Learning to Listen

Hearing and listening are dissimilar.

 “Do not merely listen to the Word . . Do what it says.” James 1:22 NIV.

My thoughts today are about, “learning to listen.”

When I was a talkative young teen, my Dad lovingly said, “Allen, do you think there may be a reason that God gave you two ears and only one mouth?” What a wise and practical dad. I was left with no rebuttal, and wise enough not to offer one.

Hearing is a natural and valuable ability. Listening is a chosen response and fitting prelude to obedience. What parent has not questioned a distracted child with the  words, “Did you hear me?” Your assumption is this. If the child hears their parent, they should respond with acknowledgement and prompt obedience. Delayed obedience is disobedience in disguise. That is harmful in human relationships, but especially damaging in your relationship with God.

Children learn to talk in the early months of their life. For many of us, it was quite a few more years before we learned the essential practice of listening. My parents would have testified to that fact. Hearing is a natural capability. Listening becomes a practiced skill. And that is a skill worth perfecting. Listening is the entry to learning.

The Old Testament introduces a young boy, Samuel, who would become one of Israel’s greater prophets and counselor to King David. Samuel was a young boy serving in the Temple. He is introduced at a time in Israel’s history described as, “Word from the Lord was rare in those days, and visions infrequent.” 1 Samuel 3:1 NAS.

While asleep in the Temple, the young Samuel heard his name called, and assumed it must be the elderly Eli, national leader and revered prophet, calling for him. Again, and again, the Lord called to Samuel and each time he ran to Eli. Finally, Eli advised young Samuel that if he heard the voice again, he was to simply respond, “speak Lord, your servant hears.”

Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Hearing assumes obedience will follow. What a model for your spiritual life. Hearing and listening are dissimilar. There may be little wrong with your hearing, but a lot can be lacking with your listening. Improve that skill. Success awaits your learning to discriminate in what you hear and learn to listen well when you do so. Solomon advised, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Proverbs 19:20 NIV. That is Godly counsel still today. When my Dad would ask, “Allen, did you hear me,” I knew he was checking my obedience not my hearing. Listening is an art to be practiced and a skill worth perfecting. Read James 1:22 NIV.

A Godly and elderly man in the leadership of our church once explained to me, “Pastor, I do not hear as well as I once did, so I am learning to listen better.” Those are the words of a wise man. Though spoken years ago, his words continue to challenge me. I want that to be truer in my relationship with God, and in practical ways with my daily interactions with family and friends.

My prayer for you today is to listen well to what is worth hearing.

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