Spiritual Senses Part 4 – Hearing
Category : Spiritual Foods
Have you heard anything remarkable recently?
There are so many wonderful things to hear – a symphony, a crackling fire, cracking ice, a friend’s voice, Christian’s worshipping the Lord in word or song, running water, crashing waves, a baby’s cooing, birdsong and wind in the trees amongst so many. But there is something infinitely more beautiful and precious than any natural sound – the sound of the Lord’s voice.
Some argue that the Lord ceased to speak to His people after the first apostles died, but to me that defies logic, the Scriptures and personal experience. All through the Scriptures, God speaks to people from the beginning to the end. The New Testament opens a new phase of speaking to us – not just for the select few but for all who would listen; not only through the Scriptures but also through the Holy Spirit.
Faith Comes By Hearing
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” If faith is a prerequisite to pleasing God, then how do we get faith? We learn the answer in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
Hearing is the link between faith and the Word of God. We can have the word of God before us, we can even hear it being read, but if we don’t hear it with our hearts and not just our ears, it will never produce true faith. If it never produces faith, then it is impossible to please God. Hearing is the key.
How Can We Listen Well?
Once we appreciate the need to hear, an obvious progression is to ask how we can listen well. King Solomon helps us in Proverbs 4:20-22 where he writes:
My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
These verses both give us the directions and the resultant blessings. They speak of a teachable heart where we store up God’s Word as Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
Having a humble heart which is teachable is tremendously important as a Christian. Sadly, it is often the new Christians who have the soft hearts and as people grow older in the faith, they lose their soft heart – possibly due to pride or injury. When we stop learning from the Word and being changed into Christ’s likeness, we stagnate and need to be restored.
The Word of God – Scriptures
Not just reading, but hearing the Word of God is vital. Paying attention and applying it in our hearts, we find life and health. Provided we read it with the illumination of the Author, I don’t think that it is possible to pay too much attention to God’s Word for it is living, powerful and discerning; it produces the new man, provides spiritual nourishment, increases mental illumination and effects physical healing; it enables victory over sin and Satan, cleanses us and acts as a mirror to show us our true selves. Derek Prince used to say that our attitude to the Bible is our attitude to God Himself.
The Living Word
In addition to the Bible, we have the living Word – the Lord Jesus. We read in John’s Gospel those familiar verses, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God… And the Wordbecame flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father fullof grace and truth” John 1:1, 14.
Then again 1 John 1:1 Jesus is called the “Word of life. And finally in Revelation 19:3, John shares the revelation of Jesus, that through eternity “His name is called the Word of God.” When we talk about “hearing by the Word of God”, we need to be thinking both of the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus. An excellent test that you are hearing the Lord correctly is to test it against Scripture – He will never contradict Himself.
In his gospel, John records a beautiful discourse by Jesus as He reveals Himself as the Shepherd and His flock (that’s us) in chapter 10. Three times, Jesus speaks of the relationship where the Shepherd speaks and the sheep listen. “The sheep hear his voice; and He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” v3 “…they know His voice.” v4 “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me.” v27
There are many appropriate responses when we encounter Jesus, and one of them is shown emphatically in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. Matthew 17:5-6, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.”
Derek used a phrase which seems appropriate just at this point: I want to say to you with all the emphasis at my command…hearing Jesus’ voice by His Holy Spirit is vital!
We know that Jesus is the Word of God but it is impossible to draw a line to say that only Jesus (out of the Godhead) speaks to us. In John 14:23, Jesus said: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word; and My Father will love Him and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
This verse firstly tells us that keeping God’s Word (the result of hearing) is a sign of our love for God. When we do so Jesus gives three amazing promises: 1. The Father will love us; 2. God (plural) will come to us; and 3. They will make Their home with us.
The first question to ask is how does this happen? Looking back a few verses, John has given us the answer in versus 15-19.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Jesus says here too that there are two conditions: loving Him and keeping His commands. He then goes on to promise that if we do that, He will pray to the Father who will send the Holy Spirit who will live in us. But then He says, “I will come to you.”
I think that it is important to see that God (pl) lives in us and regularly speaks to us – our part is to hear Him.
When we speak of hearing from God, it is from a relational perspective. If we read the Bible as an abstract book, then we won’t get much out of it, but if we read it as God’s message of love and redemption it will be full of relevance.
Considering hearing from an earthly perspective is easy. Think of a spouse, a close friend or a parent – someone you have a good relationship with. To talk to them without listening and hearing what they are saying wouldn’t help to maintain a good relationship. The same is true in our relationship with the Lord. When we pray, that is one side of the conversation. When we listen, that is the other side. If we pray but never listen to the response, how does that leave the relationship?
If our prayers are a list of requests, then the situation is exacerbated. Imagine having an arrangement with a friend where you go to their house for five minutes a day and read a list of your problems and your wants and then leave! But that is exactly how many people come to God – let’s remember to think about it from His perspective too.
I’m sure you know people with whom you struggle to get a word in edgeways. Does God feel that way about some of us? Ecclesiastes 5:2 offers us some advice: “Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few.”
You can see the point – when we pray, “Lord, what shall I do in this situation?” He really does have an answer which He would love to share with us if we will just hear Him.
If you’re still thinking about whether God wants to be part of the relationship and the conversation, consider these three quotes taken from Derek’s series: Strength through Knowing God –
Basically, you talk about power, people’s ears open. You talk about healing and they’ll come almost endlessly. You can talk about other dramatic aspects of Christian ministry and people are ready to listen. But I hear very, very little that’s really being taught about God Himself. I want to suggest to you that anything that is not rooted in God is going to be swept away by the floods of evil.
God’s primary desire is not to bring us into a covenant or into a law or into a promised land. But it’s to bring us to Himself. That’s His deepest longing and His firmest purpose. And I want to suggest to you that it’s the only place of safety in the contemporary world, it’s to have that deep, intimate, personal relationship with the Lord Himself.
I want to emphasize that if you bypassed God, you’ve missed it all. If you’re just interested in doctrine or church structure or even missions, but you’re not wrapped up in God, you’re missing it. God will bless you, He’ll help you, He’ll do what He can for you. But I believe if you could hear what’s going on in heaven, you’d hear a deep sob in the heart of God, “They want everything I have to offer, but they’re not interested in Me.”
You can see that it is very important to your relationship with the Lord that you not only pray, but also listen and hear what He wants to say to you. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can be led by the Lord. This is something that we grow in as Christians and there are no short cuts, but it is worth every sacrifice that you may have to make.
The Way to Maturity
Romans 8:14 was one of the Scriptures that Derek Prince loved to help people to understand. In this quote he is talking about Deliverance from this Present Age as part of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross:
If you’re going to be led by the Holy Spirit, you have to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You have to cultivate a relationship with Him. Let’s look at just two Scriptures which speak about this. Romans 8:14:
For as many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God… [I put in the “regularly” because that’s the continuing present tense.] …As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.
The Greek word is a mature son, not a little baby but a mature son. When you are born again of the Holy Spirit, you’re a little spiritual infant. To grow from infancy to maturity there’s only one pathway, being led by the Holy Spirit. As many as are regularly led by the Holy Spirit, they are mature sons of God. So, if you want to be a mature son of God, what do you have to do? Tell me. Be led by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. It’s a limiting clause. As many as and only as many as.
Cultivating A Listening Heart
It is not possible to truly mature in the Lord until we learn to hear His voice and to obey what we hear. The reality is that many Christians I speak to have never heard the Lord speaking to their spirit so it begs the question: how do we cultivate a listening heart?
I think that one basic requirement is we have an expectation that the Lord will speak to us. That is the first measure of faith that we need. There is a verse in Jeremiah that some people like to refer to as God’s phone number – it is Jeremiah 33:3 and it says: “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” If that isn’t an invitation, then I don’t know what is!
That verse also shows us another important aspect which we have already seen – a teachable heart. Not only should we have an expectation that God will speak to us, but that He will show us things that we don’t know.
The next is to cultivate a space for the Lord to speak into. This is both a space in our hearts and a space in our time. What I mean by that is that if we over think things and we keep going to our minds for solutions, we won’t have space in our hearts for what the Lord wants to say. Similarly, if we don’t make the time to be quiet and listen to the Lord when there aren’t any interruptions, then we will struggle to learn the sound of His voice.
When we set aside time for the Lord, we indicate that He has priority in our lives and that we have a genuine desire to hear from Him. It follows that trying to have a conversation with someone who is obsessed with their mobile phone (as an example) is difficult, so why would God choose to have a conversation with us when we are otherwise engaged?
Once we have heard from the Lord, we need to respond appropriately. Jesus is our Brother and our Friend, but He is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords so we should come before Him with appropriate humility.
If the Lord speaks words of affirmation, then we can thank Him; words of revelation or prophecy call forth our praise and our worship; words of correction need to be met with a contrite heart and repentance. Whatever it is, we need to appreciate that God speaks to us because He loves us and wants to develop relationship with us.
Father please help us to make the time and the space to begin to hear you speak to us. Create in us an expectation that you love to speak to us and direct us in every aspect of life. Help us to come with teachable hearts and to be obedient to what we hear. In Jesus’ name. Amen
– Peter Lindop