Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

How well do you listen?

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

Did you know that 100 times more people will hear a sermon this week than preach one? Yet while there are thousands of articles, books, and classes on how to preach a message, there is virtually none on how to listen to one. Perhaps that’s because most people think listening just comes naturally. But that's not what Jesus thought. In Luke 8:18 He said ‘…consider carefully how you listen’. Teachers are responsible for teaching well, but we are all responsible for listening well. Jesus wants you to listen in a way that will change your life. So how can we do that? Well we need to hear with more than just our ears. We need to listen with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Heart

Listening with our heart can be tough, because so often we don't feel the way God feels about things, want the things God wants for us, or care about the things God cares about. Sometimes we even love what God hates and hate what God loves. As a result, God's words won't sink in. Jesus told a story that illustrates this. It's about a farmer sowing seeds onto four kinds of soil (see Matthew 13:3-9). It was a metaphor for His words being planted in four kinds of hearts. Jesus said:

Some hearts are hard – they prevent God's words from sinking in, and the evil one snatches them away;
Some hearts are shallow – they keep God's words from taking root, and when hard times come, His words wilt away;
Some hearts are thorny – they choke out God's words with worldly worries and wealth;
Some hearts are good – they take God's words, plant deep roots, grow, and multiply.

The good news is God can cultivate our heart. He can soften a hard heart, deepen a shallow heart, and clean a thorny heart. But the choice is up to us. He'll do this if we really want it and if we ask Him. So pray! Pray before and during the message that God will speak to you. Pray that God will cultivate your heart so you will hear Him. Ask God to prepare your heart to feel what He feels, want what He wants, care the way He cares, love what He loves, and hate what He hates. If you do this, you will be listening to God with your heart.

Mind

The Bereans were a group of people who listened to God's message with their mind. In Acts 17:11 it says, ‘…the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true’.

When Paul preached, the Bereans did two things. They received the message with "great eagerness." They desired to hear from God's word. In other words, they listened with their hearts. But they also "examined the Scriptures." They thought about it, and made sure what they were hearing was true. In other words, they listened with their minds. Some people think that Christians have to leave their brains at the door before they can listen to God's message. But God wants you to use your mind. Consider things like: Who wrote it? When? Why? What's the tone? What comforts, confuses, or challenges you? Open your Bible and take notes. This keeps your mind focused. Write the main idea of the message. Also, jot down any questions or insights you have from the Bible. If you do this, you will be listening to God with your mind.

Soul

Have you ever been listening to a message and thought, "Oh, so and so needs to hear this?" Most of us have. We hear God's message meant for us, but apply it to someone else. One time Jesus had a message for Peter about Peter's future martyrdom. After Jesus spoke, Peter saw John, and ‘When Peter saw him, he asked, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me".’ (John 21:21-22) Jesus' message was for Peter, but Peter wanted to know about John's life. Jesus' reply was basically, "That’s none of your business, concentrate on yourself." We listen with our soul by taking the message personally. We don't make excuses for ourselves, we don't compare ourselves to someone else, and we don't say, "Lord, what about him?" Instead, personalize it, and apply it to yourself. If you do this you will be listening with your soul.

Strength

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? You usually see the things you want to change. You brush, cover, spray, and spend time to change what you don't like. But you have another mirror, one that reveals things about your inner life. It's God's Word.

‘Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does’. (James 1:23-25)

The Bible is a mirror into our inner life. It reveals who we really are. It shows us sins to turn from, promises to believe, work to do, attitudes to change, and God's deeds and attributes to praise. When we see things in our inner life that need changing, do we give them the same attention as those things we want to change in our outer life, or do we walk away and forget them? If we don't act on what we hear, we aren't listening in the way that God expects. ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.’ (V. 22) So what's the best way to know if we are listening as God intends? Look at our life. Does our life reflect what we have heard? After listening to the message, ask "What does God want me to do?" Then do it! Is there a sin to leave, a promise to believe, a job to do, an attitude to change, an act to thank, or a divine attribute to praise? But don't try to do it on your own power. Ask God to work in, with, and through you. If you do this, you will be listening to God with your strength.

Have a good week preparing to listen to God’s Word with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

Pastor Barry

13th September 2009

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