Have you ever had a time when you were hearing every word that someone said but didn’t have a clue what they had said when they were finished? You were hearing but not listening. Sometimes, it is because we are thinking about a response to the first words they said. We may be thinking about this, that, or the other thing and not engaged with the person that is right there in front of us.
Often, we do this when God is speaking. We have a tendency to talk to the Lord, a lot. Telling Him about our thoughts and what we would like Him to do in our life. Sharing our frustrations or excitement but not allowing for a two-way conversation. When God speaks, we need to listen.
As I described in the last post about Journeying with God on the Trails of Life, God speaks in a variety of subtle ways. He will know when we are listening by our response. If Ginger doesn’t respond in obedience to my commands, she isn’t listening — though she did hear.
Listening requires a response
Listening requires processing the words that are heard and then responding. Our response may be one of obedience or avoidance. Simply saying, “Yes, Lord,” is not sufficient. We need to respond with obedience.
I used to ask my kids if they had a listening problem when I knew that they were hearing me but not following the instructions that I had given them. If I had asked them to pick up and get ready for dinner, they may reply with “okay”, but it was the action that I was expecting. Unless they started picking up and getting ready for dinner, I did not perceive them having listened to my instructions.
When God speaks to us, we need to receive the words, process their meaning, and then put into action what is instructed. The action is the result that is desired. Not just for us to sit around and debate the theology of the words we heard.
I’ve known people who seek a word from the Lord, and when they receive a response, want to debate it and get confirmation. They can talk the word to death, literally. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with confirming that the word we heard is correct, but at some point we need to stop seeking confirmation and respond.
Often, we have predetermined the answer that we want when we go before the Lord in prayer. We don’t like it when He says something contradictory to what we desire. But if we are listening to Him, we will respond in obedience regardless of our personal desires.
In Jeremiah 42 and 43 we see a great example of God’s people seeking His input and His response with clear directions. The leaders of the remnant of Israel were afraid of the Babylonian army and their king Nebuchadnezzer. They went to the prophet Jeremiah to seek the Lord about whether they should go to Egypt to escape from persecution.
They sought the Lord’s direction for what they should do (v 3). This is a great first step that we should follow. Then they declared that they would do whatever the Lord said “whether good or bad” (v 6). Something else that we should be committed to is following whatever the Lord instructs. So far, they are off to a great start.
The Lord responded ten days after the request (v 7). The Lord’s response was one of mercy for the people if they would stay in the land (v 10-12) and a warning against going to Egypt out of fear. For what they feared would find them in Egypt (v 16). I’m not sure what the people were doing in those ten days, but their attitude seems to have changed from when they first inquired of the Lord. They responded with insolence against Jeremiah (43:2) and did not listen to what the Lord instructed.
Responding in obedience
When we seek the Lord’s direction He will answer, though it may be delayed as it was in Jeremiah 42. The response may be with instructions contrary to what we are wanting or thinking. The Lord is not bound by human reason, and frequently gives instructions for us to have faith in what does not make logical sense.
When we are obedient, He will protect and bless according to His words. When we are disobedient, there will be consequences, often unpleasant ones, for our lack of putting into action the instructions given. We get to choose whether to respond in obedience or to reject the Lord’s commands.
The people were told to stay in the land and not to flee to Egypt. The Lord had promised centuries before that the land would belong to the descendants of Abraham. When He sends us to a “land”, we are to stay there until He says to go elsewhere. We may think that we are not safe or being productive there, or presume we may be better off somewhere else. Unless the Lord says to leave, we are to stay.
Ultimately, the only correct response is obedience to whatever the Lord instructs, regardless of the logical or emotional responses and reactions we may have to the instructions.
We heard and listened
In 2015, the Lord told Dallas and I that we were to transition into full-time ministry. We were uncertain what that would look like but willing to make the leap in faith. However, I wanted to put a stipulation on the instruction. It was that we would join an existing ministry not start a new one from scratch.
The Lord allowed us to walk a little ways down the path of exploring ministries. We interviewed with a few and were even invited to join one that seemed like a perfect fit. But neither of us had a peace about the decision so we declined the positions.
One of our pastors was praying over us one Sunday morning after service and said something along the line of, “The Lord has put in your heart the fullness of the ministry, even though it may not exist today.” “Noooooo!” I screamed in my head. We’ve church planted, started businesses, and assisted with getting organizations started. It’s a lot of work, and that was not the deal I had presented to the Lord when saying yes to full-time ministry.
As we drove home that day, we both knew what the Lord was saying. We were to start a new ministry. There was a choice. We could have accepted the call to the existing ministry, and I believe the Lord would have blessed the work there. However, His best for us was to walk in faith and start Blue Fire Legacy.
Today, we are still learning, making mistakes, getting some things right, and more dependent on Him than we have ever been. We heard the Lord speak and listened to what He said. Looking back, it has been very hard, and yet, so very good to walk with the Lord in obedience.
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