If you’ve ever been in the military you know that two-word phrase well; vital directions were to follow. Or maybe you heard it in a classroom when the prof disclosed the subjects of an upcoming exam. Regardless the context, you know it means you should pay attention.
How many times have you thought you were listening to your spouse, when suddenly you realized he or she had quit talking—usually that’s the case for men—and was sitting there, glaring at you. You couldn’t repeat what was last said if your life depended on it. The stream of words had gradually become a humming in the background of your own musings.
I know that’s happened to you in church because it’s happened to me; the preacher’s words recede into the background while you mentally travel to the Sizzler’s order line or plan a project or outing for Sunday afternoon. Hopefully, your mind wasn’t busy applying the message to someone who “really needed it,” while missing the application to your own life.
The Bible deals with an issue like that:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1:22-24)
Here, Apostle James addresses the issue of actually listening to preaching, maybe even with some conviction, and then forgetting to seriously apply it to yourself.
Has God’s subtle voice become a background humming as you pursue the more important concerns of life? Or have you heard Him speak, but failed to listen seriously, as though the message were trivial? One of Jesus’ more frequent appeals was, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
There’s more to hearing than wearing a couple of ears on your head. There’s more to listening than sitting in a pew with glazed eyes and distracted mind. And there’s more to reading than passing your eyes over a page—hint, hint. A huge part of living intentionally is breaking the habit of ignoring what comes in through the ear-gate and the eye-gate, but instead, paying attention.
So, let’s listen up! How else can we discern the garbage from God’s gold?