Prioritize Your Time for Listening

Would you rather have a pile of gold or a pile of salt?

It’s pretty obvious. But do you know that many throughout history would have rather taken the pile of salt? The gold is pretty, but you can’t live without salt.

In ancient times salt was actually used as currency. In fact our word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt. Today if given the choice, you and I would go for the gold every time. Why? Because today there is a lot less gold than salt. Value has a lot to do with scarcity. If something is very scarce, it’s more valuable. When it ceases to be scarce, it loses its value.

In our day and age, one of the things most scarce is listening. We have classes in preaching, but why don’t we have courses in listening? What first makes a great communicator is not his ability to talk, but his ability to listen. Preaching starts with listening.

How do we keep our ears clear and distinct so that we can hear His voice?

First – Pray and then Listen

The first thing that we’ve got to do is ask God for help and wait for an answer. God is saying, “I’m going to mentor you. I’m going to guide you. I’m going to instruct you. I’m going to advise you. I’m going to walk with you. But if you can’t hear Me, we’re done, because I can’t teach you.”

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18 NASB ).

One of the best prayers to pray when you open the Bible is, “Lord, open my eyes. I need Your help so that I can hear what You’re saying and see what You’re saying.” Our tendency is to not listen well. We’re so wrapped in me, and mine. Even when I’m praying, I’m really talking about myself.

I remember when I was a young Christian I went to a church with booming prayer meetings. The prayer room had the decibel reading of a 747 revving its engines. If you were to be a good prayer warrior, you’d have to pray constantly without taking a breath.

That kind of prayer reminds me of the radio advertisement that compresses three pages of text into 5 seconds of conditions at the end of the ad. We don’t speak to each other like that, why should we talk to the Lord that way?

How can we learn how to listen? Remember this: the purpose of prayer is not to talk but to listen. In fact, our daily devotional Bible readings are the highest expression of prayer for we are writing down what the Lord speaks to us through his word. That’s why Ecclesiastes 5:1 says, “When you come to God, draw near to listen rather than to talk, because that would be foolish.”

Second – Read the Bible to Meet Jesus

We don’t read the Bible to get information we read it to meet Jesus.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life it is these that testify about me” (John 5:39 NASB).

The more you get to know someone, if you hear something that doesn’t sound right about what they have supposedly said, it’s easy to correct because you know their heart.

For example, Dan Shima has been a dear friend of mine for many years. I know his heart, and he’s a good, good man. One day someone made an unfounded accusation against Dan. I said to the man making the accusation, “Wait a minute. You don’t know Dan’s heart. He’s one of the most truthful men I know. You can’t say that. If you don’t know him, you’re going to misinterpret certain things. You’ve got to get to know him.”

The same is true with the Bible. If you don’t know the heart of God, you misinterpret it. But once you know the heart of God, everything begins to fall into place. Then you’ll start to learn to become a good listener because you’re not misinterpreting things.

Third – Change and Then Speak

The proof that we have become good listeners is when we change because of what we have heard the Lord speak.

“But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves”(James 1:22 NASB).

If we’re just hearing and not doing, then we’re starting to delude ourselves. We’re not changing but telling others they should. Sometimes we think, “I need to know more and more of the deeper things of God.” How much of the shallow have you yet applied?

Depth is not knowing more, depth is applying what you already know. Before I can move deeper into the Lord, his word must first move deeply in me. How many times do I meet people who want thedeeper things of God and they’re falling all over themselves when they should be doing what’s obvious.

All too often in the push for sermon material, preachers can take directly from the Bible what has been learned that day or week and immediately apply it to the congregation because there is another Sunday sermon to prepare. But if we take time for daily devotions then before the word is dished out to the people it has first been warmed in the preacher’s heart through his own obedience.

For that to happen we must make listening to God a daily priority. You must choose the most important part, because if you don’t, you’ll be distracted into oblivion like Martha, and you’ll do everything except that which is most important. In our ministry there is only one thing that is necessary: listening to the Lord. Like Mary the Lord will instruct us as to what is our next assignment, what we should prune, what we should cultivate, how to solve problems. He will give us courage, grace, insight, innovation, creativity, great depths of wisdom simply because we have remained seated at the Lord’s feet listening to His Word.

You may think you do not have time to make listening to Jesus a priority. But as you learn to make listening a priority you will be surprised how much time it will save you.

It reminds me of an elderly grandfather who came to the end of his life and he had gone deaf. His family thought that he was going to die soon. But thank goodness for modern technology, he went to this ear doctor, and they formulated a hearing aid so that he could hear things. About two weeks later, he came back to the doctor and said, “Doctor, I can hear!”

The doctor said, “That’s wonderful. Have you told your family?”

“No.”

“How come?”

“I just sit around now and just listen to their conversation. I’ve already changed my will three times!”

You’ll be surprised at what you’ll hear when you start to listen. Prioritize your listening to the Lord. He has much to say, we have much to hear because there is much he wants us to say.

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