When I was growing up, I had difficulty listening well. (My wife might say that I still have the same problem today.) I believe most of us could be much better listeners.
Good listeners make good company. Good listeners make good friends. Good listeners make good learners. Good listeners make good teachers. And good listeners make good counselors. On the other hand, poor listeners who only want to hear themselves talk and, when forced to listen, are only planning what they are going to say as soon as you take a breath. Learning how to listen well is important–it determines a lot about our relationships to others.
More important, however, than how we listen to others is how we listen to the Lord. How good are we at listening to God? One of the repeated themes of the Bible is a command to listen. “Hear the Word of the Lord,” is said some thirty-five times in the Old Testament. Commandments like “Hear, O Israel,” “Listen to me” or “Today, hear His voice” are repeated throughout the Psalms and by the Old Testament prophets. Jesus Himself says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).
Deuteronomy 4:36 says: “God let you hear His voice that He might instruct you.” What a privilege we have to receive instruction from God out of heaven provided to us through His Word. We are told frequently in Scripture to listen when God speaks. In fact, at the transfiguration of Jesus, the voice of the Father came out of heaven and God said to Peter, James and John who were on the mountain, “This is my Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him” (Luke 9:35).
Earlier in Luke, Jesus gives a parable about various types of soil and relates it to the way we are to listen. Some hear superficially, like seeds falling on hard ground. Some hear very emotionally, like rocky soil. Some hear temporarily, like the weedy soil, then become distracted by other interests. Some hear with a good and honest heart, in a way that transforms and saves. The Word takes root and produces a hundred fold. The parable ends with “Be careful how you hear” (Luke 8:18 ESV).
This is significant. The kind of listener you are will reveal your spiritual condition. There are many people who make a superficial or temporary response to Jesus and the gospel. “Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt 7:22-23). There are superficial disciples. Many may profess to believe in Jesus Christ, but their profession of faith is proven when they genuinely listen to His voice. Listen well in order to hear His voice and respond to it.
Are you a good listener?