Listening costs something

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

1 Samuel 3:1-21 (NIV-UK): “ The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.

Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ But Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’ So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ ‘My son,’ Eli said, ‘I did not call; go back and lie down.’

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ And the Lord said to Samuel: ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.

At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family – from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge his family for ever because of the sin he knew about; his sons uttered blasphemies against God, and he failed to restrain them. Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, “The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.”

Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, ‘Samuel, my son.’ Samuel answered, ‘Here I am.’ ‘What was it he said to you?’ Eli asked. ‘Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.’

So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, ‘He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.’

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognised that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”

There are a number of points to be found in the reading for today, I’ve highlighted the verses (as usual), that interest me the most. One aspect, which I’m thinking about, is our Lord’s judgment on the house (family) of Eli, and that their guilt ‘would never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’ 

God had told Eli what would happen if he did not restrain the evil being committed by his sons. In their case they had uttered blasphemies against God.

Two aspects to consider – one, blasphemy against God by people who should know better, is a serious crime against God – is it the unforgiveable sin? And two; disobedience (that is failure to act on God’s commands or advice) is also a very serious offence. There’s a lesson for us, in this; failure to act on what God tells us, will have serious consequences. Do you agree?

Selwyn provides us with useful information on how we learn to listen to God. He writes: “The first step is to be willing to obey whatever God says to you.” As we have seen in today’s reading, obedience is essential. Why would Jesus continue to talk to you, if you took no action on what He said?

He goes on to say: “Expect God to talk to you. It is possible to pray with no sense of expectation. Have done with all thought that God is too great and too distant to talk to you. You are His child, the object of His unceasing love and care. A sign of expectancy is to have a notebook and pen by you during your prayer time.

Third: sit quietly in God’s presence and say: ‘Father, have You anything to say to me?’ At first all you may hear are the voices that come from within. Gradually, though, you will learn (with the Spirit’s assistance) to disentangle the voice of God from the clamour of other voices – the muffled whisperings of the subconscious, the luring voices of the flesh, the demands of personal ambition, the mutterings of self-will.”

Let me add to what Selwyn has written; the discernment of God’s voice is not some sort of guessing competition, to pick His voice, out of a number of competing voices. His love for us is so great that He will make sure that you hear and correctly identify His voice.  However, Satan will be working to cast doubts into your heart.

In summary, I agree with Selwyn’s final sentence, ‘the benefits of listening for God’s voice are beyond all expectation’.

***

[One of the reasons there is lot of scepticism surrounding the truth that God does talk to His children, is the very sad fact of mental illness. As many would know, there are some mental health conditions that cause those suffering from the condition to hear voices; voices that sound very real at the time.

I’ve had a number of experiences talking to mentally ill people who could hear voices in their heads. However, it would have been very obvious to any person with sound mental health that the voices, they heard, were illusionary.

At the time we gave our life to Jesus, we were given His Spirit to help us discern the truth. It’s the depth of our loving relationship with God that gives us the confidence to trust that we will receive His help, when we need it.

A few final thoughts; when we hear God’s voice, His words will never contradict His Word as found in Scripture. It’s always a good idea to take what God has told you to a trusted spiritual mentor (one who does believe that God does talk to His people) and seek their advice.

Satan is always trying to deceive us, and he will sometime use verses of Scripture as part of his deception (as we see in Matthew 4:1-11); consequently, it’s a wise move to talk to other trusted and mature Christians about our walk with Jesus.

I’ve read ahead for a few days and I’ve noticed that Selwyn covers some of these aspects, so I’ll hold off from making further comments, until then.]

Dialogue, not monologue

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

January/February 2015 Issue – ‘Prepared’

The text set for today’s reading and meditation:

John 4:27-38 (NIV-UK): “Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way towards him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’

My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true.

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.’”

I’m sure there will be some who will disagree with Selwyn, when he writes: “Will God really talk to us if we listen? Yes, if we are faithful in what He asks of us. One of my spiritual mentors used to say: ‘If we do not hear God’s voice in our lives then it is probably due to one of two reasons: we are unwilling or we are untrained.'”

In the Sydney area (close to where I live) there is a major theological college, which trains many Anglican ministers. It has been my experience that they, in general, strongly believe that God ONLY speaks through Scripture. And, they view reports of personal dialogue with Jesus with considerable suspicion.

While I agree that God will often use Scripture to reveal truths about His nature and will; and, I commend those people who don’t stray from biblical truths. However, there will be times in a person’s life when they will hear His voice if they are listening. Where Scripture is important – is that whatever God says to us – it will never contradict His spiritual truths, as found in the Bible.

Now, back to what Selwyn has written, he starts with; “Many Christians though faithful in prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, miss out because they fail to cultivate a listening heart. After prayer and reading, we must learn to stop and ask: ‘Father, have You anything to say to me?’

Far too many of us approach our devotional times with the attitude, ‘Listen Lord, Your servant is speaking,’ rather than: ‘Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.’ …

Many of us don’t want to listen to God, for we are afraid that if God speaks to us He may say something that we don’t want to hear, or ask us to do something we don’t want to do. We think God’s will is hard and too difficult to keep. This view of God’s will MUST be changed.

Jesus regarded the will of God as food – something nourishing, sustaining, fortifying.”

Now, more than ever, there is a need for us to stop and to be still in front of God’s throne, and during this quiet time away from all earthly distraction – ask the question: “Father, have You anything to say to me?”

Our daily lives are full of testing moments and temptations – especially, the temptation to think that Jesus is far away and has left us to fend for ourselves. The opposite is true, He has not left us as orphans – He intensely loves you and me – He is constantly working to protect you from all blows that may spiritually destroy you.

Consequently, in these difficult days, when the news is full of stories of terror and death; you can be assured that God’s Spirit is strengthening and encouraging you, in all that you do, for Him.

We closely follow Jesus, as we carry our cross, and He is not so far out in front that we cannot be close to Him, or hear His voice; but we do need to quieten our fearful hearts on a regular basis, so that we may hear His voice when He does speak to us.

In today’s study, Selwyn says that from his research only about 5 percent of Christians spend time listening to God, seeking His will; perhaps that’s one reason why the Church is so marginalised in the Western world? Do you agree?