiration and high regard we have for, let’s say, a preacher, a loving couple, or to our children are shattered?
My dear friends, God never ceases to speak to us. And although his words will not always be preceded with the familiar prophetic introduction, “Thou sayest the Lord,” God is speaking and he is doing so every moment and in every situation. The only obstacle we have from hearing God’s voice is often our inability to discern his voice.
So, let us begin with the basics. Let us start with by making every effort to read, know, and meditate in God’s Word. Let us be saturated with it. This is what Paul calls for in Colossians, Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you (3:16). It will be God’s Word dwelling abundantly in us which will be the reference point to understand the voice of God. The word of God will be like what the compass is to the sailor when he wants to find the way to his destination. The compass allows the sailor to know where he is in relation to his destination.
I still remember the first time I went fishing in the Pacific Ocean with my dear brother Harold. There was a thick fog over the ocean. I had no idea if we were going north or south, but Harold had a GPS. He knew how to read it and he followed it. We are still here. We made it to the shore, safe and sound.
That is how the word of God is to us. When we find ourselves in a given situation, no matter how dark or common it is, the words of Jesus, the promises of God, and the wisdom of God will allow us to know where we are and what we must do in those situations.
My dear brothers and sisters, let us never forget that God is speaking to you every day in and in every situation. God’s concern for you is greater than the concern of a thousand parents to a child. In the words of Jesus according to the good old King James Version, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” is more than a promise, but also the reminder that the one who is with us also wants to share and illumine our journey, be it a mix of joy, tears, fear, and hope. He wants us to hear his voice. So let us determine this year to learn to listen to one another, but most of all to the voice of God. Amen!